This One Short Life

short story
In an ancient country field, in a land unseen, the young apprentice stood by the weather-worn master, looking up at the stars.
 
“I have so much a want to do!” The apprentice said.
 
“That tells me of universal human desire, but nothing of you.” The master replied. “Tell me what you must do, and I will know you.”
 
“I must do everything!” The apprentice replied.
 
“No,” the master replied. “You must do just one thing. ‘Want’ belongs in the dreamworld. It requires no action, no step, no sacrifice. Turn rather to what you must do, for ‘Must’ is the plow in your hand. ‘Must’ will outlast the desire of want. It will sidestep the fantasy of having it all. It will journey a thousand miles without complaint.”
 
The master looked back at the apprentice, “Tell me, what must you do in this one short life?”
 
“So much,” the student replied. “So very much.”
 
The master turned from his young apprentice and stared at the stars, “One day, when you tire of dreaming of all these stars in this one short life, I hope you have time remaining to look away from them.”
 
“Look away from the stars? All these beautiful stars? Why would I ever look away?”
 
“Touch one for the answer,” the master replied.
 
The apprentice laughed. “That’s impossible!”
 
The master nodded, “Your answer, is your answer.”
 
He handed the apprentice the plow in his own hand to look at and study. “Why is this plow mightier than all the stars of desire?” The master asked.
 
“Because I can take hold of it?” The apprentice replied.
 
The master nodded. “The plow represents the one thing you must do. The stars represent the dreamworld of wanting it all.”
 
He took the plow back.
 
“This one is mine, the master said. “You must find your own. And when you do, you must turn away from the stars and focus on the ground before you—and go to work.”
 
As they returned to their village, the apprentice keep his eyes starbound, wondering why the master called it ‘one short life’?
 
Life felt so long to him.
 
Surely it would always feel that way?

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