This post is an addition to the inspirational story category. Enjoy.
The Jade Fountain
There is wisdom all around us. It just needs to be sought out.
Here is the tale of a young boy, Tom, who did just that.
In Tom’s village, there were many serviceable idols. Some aspired to be as strong as the hunters, as patient as the fisherman, or as crafty as the swordsmiths. However, of all the idols, none were as respected and admired as the Wise Masters.
Whether you were a young boy, a farmer, or a fisherman, if you ever had a problem, you sought the advice of the Wise Masters. At night, they would often tell stories about their journeys, sharing their knowledge about the land and its diverse inhabitants. Tom always listened most attentively.
He sat like a dog underneath a table, waiting to snatch up any morsel of wisdom they let fall from their lips. Sometimes, he would ruminate for days about a single tale that a Wise Master had told many nights ago.
Tom hoped to one day be as wise as the Masters, knowing that if he too possessed great wisdom, the other boys would naturally look up to him. Every chance he got he sought out the Masters company, hoping to gain more knowledge each time. He once spent eight straight hours sitting beside them as they convened in silent meditation.
Eventually, the anticipation got too great. Tom couldn’t wait any longer, so he confronted the master who was most friendly to him.
“Wise Master, how can I become as wise as you?” he asked.
“It comes with time,” the Wise Master said.
“I don’t want to wait any longer, Wise Master. Please, there has to be a way.”
The Wise Master realized the young boy was not going to give up.
“Hmm persistence. A valuable trait,” he said. “If you truly want to be wise, then there is only one way.”
“What is it?!” Tom asked.
“To be as wise as I, you must seek out The Fountain of Wisdom.”
“The Fountain of Wisdom?”
“Somewhere on this land, there exists a mystic fountain of pure liquid wisdom. One sip from the fountain and you will be as wise as I.”
“How can I find it? Where should I go?”
“The fountain remains hidden to ensure that only the most devoted journeymen can access its power. However, if you look hard enough you will find it.”
Tom became determined to find the fountain. A year later, when he turned thirteen, he was free to leave the village. He said goodbye to his family and friends, and assured them that he would soon return with enough wisdom to rival any master.
Tom scaled mountains, crossed rivers, and trekked through the most dangerous woods looking for the fountain. He followed leads from hikers who claimed to have encountered it. He sought out landmarks that supposedly neighbored it.
Within time, he had spoken to nearly every native inhabitant of the land. He had learned how to extract information out of people very efficiently, but he still could not find the fountain.
The seasons changed and the soles of his boots wore thin. His body grew twice its size and hair started to sprout from his chin. Eventually, it had wrapped itself around his whole face. Tom was no longer a boy, but a man. Yet, his dreams still ran as wild as child’s.
While Tom sat beside a river washing the dirt from his face, an old fisherman approached him.
“You know, I have been fishing my whole life. I know when a man is awaiting his big moment.”
“You’re right. I am about to make great discovery. However, I’m curious,” Tom said. “How did fishing help you to recognize that?”
“Each day, I sit here staring at the water, waiting for fish to swim by. A man learns a lot about desire and patience while staring at his reflection for that long.”
Tom gave his full attention to the fisherman.
“Did you know the fishing season doesn’t really amount to much until the autumn?”
“I did not,” Tom said.
“I often sit here for months on end catching barely enough fish to feed my family. Then suddenly the water will cool, the conditions will be just right, and I will catch more fish than I know what to do with.”
Tom was surprised.
“Your moment will come.”
Tom kept on searching. Soon, he had spoken with nearly all of the people throughout the land. Eventually, he realized he would need to start looking for information elsewhere, so he learned to communicate with the animals, a talent only a few mastered. He used this talent to learn more about the land and the magic fountain’s whereabouts.
As he scaled the terrain and spoke to more animals, his skin began to wither and his hair turned grey.
One day, he encountered a large black bear. It bore a crescent moon of white fur on its chest like a plate of armor.
“Black Bear, are you familiar with these lands?” Tom asked.
“Familiar? I own these lands.”
Tom nodded but did not respond.
“I walk proud and tall. I drink from the river and sleep beside the trees. Every animal knows this is my land,” the bear elaborated.
“My apologies. Surely then, you must be able to help me.”
“I suppose I could have the information you seek.”
“I am looking for a magic fountain of pure wisdom. A sparkling jade liquid runs through its rocks. Do you know where I might find it?
“Yes of course. I own this fountain as well,” said the bear. “It is just down the beaten path. When you reach a large tree with yellow ferns, take a sharp left turn and the fountain will be just down the hill.”
“Thank you, Black Bear!” Tom said as he took off down beaten road.
When he reached the yellow ferns, Tom realized it was noticeably silent. No birds chirping. No animals scurrying through the dry leaves. He looked up to the trees to gauge where the animals had gone. Perched atop the branches were several black bears with furry white chests waiting to pounce on their prey.
“Wait,” Tom said. “A friend of yours sent me down to greet you. There is a large school of fish swimming up the river right now, the largest he has ever seen. He doesn’t want you to miss it.”
“Why would we believe you?” one of the black bears said.
“Well because I am a fisherman,” Tom said. He spoke about the currents and the seasons. He told them that this autumn day has created the perfect conditions for a magnificent harvest of fish.
The bears believed him and headed to the river. Tom continued down the hill, and as he expected, he observed that there was no fountain.
Years of searching led him to question whether the fountain even existed. He was old and grey, and he had spent his whole life in pursuit of something that he had learned about from a withered old man many decades ago.
The bear’s deception was the final straw. Tom sat down at the bottom of hill, ready to throw in the towel. He decided he would return to his village spend the rest of his life there, reacquainting himself with his lost family and friends.
He arose and began walking towards the setting sun. Then, in the distance, he noticed the sun’s rays bouncing off a stream of sparkling green liquid.
Tom headed towards the stream and noticed a moving spring with a jade liquid flowing along its rocks.
“Finally!” he said aloud as he dropped to knees beside the fountain’s brink. It was as wonderful as he had imagined, wisdom in its purest form.
Tom bent down, cupped his leathery hands, and drew the liquid to his mouth. He swallowed and the fluid ran down this throat.
Nothing had changed.
Tom frantically drew the liquid to his mouth again. He swallowed.
He kept drinking and drinking until his hands grew sore, his lips pruned, and his stomach swelled.
Tom did not feel any wiser. He cried out in the sky. “Why?!”
His voice echoed against the rocks.
“My whole life. Wasted. On a lie,” he wheezed.
A boy heard his cry in the distance and walked up behind him.
“A pretty fountain,” he said. “Never seen anything like it.”
Tom turned his head and looked up from his knees. “Neither had I.”
“I hope you can help me, old man. I’m looking to meet my father at a hut nearby.”
“What hut?” Tom said.
The boy described a traveler’s hut with rosewood walls and a bamboo roof. Tom had come across it on his journey.
“You are a distance away,” Tom said. “You must scale this hill and travel along the river.”
He warned the boy about the black bear with debauched intentions and encouraged him to cross the river before the yellow ferns. “If you need some assistance, call out to any hikers or fisherman that you meet across the river. They are very friendly in these parts.”
“Thank you old man,” the boy said.
“When you leave the woods, you will find the hut you seek next to a tall Buddhist statue with iron feet.”
The boy smiled and ran off. He shouted something back from the distance.
The words, “you are so wise,” echoed against the rocks.
Thanks for reading!
— Remember to embrace the journey not the destination —