The Seeker, in his quest to discover the Meaning of Life, sought the counsel of the Oracle. He arrived at her temple with a chest of gold as tribute and knelt before her.
“Oh Great Oracle,” the Seeker said, “What is the Meaning of Life?”
The Oracle quickly eyed the tribute and determined the price was sufficient to answer such a simple question.
“The Meaning of Life?” she said. “Why, that’s easy. The Meaning of Life is Happiness.”
“Happiness! Of course!” the Seeker shouted. “Thank you, Oh Great Oracle. I knew you would provide me the answer I seek.”
But the Seeker hesitated as he turned to leave.
“What is it?” the Oracle asked.
“Well, Oh Great One, how does one go about achieving Happiness?” the Seeker said.
“To that, I have no answer,” said the Oracle. “To find the Secret to Happiness, you must consult with the Muse, for Happiness lies more within the expertise of Muses than of Oracles. And anyway I’m just about to go on my break.”
Thus the Seeker departed to seek out the Muse.
After many days of searching, he found the Muse lounging serenely by a creek on the edge of the forest, humming a melody and lying in the shade of a peaceful glade.
“Oh Graceful Muse,” the Seeker said, “I seek your discerning counsel.”
“What is it, my dear?” the Muse asked, her voice like a song.
“What is the Secret to Happiness?”
“Happiness?” she said. “I hope you didn’t travel all this way for so basic a question. The Secret to Happiness is Wisdom.”
“Wisdom! I should have known!” the Seeker shouted with joy. “Then I shall seek Wisdom!”
The Muse smiled and returned to humming her song. But the Seeker paused before departing the creekside.
“Oh Graceful One,” he said. “Just one more thing. What must one do to attain Wisdom?”
The Seeker was a little embarrassed by his lack of knowledge on the matter. Surely attaining Wisdom was a simple matter.
“That I do not know,” said the Muse. “I am trained in the ways of Happiness and Song, but I know nought of Wisdom. If it is the Secret to Wisdom that you seek, you must find the Mage of the Wood, for he is the wisest wizard in all the land. Only he can tell you the Secret to Wisdom.”
The Seeker was not thrilled about this answer, but at least the Muse offered her advice for free. He had spent his last penny on the Oracle and still hadn’t quite pulled the thread on the Meaning of Life. But he was getting closer. He could feel it.
Thus the Seeker departed to find the Mage of the Wood.
After a long and dangerous journey, deep in the forest the Seeker came upon a majestic hall carved of wood. This was the Great Library of the Mage of the Wood. He knocked on its mighty oaken doors and they opened as if by magic. (It was actually due to a faulty hinge the Mage of the Wood had been meaning to fix for the past century or so, not magic. Although the Mage of the Wood could have opened the doors with magic if he had wanted to.)
Inside the walls were as high as the eye could see, and lined entirely with books. A single aisle down the center ran so far back that one couldn’t even see to the end.
After some wandering through the hall, the Seeker came upon a gray old wizard, his concentration buried deep in a book.
“Oh Wise Mage of the Wood,” the Seeker proclaimed. “I come seeking the Secret to Wisdom, for I know you are the wisest mind in all the land.”
“A truly wise man knows that he knows nothing. But for the purposes of our conversation, yes, I am very wise and know many things,” said the Mage of the Wood. “And therefore it is no large matter for me to give you an answer. Come, I know of a book that tells the Secret to Wisdom, for I can’t remember what it is off the top of my head.”
The Mage of the Wood led the Seeker through a maze of bookcases, often pausing and thinking before doubling back and turning suddenly into a hidden aisle. At last he stopped, reached into the back of a high shelf, and pulled out a tiny book, small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand.
“Ah, yes. Here it is,” said the Mage of the Wood, as he opened the book and read its pages. “The Secret to Wisdom is Enlightenment.”
“I am much indebted to thee, Oh Wise One,” the Seeker said with a bow. But again, he was at an impasse. “Um, Oh Wise One, if you wouldn’t mind, could you please tell me how one would go about attaining Enlightenment?”
The Mage of the Wood briefly scanned the pages of the tiny book.
“Hmm, doesn’t say in here. Just a bunch of pithy quotes about Wisdom,” he said. He closed the tiny book and placed it back on the shelf.
“If such things were knowable in the Realm of Wisdom I would tell thee, my son. Alas, they are not,” said the Mage of the Wood. “There is one who knows the Secret to Enlightenment. The Enlightened One, they call him. For 400 hundred years he has sat alone atop the Highest Mountain. No food, no water, locked in a state of pure meditation. Only he can tell you the Secret to Enlightenment.”
“Thank you, Oh Wise One,” the Seeker said. “I shall seek him out atop his mountain.”
“Good luck,” said the Mage of the Wood. “If you are ever seeking Wisdom again, you are welcome in my library to study my books.”
Thus the Seeker departed to find the Secret to Enlightenment.
It took many months for the Seeker to travel to the Highest Mountain, and many weeks more to climb it. He battled hunger and cold, avalanches and frostbite, but nothing could deter him in his quest.
He reached the summit, and there sat the Enlightened One, silent and cross-legged.
“Oh Enlightened One,” the Seeker said, “long have I sought thy sage counsel. I have learned that the Meaning of Life is Happiness, that the Secret to Happiness is Wisdom, and that the Secret to Wisdom is Enlightenment. But I do not yet know the Secret to Enlightenment. Teach me, Oh Enlightened One, so that my journey may be complete.”
The Enlightened One didn’t move, but he opened one eye ever so slightly. And then, in the Tongue of the Ancients, he spoke:
“A LE ZA NINNU NIM UKK BA UMM LATA KAKA LAGARIS DA RA SHA LI MONDUR!”
The Seeker was dumbfounded, for neither he, nor any other human alive, understood the Tongue of the Ancients. He begged the Enlightened One to repeat his words so that he might put them to memory, but the Enlightened One merely closed his eye and resumed his meditation.
The Seeker, distraught but undeterred, vowed to learn the Tongue of the Ancients and return to the Enlightened One so that he might receive this, the final key towards discovering the various Meanings and Secrets of this world.
Thus he departed down the Highest Mountain on a new quest to learn the Tongue of the Ancients.
This quest was by far the longest and most arduous of them all. Not only were there no people left who spoke the Tongue of the Ancients, there was only one book on the matter, and that was in the Great Library of the Mage of the Wood.
So the Seeker returned to the Great Library of the Mage of the Wood and took to learning the Tongue of the Ancients.
“Oh Wise One, I have returned to take you up on your offer to study your books,” the Seeker said.
“That was sort of an empty gesture. I didn’t actually expect you to come back,” said the Mage of the Wood. “But go ahead. It’s nice to have company, I guess.”
After many years of careful study, the Seeker learned the Tongue better than any man alive save the Enlightened One. Thus he returned to the Highest Mountain to discover the Secret of Enlightenment.
By now he was a much older man than when he had first set out to find the Meaning of Life. But while he was older, his mind and body were as sharp as ever.
After many weeks of climbing – though not quite so long as the last time – he reached the summit. There, the Enlightened One still sat, tranquil as the last day they met.
“Oh Enlightened One!” the Seeker said, speaking now in the Tongue of the Ancients. The Enlightened One opened one eye ever so slightly.
“You again?” said the Enlightened One. “And you’ve learned the Tongue of the Ancients?”
“Yes, Oh Wise Master,” the Seeker said.
“Nice,” said the Enlightened One.
“Oh Enlightened One, many years have I sought the answer to the question which I will now ask of you,” the Seeker said. “You see, I have learned that the Meaning of Life is Happiness; that the Secret to Happiness is Wisdom; and that the Secret to Wisdom is Enlightenment. Now, I must learn the Secret to Enlightenment in order for my journey of seeking to be complete. I beg of thee, Oh Enlightened One, what is the Secret to Enlightenment?”
The Enlightened One looked puzzled.
“Meaning of Life? Happiness? Wisdom? Enlightenment?” said the Enlightened One. He scratched his chin and thought for a minute, then shook his head. “Dude, I’ve been sitting on this mountain for like 400 years. I have no fucking idea.”
The Seeker was crushed. His whole life had been wasted in pursuit of something that likely did not even exist. He spent all his money on tribute to the Oracle. He had wasted his best years journeying and studying the Tongue of the Ancients so that he might learn the Meaning of Life, only to find that it was a dead end. Now he was broke, old, and directionless. He hung his head in defeat and turned to leave.
“But,” said the Enlightened One. This time he opened both eyes and motioned for the Seeker to come take a seat by his side. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to.”
"Nice", said The Romanian Reader
Brilliant! I love it. Thank you.