He sat there, legs crossed like the Buddha, plugged into The World, senses attuned to all around him. His eyes opened and he fixed his gaze on me. Me, breathing in loud, ragged gasps, the sweat on my forehead crystallizing as it ran down into my icy beard. Next to the old man, was a large pot, sitting on a fire, its succulent aroma steaming through my nostrils, permeating my head. The old man pointed toward the ground.
“Come, my son,” he said. “Come, come, you must be starving.”
I hadn’t eaten in over two days and had been wandering, lost, for over a week (or, possibly, my whole life). I half sat, half collapsed to the ground as the old man ladled the stew into a wooden bowl.
“Eat slowly, my son,” he said, gently handing me the bowl.
Ravenous, I did as he said. I’d nearly died trying to find him, I wasn’t about to dismiss his words. As I ate the stew, the aroma filled my head like incense and I could feel every centimeter of the nourishing warmth as it traveled down my throat, into my body. A calming feeling came over my spirit as the chill left my bones. I’d made it. I’d come so close to dying, but I kept going and I made it. A tear rolled happily down my cheek as I cleaned the bowl. The old man looked at me and smiled.
“Tell me, son, why have you come to me?”
“Sir – Father – please, I’m so confused. I need to know my purpose. I don’t understand the world, or the people in it. They’re so cruel to each other and I cannot, for the life of me, understand their behavior. Please, please where is my place among them? What is my purpose?”
A look of pity came over the old man’s face.
“Oh my son,” he said, cocking his head a bit to the left. “No one decides to live on a mountain because they have people figured out. Here, have another bowl of stew.”