Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Genie and the Mind - Part V

The young man held up the two glass statues after dusting them off with the old piece of cloth in which they were wrapped. “I have carried these with me everywhere I have gone. I look at them every morning wondering what is concealed behind the coloring on the glass surface.” The statues were about a foot long each and weighed a pound.

When the wise old man was handing over the statues, he told the young man, “I want you to discover what is inside these statutes without breaking them. These two statues are actually keys to a lock. That lock can only be opened if you have them both.”

The young man’s curiosity was aroused and he asked, “Where is the door that has the lock?”

The wise old man told the young man, “I don’t need these keys anymore. I have used them for years and now I can open those doors at will. I have greatly benefited from using them and I want to pass this on to someone worthy. In you, I see the great courage and valor. When you open the doors that I will soon show you, you will undertake a great adventure. You will need to be fearless to complete the journey.”

The old man continued, “I have shown this door to many others. Unfortunately, no one was able to successfully complete this adventure. Some of them tried very hard and gave up fearing failure. Others failed to develop the confidence that they could complete it. Even though they did not succeed in going all the way, they greatly benefited from even attempting this endeavor. Success and failure are like the right and left feet. You need both feet to move forward. In life, success at one step may be followed by failure at another step. Conversely, failure can also be followed by success. As you walk and reach a destination, you don’t say that the right or left foot got you there. Similarly, before reaching any destination in life, from simple daily tasks to achieving something great, the path is ridden with both success and failure.”

“Now, let me show you where this door is.” The old wise man said. The both of them set off on foot. They walked several miles until dusk and they camped out for the night. The following day, they reached a nearby town. This was a large bustling place and the wise old man led the young man to an old house near the town square. Along the way they passed through narrow streets that were lined with little shops selling every imaginable thing. There were people everywhere. As they jostled through the crowds, the young man could not help thinking about the contrast between the distracting pull of the place and focused push of the wise old man to their destination.

They finally reached their destination. At the end of a quiet alley, they stood in front of a crumbling brick structure. It was an old house that looked like it had not been lived in. The grass was overgrown and a small patch that looked like a kitchen garden was overrun with weeds. A narrow gravel path sliced through the yard and led to the front door. The wise old man pushed on the front door and it creaked open. Inside, there was a large room that was empty except for a few pieces of dusty old furniture. Although it was a bright sunny day outside, the room they were in was dimly lit from the sunlight that filtered in through a few broken window panes. They walked across the room kicking up dust in their wake and they came to another door. The door was very large and had an enormous curved handle. The young man pulled out the two glass statues from his bag, thinking that this might be the door the old man was talking about. The wise old man motioned him to put the statues away. With a big heave, he pushed the door handle downwards. Behind the open door was a stairwell. The wise old man went first. He disappeared into the darkness after the first couple of steps. He called out for the young man to follow up. With mild trepidation, the young man followed suit. Holding onto the walls and feeling his way down each step, the young man slowly reached a small landing area. It was pitch dark coming down the stairwell and his eyes slowly got accustomed to the darkness around him as he descended. There was a faint light in the distance and once he could see better, he saw the old man standing in the center of what appeared to be a circular room.

The old man had lit a candle and said, “This is the room where the door is. Look all around you and get used to what you see. In time, you will make this trip by yourself and I want you to get used to this. I can only accompany you a couple of times to orient you to the different rooms here. Once I have shown you that, the adventure begins and you are on your own.”

The old man walked around the room followed by the young man. There were several identical doors evenly spaced apart. It was hard to tell one from another. With the room being circular, it was easy to lose orientation. The old man said, “All the doors may be opened with the statues you are carrying in your bag. All the doors, except one, require only one statue as the key. Only one door can be opened with both. That is the most important door.”

As he said that, the wise old man walked to one of the doors and asked the young man for both the statues. He then placed each one of the statues into slots on the door. There were several identical slots on the door. The young man glanced over at the other doors and all of them were very similar.

The young man asked, “How can you tell the doors apart? What are those other slots on the door for?”

The wise old man remarked, “In course of time, finding the right door and the right slots to insert these statues will become second nature. Meanwhile, carefully observe and try not to forget what I am showing you.”

As the two statues fell into their positions, there was a faint grinding noise and the door slid open. They waited for a few seconds and the old man stepped into the dark passageway. They were now at the edge of an underground lake. A short distance away, a small wooden boat lay on the bank of the lake. The old man said, “Now we shall take a boat ride.”

They pushed the boat into the lake and got in. The old man took the oars and gently guided the boat into the darkness. There was was no sound except for the rhythmic sloshing noise of the oars as they rowed away. The old man said, “the waters are very calm. But don’t be fooled. There are a lot of strong currents underwater. Sometimes the waters are very rough and this journey can become treacherous.”

The old man continued, “Many years ago, I had given these statues to a learned young man. In those days, there were boatmen stationed here to take people across this lake. This man was making the same journey you are undertaking with me. I was not with him at that time. I had taught him all that I knew and he was making good progress. He crossed this lake many times and had discovered almost all the secrets of this place. He was very proud of his achievements. He tended to dwell on acquiring knowledge rather than applying it in practice. I had cautioned him about this many times. Despite all his efforts, he did not complete the journey.”

The young man asked, “What happened to him?”

The wise old man replied, “On one of his crossings, he struck up a conversation with the boatman who was new to the job. As he was recounting all the books he had read and mastered, he asked the boatman if he had read any of them. The boatman, a simple and very humble man replied that he had not. The learned man laughed and told the boatman that over half his life was wasted as he had not studied these books. Suddenly, there was a big jolt and the boat rocked violently back and forth. The underwater currents were very strong and the boat capsized. As the boat was capsizing, the boatman asked the learned man if he knew how to swim. The learned man shouted that he did not know how to swim. As the boatman jumped into the water, he told the scholarly young man that his entire life’s effort at mastering books was wasted if he did not know how to swim.”

The wise old man continued to row the boat and they finally came to the other shore. They jumped out of the boat and sat down on the soft, damp ground. The air was fresh with a clean earthy smell. There was nothing around them. They were in complete silence. They sat there for a long time. It was very peaceful indeed. After a long period of silence, the old man said, “There is a cave around here that I want to show you. This is one of many interesting places on this side of the lake. Perhaps, we should come back tomorrow when we have more time to explore that place. Let’s return back to town and rest for the night.” On saying that, they got back in the boat and made their way across the lake. After securing the boat, they traced their steps back up to the circular room with many doors.

The old man carefully closed the door that they had entered, and slowly removed the two glass statues from the door and closed the door. The young man asked the old man, “What is behind these other doors?”

The old man said, “Let me show you. Wait here and I shall step out for a few minutes.” As he disappeared up the stairwell, something strange happened. All the door in that circular room flung open and the room was suddenly flooded with different sounds, and through the open doors, the young man could see random fleeting images. Some were pleasant and others not so pleasant. The previously quiet and dark place had become very busy indeed. After sometime, the wise old man came down the stairwell and the doors started to close one by one till all the doors were shut and the room was back to how they first found it. The young man attempted to ask what was happening, the old man offered no explanation and beckoned him to follow him up the stairwell.

They left the old house and went back into town. Night had fallen and the place bore a festive atmosphere. People were milling around, street vendors selling food, shoppers walking around with large bulky bags. They found a small inn that had vacancies and they went up to their rooms. As the young man lay his head on the pillow, his head was flooded with thoughts of the day, the future that lay ahead and memories of the past that he had left behind. He could not stop thinking and could not fall asleep. As the night wore on, his tired eyes finally started to close with  the young man wishing he could shut out all the thoughts out of his head just as easily as the wise old man closed all the doors in the circular room they were in.

To Be Continued...