THE BOOK TO BE READ

When the Lord Shantih was a child he played in the forests of the country of Mas, where forests and mountains and swift-moving rivers are found in abundance.

One day he was deep in the forest when he spied a cottage among the trees. The cottage was small, with a thatched roof and stone walls and but a single window and door. Curious about who might live in so isolated a cottage, Lord Shantih knocked at the door. When no one answered his knock, he peeked in the window and saw, once his eyes became adjusted to the light, an old man seated near a fire. In his hands the man held the crumbling remains of an ancient book which he read intently.

Thinking that his knock had not been heard, Lord Shantih opened the door and entered the cottage. The old man looked up, smiled, and motioned for him to join him at the fire. And when Lord Shantih had seated himself, the old man began to read his book aloud, and so Lord Shantih spent the afternoon.

The next day he returned, and the next, and soon he spent every day at the strange cottage where the old man sat reading his ancient book.

“What book did the old man read to you?” someone once asked Lord Shantih.

“It was a book he began before he was born,” Lord Shantih explained, “and which, I believe, does not yet have an ending to be read.”

 

THE BELLS
OF THE RIVER SHARAIM

Along the banks of the river Sharaim hang silver bells that dance in the wind. The bells have always been there, and man has always heard their gentle melodies while travelling upon that river. No man knows who fashioned the bells and arranged them along the banks, for the bells existed before man’s curiosity came to be.

The Lord Shantih once pondered the mystery and determined to learn the origin and purpose of the bells. He examined them closely to ascertain their workmanship and measured the distance from one bell to the next. He listened to their music by day and by night and carefully studied their minute gradations of tone and pitch. He travelled to the source of the river in the misty, high-cliffed mountains and to its end as a languid expanse drifting into an empty sea, and ever listened to the bells’ music along the way. He drank of the river’s water and bathed in it and noted each twist in the river’s course. But after his searching he knew of no answer, save for the point where the mystery began.

“In the future,” Lord Shantih vowed, “I shall not seek to solve the mysteries, but to appreciate them.”

 

JOURNEY OF SONG

While walking upon the road, Lord Shantih heard the voice of a woman singing. Following the voice he came upon a meadow where a young farm girl sang songs of the country while tending to her flock of sheep. Lord Shantih sat down and listened to her sing, enchanted with the gentle melodies that held such power. He listened to her all afternoon.

“Kind Lord,” the girl said to him after a time, “I hope I have not distracted you from your journey, for it is now quite late in the day and not a time for travellers to be on the road.”

“You have not distracted me at all,” Lord Shantih assured her, “for as I sit here listening to you, each song carries me a step farther upon the journey I have chosen.”

 

THERE IS NO CAVE

There is no cave.

But if there were, the cave would contain someone. Someone old and bent and dressed in robes. Someone with a gray beard and gray hair and a wrinkled face. Someone whose voice cracked and crackled whenever he spoke. Someone who saw all things and knew all things and understood all things.

There is no cave.

But if there were, you would visit the cave to speak with he who lived within it. He would greet you with a nod and a twinkling eye, clasping his hands in front of him. You would speak to him, calling him father or master, and you would plead with him for answers to your questions. With a patient smile he would answer your questions, solve your mysteries, and reveal all the tangled threads of your hopes and dreams.

There is no cave.

But if there were, it would contain the answer you most desire. The answer that makes all things understood and meaningful and yours. And you would guard the answer and guard the cave so no one could ever take it from you.

There is no cave.