A curious, young man made it his ambition to seek wisdom at all cost. This led him to a monk who lived alone in a cave at the far side of the world, an old man rumored to be the wisest teacher to ever live. So across snowy mountains, suffocating deserts, and dense jungle the young man journeyed for months on end to learn at the feet of the storied master.
When he finally arrived, exhausted and saddle-sore, the young man tied his equally worn down pony to a tree, and walked to the cave’s entrance. The wise man emerged, looking all the part, with a great white beard, bare feet, and a weathered tunic. The old man was delighted to have a guest and inquired immediately, “What has brought you this way, my young friend?”
The boy answered, “I have come all this way – from the other side of the world – seeking wisdom,” and he dropped to his knees out of reverence and weariness. The monk was perplexed, as never had anyone traveled so far to visit with him. After a few moments of silence he looked over the boy’s shoulder and asked, “Is that your horse hitched to the tree?”
“Yes,” came the answer. “And where has this horse been while you have made your long journey?” the wise man questioned. “He has been with me, of course,” the sojourner answered. The wise man responded, “Good. Go back to your horse and continue on your journey. What you seek is where your horse is.” And with that, the wizened monk returned to his cave.
What is one to make of this story? Was the old monk a fraud? Had the young man wasted his time pursuing wisdom? No, not at all, for no journey is ever wasted. Truly, it is the journey itself that births and fosters wisdom – even the journeys that seem to be dead ends – as these open one’s heart and senses to new experiences.
By “hitting the road,” we don’t hope to one day reach a magical depository of wisdom. The road itself makes us wise, if we will soak it up and integrate the wonder of it all, for what we seek and what we need aren’t “out there.” They are with us all along. They are around us, within us, in our companions, our families, our marriages, and our vocations. Every journey, every adventure can make us smarter, brighter, and more astute.
So get out there. Climb a few mountains. Cross a desert or two. Launch a new venture. See the sights. Look, listen, and learn from the journey. As Mark Twain so skillfully wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Wisdom is not waiting for you to uncover it at the end of the trail. Rather, your life is waiting to be lived right now.