Spiritual Fiction posted January 14, 2015

This work has reached the exceptional level
an allegory

The Mountain

by mfowler

'Good morning, my good fellow. I trust your travels are going well,' says Jah to the old man carrying the load of sticks.
'Ah, yes, good morning. I don't think so, no. Can't say as it is.'
'Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. May I help you in some way?'
'Not really, I'm a bit tired, that's all.'
'Why don't you sit down, take a load off your feet, and share some water with me?'
'Thank you, sir. I will share a drink, but I can't put the sticks down. I've carried them this far and I dare not stop till I reach my destination.' Jah looks at the poor broken man and wonders why on earth he needs to carry sticks.
'Here. It's from the stream back along this road. Cool and clear. I hope you don't mind me asking, but what is your destination?' The old man, stooped and clearly exhausted, looks at Jah with grateful eyes.
'Thank you, Jah. That's wonderful. Call me...yes, call me Old Man. To be frank, I'm looking for heaven.' Jah is taken aback.
'Heaven, you say. How wonderful? I was on my way there too. Maybe we could travel together.' Old Man beams.
'I'd like that. Do you know where it is? I've been travelling these roads for many years, but always seem to end up back here at this crossroads.'
'Mmh. See that mountain in the distance to the north. Just a speck. That's where heaven is. I'm fairly certain of it. Why don't we strike out for there and see how we go?' The old man nods, acknowledging a plan, one he knows must be better than the ones he's been following.
They walk side by side without speaking until Jah stops to look at a tree by the road. 'Why stop, Jah? We have a long way to go.' Jah steps toward the tree.
'Watch closely, Old Man.' A small grey bird sits on the second lowest branch. It opens its beak and sings a tune that stops time for a brief moment. Old Man remembers the sound from somewhere, but it must have been a long time ago. The air around the bird seems like silver shimmer and the drab little bird shines with light.
'Wo! What just happened?'
'You heard birdsong, Old Man? Lovely wasn't it.'
'I'd forgotten how lovely birds are. I've been so focussed on reaching heaven, I haven't had time for frivolity.' Jah smiles. They resume the journey. Old Man seems less burdened by the sticks now.
'Why do you carry those sticks? Are you expecting heaven to be cold?' Old Man laughs.
'No, no. It's penance, you see. I was a stupid young man. Got into lots of trouble. I left my young wife with a baby in arms and ran off with my neighbour's wife. We didn't last and I'd caused such heartache. I realised that I brought it on myself after it was too late to change things.'
'So you are looking for heaven with a load of sticks. How long has this been going on?'
'Many, many years. A holy man in my village told me about penance. Said I wouldn't get to heaven until I made up for my errors. He said to do something that would make heaven take notice. So, I came up with this idea.' They walk on chatting. The mountain seems no closer, but the Old Man enjoys Jah's company.
'Would you let me carry the sticks for awhile? Help you rest a bit. You sound like you need it after carrying such a burden for so long.'
'It is kind of you, Jah. What if I like it? You know. Enjoy walking freely. I might forget about heaven and go back to spoiling others' lives.' Jah reaches out to Old Man.
'Let's say I carry them awhile. If you feel like doing something bad, let me know and I'll give your burden back to you.' Old man sheepishly hands over the sticks. He straightens his back and stretches.
'Oh, Jah. That feels good. How did you know I won't run off and leave you to carry them to heaven by yourself?'
'Would you?'
'No. Not after your friendship. It's funny. I feel light on my feet, not so old. Even my mind is freer. I don't want to run away. I want to come with you. Here, let me carry the sticks again.' As he says this, Jah notices a small group of people sitting by the road.
'Good morning, friends. How are you on this bright morning?' A sad looking woman in a black shawl and wearing peasant dress answers.
'I'm sorry, sir. It's not a good morning. My children are hungry and we have no food.'

Old Man hears her words and steps forward. 'I have some rice and a small quantity of vegetables which you may use. Perhaps you can make a stew for the children.' She smiles at him gratefully.
'Thank you, old man. That would be lovely. But, we have no fuel to build a fire or water to cook it in.'
Old Man says,'My friend, Jah has water enough. Use these sticks for your kindling. I have no use for these things anymore.' The old lady and children weep with happiness at their good fortune.
Jah and Old Man resume the journey to the mountain. Its beautiful peak appears closer with each step. He feels the soothing breeze on his face and notices all around him. 'Did you see that eagle on the wind, Jah? Beautiful. And those small white faced flowers growing by the road's edge. I'd swear they're smiling at me.'
'You seem to be enjoying the world around you, Old Man? Don't you miss the bundle of sticks?'
'Strangely, no. It was good that I found a purpose for my burden,' he remarks. Suddenly he realises that he is standing at the foot of the mountain. Jah has disappeared, but he knows that they agreed only to come this far together. He's grateful for the companionship.
So, heaven's right in front of me. What a wonderful, magnificent thing it is?
Old Man walks to the base heaven and strikes out along a stony trail. Instinctively, he knows the way.



After many reviews I feel impelled to help readers unlock this. I wrote it with multiple layers of interpretation possible:
Literal: a journey story about friendship and kindness
Humanistic: a story about finding a better pathway in life's never ending struggles.
Eastern mysticism: seeking a kind of karma through a range of transitions
Christian: after seeking forgiveness through acts of penance a soul encounters Jesus who offers living water, a transfigured view of the world around him, an offer to lighten his burden, love through understanding, companionship and charity, and multiple exposure to the Holy Spirit. Through this the soul finds his way to heaven, forgiven and loved.

Any other way of looking at it you like, including a combination of thinking.

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