The World’s Wisest Man
Long ago, a wandering monk came across a small, sleepy village, sitting in the shadow of a large and imposing mountain. He entered the quiet town, and went to the tavern, hoping to find someone to tell him about the hamlet in which he found himself. He asked what was unique to the town, and received a most curious reply.
“Did you notice the mountain above the village, good monk? Well, at the summit of the mountain is a cave, and within the cave lives an immortal hermit: the world’s wisest man. He knows the secret of invisibility, and will vanish if anyone attempts to enter his cavern and meet him.
“But there is a seat of stone outside the cave, and if you sit upon it, and speak into the cave, and tell the hermit your thoughts and desires, he will speak back to you. He has been there for centuries, always ready to advise us, ever since this town was founded, over three dynasties ago.”
“How do you know he’s truly the world’s wisest man?” asked the monk.
“Everyone knows it! Even the staunchest skeptic admits after a conversation with him that the hermit is wise in all things and inerrant in his opinions. You may as well ask how I know the sun is bright. It’s obvious to everyone.”
The monk was intrigued, and decided to speak with the hermit. He found lodgings for the night, and the next morning, ascended the mountain, carrying supplies for a few days with him. After three days and three nights, he reached the summit, and there he found, as the owner of the tavern had described, the opening of a cave, and outside it, a well worn stone, polished smooth and shining from the bottoms of hundreds and centuries of villagers.
The monk set down his burdens and sat upon the stone. He closed his eyes and thought quietly for some time, wondering what to say, while the sun journeyed across the sky. Finally, he spoke.
“I think that if mankind could learn to stop chasing after profit, and hold all goods in common like members of the same family, a great many evils would be avoided.”
A moment passed. And from within the cave came the voice of the hermit. “I think that if mankind could learn to stop chasing after profit, and hold all goods in common like members of the same family, a great many evils would be avoided,” he softly intoned.
“People commit evil deeds in the expectation of gain. If gain could not be expected, evil would not be committed,” the monk mused.
And from within the cave, the hermit replied, “People commit evil deeds in the expectation of gain. If gain could not be expected, evil would not be committed.”
“Ah,” said the monk. He stood up and walked down the mountain, enlightened.
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