Picture by GregRob (Creative Commons)
Once upon a time, four men set out on a journey to see the king.
Heralds had been sent throughout the land proclaiming that anyone who left his home and went to live in the castle would be granted riches beyond compare, would be given power and authority in the land, and would be made co-regents with the king.
Though many dismissed the message as a hoax, a trap, a fairy story, these four friends – Tim and Sam and Tom and Jon – decided to go. As they walked along the road they sang together, laughed together and told stories of the mighty battles the king had fought, the fabulous riches to be found in his palace, and the banquets and parties he threw for all the people.
They walked by day and slept beneath the stars at night. When they were hungry they found nuts and berries to eat, and every two or three days, just when they thought they couldn’t eat another berry, there by the side of the road they would find a herald, standing guard over a picnic. “Come, friends of the king,” he would call out, “Eat your fill, for the road is long and you must keep your strength.”
On they walked, through towns, past fields, over hills and across rivers. They began to feel weary. This castle was further than they had imagined. Tim and Sam began to doubt. Was this really worth it? Had they been fooled? Were the heralds secretly mocking them for being so bold as to think that they, a farmer and a blacksmith, could be worthy to meet the king?
One day, they rounded a corner and saw in the valley ahead a playground. It was like the play parks they remembered from childhood, with every kind of swing, roundabout, climbing frame and slide, but adult-sized. With shouts of joy they ran to it, cares forgotten, children again. They played for hours, swinging, climbing, twirling, crawling. When they grew hot and tired, the tinkling bell of an ice cream van beckoned them, and they gorged themselves on the remembered flavours of years gone by.
As the sun began to set, the friends hauled themselves to their feet and began to gather their belongings to take to the road once more. All except Tim.
“Can’t we stay here longer?” he pleaded, “We’ve been having so much fun. The road is long and hard, and we don’t know what awaits us. This place is surely all the paradise we need.”
His friends tried to reason with him. “This is indeed paradise,” Tom said, “If you’re a child. It is a wonderful place to play and relax once in a while, but we are men. Don’t you wish to seek adventure greater than a playground swing, and treasure richer than an ice cream cone?”
But Tim would not be moved. Eventually, the friends had to be on their way. Sam, Tom and Jon gathered up their cloaks, staffs and water pouches, filling the latter from the nearby stream, and bidding farewell to their companion. As they rounded the corner and lost sight of the park, the whoops and shouts of their friend were carried to them on the breeze. They sounded hollow and wistful in the summer evening, and the three friends were melancholy as they turned their faces to the road ahead, and continued their walk.
“All joy emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings”