One Hundred and Seventy-four
And so it came to pass that there returned to Anywhere a Student of the Master of Anywhere. The Student had spent a long time wandering in the Wide World on a Journey, searching and finding (though sometimes not) at the behest of his Master. She it was who had instructed him to seek out Senior Students of the Master of That Other Place, then recently passed, and ascertain how each was transmitting the inheritance as passed on by the Master.
On a day of warm sunshine and clear blue sky, rare for this time of year, they sat in her training hall speaking of the things he had found out while on his Journey. As he spoke she noticed small details of the world around her, in and of themselves worthy of little note, but when taken together ran counter to the normal rhythms of Anywhere. The smell of a flower that should no longer be in bloom, the caress of a breeze a touch cooler than it ought to be, the sound of Smith's hammer upon anvil slightly out of tune, the rays morning light coming in through the windows at angles that were slightly too acute, and, just at the limit of her hearing, a faint tune being played upon an instrument that she was unfamiliar with. All together these slight deviations of her normal environment weighed upon her as she tried to pay attention to her pupil's tale.
"... finally I came upon his Hall. It is set high in the mountains, far west of That Other Place, among tall green firs where the snows melt not and the land lies under its white carpet all the year long. I was welcomed into his Hall and sat with him. He had food and warm drink served while we talked. The food and drink did much to put me at ease and assuage the hurts visited upon me by the long cold trek into the mountains. He asked me of my reasons for undertaking the Journey and I freely told him of my assignment from you.
"He smiled, seeming at some old fond memory, and after a long while said, 'Well that you have arrived here first, for I am the eldest Student of the Master of That Other Place. I was his first and was with him at the last. Of his teachings none know more.'
"He went on to tell me the story of his time with his Master; a long and intricately crafted tale it is.
'I first began my studies with my Master when he was yet somewhat young and new to teaching. His Training Hall was located down by the docks and each morning we had to rid the place of the rats that nightly rested there before we could begin our Training. The Master, in those days, was full of his youth and suffused with energy that seemingly knew no bounds. He had strength to spare and was not shy about accenting his technique with it. I was his only Student for a long while and so felt first hand the vitality of his execution. As we practiced he would talk, sometimes of himself, sometimes to himself, or so it seemed to me. But always his talk was of a nature that reflected the fear he had experienced as a child and his need to protect himself and those he held close to his heart. He had perfected his Art, he said on more than one occation, in order that he may be disadvantaged by no one ever again. No thought was given over to the Higher Ideals of Training (although later in his life they would emerge as he escaped from the darkness of his fear), only to effectiveness and martial viability of technique. It was five or so years after I began my Training that another Student knocked at his door and asked to be admitted...'"
There it was again, wafting in on that too cool whisper of a breeze; a high pitched sorrowful lament of a tune, barely audible over the sound of his voice. The tune wound itself about his voice so that she heard both as one. In her mind's eye she felt, rather than saw, the history of the Master of That Other Place as it unfolded in her Student's tale. She learned of the Gatherings and Leavings as Students came and went from the Master's school. And with each Leaving another Student went out into the world to teach what he had learned, but which was only a piece of the tapestry being woven by the Master of That Other Place. Yet each Student being well trained in the Art of Learning wove into his piece of the tapestry the tale of his own progress. And what started as a single piece of cloth woven by one person began to grow into a many layered work of dazzling complexity. Reflected therein, forming the common thread that held the entire work together were the many stages of the Master's growth upon his path. Such was the diversified nature of his Students that in later years, as the Master's Art continued to grow and evolve, conflicts would arise as Students generations down the line lost sight of the commonality that bound them altogether and began to claim ownership of the True Art of the Master of That Other Place.
Her Student stayed with the eldest Student of the Master of That Other Place for many days learning much. She felt the Master's joy as each new Student found the way to the Master's door; and his sorrow as one by one they all left to find their own Ways out in the Wide World. Each armed with the knowledge learned from the Master went abroad to share it with others. And so they came and went until upon a day at last the circle was complete and only the Master, now very old and close to moving beyond this life into whatever awaits, and the eldest of his Students remained.
She sat mesmerized as the musically verbal tale wormed its way into her. Its power was palpable and she saw at last the nature of the message.
"...then on a morning when the spring blooms of the snow stars poked up through the cold white powder the eldest Student of the Master of That Other Place came to me as I sat in meditation. 'Time for you to leave', he said. 'The Master of Anywhere has sent you on this Journey that you may discover how the Master of That Other Place's students have disseminated his teachings. I will set you upon the path that will lead you to each in the order of their appearance here so that you may experience his change throughout the years.' I gathered my things, and after sharing one more meal with him, once again took to the road..."
There followed the tale of his travels to each of the Master of That Other Place's Senior Students' training halls. The tale is long and full of many adventures, worthy in and of itself of a full recounting. However she stopped him after a while and bid him leave her with these words, "You have done well Student. It is time for you to move on and become a Teacher in your own right. You have been taught and learned how to learn. You must now find others to whom you can teach the Art of Learning. You are not doing my Art, Student. Go out and share your Art with others."
Her Hall, situated at the edge of Anywhere, was perched upon a jut of land that stuck out from the plateau like the prow of a great ship. West it faced and as she gazed into the waning light of the setting sun the story of her own life and the development of her Art unfolded in her mind's eye. She recounted the arrival and departure of each of her Students and saw herself as they must have seen her. She realized, for not the last time, that the continuity of her Art would die with her; as would the continuity of the Master of That Other Place's Art die with his eldest Student. The thought saddened her momentarily; until the last ray of light from the sun caught the blossoms of the weeping cherry tree in her yard. Though each branch of the tree was independent, all were tied to the trunk that was their common source. She and her Students, trunk and branches. Though fractured, her legacy would live on and grow as her Students followed their own paths and continued to learn and teach. Each Student's Art represented an incomplete piece of her Art, a rendering of her Art as it was manifest over a given period of time, preserved first and then extended, a living thing that would go on evolving...
The Musician, and with him his tune, fades from Anywhere as fog melts from the air in the heat of a sunny day. The consequences of his having spent time there await the unfolding of the years to make themselves known.
(Original blog post may be found here.)
Re: One Hundred and Seventy-four
Well Ron, I got my wish. Now, for the rest of this awesome tale!
Thank you for your marvelous and eloquent prose which, for me at least, you did keep simple, direct and obvious.
May the blessings of the New Year be there for you and yours.
Keep writing what your heart directs your fertile mind to share!
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