The Essence of Knowledge and Secret of Life

An emperor summoned a man who was
thought to be the wisest man in the world.
He asked him to write a book of all essential knowledge.

The learned man set to work and twelve years
later he offered the emperor a series of books.

‘It is too much,’ said the emperor.
‘Assemble all essential knowledge into one book.’

The man obeyed and returned four years later with one book.

‘It is still too much,’ said the emperor.
‘I need to run my empire and I am a very busy man.
Write on several pages what you think
is really important and then come back to me.’

Again the scholar set to work.
After two years he had summarized the
essence of his knowledge onto several pages.
He gave them to the monarch,
who was extremely busy that day
and he gave the man a final request:
all on one sheet of paper.

The man needed several years to put
what he regarded as essential knowledge
onto one just sheet of paper.

‘It is still too much,’ the emperor said.
‘I want to make you a proposal: stop writing.
Try to concentrate the essence of your knowledge
into one word and come and tell me that word.
I will pay you well.’

The man retired to an isolated place and thought deeply.
When he eventually found the word that represented
the essence of all his knowledge, experience and wisdom,
he asked for an audience with the emperor, now an old man.
‘Have you got the word?’ the emperor asked the scholar.

‘Yes, Majesty. I have found it.’

‘Come and whisper it into my ear,’ said the emperor.

The scholar approached the emperor,
bent over to him and whispered the word into his ear,
so that the emperor was the only one to hear.

‘But I already knew that!’ he exclaimed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I know what that one word for is for me.  What is that one word for you?  
What do you think the whispered word might have been for the emperor?  


[PHOTO by alexislueanne on]


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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