By Michael Emero
Oct 17, 2016
There was once an old blind man who lived high atop a mountain. He was named a Shaman by the busy village below- as much for his great wisdom as for the uncanny way he could navigate without sight, even to and from his own home without assistance. 'Such a blessed soul he must have to be given so godly a gift!', visitors would whisper upon witnessing the marvel. The old man would just shake his head, smiling peacefully (as he often did).
Within the village lived a young man, who did not smile so much, nor felt at peace. His heart was heavy with the weight of things he did not understand; his mind felt full to bursting yet still held no answers. Protecting his honor, he did not complain or flee, though seeking more distraction for relief continually yielded less of it. But when fellow vendors at the market also appeared taken with the same darkening malaise, his honor demanded he do more.
'The Shaman must know a solution,' he thought, so for the first time set upon the road ascending the mountain. The intricate stone path, carefully laid and sealed, led the boy up through turns and over bridges. Eventually the valley lay spread out below him, his village seeming small and subdued. Between the thickening trees lay a silence broken only by wind, water, and wildlife. 'How lucky and powerful the shaman must truly be!', he gasped, tiring.
Finally the polished walkway ended, and there on the last rise sat the sightless sage. After accepting invitations for tea and discourse, the young man recovered his breath and wits enough to state his request: 'Oh noble Shaman on high, my fellows and I find no lasting joy. Life seems only burden and strife; no matter how much we fill our time with wine and song, how patiently we wait or pray, still nothing changes. Please, share with us your cure!'
The blind old man shook his head and smiled consideringly for a moment. 'Who am I?' was his eventual reply.
'Why, you are our generous, enlightened Shaman with the Second Sight,' said the boy in some confusion.
Again the old man shook his head in apparent bemusement. 'No, that is what you see. Who am I?'
'I came here for answers, not riddles,' the young man cried out in frustration. 'Will you not help us?'
The blind man closed his milky eyes, smile deepening. 'You seek a solution when what you need is knowledge.'
'How are they not one and the same?'
The old man stood up and led the boy confidently out to a grand view from the precipice edge before responding.
'I cannot see the path nor the village below, but I know it perfectly nonetheless. Before my sight faded with age, I was the lifetime stonemason here. For half a century I built every road, placed all cobblestones, designed each bridge and archway myself. I've trod the paths I created so often they are effortless for me to navigate, even now. What you believe to be divine gift or enviable luck is simply my own years of practice and knowledge paying off.'
His pupil was aghast, struck speechless by this seemingly blasphemous revelation.
'A solution would be a map, or directions- how useful do you think those would be, handed to an old blind man?'
The boy considered the question wordlessly; smooth and wrinkled faces both turned to enjoy a sudden cool breeze.
'When I found this place while excavating, I learned what peace was. Only when we are alone long enough with nature do we remember that everything else in our carefully structured lives is artificially created, temporary, and fleeting. There is serenity in letting go of the illusion of maintaining constant control. Relief can be found stepping outside a life of contrived expectations, and learning to retain the larger perspective of You and Mother Earth.'
The old man returned to their tea in graceful, measured steps, momentarily followed by his impetuous companion.
'How does that help me find peace? I work the market; this place is indeed tranquil, but I cannot always stay here!'
The blind man laughed. He began packing up the kettle, his time for conversation obviously drawing to a close.
'Nor I, if you've noticed me visiting your market. But the way to achieve lasting tranquility and joy is just like the way to anywhere else. Once found it can always be found again. Each time the path there is trodden, learned, and reinforced, it takes less effort to travel. True inner peace is built on internal knowledge, not external solutions, and success is achieved much more by your own investment of time and commitment than mere patience, hope or luck.'
Walking back down the long path, the young man couldn't help but see it differently as he mulled over those strange words. He imagined the Shaman-stoneworker setting each piece with increasingly expert skill, year after year until he knew it all- even without his vision. He remembered the view of the village from so high above, at that quiet distance. It struck him suddenly that the only negativity up there seemed to be what he brought within himself.
Pausing on his way through the bustling market, he stepped to one side and looked at the rushing people from a different perspective. 'It's no wonder I get frustrated and overwhelmed, I'm surrounded by constant chaos,' he thought; 'I cannot always find an external solution, but what matters most is inner peace.' Closing his eyes, he lifted his head as though to feel a breeze, and slowly smiled. With those first few steps, a stone was placed for this new path.
May we all find the perseverance and wisdom to pave our personal roads to peace.