By my village, there is a path. It is miles long, covered with rocks and fallen trees, and it is headed by a beautiful gold gate and two gatekeepers. The journey is long, but the path is always full of people like me, for we know that the path is the only way to make it up the mountain, and that the mountain is the only way to live a life that matters.
Nobody down here knows what is on the path. Some say it is filled with the bodies of those who could not stand the climb. Some say that if you plan ahead, the journey is paradise. All I know is that if I do not try to reach the top of that snowy peak, I will die down here, with nothing.
On a sunny day in April, I was standing in the village square, looking for a friend, when Chief arrived. He knelt down at my feet like he always does and said to me, “Son, it is time.” I knew what was coming. He continued, “I have shown you all I can, and now, you will make the climb.”
For a moment, I lost my breath. But I remembered all those days that Chief had spent with a pencil in hand, making sure I knew the way to answer any question I might be asked when I tried to pass through the gate. I was ready.
The next morning, I departed, with all of my things in a small leather bag. Chief shot me a smile as I took the first steps of the two-hour journey. I was so busy preparing that I hardly noticed the time slip by. Suddenly, the gate loomed before me. Its intricate carvings seemed to mock me and modest pack. But I was confident in my abilities. I saw, then, the first gatekeeper step towards me. “So,” he began, “who rules this kingdom?” A string of questions followed, but I knew all of them.
The next gatekeeper stood up beside the first. “I have a challenge,” he said. “Explain to me the meaning of each of these engravings.” He gestured to the gate. This, I was not ready for. Luckily, history was one of my strong suits, and I breezed through this portion of the test. As the gatekeepers walked to the edges of the gate, I felt my heart lift. Finally, I was getting my chance to walk the famous path. But the gate did not open.
“I am sorry,” said the first gatekeeper. “You are not fit to learn. You do not have the Light.”
“The Light?” I asked. I had never heard of such a thing.
The second gatekeeper joined in. “You have done well, but you are not fit to work. You do not have the Light. You may not ascend the path.”
“Pardon?” I asked. “I am confused. I completed your task. Chief, he… he said I was ready.”
“And you are, almost,” sighed the first gatekeeper. “But you do not have the Light. You must have the Light, and I do not know why, but you must. Turn back, boy, and return to your village. I am sorry.”
I stared at the gate until I could feel the longing and the fury filling me up; then, I turned on my heel, and walked for two long hours back to where I came from. As I entered my village, Chief came rushing up. “What are you doing?” he demanded. “Stop! Stop! We have worked so hard, do not give up.”
It was too hard to tell him what happened, so I simply mumbled “The Light,” and ran off, sobbing, into the forest.
The leaves could not shield me from my own grief, and I returned to the square for our Sunday bonfire. We sat, legs crossed, and Chief played the drum as the stars strolled across the sky. All heads were turned up but mine. I was looking forward. I was looking for the Light. And as I watched my village softly chant the songs of yesteryears, I realized that none of us had the Light. The Light could not be learned; it is in the hands and the face and the eyes, and it is not a choice. At birth, we were all brushed with the navy ink of dawn. The people of my village will never climb the path. We cannot even try. And that, perhaps, is the saddest thing of all.