I don’t know if you know this story or not. I probably won’t tell it well. I’m revisiting my deep memory for the words which construe it. It’s significant enough to have stuck in my muddled mind all these years. First time I read it was in high school, grade eleven I think. I was branching out in terms of ingesting philosophy, good times. Free to think. Free to learn. Free to experience. That’s really all we’re supposed to do as teenagers, at least that’s what I think now.
One caveat though – if I wanted to experience life on the wilder side, then I had to think and learn more than the tamer ones. I had to earn the right to let loose and live free. There’s a price for everything. I’m still paying the price of mine.
Anyways, the stonecutter. A Taoist tale.
There was a Stonecutter, who made a meager living from chiseling stone, toiling under a tropical sun. There was a big kerfuffle one day, everyone who lived on the Stonecutter’s street stopped and bowed in reverent duty. A royal procession, servants, slaves, soldiers and the Prince perched in a gondola on their shoulders. The Stonecutter envied the Prince. “What power has this Prince? To make everyone stop and bow. Happiness he must surely know.”
A simple wish and the Stonecutter became the Prince. Endless processions, endless interruptions, endless bowing, but his happiness was not long lived. For one day, during a particularly long procession march, the Prince experienced discomfort, sweat dripped from his brow. He looked up at the sun-disc, blazing in the afternoon sky. “What power has this Sun to make me seek shade, me who makes all bow before him? What majesty and happiness the sun must know.”
A simple wish and the Prince became the Sun. He blazed, he blared, he razed. Every living thing cowered before him. He knew happiness and majesty, but only for a while. For one day he felt his power over living things dwindle away. He looked down in rage. A storm cloud. “What power has this storm cloud? Stronger than I who beat upon peasants and Princes alike? What power this storm cloud must know.”
A simple wish and the Sun became the Storm Cloud. He thundered, he poured, he soaked, flooded and destroyed. He knew power, happiness, and majesty, but not for long. For one day he felt himself dissipate, his power diminished. “What is this that could be more powerful than I who blot the sun from the sky?” A Strong Wind blew to him to infinity but not before a wish.
The Storm Cloud became the Strong Wind, the most powerful thing that could possibly be. He blew, tormented and raged, destroying crops, houses, lives. He knew power. He knew happiness. He knew majesty. Until the day the Strong Wind came across something he could not budge, knock down or destroy. “What is this that could be more powerful than I, the Wind? Is it possible for something to be more powerful than I?” The Mountain didn’t have much to say, so it just sat there and shrugged his boulders. (I couldn’t resist!)
A simple wish and the Strong Wind became the Mountain. And there he sat, basking in his power, his majesty and happiness, unmoving, unyielding, seemingly resilient against all things. The most powerful thing that could possibly be was he, the Mountain. One day the Mountain felt something strange, something was breaking him apart, breaking him down, piece by piece. He rumbled, “What is this thing that could be more powerful than I, the greatest Mountain since the first drop of magma cooled?” He looked down, so far down he had to squint.
There it was, the most powerful thing that could possibly be – a Stonecutter.
Wisdom from the sages of the ages. Powerful, huh?