The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1913
The Road to Knowledge
The Road to Knowledge.
An old man, on his death bed, summoned to his side his three sons, saying unto them:
"My sons, as you know, owing to the extravagance of your late lamented mother, I have naught in the manner of worldly goods to bequeath unto you, but if you will bear in mind these few last words of mine, all the treasures of the earth shall be yours to command.
"Go forth into the world, and seek out the Road to Knowledge! There you will find all the riches and happiness that life can give."
* * *
After the death of the old man, the three sons, remembering their father's words, journeyed forth into the world in search of the promised treasures, travelling together for many days, until they came to a place where three roads met.
"It is clear," said one, "that we cannot all follow every road at the same time. Let each then choose the path he prefers, and in five years' time we will return to this place in order to report whether any of us has found the way that leads to knowledge."
To this proposal the others agreed, and thereupon each set about selecting the way by which he should travel.
The first chose the road that led downhill into a city, where all seemed bright and busy. Here he found books, pictures, music, and business pursuits, merry companions, and pleasure-lovers of every type, with whom he mingled as a friend, studying the while their customs and their natures arid he learnt to understand the weakness and strength of human nature, to appreciate the hidden secrets of art, and to realise that there are many shadows, as well as sunbeams, in the world.
The second chose a peaceful, country road, on each side of which there clustered pretty homes, and this he followed till he found, set within the bounds of a quaint old garden, an ideal cottage, where he dwelt—at peace with the world—studying silently the ways of Nature in page 22 her varied moods and all the charms of a homely, country life. Thus he learnt to understand the wonders of Nature, to appreciate her many beauties, and to realise that there is much of artificiality in man's pleasures and griefs.
The third son, following the only remaining road, climbed slowly up the side of a steep hill, until he came suddenly to a meadow, full of wonderful flowers, whence there issued the sound of many busy insects at their work and the joyous spring-song of a host of birds. In this field he built himself a shelter from the wind and storm, and stayed to study the wonderful secrets hidden in the lives of insects, birds, and plants and he learnt to understand the value of small deeds, well done, and realise that man is but a cog-wheel in the machinery of the universe, and to appreciate the wonderful truths that science reveals.
* * *
After five years had passed, as they had agreed, the three brothers met again at the cross roads to report upon the manner in which Dame Fortune had dealt with them and no sooner was their greeting over than the first said eagerly: "Come, brothers, let us lose no time! You must journey with me down-hill to my city, for there, without a doubt, lies the Road to Knowledge. In five years I have learnt all there is to know of the world, humanity and art in all its branches, and the wisdom that I have gained is the only wisdom that one can turn to good account in the world."
"Not so!" said the second. "Mine is the Road to Knowledge. Do but follow this peaceful path, and you will see for yourselves. During the past five years I have been in daily commune with Nature, and, following her teaching closely day by day, I have gained wisdom in its purest form—unsoiled by the artificiality that dwells in cities. Surely this is the knowledge of which our father spoke."
"This cannot be!" said the third. Yonder steep track is the only road that leads to knowledge. I pray you, leave your city and your country village, and come with me to my field of flowers, and birds and insects for page 23 there, under the guidance of science, you will learn all the secrets of the universe, and true knowledge shall be yours."
Smilingly the others refused this invitation, and there upon, with friendly, farewell words, the three set out once more to gain new wisdom, each turning again to the path by which he had come.
Yet who is there shall say which of these three roads it is that leads to knowledge?