September 30, 2009
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Howling winds fling the hot desert sands into the air, swirling into an impenetrable screen of shifting visions. The sun, hidden from view by the storm of sand, relentless strikes the barren desert, turning the tumultuous sands into burning hot knives, ripping relentlessly into any creature foolish enough to wander…..

Suddenly, a man appears, staggering into an oasis of serenity, protected from the screaming winds and hurtling sands across the barren desert, a paradise for lost souls. A crystal clear pool of tranquil water resides between two palm trees. To the Wanderer’s right sits a man resting in the shade of the first palm tree, his back to the pool of life, purposefully facing the palm tree. To the Wanderer’s left, a man, standing outside the shade of the second palm tree, stares at the gentle, welcoming waters, resolutely refusing to taste of the proffered gift. Curious, the Wanderer walks to the first palm tree and crouches next to the sitting man.

“Forgive me if I am intruding on your rest, but I must ask why you do not partake of the life-giving water at your back?”

The shadow man, turning his head just enough to see the Wanderer, but not quite far enough to glimpse the pool, responds, as if the answer to the question were obvious.

“Why would I leave the shelter of this palm tree? The sun shines unbearably hot, and to venture forth from the palm tree’s protective shade borders on insanity.”

The Wanderer, looking over his shoulder, notices that the pool’s edge lies no farther than ten steps from the palm tree’s shade.

“My friend, surely the few steps necessary to reach the pool would not be an unnecessary risk? To not drink from the pool reflects true insanity.”

“I have no need for the pool’s water. The shade of this palm tree provides the only protection from the harsh sun. What proof do you have that shows without a doubt, the necessity of the pool’s water?” The shadow man retorts placidly, his dead eyes gray and apathetic.

Standing, the Wanderer turns to leave the man’s shade.

“Hopefully, the truth will find you before your blindness kills you. I bid you farewell and good luck on your journey.”

Shaking his head in disappointment, the Wanderer leaves the domain of the shadow man and travels around the pool to the second palm tree. Intrigued, the Wanderer approaches the standing man.

“Forgive me if I am intruding on your meditation, but I must ask why you do not partake of the life-giving water right in front of you?

The burning man, eyes never leaving the pool of water, replies with fanatical fervor and a hint of madness flickering in his eyes.

“Why would I taste of the sacred pool? To drink shows a weakness of fortitude and faith. I shall test my mind against the weakness of my flesh, and I will not succumb!”

Already sweating from the scorching sun, the Wanderer incredulously exclaims, “I admire your strength of will my friend, but if you do not end your test, Death will greet your efforts!”

The burning man, righteous fury thundering through his voice, rebuts the Wanderer’s efforts.

“Leave your temptations, devil-man! I will NOT fall to your machinations! My mind shall remain pure and determined; you cannot deter me from my test!”

Shocked, the Wanderer leaves the burning man in silence and walks to the Waters of Faith. Crystal clear, undisturbed by wind or ripple, the pool of life glistens lovingly, like a caring parent tenderly offering aid to a sick child. Removing a canteen from his belt, The Wanderer reaches into the pool, filling his canteen to the brim, and drinks deeply, satiating his body and soul. Securing the canteen to his belt, the Wanderer walks to the end of serenity. Gazing out into the swirling sands of the barren desert, an image flickers just beyond the edge of recognition. Fear fills him at the thought of entering the terrible storm, and the Wanderer turns back around. Once again, the sight of the two men, one in darkness and one in fire, arrests his sight. Suddenly calm, the Wanderer’s senses fill with a glowing light, calling him forth to the flickering image like a clarion trumpet in the night, an unseen beacon of hope. Following the call of hope, the Wanderer leaves the oasis and continues his journey, truly believing that there resides a paradise in the storm of life’s hardships.

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