Here is a variation on an old story
Long ago, but much more recently than you suppose; in a land far away, but much
nearer than you can possibly imagine; a young man, who we will call 'our hero', came
to hear of a great treasure. It was rumoured that there was a man who knew the
whereabouts of that treasure but people were unsure as to how to locate this man.
Being poor, but full of the bravura of youth, our hero determined that he would track
down this mysterious man and the treasure. Locking his humble cottage and entrusting
it to a reliable friend, he duly completed his preparations and set out full of hope and
At each tavern and guest house he stopped at he made discrete enquiries. There
were false turns of course and delays and many false dawns, but just as he reached
the point of despair and was ready to turn back, things changed.
He found himself in a tavern where he became very drunk. In the course of an
intoxicated conversation with a stranger he was informed of the existence of a clear
map where the man was to be found. Coming out of his drunken stupor the next
morning he somehow recalled that particular part of the conversation. He was
struggling to remember exactly what had been said when his hand lit upon a piece of
paper in his pocket. Indeed it proved to be a map. His astonishment knew no bounds
and he read it with great excitement. To his surprise he discovered that the map
indicated one of the towns he had already briefly visited.
Gathering the last of his resources he made his way to the town. The map was quite
specific and this time he found the house he sought. His enthusiastic but somewhat
nervous knock was answered by a man of late middle age. On hearing of his quest the
man invited him in.
After the formalities of a drink and a meal and polite conversation concerning where
the young man had come from, incumbent on any host, the two began to get to the
matter in hand. ‘I beg you, sir’, said the young man with great earnestness, ‘tell me, do
you really know the whereabouts of this treasure of which so much has been said?’
‘Indeed I do’ was the astonishingly straightforward reply. Looking straight into the eyes
of the older man, and with a trembling lip and tremor in his voice, our hero asked him if
he would be so gracious and kind as to direct him. Again he received a direct reply, ‘I
would be happy to tell you of the exact location, in very precise detail' the older man
said. His eyes held those of his young inquisitor, who could detect nothing but
sincerity in them. ‘However’, he continued, ‘before I do so there are some tasks that I
have to complete and I would ask for your assistance in these first’. Our young hero
paused but a moment and then agreed to this condition.
The following morning the sun and the young man arose together from their nightly
slumber. His benefactor however was already up having returned from an early
morning walk. As the sun warmed the breaking day and began to melt the frost, our
young man received his instructions. It appeared his host had need of a waggon to
transport some unspecified goods. He was given the materials and tools and though
he had little experience of this kind of work he felt it was a task well within his reach
and indeed one about which he felt some enthusiasm. Of course it took much longer
than he anticipated but during all that time he was comfortably housed and well fed.
Eventually to their mutual pleasure the task was completed. It was an occasion of
much feasting and celebration.
The following day over breakfast his genial host revealed that, pleased as he was, he
had discovered that the waggon was not sufficient for the load he had to carry. The
young man eagerly offered to complete another such cart starting that very day. As a
matter of fact he was not entirely satisfied with his workmanship which despite the
pleasure it gave the older man appeared to him to have faults and to be a little wobbly
By now you will have guessed that this self same process was repeated many times
but the young man – far from objecting took greater and greater delight in the task.
Besides he had been warmly accepted into the family and locality and was by now
really at home. There was however one door though which he was never invited and it
was through this door that the older man would disappear every day till the evening.
Twenty odd years rolled by this way. His host, who was now more like a father to him,
became white haired and noticeably frailer despite his continuing vigour. Our hero had
by now become part of the family having married one of his hosts daughters and
having two healthy children by her. From time to time he would hear from travellers of
his own cottage where all appeared to be well.
One evening, as the sun was setting, the two men sat on the porch. The older man
pulling on a long pipe as was his custom in the evenings. ‘At last it is done’ he
muttered almost to himself. In answer to our hero's questioning glance he said more
clearly – ‘I mean our task is almost complete – tomorrow you will load the waggons
and I will depart’. Used by now to not questioning, but with a heavy heart, the younger
man continued to sit there; and they continued thus in silence till at last, by unspoken
mutual agreement, they retired for the night.
The young man hardly slept, his mind in a state of confusion.
The following morning the old man led him through what our hero had come to think of
as 'the forbidden door'. To his amazement he saw, shining brightly in the light of the
lamp the old man held up, hordes upon hordes of gold and jewels beyond imagination.
He diligently began the task of loading the treasure on the many waiting waggons,
barely completing the task before the sun itself had begun turning a to a beautiful gold
the whole scene.
With attendants and guards on each of the waggons the old man himself climbed
aboard the lead waggon. Our hero approached him at his beckoning. Manly as he
was, our hero eyes streamed tears and his heart seemed ready to burst.
‘You have fulfilled your part of the bargain,’ the old man said, ‘and now here are the
directions to the treasure you sought. He took out the map the younger man had
brought to him all those years ago and he wrote on it.
Our hero read it with astonishment for what was written on it – as you will no doubt
have guessed - was the address of the cottage that the young man had started out
from on his quest for treasure. His own home!
'Pull up the floorboards and you will find what you set out to find all those years ago.'
The old man spoke in muted tones for he was not unaffected by the moment.
‘Sir, I have found such a great treasure in your company already,’ sobbed our hero,
‘that my gratitude makes my heart burst and I know not whether I am laughing or
crying. Pray sir, please indulge me by answering one question.' ‘You want to know
why I did not tell you this long ago’, interjected the old man in sonorous tones – ‘I will
tell you. If I had told you when you had first came you would have said you believed
me, but you would not have really believed me and you would have gone off
continuing your search fruitlessly. If I had told you later on
you would have only partly believed me and been in danger of going home by a
circuitous route or being delayed by so many distractions. In the latter years you had
become such a part of me here that it would have been hard for you to have departed.
Now not only have you seen my treasure and me departing but you have committed
yourself so whole-heartedly that you will not hesitate to go directly home and find the
treasure buried beneath your own house. Now I am going to another country where my
treasure will used to build a great palace. One day I expect to see you there, with your
own cartloads of treasure I will reserve a plot for you near me.'
He took out a manuscript from one of his deep pockets. 'Here is how you will find me
For a moment, through his tears, the scroll appeared to our hero as a great marble
slab engraved with burning gold. He blinked and it appeared again as a piece of paper.
As the waggons began to move off the old man paused, turned, and added, with a
twinkle in his eyes, ‘Besides, how would I have ever got all these waggons made
A Little Reflection
There was once a man of scholarly reputation. Despite his scholastic achievements and status
as theologian of his Islamic faith, he remained humble, and in his heart a seeker of the
knowledge that cannot be gained from books. One day he was passing the local tavern in
pensive mood, for his reflections that day had led him to confront the realisation that his
erudition had not achieved anything, other than a reputation that would fade the moment he
was in the grave.
It chanced the local wastrel and scoundrel, whose only renown was for copious drinking and
wild singing, was departing the tavern in his usual drunken way. The scholar made a point of
being uncritical of the behaviour of others his motto being “Whatever comes my way is best”.
He smiled with compassion for the state of the man. The drunk lurched forward and ended up
sitting on the floor. The scholar reached out helped the poor man to his feet.
Oh my dear, on what simple acts of heartfelt kindness turns our destiny in this short life.
Through boozy eyes the drunk looked at him a while and said nothing but moved on. Then
turning a moment he said, apropos of nothing in particular, “Today, I have work in the cellar”.
Perhaps, thought the scholar, he is happy to have employment in order to buy his drink. That
thoughtful man carried on his way and reached his house.
Now the words of the drunk had reminded him of something long left undone. His own cellar,
he thought to himself, was in a state of sore neglect. He went down the dusty creaky stairs
carrying some rags and polish for cleaning, and a broom.
At the bottom of the stairs he surveyed the dust covered, cobwebbed, cellar. In one corner
leaning against the wall was a grand old mirror with a good solid carved frame. The face of the
mirror was covered in thick dust. Without any particular plan he went to the mirror and wiped
the frame to reveal its beautifully carved teak wood. Then with no real thought at all he traced
the word ALLAH in Arabic in the dust so as to reveal the shining mirror surface beneath. He
stood back a little to look at it. In that single precious moment he got the answer to every
theological difficulty he had ever struggled with!
He looked in wonder. Then a thought came to him to write GOD in English, then in French,
Hindi, Farsi, in fact all the languages he knew. What he saw then removed from him every
deep rooted sectarian, racial or religious prejudice he had ever entertained.
Now another thought came to him. He wrote with his finger in big letters his own name. He
stepped back and looked and instantly understood all that the mystics had ever taught or
Now finally another thought came to him – taking the rag and polish he wiped all the dust from
the mirror, removing all the words he had written as he did so. He polished it till it shone
brighter than the sun dawning on a clear cloudless day. He looked into it and in an instant, for
him too, night turned into a glorious day.
This, friend, is a story of the heart, find it’s conclusion and explanation in your own heart. It
could be a beginning too, if you follow it well.
JMZ Feb 18th 2016