A man was traveling on a long journey. The weather was cold and often rough.
Savage tribes sometimes threatened his survival. The landscape was beautiful,
but dangerous wild animals could frequently be seen or heard not far from the
path he was on.
He carried his life's work with him in a heavy pack strapped high on the
middle of his back. It contained hundreds of tiny objects, each of solid gold,
which he had made with his own hands over a period of many years. They were the
result of his deep and abiding love for beauty and art. Priceless they were,
lovely, and perfect. He would never again possess the means by which to make
them, or even be able to acquire such means. He was old now. His vision was no
longer clear, and his fingers had lost their ability to manipulate the materials
with the agility needed. The years still available to him were not many. Therefore
these small, solid gold objects represented to him a treasure almost as important
After walking a long distance through a dark wood, the pathway opened onto a
sunlit pasture which the path went through. It led to a narrow bridge. The bridge
spanned a small stream, on the other side of which was a large field. The sky was
clear. There appeared to be no danger. He started across.
Even almost halfway across, there was still no sign of trouble.
But as he stepped upon the middle section of the bridge the stream became a
chasm, the sky turned dark, and a horrible grizzly beast rose from deep within
the now-churning waters far below.
Safety seemed only a few footsteps before him, and he could not go back.
Therefore he stayed his course.
The river raged and rose toward the bridge.
The beast nipped his pack and swallowed it so fast that he could not believe
Everything was gone. All his years of labor were lost inside the beast.
There was no time to feel grief. The bridge was tossing and twisting. It was
all he could do just to put one foot in front of the other.
Finally he made it to the opposite bank. The stream was small again. Its waters
were calm. It was not a chasm. There was now no sign of the horrible beast. But his
treasures were gone.
He lay himself down upon the grass and waited to feel the tragic grief which he
knew was going to come.
But as he waited he felt no grief.
What he felt was relief. After a few minutes he realized for the first time
what a burden his treasures had been. All he had lost was his burden.
For a time he rested. Then he rose to journey on.
Some distance later, he slept beside a tree.
At dawn he rose and returned to the path.
Shortly before noon, he came to a small monument of stone, which stood beside
the path. On it, framed within the chiseled figure of a vine, someone had carved
this unrhymed verse:
The purpose of art
In the act
Of creating it.
All works perish,
But the fact
Of their having been accomplished
Cannot be undone.
Of every effort
Resides within oneself.
When he had finished reading, a spirit spoke to him, as his own quiet
It said, “All that really matters is that you have come this far. The loss
of your work prevented the loss of your life. If you had not been carrying it,
the beast would have taken you. Do not worry. The real product of all your
efforts will abide for all eternity in the sturdiest foundations of your soul."
There was a moment of silence. He read the verse again. Then the voice
directed him: "Now complete your journey."
And so he journeyed on.
by Robert Hampton Burt