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The Mountain of Life—A Parable

In a certain country there was a lofty snow-capped mountain in the shadow of which lay a large city. This city was very beautifully laid out and the inhabitants lived mostly a very gay and idle life, whilst others busied themselves in amassing riches or quarrelling over various trifles.

But there were some who grew tired of the pleasures and amusements of the city, for, they thought, although life here is very pleasant, yet one day comes after another and year succeeds year and at last we die. Death puts an end to everything. Is there no place where we can reach something more lasting? And some suggested the mountain, whose sides sloped up higher and higher towards heaven, although the summit was far back out of sight. Some thought this was a good idea, whilst others declared that if no less arduous way could be found, then it would be better to remain in the city and amuse one’s self as best one could until death came.

But the others were fired with a desire to explore the mountain, and quite a large band started off amid the wonder of all and the Jeers of many.

But soon they found to their surprise that the mountain-slopes, which had seemed so near were in reality quite a distance off and that they had to go a long and tiresome journey without seeming to rise at all above the city, which so disgusted many that they turned back towards the city where they related to their friends how they had been deceived, and joined with these in laughing at the rest who still went on, some rapidly, some slowly.

But when they began to find that they seemed to be approaching the mountain, they found that there were innumerable different ways up the side, and as the summit was out of sight, there was no telling which was the best. Some were smoother than others but more wandering, some rougher but apparently more direct. And now they began to dispute which to take, each declaring that this or that path was the right one and all the rest could only lead to destruction. And here many were so perplexed that they went back, saying that it would be impossible to choose the right one among so many. The rest took mostly different paths and went on separately.

It would be impossible to recount all their different experiences, but it is enough to say that only very few ever reached the great dark pine-forests that clothed the slopes above them. Here indeed a sore struggle arose in their hearts, for far away below lay the city, and they thought of their old friends, and memories of their former pleasures came vividly before them, wh1le above them, after all their labors, was only mist and gloom. And the more they thought of all this the more they altered. Still some few said: Even here, in the pathless, lonely forest we have some guide, for we can see in which direction the slope of the mountain tends and we can follow that. And even here the air seems fresher than in the city. Perhaps if we go on we may yet reach something. And these broke through the woods at last and came to bleak and stoney ascents, ever steeper and steeper, where they often stumbled and fell back and longed for their old friends below.

The mists and rain often bewildered them so that they could hardly guess in what direction to turn, and their progress was slow indeed.

But now, curiously enough, oftener and oftener the wayfarers, separated far below, came across each other once more; the way which had at first seemed so diverse had after all led many to the same place. Also from time to time they caught glimpses of glorious landscapes, such as they had never seen in the city and they could not but feel ashamed and disgusted when they recollected their slothful and aimless lives of old.

So they toiled slowly on, disputing as to what they should reach after all, for now there were none but believed that their labor would be sure to lead to something real, and the thought made them almost happy even amid the lonely wastes around them.

And one day the foremost body, who had just reached the crest of a particularly steep slope, beheld a sight, the very view of which made them forget all their misgivings and doubts, for in front of them, but a little way back, was one small Peak, covered with pure white snow, glistening in the light of the Sun, which shone as they had never seen it in the valleys below. And all around was the deep blue cloudless sky.

Then at last they understood the meaning of their long toils, and in the Sun of Truth on the Peak of Perfectness they reached the Peace they had sought.

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