Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Accidental Guest: A Philosophers Fairy Tale


Once upon a time there lived a middle-aged man in a lonely cottage on the outskirts of the town. He lived there from about the time that his childhood had given way to his manhood and he lived there alone. This cottage was nothing to brag about; it had very few of the trappings of what would have been considered a "modern life" but he was completely and entirely content. To some it would seem that his cottage was much lonelier than he could ever or would ever be but many just assumed that he was, by and large, miserable. In his mind's eye, however, he knew that they were entirely wrong. He was just a man that liked to be left alone with his books and his writings and his music and, like all solitary people, he was looking for something. He was, as far as he was concerned, misunderstood to the greatest degree.

One day a pauper knocked on the mans door. He was bedraggled and smelled or urine but the man, being one that did not judge on first appearance, allowed the manky traveler in. 

"What be your name, traveler?" the man asked, handing the loner a piece of bread and some beer. From first view, it didn't look like he would get much of an intellectual response. But, as was said before, the man was not one judge on first appearances and the black-cloaked traveler spoke in an almost eloquent tone.

"I am Russell and I thank you for your kindness. However, I'm afraid to say I have nothing to offer you in ways of repayment for your kindness but a piece of advice." Russell was raising the man's curiosity at this point and his brow furthered Russell to continue with a slight nod.

Russell continued. "It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop" he said. 

This advice stopped the man who was quietly sitting and observing. He didn't know what to say. "Why do you tell me this?" he asked.

"You will know when it is time, my friend. Now that I have taken up enough of your day I will be off. Fare thee well and I shall see you again sometime down the road." With that the traveler got up, tipped the broad-brimmed hat that he was wearing toward the man and left without even looking back. The man cleaned up his dishes and began reflecting on what had just happened. After the dishes he decided to practice his music and read a bit before going to bed.

Sitting with his instrument with the music in front of him he grew frustrated. He couldn't possibly play all of this. There was no chance ever of being able to live up to the great predecessors that he so idolized. Nothing was ever nor would it ever be good enough. It seemed as if all of the brilliant composers of history were born brilliant with perfect ideas that couldn't be replicated by anyone else. It was a painful ordeal for the man. And then, just at the moment of his highest frustration, he remembered what the traveler had said.

"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." 

The man began wondering if the visit by the traveler Russell were an aberration of fate or one of coincidence. The man was a clear believer in coincidence because fate can imply divine intervention which ran against his atheistic tendencies. But then again it felt like something had actually pulled the vagabond to his door in the first place. "Maybe fate is blind and has rules like all of nature. This could rationalized my dilemma." But of course, whose ever heard of blind fate? The man was confusing himself with, what seemed to be, a problem-less problem. He agreed that, whether or not it was a fated incident, it happened and he should just leave it at that.

After his practice session the man decided to try and read some. He was currently reading a book about the Buddha and, like the music, it was frustrating him. He could never be like the Buddha and he knew this but he read it anyway. It seemed as if all of the brilliant and shining humans in history were born brilliant and shining with perfect ideas that couldn't be replicated by anyone else. It was a painful ordeal for the man. And then, just at the moment of his highest frustration, he remembered what the traveler had said.

"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop."

After the man was done reading he decided to sit down and write some. He started a very nice story about someone destined for greatness only to have it end like every other story did in life; with tragedy. But the ending was far from perfect and this was frustrating him, too. He didn't understand why he was so frustrated all the time with anything he did. Nothing was ever nor would it ever be good enough. It seemed to him as if all of the brilliant authors of history were born perfect with brilliant ideas that couldn't be replicated by anyone else or. This too was a painful ordeal for the man. And then, just at the moment of his highest frustration, he again remembered what the traveler had said.

"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you don't stop."

Over the next few months the man continued his routine, only slightly modified from what it was previously. He would practice and read his books and write a little each night before bed. He would persevere and not worry about what the author, composer or messiah he had been studying had done and at what age that they had done it. He would continue on his path at his own pace. If frustration began to set in he would sit back, take a deep breath and remember his accidental rendezvous  with the accidental guest. 

As time went on he decided to come out of his hiding and enter the world a new and enriched man. Within a few weeks of him leaving his abode his abilities were recognized. He went to several pubs and, after he had sit in with the band, was asked to play regularly with them. After sending in his manuscripts to a printing house he was printed immediately and continued on contract with the same publishing house. Due to all of his studies, his conversation was much more enlightened than most peoples so he was encouraged to join intellectual groups and discus the meaningful questions in life. At this point, he has become accustomed to talking about such subjects as fate and coincidence and the existential conundrum that they imposed upon those that dared delve into the matter. The whole time, however, he still wrestled with the question that had irked more than any other that he had come across. Without that one piece of advice his life would be totally and utterly different at this point and the question of fate still begged him for an answer that he could not give.

A few years later, the man was still living in the same small cottage on the edge of town. He was a respected person now and no one talked ill of him. He was no longer misunderstood and this was all he had wanted in the first place. He was as he was before only to an even greater degree; he was content. He was so content, in fact, that he had decided to stay in the same house even though he was offered a nicer and large cottage in that big city up north by his publisher. "No thanks" he told them. "I'm content right where I am." 

He never did hear from the old vagabond again and this saddened him but, as he well knew, people come in and out of everyones lives and the only thing he could do was remember what the old man had told him and remember what the immediate impact of that advice was. It would seem that his fate, if it even existed at all, was intertwined with that one accidental guest. That was the greatest of coincidences.

And he lived contently ever after.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"often the wisdom of the body clarifies the despair of the spirit."
m. woodman

one is oneself, one is not another.
realizing something good out of something that may have been frustrating or perplexing is fuel for success..and there isn't any speed limit.

i like this story..i am often too hard on myself and really don't listen to people when they try and "make me feel better" because i feel that is all they are doing. i need to find it myself and no one knows my road but me.