The Parable of the Prosperous Son
Once, a prosperous rancher had two sons. The elder son held his Father's favor He never had doubt of his superior place in his Father's regard and consideration. The younger son bore much of the burdens of labor on the ranch, working along side the hired hands, while the elder brother supervised all in the name of the Father. When the younger son asked his Father about these things, he was always told to believe that he would receive his equal reward in the end, when the Father's success in the workings of the ranch would be finished. Then, the brothers would truly repair from their labors and enjoy the fruits of their years of toil.
This promise was held in the highest regard by the elder brother, who never questioned his Father in any matter and became angry at others who would say any thing against him. The younger brother also truly loved and respected his Father. However, he was restless and did not trust that his lot would be given to him in the end.
One day, some travelers came through the ranch lands and camped therein. The younger brother tarried a while with them and learned of a great and prosperous city some long distance away. The travelers were traders who dealt with the wise and wealthy people of that great city, and they were making their way toward it even then. Hearing of these people and the wonderful city, the younger brother decided in his heart to go there and make his good fortune in that place.
Upon hearing of this, the Father expressed great sadness and almost persuaded him not to leave him. The elder brother became angry at the younger and his words were derisive and mocking. "You shall find nothing in the city but your own ruin. You will come back here in a short time, begging for a place in the worker's camp. Our Father has promised you this inheritance - why do you wish to scatter it to the winds?"
The younger brother was not dissuaded by these words, nor by the prospect of leaving his Father behind, even though his heart was heavy inside of him. He knew that he must see the city and make an attempt to live a good life there. Accordingly, on the morn, he took his leave with the travelers and walked with them for many days until, at last, the walls of the city became visible in the distance.
Though wondrous, the city was confusion at first, and he felt himself to be truly an outsider in a place he could not fully understand. Before long, however, a man took note of the younger son's skills in working with leathers and tools, and invited him to take work in his school where crafts and arts were created for the wealthy patrons of the city and even for trading to other, greater cities beyond the sea. He took happily to this work and with a natural skill and his benefactor's training, became in the course of time the most talented artisan of the school. His handworks became famous to all the citizens of the city and beyond, and his products became highly prized. He was able, at last, to have a house of his own and servants to help him so that he could do naught but create beautiful things throughout all the days, making himself and many others happy with the fruits of his handiwork.
This life he considered very good and rewarding to him in the present moment. He did not ever wish to leave his new life, but one day he began to wonder about his Father and brother back at the ranch he left so long ago. He determined to make a journey back to inquire of them and perhaps make peace for leaving them as he did. Whereupon, he made this long journey, and found the ranch once again. As he approached his old home, however, he saw that all was not well with the lands and the beasts. The grass had been overgrazed and the fences were in disrepair The ranch house was beginning to bleach and bend with the prevailing winds.
The younger brother sought his kinfolk in the house, and finding his elder brother sitting therein, asked after his health and the health of his Father. The elder brother looked at him with melancholy and said, "I have no place for you here to work, now that you have returned as I once prophesied. The land is dry and the beasts are not able to prosper. You have returned from your destitution in the city to find only hunger and misery here where you once lived."
"My brother," said the younger, "can you not see that I am not destitute? I have come from my life of plenty and from a home that I love dearly and to which I must soon return. I have come only to inquire after your health and the health of my beloved Father."
"I survive on the legacy and memory of my Father, for he has died and has been buried in the mountains of the sky these several years," said the elder. Upon hearing this, the younger brother knelt down upon the floor and wept for his Father. After a time, he turned again to his brother and inquired of the state of the ranch and how things had come to misery here. "The land has become harsh, " said the elder, "and I do not know how to bring life back into this place. The hired hands have fled for greener lands and steadier work. Only a few loyal servants still remember the words of our Father and remain to carry out his work."
"Did not Father give you instruction? You must do something else here or all shall wither and die."
"What shall I do then?" replied the elder brother, "for Father is not here to tell me how to manage these things and these people. I do what I know how to do, as I learned it from Him, but I do not know how to go on any further."
The younger brother thought for some time, then said to his elder brother, "I believe that you should sell the beasts that you have and release the servants to others or to themselves, and come with me to the city, where all good things may be had by those willing to work for them and to create them. I will provide for you until you become established in a new good life."
The elder brother looked sadly up at his younger brother and said, "I cannot abandon the works of my Father, as you once did. I have remained ever loyal to Him and shall not leave this place until His plan for success is established. All the servants who remain here with me are of this same mind, for we revere our Father even though we can no longer see him, nor hear his words. We remember his words, and that is enough for us. Go back to your city and your life without roots. I shall not leave."
Gazing upon the countenance of his elder brother, the younger man realized that he would not be persuaded. A great sadness came upon him and he could no longer bear to remain in the house or on the lands where he once lived. All was dry and cold in this place now, and he began to yearn for his warm and loving city and all the things of his life there.
So he returned to that place, and upon reuniting with his beloved friends, he began to relate his story. "I seem disinherited by my own actions from my Father and brother, and now my Father is dead and my brother has no place in his heart for me, not even to let me help him out of his miseries."
Upon seeing his fallen countenance, and hearing of his story, the citizens gathered around their favorite friend and began to reassure him and counsel him. His oldest friend, even the man who hired him when he first came to the city, spoke to him. "You have lost your Father and your brother, this is true. There is genuine sadness in this. However, you must surely see, even with your own eyes, the state of affairs in your youthful home. You were raised up into a family that was so set in its ways that even now, after the patriarch has disappeared into the mists of the mountains, they cannot alter their course even so much as a stone's width. They are destined to receive the bad as well as the good of the land because they cannot bend. They were never taught or allowed to look with their own eyes to see that they must change and grow to survive.
"You came here to the city because you could not suffer yourself to be constrained by these philosophies. You knew that inside yourself there was something that could be nurtured into utility and noble art. In so doing, you have caused us to become more than your friends. We are your brothers and sisters. I am your father, and so is he, and him. Your old Father and brother were never truly of you, nor were you of them. You were only their servant. Those who remain there now will never listen to you or see the things you have seen."
The younger brother pressed his friend's hand as the latter spoke thus to him.
"Yes, my son, your older Father is gone. He is not here, and you are free."
The present moment is not mundane. It is, in essence, extraordinary. -DC
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