Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All of the Wisdom of the World

In which a king, in pursuit of all of the wisdom of the world, learns the most important lesson about flexibility...




Long ago and far away, when books were becoming more readily available to the educated classes, the sovereign monarch of a small empire became enamored with the possibility of accumulating wisdom through books. The king had ascended to the throne at age ten. Being quite precocious, intelligent, literate, and curious, he immediately sent his emissaries and explorers far and wide to buy up and bring back any and all books that might bring him the wisdom of the world.






He built many buildings to house his vast library where he daily spent the hours from sun up until sun down, reading. Indeed, by the time he was nineteen, he had gained quite a reputation for being quite wise.





Gradually, he began to realize that, although these books surely contained all of the wisdom of the world, there was no way he could possibly read all of them in his lifetime. This made him sad. He loved knowledge, wisdom and his books, but the more he grasped this undeniable reality, the sadder he became, until he hit upon a solution.

He summoned his most trusted advisors, the Grand Council of Twenty, to his throne room, where he charged and challenged them with a task that would solve his predicament.






“As you know,” he carefully informed them, “in my vast library I have accumulated the books that contain all of the wisdom of the world. However, even though I have barely reached midlife, and as much as I would love to, I can see that I will not be able to read all of these books and thereby find all of the wisdom of the world.”
The Council listened intently. “Therefore, I am wondering can you reduce all of the wisdom of the world to one book?"

Of course, nobody ever refused a "wondering" request from the king, and they were a super smart group, so enthusiastically-but-respectfully they replied, “Of course, your Highness. We will start immediately!”


When they returned several years later, they found the king sitting on his throne, reading, of course. They announced, “Your Highness, we have completed the task, met the challenge.” 
“Wonderful!” exclaimed the king. “You were able to condense all of the wisdom of the world into one book?”
“Yes, your Highness.”
“Really?”
“Yes, your Highness.”
“Do you have the book?”
“Yes, your Highness, we have the book. We will bring it immediately.”


They left the throne room and returned pushing a very large wheeled table upon which rested the largest, thickest book the king had ever seen. He was astounded and a bit disbelieving, not to mention taken aback by his quick assessment of the physical strength it would take merely to open the cover of a tome of such gigantic proportions. But, he was eager to try.




Quickly, he slipped down from his throne and approached the immense volume. Pushing back the sleeves of his royal robe, he reached out to grasp the book’s cover with both hands, and with not a little effort, he hefted the cover open and began turning the pages. He turned several pages at a time, scanning the contents and taking in some of capacious information that was printed on every page. A small ladder was brought to the book table so that he could get a better vantage point.









After quite some time, he turned to the Council, looking very satisfied, and said, “You have done well, and you will be well rewarded. Surely, all of the wisdom of the world is contained in the pages of this magnificent volume.”
The Council members looked very self-satisfied.

Then, the king's face turned sad, and in a softer voice he told them, “Alas! I doubt that I will ever, ever be able to read this entire book. Therefore, I have another charge and challenge for you.”
The Council members looked puzzled.
“I wonder,” asked the king, “Could you possibly condense all of the wisdom of the world into one sentence?”

Of course, nobody ever refused a "wondering" challenge issued by the king, and they were a super smart group, so enthusiastically but respectfully they replied, “Of course, your Highness. We will start immediately!”
Several more years passed before the Council returned to announce that they had completed the task; they had met the challenge. The now balding king was napping on his throne with a couple of good sized books in his lap.

Loudly but gently they “Ahem-ed!” to rouse the king, who woke vaguely aware of who they were and delighted to hear them say, “Your Highness, we have completed the task, met the challenge.”
“You have the sentence?”
“Yes, your Highness.”
“You were able to condense all of the wisdom of the world into one sentence?”
“Yes, your Highness!”
“Really?”
“Yes, your Highness!”
“Well, then, don’t waste another moment. Tell me the sentence!”
“Your Highness, the sentence is: This, too, shall come to pass.







The king was silent for a long time, mulling over the words he had just heard. He turned to the Council, looking very satisfied, and said, “You have done well, and you will be well rewarded. Surely, all of the wisdom of the world is contained in this one sentence.”

The Council members looked very self-satisfied.

Then, in a soft voice bespeaking his deepest curiosity, he said “I have another challenge for you.”

The Council members looked puzzled.

“I wonder,” asked the king, “Could you possibly condense all of the wisdom of the world into one word?”

Of course, nobody ever refused a "wondering" challenge from the king, and they were a super smart group, so enthusiastically but respectfully they replied, “Of course, your Highness. We will start immediately!”

Several more years passed before they returned, to announce that they had completed the task, met the challenge. They found the king, now with a long gray beard, napping sonorously on his throne with a small book in his lap.

Loudly but gently they ‘Ahem-ed!’ to rouse the king, but he did not stir. They ‘Ahem-ed!’ much more loudly, which did the trick. The king woke groggily, vaguely aware of who they were, but he had to be reminded of their task, and then was delighted to hear them say, “Your Highness, we have completed the task, met the challenge.”
“You have the word?”
“Yes, your Highness.”
“You were able to condense all of the wisdom of the world into one word?”
“Yes, your Highness!”
“Really?”
“Yes, your Highness!”
“Well, then, don’t waste another moment. Tell me the word!”





Following an expectant silence, in unison, the council gave the king the word, “Your Highness," they chanted as a chrous, "all of the wisdom of the world condensed into one word is maybe!”

Content with the knowledge that this surely was true and the greatest of all wisdom, the king and his Council lived happily ever after.

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