Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter 3 "Planning"

Waking from a restful sleep Lister placed his belongings into a pack, which could be slung over his shoulder. He said his farewell to the ever patient Wanda then headed towards the South road to the old mill where William lived. The early sun was warm on his cheek while the slight breeze ruffled his hair and caused him to remember a time when there was a lot more of it to ruffle.

He had chosen to travel light to rely on his wits and the charity of others to give him a lift when possible and shelter where necessary. Oh to be on the open track again. What a change from the confines and routine of ‘The Office’. A feeling coursed through his veins that he thought he had lost forever. While experiencing the freshness of the morning, he considered the conversation with his sister the night before. Her words had been, ‘A stranger that he had known all his life yet never met,’ now that was an enigma. Still he was used to those sorts of puzzles. They had faced so many together, starting with the time they went in search of Tung Fu, the Balance of Business, and the Ethics of Relationships. All these adventures had fuelled his desire to learn more and more about the seemingly complex aspects of the human existence. Everything he and Speck had discovered, they openly shared with as many people as would care to listen, who in turn were encouraged to do the same. Had not his entire empire been based on the principles that they had discovered together. He laughed to himself… how strange it was, setting off this morning on a brand new journey of exploration, without his sister by his side. Even though he was physically stronger and larger, he enjoyed her protection and felt very vulnerable without her. She always seemed to have the answers and showed an inner strength when a crisis occurred. He felt he could always rely on her for the answers and support, when he felt doubt or was plagued by indecision.

But as she had firmly put it to him last night, this was one conquest he must undertake alone and without her help in any way. She said the Journey was more than worthwhile but at times, even she was struck with the question ‘Was the doing worth the outcome.’ This caused concern for Lister, but he had taken on hostile markets and won. He’d experienced his own territory being threatened by cheats and rogues. His trade caravans had been attacked by thugs and robbers. He had been badly wounded on one such trip in the East whilst his caravans, carrying silks and perfumes, were ambushed and his goods ransacked. He was beaten and left for dead next to his bleeding horses, yet he had survived. He had travelled that route more than once and had not had any similar instances again. Courage had eventually returned yet with a healthy dose of respect for his surroundings. He took extra precautions in the form of more guards both in and out of various countries.
‘That was interesting,’ he thought, ‘for that’s how I came to employ William, the very man I am on my way to see.’ There had been a time when vandals were wrecking other merchants’ premises on ‘Closed Trading Days’ and that lead Lister to enquire if Michael knew of anyone that would be interested in some work but would be reliable to be called on at short notice. Come to think of it, Michael didn’t hesitate in putting Williams’s name forward for the position. Lister thought for a moment and asked himself, ‘What do you know of this old man that you’ve had in your employ? Not much apparently.’ It had only been on the few odd occasions he had spent time with him, and always left feeling better about himself, with a strong feeling of kinship towards the old man. It was as if he had known him for most of his life but hadn’t. Strange!

As Lister’s thoughts returned to the present, the breeze was still gentle on his face and the sun now overhead, requiring him to squint at the horizon. He could just see the sails of the old mill shimmering in the midmorning haze, the torn pieces of cloth flapping as the huge arms of the mill slowly but effortlessly continued on its rotary course of perpetual motion. ‘At least’ thought Lister ‘I have the ability to travel in a straight line if I choose to and not end up going around in circles like that windmill, or for that matter like some people I have met.’ That last thought brought a chuckle from his parched throat, making him realize he had not had anything to drink for several hours. Quickening his pace in the direction of the mill, he allowed himself the luxury of imagining the taste of clean fresh cool water from the millrace. His imagination took hold even before he could hear the sound of the tremendous round stones crunching and grinding as they went about the business of transforming hard course grain into soft powder for flour and meal.

The placebo effect of his imagined drink sustained him, until he was within earshot of the working massive stones. His nostrils were full of the pungent odors of freshly ground grain and if he were not mistaken, it was corn.

Urgency now quickened his pace. He was enthusiastic to get the real taste of water to lubricate his dusty throat and rinse his mouth. He was about to meet the man he had come to see to begin his new quest. As was the custom, he quenched his thirst first before looking for anyone who could direct him to where William could be found. His thirst satisfied, he entered the mill and asked one of the workers where he could find William. The worker did not seem surprised at the request but instead of sending Lister in a particular direction he told him to go and sit at the storage shed where they were stacking sacks of newly crushed corn meal.
“You just go over there and wait. I’ll tell the master that you are here,” said the workman with very little humour in his voice.
Lister did as he was told, although he felt put out by the way the worker had dismissively directed him. Didn’t that servant know who he was? Where was the respect he was used to? Over many years of being a pillar of society and a well-respected businessman, he had earned the man’s respect. ‘Oh fuffle’, thought Lister, ‘look at me… dressed in workers’ clothes, road dirt on my face and dust on my shoes. No wonder I wasn’t recognized for who I am. What was the harm anyway? Who was that man really? Just a worker at a mill… no one important.’

Putting these thoughts to the back of his mind, Lister positioned his pack on the ground to use it as a cushion. He settled back to enjoy the sunlight and sweet smells that permeated his surroundings. ‘Just lay here and enjoy the peace while you can,’ he thought. 

He must have dozed off for quite a time because, on opening his eyes, he noted the spot where he was sitting was now in shadow yet when he had arrived it was in sunlight and was warm. Now he was aware of the air’s coolness. The workmen had disappeared and the shed seemed to be full of the results of their day’s work. Feeling the aches in his legs and back Lister straightened up and stretched. Stooping down to pick up his pack, he felt his annoyance increasing to become full-blown anger. How rude! He was told the master was to be informed of his arrival and that he would be seen soon. Here it was, the best part of the day spent and much travelling to be done and he had just wasted an entire afternoon lying around waiting for who knows what, that never materialized. Feeling his blood ready to boil, Lister set out to find the irresponsible underling that had wasted so much of his precious time by not carrying out a simple instruction. The insolence of the fellow! If he had his way, he would have him horse-whipped and then thrown off the property.

He entered the door of the mill, his anger obvious and there in front of him was his quarry, the lazy sluggard, his back towards Lister. With difficulty he controlled the urge to pick up the nearest implement and thrash the fellow within an inch if his life.
“You there!” he shouted with authority. “What sort of a game are you playing, is this a joke to you? I have come a long way with an important purpose to speak with your master and all you can do is tell me to go and wait in a stinking cold shed until you let him know that I am here. What sort of a man is he anyway? He must be hard up for good staff or think very little of his customers by putting you in charge. Well… answer me man. What are you playing at?”
Just then Lister saw some movement out of the corner of his eye and at the same time heard a familiar peaceful voice. “The sort of man he is, is of no concern to you Lister, and as far as being hard up for good staff, Carl is one of my best. He knows his job and more importantly he does what he is told without question, which is more than I can say for some of the present company.”

Lister was immediately reminded of the words Michael and Speck had said. They had told him he would feel out of his depth when next in the company of William. He felt confused and then ashamed of his actions and apologized to Carl for the words he had spoken. Sadness struck at his heart as he saw the pain that was evident on Carl’s face.
“I think it would be appropriate if you were to apologize for the thoughts you had about him also, as sometimes thoughts do more harm than spoken words. Carl, as I have said, is one of my best workers and has been with me for several years. He is a good provider for his family and has many challenges to face on a daily basis. None of these things you know anything about, yet you judged him on what you wanted him to do. “What right have you to expect everyone to fit into your timetable?”
Lister by this stage was feeling more ashamed than ever before in his life. Here was a good, honest and decent man going about his daily work following his master’s orders. He was possibly having thoughts about when the day was over enjoying some time with his family and sharing their experiences of the day. He would probably tell his family of this oaf of a man who came in and abused him because he didn’t get his own way Genuine tears of regret filled his eyes that only moments ago were full of fire.
“Please accept my deepest apology for my inexcusable behavior. If there is anything I can do for you in the future, please accept my offer of help. William will know how to contact me should the need arise.”
Carl looked uncomfortably down at the ground and shuffled his feet uneasily, creating patterns in the corn dust on the floor as he moved.
“Thank you sir, I appreciate the offer, but the apology will be of more value to me at the moment.”
“Can I go now please?” he asked directing his gaze towards William.
“Yes, and thank you for the extra effort you put in. You’re a good man Carl and thank Glynis for letting me keep you a little longer today. See you tomorrow.” Carl turned, nodded his head towards Lister and walked towards the door.

As he disappeared outside into the ensuing gloom Lister was sure he noticed stiffness in one of his legs, which gave him an awkward sort of gait. William, seeing the look of concern on Lister’s face, said, “Poor Carl was in a nasty accident three years ago which left him paralyzed down one side of his left leg. He has overcome much but I think he still suffers great pain as a result. Not that I have ever heard him complain. I think he is more concerned with the wellbeing of his youngest son, Thomas, who has birth defects. He’s a lovely bright energetic young boy with a smile that would melt a winter’s morning. But the poor lad is unable to share his feelings in the normal way because he is both deaf and dumb with poor eyesight to add to his trouble. He is only able to walk with the help of his other brothers and sister but he’s unable to do most things other boys experience such as fishing, running and climbing trees. I feel for the boy and his family. In spite of it all, Carl tells me he really feels blessed with the family he has. Others may see him as being unfortunate but he feels the love his family generates for each other, is worth all the pleasures money can buy. It really makes you look at your own set of values doesn’t it?”
It was a very pensive Lister that sheepishly asked William why he thought Michael had suggested his visit.
“Michael told me he had recommended you see me because he knows I have helped many others on the road you are now travelling.”
“What are the secrets to Inner Peace and Fulfilment?” Lister wanted to know.
“There are no secrets, only things you don’t know, and just because you don’t know something does not make it a secret, only undiscovered knowledge. People of wisdom have shared these gifts with humanity over thousands of years! They have been written in books on tablets and carved in stone on walls of lost caves and the sides of great canyons for anyone to see, if only they took the time to look for them. So, they are not secrets, only truths that are ignored or undiscovered by the masses. I say they are gifts but not gifts in the way you imagine. These are special gifts
that can only be given to you by yourself. I can show them to you, but it is up to you to create them in your own mind and give them to yourself as the most precious of all gifts, other than life itself. When in possession of all seven you will be able to experience love, to give and receive unconditionally, to feel for others while protecting yourself from the negative energies and wickedness others send you. To see beauty in all that is around and enjoy every breath you take, to give to others what they lack themselves at no expense to yourself. To prosper and grow within your own heart and expand as the universe is expanding, to create and give joy to all who come in contact with you, throughout this life and the next.”

William fell silent, allowing Lister to digest what he had said. Breaking the silence Lister had a burning question.
“I have a feeling that you are not going to share the Seven Gifts with me but only suggest that I find them for myself. I have no clue where to start. Would you at least give me some indication?”
“You’re right. I’m not going to tell you because these are things you have to experience, not hear. For example I could tell you that those millstones behind you are smooth and heavy, you may believe me, or you may not. However, once you have run your hand over them and tried to pick one up you would know what I’ve said is true. Until that has happened you only have my word for it and not the internal knowledge. Words without experience are just words. Experience without words is just an experience. When both come together, the experience and the words that describe it, you have knowing. That Knowing is what you are in search of. Once you have the knowing, you will understand what I’m talking about but until then you have to have faith in what I say and trust in what your sister has told you.”
William smiled at the look on his companion’s face.
“You wonder how I know about your sister Speck? She was through this way several years ago and yes, we spoke of you at the time. She told me of the many adventures both you and she had been on, the great things you have discovered and brought back to share with many people. As a result of that I knew one day you also would seek me out and start on this path.”
Lister, at first was taken aback. He soon rallied and responded with a little more enthusiasm than necessary. “Well then if you knew I would one day be here, why did you keep me waiting as long as you did? Why was I not led straight to you so I could be on my way?”
William studied Lister for some time before answering. “Did you have an appointment? Did you let me know you were coming? Did you know when you would be here? Judging by your defensive posture I would say ‘no’ to these questions. Yet you expected me to interrupt my schedule and planned day to fit your timing that has neither form nor direction. Arrogance springs to mind but I am a fair man and will put your actions down to exuberance for the road ahead.”

If Lister had felt uncomfortable when Carl was with them he now felt down right embarrassed, and could only manage a barely audible “huh-rummph.”
William acknowledged his expletive and continued as if the interruption had not occurred. “So Lister, you have emerged from your zone of comfort. You are no longer the Sir in control of businesses, in charge of people and places. For the first time in a long time, (possibly the first in your entire life,) you are alone with no Sister to make the decisions or sort out situations you may find yourself in. Lister, I make these observations not as a tyrant or bully but as a friend. Someone you have never met before, well at least in this capacity, because I will tell you the truth, not what you want to hear! A true friend is secure enough in their relationship that they feel it’s their duty to tell it, as it is regardless of what effect the telling may have on the recipient. Tell me, why did you feel such antagonism towards Carl and yet not towards me?”
There was hesitation from Lister.
“Well speak the truth. Why?” William prompted.
“I felt that Carl was beneath me and therefore should have shown me more respect. I felt with you I was at your home, therefore you were more important than a mill hand and I didn’t want to appear rude” replied Lister.
“Yet you don’t think that it would appear rude to question my selection of staff or say you felt that I must have no regard for my customers? Lister this has been your first lesson and one of the greatest challenges you will encounter along the way. If you are to succeed, as I have no doubt you will, you must, and I earnestly stress MUST, bring this first lesson to the forefront of your consciousness and hold it close to your heart, because without it you will achieve nothing.” William stopped and observed Lister’s mood.
Lister was quite agitated by this stage with his mouth twitching and eyes darting from one side of the barn to the other. William, to Lister’s dismay, carried on in an even voice. “Are you aware of what I’m speaking about Lister? You are in great need of it at present?”
“What I am in great need of at present,” snarled Lister through gritted teeth, “is patience, because it appears to me you are talking in riddles and I am not a patient man when it comes to idle gossip or talking in riddles. If you have something to say man, then get on with it and say it. The hour is late and frankly I feel you have wasted enough of my time today and I want to be on my way!”
“My dear Lister, you have, as I anticipated, answered your own question,” smiled William. “Answer me in one word, what it is you require more than anything right now?” William calmly continued.
“TOLERANCE! With you and your endless meandering of words and contorted patterns of thought” snapped a heated Lister.

William reached out his rough-hewn arms and with the ends of his corncob like fingers grasped at Lister’s shoulders and pulled him into a bear-like embrace. Lister, shocked by this unprovoked and unexpected action, soon became aware of the strength and presence of the man that had just enveloped his entire frame. He felt a real sense of peace and calm pervade his body, as if his heart had been lightened. His stomach now felt placid, where just before had been a raging torrent of bile and acid. His whole being seemed to melt into the arms of the one embracing him and a feeling of something that he had never experienced before cascaded over him. It was a feeling he could not describe but knew he would never forget.

After what seemed an age the older man released his grip and stood back to look deep into Lister’s eyes.
“Once you can give yourself the gift of Tolerance you will find the journey more bearable and enjoyable.” Then William added thoughtfully, “I have to deliver some grain to a village that is several days travel from here. It is a delivery I make because few other people welcome or care to take the trip. I feel you would benefit greatly from the excursion. It will also be a practical starting point for your search. So would you like to accompany me?”
Lister nodded his agreement.
When this arrangement was confirmed Lister was invited to dinner and offered a bed in the guest room… the last bed he would sleep in for a long time though he was unaware of this at the time. He slept with the thoughts of Tolerance running through his mind.

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