Most days, I feel like anything worth learning can be learned from books (surmising that anything worth doing has already been done, and anything done and interesting enough to write a book about is probably more worth knowing than what I could come up with on my own). But some questions are not answered in books; at least not well (if there is a perfect book on how to gain and retain the undivided attention of enticing women, for example, it has certainly never been brought to my awareness). But I’ve been fooled before.
Maybe this post will change your thoughts about some things. Let’ s find out.
And so it is that, one day, with just such a question in mind, I closed my shop, and set out on a foray beyond the city limits. Into the surrounding foothills, and from the tops of those, a mountain, and at the top of the mountain, an old man.
He was the paradigm of peaceful repose, perfect solitude, perfect serenity, perfect oneness, undisturbed by the elements, almost one of the elements: air, fire, earth, water, old man…
Eyes closed, legs crossed, he struck me instantly as wise, but so serene was the scene, I was hesitant to approach. At first.
But I had questions, and this man had answers. I was sure of it.
So I drew near, but before I could open my mouth, he opened his and said:
“You seek a virtuous woman.”
“Yes,” I responded, “how did you know that?”
“So you seek a virtuous woman?”
“Yes,” I said. “I just said that.”
“But you are sure virtuous?”
“Yes!” I said. “Why?”
“Ah, ‘why?’ That my next question,” he said (reminding me a little of Mr. Miyagi. And Yoda).
“Why ‘virtuous’?” I asked. “I don’t know. Isn’t everyone seeking a virtuous woman?”
“Don’t know,” he said. “I not everyone.”
“Yeah, but doesn’t it seem like everyone would want a virtuous woman?” I asked.
“Depend what want her for,” he said, sounding more like Yoda now than Mr. Miyagi.
“Wise words, old man,” I said. “I guess I see your point.”
“What my point?” he asked, seeming slightly amused.
“If you want a virtuous woman, you have to seek a virtuous woman. Everyone seeks a virtuous woman because everyone wants a virtuous woman. At least at first,” I said, thinking I knew where he was going.
“At first?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “No one wants a woman that is virtuous all the time.”
“Season change. Air change. Wind change. Water change. Virtuous woman…never change.”
“Why not?” I asked.
And then he said something I will never forget: “if change, then not virtuous. If virtuous, then not change.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense,” I said, in budding frustration. “I am surrounded by all these women, and I feel like I want a virtuous one, but you’re telling me that the virtuous ones are either never going to change, or were never virtuous.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” I asked.
“Must make up mind,” he said.
“Make up my mind?” I asked.
“About what want.”
“But I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know what I want.”
“Then not matter,” he said.
Was this guy serious? I was becoming increasingly less sure whether this was the wise man on the mountain or the old fool on the hill. He was reminding me an awful lot of a deranged cheshire cat.
“All right, well, thanks a lot. I guess I’ll be going,” I said defeated.
“Wait,” he said. “You surrounded by women?”
“Yes,” I said. “I guess so.”
“And they virtuous?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not sure anymore.”
Then he smiled his wise old smile, and took out a little piece of paper, the size you would find in a fortune cookie. He wrote on it, very carefully, for several minutes, and then handed it to me. It read: “in the abundance of water the fool is thirsty.” I put it in my pocket, and headed back down the mountain. Now I use it as a bookmark.