A Bird in the Hand
There once was a man named Eugene who wanted to sail across the ocean by himself. Eugene very much liked to sail and he was quite accomplished at it. A reputation had been well established in his home community. There, scores of young men learned to sail, much like him, but few wanted to venture away from their familiar home area. Eugene was different. He wanted to experience the unknown. The further reaches of the sea, what lay just beyond the horizon, these intrigued him. He would dream often of venturing forth and discovering what was “just over there.”
The day came when Eugene was ready to set out on his adventure. The sails had been set; his craft was in good repair; and the winds were favorable indeed. Just as he was setting out on the water a bird flew over him cackling out a warning of danger ahead. Eugene would have none of this. No cackling bird would stop his adventure. He set a course for the distant horizon.
As his tiny craft moved along swiftly, a storm began to roll in. There were now dark menacing clouds overhead and heavy seas swelling up. The bird, with its chilling cackle, flew over him once again, repeating its warning that only danger lay ahead. Eugene once again paid no heed and continued on his way.
The storm raged for many hours it seemed, until finally it blew itself out. At this point, Eugene was far out at sea, far from where he had originally set out. When he looked behind the craft, he could only see the tiniest speck of land. But out ahead, and now much to his dread, laid the wide open sea. Eugene knew that he had chosen this path, but nevertheless, a feeling of fear took him over. At this moment he could not understand why he held to his plan when so many signs appeared to advise against it. As he contemplated this, his mind drifted back to the life he had just left behind.
Besides being an accomplished sailor, Eugene was also a master craftsman. It was widely known that he could fashion all kinds of instruments and machines to meet the requirements of those who sought his designs. In his effort to achieve the ultimate in technical mastery he had invented a machine that could foretell the future. The residents of his area had been intrigued by this and frequently sought him out to make use of this application. Also, many persons traveled from far and wide to have the opportunity to look into their future. Eugene would attach an individual to the machine, activate it, and there it would be, their future told.
Eugene eventually grew tired of this practice. He had become weary of just serving others and telling their future fortunes. He wanted something different for himself now and no dire warning about dangers ahead was going to stop him. That was a major reason why he set out on this journey. He wanted surprises now, and not the predictable, to be the mainstay of his life. To ensure that there would be no turning back Eugene destroyed his “future telling machine” before setting out. Only after the fact did he inform the people of his region about what he had done. Many, whom he had served over the years, bemoaned this decision. They had grown accustomed to having their lives directed by predictions from the machine.
On the day when the machine delivered its final assessment, Eugene destroyed it. This last look into the future was for a magician friend who lived nearby. This individual also had a reputation for taking chances in his life, but over time he had become dependent on the “future telling machine.” Eugene took this as final confirmation that the machine should be destroyed. This would be for his sake and the long term benefit of those who had become dependent on it.
As Eugene lay in the bottom of his craft, all of these thoughts kept swirling around in his head. He was remembering now why he had set out on this journey and why he abandoned everything back there. His magician friend was very sad to see him go, as were so many of the individuals who had used his services over the years. Some even felt betrayed by his decision. Too many had come to rely on him and his inventions and he came to feel trapped by these expectations. That is why a clean break was needed. “Now they must rely on themselves,” he thought, “As I am learning to do in this tiny craft.”
The sun beat down on Eugene’s small vessel and the winds eventually settled down. All about him had become still now, so he had nothing to do but wait. That annoying bird appeared again overhead, cackling loudly with apparent glee.
“You will be destroyed,” it shouted. “You will be destroyed and then you will see.”
“See what?” Eugene wondered. “Why is this bird nagging me this way? I have no need of this incessant cackling and warnings of doom lying ahead.”
Finally Eugene decided to shout back.
“Away with you, damn bird. You are nothing but an annoyance and of no value to me.”
“Oh you will see,” cackled the bird. “You will see.”
Moments later the winds picked up again and took Eugene’s craft further out to sea. Now there were no tiny specks of land to be seen in any direction. All around him was water and the threat of growing swells. The feeling of fear, which had momentarily subsided, returned with even more vigor.
“Oh here I will perish,” Eugene thought to himself. “Of this I am afraid. For I do not know what direction I am headed and now I am completely at the mercy of the sea. My “future telling machine” could have helped me now, but it is gone. My magician friend could also have helped, but he is beyond my reach. To whom or where do I turn now, having put myself in this forsaken place?”
“That is why you are here,” cackled the bird from just over Eugene’s head, “to find out what you are made of.”
“You always seem to have information for me,” Eugene yelled back. “Why don’t you tell me what lies ahead?”
“That I could do,” the bird responded, “but that is no way to have this proceed.”
“What do you mean?” Eugene shouted in response. “I have come on this journey to find my way again, but without the usual guides. In fact, I hoped to learn something new about myself, something that could not be predicted from my past.”
“And you will,” cackled the bird. “You will.”
Just then Eugene spotted another craft that had drifted in close to his. The small vessel had no one aboard, just a message painted on its side.
“To Whom It May Concern,” the message began, “if you find this craft please have it returned to its proper owner who has somehow gone astray. He seeks Heaven on Earth and, to this end, will leave no stone unturned. It will be unfortunate though if this craft is found empty, for that means he has lost his way again.”
Signed: “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”
Eugene was struck deeply by this message. Slowly and deliberately he tried to understand is full meaning. If one sets out without a purpose in mind, other than leaving the past behind, one can wind up just about anywhere. And more than that, of what value is a purposeful result, if that purpose was not yours to begin with? So the message contained something important, but Eugene could not grasp it entirely just yet.
While he continued to puzzle over this, the bird returned to offer advice once again.
“You are not lost now, my son. You are indeed found. Of this you can be certain.”
“How can that be?” Eugene asked.
And the bird repeated. “When you are lost and know it not, then you are truly lost. But when you are lost and wake up to that fact, then you are found, and that is so.”
Eugene pondered these remarks for a time, while his craft drifted along the now quieting sea. Suddenly a speck of land appeared on the horizon and Eugene raised all of his sails to make for it quickly. In what seemed to be no time at all, Eugene had landed on its shore and began looking around. Nothing was familiar to him. But the bird overhead kept calling.
“You are found, you are found, and you are no longer dead.”
“I am found?” Eugene repeated. “What does this mean?”
“It means that you are no longer dead,” continued the bird, now standing at his side in the sand. “Have I not followed you all along and advised you correctly of what lay ahead?”
“Yes, you have,” Eugene conceded. “But how did you know what was ahead for me?”
“I am your Soul,” replied the bird. It is my duty to advise you on matters regarding your life. You have no need of ‘future telling machines’ or magicians when you have me at your helm. With your Soul as your guide, you are never lost. But you must pay attention.”
“But why are you so annoying at times?” Eugene wanted to know.
“I am annoying only at those times when you think you know everything and believe you can make decisions without examining the charts, looking at the stars or consulting the Lord. This is when you are most lost my friend, and when I seem most annoying to you. But when you surrender to that pulse within, then I no longer need to rattle your bones. So listen to that golden pulse because only then are you put forward on your one true path. It is only in your heart that you can hear the prayer that is kind and gentle, and guides you Home.”
Eugene knew that what the bird said was true. He knew it in his Heart and in his Soul. For there the truth was always revealed; it could no longer be concealed. This journey he had taken outwardly was simply an adventure in finding his “Self,” because he had been lost for a time. Now that he understood this and accepted his fate, he no longer felt so afraid, and gave thanks to his new found friend, his Soul.