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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Sherpa’s Tale (Short Story)

This adventurer had embarked on this mountain expedition, in one of the eastern countries, and he had noticed one of the older sherpas was looking very troubled. So when they had set up camp, on the fourth night, he finally got a chance to approach the man and ask him what was bothering him.

The man came straight out with a question. A question which he had obviously had on his mind for some time. He asked, “Why are you going to the trouble of all this? Risking your life and others, and the expense of all this equipment?

The adventurer was taken by this direct question, but nevertheless answered, “To climb one of the tallest mountains in the world.”

At this the old sherpa looked away, puzzled. Thinking. Then he asked, “And what are you going to do when you get to the top of the mountain?”


The adventurer replied, “Well, we’ll plant our country’s flag, take in the grandeur, and then climb back down.”

The old man seemed a bit satisfied.
He said “So you do not want to stay up there. You do not want to claim the land. You only want to see the world from a different point of view.”

The adventurer thought for a second, not quite sure which one of them had just got the idea. “I suppose you could say that. See it like nobody will ever see it. Yes.

At this the sherpa said, “Let me tell you the story of the mountain.”

The Sherpa’s Tale

Once there was a young man who lived in our village. Many thought him strange, for he used to spend hours looking up at the mountains and envying the soaring birds in the tall blue sky. He watched how they effortlessly and trustingly leapt from the cliff-sides to fly overhead.
One day, with a desire in his heart to see the world from above, he set out to climb one of the tallest peaks surrounding the small village.

The villagers whispered as he made his way out of the village. “He does not appreciate what he has. Up there it is treacherous.”

After many days of climbing over hard, cold rock, the young man stood at the top of the tallest peak.

Before him was the most spectacular sight. The air was crisp. The sky was vast and blue. The clouds lay like a foaming river below him. Far below he could see the small village. Quiet and small.

Some birds flew below in the distance. The young man turned around, looking in all directions. Then he stopped. He stood, hands stretched out to the side. He took a deep breath, his eyes closed. He let out his breath, opened his eyes, and took a dive forward into the blue of the sky.
There was silence.

Then the air began to rush through his hair. The cold made his eyes fill with tears. As his stiff body became vertical, and the rocks rushed passed his face, he thought of the people in the small village.

“Fool,” they had said.

He closed his eyes.

Suddenly, he was overcome with fear squeezing at his heart. He opened his eyes and looked down, hands stretched out in front of his head.

A thick, dead branch sticking out of the mountain-side came rushing up to him. A crack and tear filled the young man’s ears. Pain filled his body and his heart. He began to tumble, hitting rock and snow.

A thud!

Quiet.

Another pain hit the young man’s back as the remains of the thick branch landed on him.

The cold of the snow numbed the boy’s body. His heart was full of pain.

The warmth of his breath melted some of the snow. The water quenched his hurting throat. He lay on his front, eyes closed. The sun shone high in the bright blue sky.

Eventually the young man got to his feet. His body ached and his body was bleeding. He did not turn to look back up at the mountain top. He slowly and painfully began to walk down the mountain to the small village.

After many more days than it had taken him to climb the mountain, he eventually reached the outskirts of his village.

Along the pathway, he came across an old man sitting on a large, smooth rock. The young man hung his head low and looked at the path beneath his feet as he walked past, waiting for some sort of mockery.

Instead, the old man said softly, “If you spend your life looking down, it’s not surprising that you injure yourself as you have.”

At this the young man looked up at the old man, and fell to his knees, exhausted and ashamed. The old man said nothing, but waited for the young man to regain some energy and look up again.

“You see,” continued the old man, “you are looking at the world all wrong.”

The young man replied, “But I climbed up the mountain to get the best view of the world and I failed.

The old man got up off the rock and stood in front of him. He lifted the young man to his feet.

“Look up there,“ pointed the old man. “That is just the top of a mountain.” The young man could see the white peak, surrounded by the white clouds. “That is not your only destination. When you were down here, you could only see that mountain. You did not see the mountains to come. You thought that when you got to the top, that it was the end of your journey. So you blinded yourself. You chose not to see the other mountains inside the clouds. You thought that the only thing to do then was to fly into the blue sky; that there was nothing else to do but soar like the free spirits of the birds. The birds do not fly from their homes in the mountain-sides for fun. They do not fly around just to return to where they came from. They go to the other mountains. They find their food. They fill their stomachs and they return to where their hearts and families belong, to feed and nurture them. They have no world to escape. From up there you can see what is coming. You can see where you want to go and you can see where you have been. The horizon is never clear, for it is a blur of clouds and sky and mountain tops. What lies there you do not know. It is up to you to make your way from peak to peak, toward that unending horizon.”

The young man looked at the tall blue sky, and took in a deep breath. He sighed. “But, I am unable to fly across the sky, through the clouds.”

The old man pointed towards the village. “You cannot live your life with your head in the clouds all the time. You need to walk down the mountain-side and through the small villages to get to the next mountain. But remember, when you are up on the mountain, you must appreciate the small villages and the love you have there.”

The young man smiled. He thanked the old man, and proudly walked back into the village.

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