Two Sages

The North Sage and the South Sage met at the crossroads. Or on, let’s say, a mountaintop. They began to discuss what they knew about the world, in the hopes of becoming wiser. Neither would call what they believed a religion.

The North Sage said that he had learned through meditation that each person was connected to the cosmos. The South Sage said that his people had developed powerful tools that could penetrate the heart of the invisible. The North Sage insisted that all knowledge would come from within. The South Sage asked how that could be possible, and claimed that one could only truly learn from observing nature.

Neither was stupid enough to insist that the other was wrong. The South Sage understood that if he had been born in the North, he would have learned all that the North Sage had. And the North Sage could imagine forgetting everything he knew; he saw that only with a beginner’s mind would he ever be able to  comprehend the wisdom of the South.

They stayed many days at this crossroads, on the mountain top. Each day they sat in the shade of an enormous old tree which was neither the native Willow of the North nor the sweeping Banyan of the South. They talked all day, then each returned to their own camp at nightfall.  The North Sage watched the stars and meditated. He sought not understanding but clarity. The South Sage wrote by moonlight in a huge old book. He wrote not what he had learned, but questions he had discovered.

After many months, it came to this.

“You,” said the South Sage, “you believe that all answers come from within. In your life you have found this method a far more reliable guide than mere tabulation of nature. But you cannot convince me that this method is better, because all your proofs come from where I cannot see them.”

“And you, my friend,” said the North Sage, “everything you have learned shows you that reason and study can unravel any mystery. But reason alone cannot show me that reason is all-encompassing, and so I must look elsewhere for deeper truths.”

“We cannot ever convince the other of our truths,” nodded the South Sage, “because we each ask for a type of proof that the other does not believe in.”

“What shall we do?” moaned the North Sage. “How can we resolve this dilemma? How can we learn from each-other? Must we stay at this crossroads forever?”

“No,” said the South Sage. “We are free to leave. We may each return to our homes. Or, you may continue walking South, and I may continue walking North.”

“Alternatively,” said the North Sage, “we could each walk in any direction we pleased, and hope to discover new lands to the East and West.”

“That is a good idea,” said the South Sage. “We will never know all the places in between, but it would help us both to understand the boundaries of the map. Do you think we will ever meet again, my wise friend?”

The North Sage blinked. “Of course,” he said, “for neither of us can escape this world.”

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