Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Wanderings - A Time of Employ

Two days’ hard walking brought them to a small village where they were able to buy some rice and vegetables, but to properly provision King Ching Chi they needed a town. This they found after another three days. Being weary and footsore they took immediately to an inn where after bathing and dining, they entered the common room.

Here were fellow travelers, and many of the local worthies as well, and all wanted to know their business and news from afar. Though disappointed to hear nothing new or exciting, that they were wandering sages they quickly perceived and this they thought worthy of further pursuit. But as was their habit among the simply inquisitive, the three sages said little and tended to their wine. Not to be put off one local asked. “Sirs, is it not that you have come to visit our sage who lives alone on the mountain? And if not, you should do, for he is a man of great repute.” This seemed to bring smiles to his fellows.

“No, Sir, we have heard nothing of your sage,” replied Tzu-yu, “and if he lives alone on a mountain, then perhaps he had best be left so. And though most birds flock together, like ravens and crows, sages tend more toward the hawk or the solitary heron.”

“No doubt you know best, being yourself a sage,” replied the man, “only I thought that our sage might have a lesson for you.” At this his fellows smiled broader still. “For though we once knew his name, we now call him Surly. And an encounter with him is like to shatter your serenity. For, though I know little of sages, I hear they are ever in search of experiences by which to transcend in spirituality.”

“Perhaps you know more of sages than I,” answered Tzu-yu, “for I have never donned the appellation, nor can I expound on the path of any save myself. But we do, indeed, have business in your fair town and this will most certainly take all of our time.” And with this, he went on to ask the locals where they might best purchase the things they required. And though clearly chagrined to leave off discussion of their sage named Surly, they readily applied themselves to sharing their knowledge.

Thus, on the morrow, the sages soon found the establishment where the more rare of their needs might be found. But when asked for the ink and the silk onto which to apply it the clerk said, “These items, Sirs, I do not have in stock, but I will send this boy to my employer, Yi Chieh, for he may have them in his private store, for he has a great interest in the art of the brush.”

Presently, a man of obvious wealth and local prestige entered the store followed by the boy sent to find him. “Sirs,” said he, “these items I have and you are welcome to buy them, but I am much interested to know their intended use, for I have been seeking a teacher for my three sons who can instruct them in calligraphy and other arts of the brush. Might one of you be so qualified and interested in employ?”

“Sir, these items are for a friend far away and are to be sent to him with my companion, King Ching Chi,” answered Chen Jen. “But I have myself learned these skills, and taught them as well, though I cannot pretend to have mastered the art. My former vocation was that of teacher of philosophy and the wisdom of the ancients, and in this I can say, casting aside feigned humility, I have proven myself knowledgeable and capable, too. For in the teaching of wisdom, knowledge means nothing if the child being taught does not make it his own.”

“Then, Sir, if you will,” replied Yi Chieh, “kindly enter my employ and I will pay you generously and treat you with honor. For long have I sought help in the education of my sons, this town offering little in the finer things.”

“I accept your employ thankfully,” answered Chen Jen, “if you agree that it will have no fixed term, for as you can see, I am a man given to wandering. And if I might respectfully ask, does my lord not also have daughters who might profit from instruction? For though I know it is not the custom, I have found daughters equally worthy of instruction and though different in outward expression, their education makes for their fulfillment and this, to happier homes when they marry.”

“It shall all be as you say,” responded Yi Chieh. “Then you shall have five pupils, my three sons and two daughters.”

Thus, Chen Jen entered into employ for a full year, he being pleased with the receptivity and progress of his pupils. And King Ching Chi, laden with provisions and gifts for the wild hermit and the simple farmer, set off on a new adventure to live as a forest hermit in that magic vale.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

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