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If You Ask Me About The Mountain

Updated on February 19, 2017
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Brian Gray obtained his degree in Language from Lee University and has been a published author and professional writer since 1985.

The Mountain


You have asked me to tell you about the mountain. Some of you have even begged me to tell you about the mountain. Whether you ask or beg, I will not tell you, but if you truly ask, I will try to tell you.

If I tell you about the mountain, you will not see it. If I take you to see it, you will not hear what I have to say.

If, as I tell you about the mountain, I tell you about the trees that grow on its banks, the beautiful trees that seem to grow forever in awesome oneness with the sky, and you suddenly say, "Ah! I know now what the mountain looks like," you will go and teach trees, and those whom you teach will not see the mountain for the trees.

If, as I tell you about the mountain, I tell you about the beautiful streams that cascade down its side, streams that seem to carry the conversations of the sages on their rushing tongues, and you suddenly say, "Ah! I know now what the mountain looks like," you will go and teach streams, and those whom you teach will build rafts.

If, as I tell you about the mountain, I tell you about the caves I discovered while climbing its heights, the deep caves filled with wonderful silence and solemnity, and you suddenly say, "Ah! I know now what the mountain looks like," you will go and teach caves, and those whom you teach will dig holes and become old men.

If, as I tell you about the mountain, I tell you about the mountain's peak, how it scrapes the sky with god-like power for all its towering splendor, yet is at one with all around it, and you suddenly say, "Ah! I know now what the mountain looks like," you will go and teach mountain tops, and those whom you teach will call themselves teachers.

If you truly ask me to tell you, I will tell you where I went and how; I will point the way, but I will not be your hands and feet. If you ask me how fast I ran to find the mountain, I will not tell you. If you truly ask me where the mountain may be found, I will point to the path. If you ask me how hard it was to climb, my ears will hear the conversation of ants with the deer, and the songs of butterfly wings. If you hear these things, you have been to the mountain.

Some blind themselves, while some blind others, and there are even those who blind themselves while blinding others. They blind by demanding to be recognized as part of the mountain, but when they have gone, the trees will grow on, the caves will solemnize for centuries to come, the streams will still speak wisdom, and the mountain's peak will still draw a line between heaven and earth. I have been to the mountain and found I could not speak. I could only point and hear.

Brian Gray February 2, 1983 12:35 a.m.

A Journey Through The Verses

Below, I have taken the verses apart and added some photos to pique your thinking. Enjoy.

The Mountain


You have asked me to tell you about the mountain. Some of you have even begged me to tell you about the mountain. Whether you ask or beg, I will not tell you, but if you truly ask, I will try to tell you.

If I tell you about the mountain, you will not see it. If I take you to see it, you will not hear what I have to say.

If, as I tell you about the mountain, I tell you about the trees that grow on its banks, the beautiful trees that seem to grow forever in awesome oneness with the sky, and you suddenly say, "Ah! I know now what the mountain looks like," you will go and teach trees, and those whom you teach will not see the mountain for the trees.


If, as I tell you about the mountain, I tell you about the beautiful streams that cascade down its side, streams that seem to carry the conversations of the sages on their rushing tongues, and you suddenly say, "Ah! I know now what the mountain looks like," you will go and teach streams, and those whom you teach will build rafts.


If, as I tell you about the mountain, I tell you about the caves I discovered while climbing its heights, the deep caves filled with wonderful silence and solemnity, and you suddenly say, "Ah! I know now what the mountain looks like," you will go and teach caves, and those whom you teach will dig holes and become old men.


If, as I tell you about the mountain, I tell you about the mountain's peak, how it scrapes the sky with god-like power for all its towering splendor, yet is at one with all around it, and you suddenly say, "Ah! I know now what the mountain looks like," you will go and teach mountain tops, and those whom you teach will call themselves teachers.

If you truly ask me to tell you, I will tell you where I went and how; I will point the way, but I will not be your hands and feet. If you ask me how fast I ran to find the mountain, I will not tell you. If you truly ask me where the mountain may be found, I will point to the path. If you ask me how hard it was to climb, my ears will hear the conversation of ants with the deer, and the songs of butterfly wings. If you hear these things, you have been to the mountain.

Some blind themselves, while some blind others, and there are even those who blind themselves while blinding others. They blind by demanding to be recognized as part of the mountain, but when they have gone, the trees will grow on, the caves will solemnize for centuries to come, the streams will still speak wisdom, and the mountain's peak will still draw a line between heaven and earth. I have been to the mountain and found I could not speak. I could only point and hear.

I wrote this philosophical piece on February 2, 1983, at 12:35 a.m. There are many layers to deciphering its hidden meanings.

Three More...

I decided to include three other philosophical puzzles that I wrote years ago. I hope you enjoy them.

In Search of the Perfect Apple


“Are we allowed to eat apples?” he asked. “Are they not the ‘forbidden fruit’?”

The youthful eyes, full of sincerity and honesty, looked pleadingly into mine and awaited not an answer, but the unquestionable truth. This youth had been told many things about the apple, but he had never spoken to anyone who knew for sure, and many had said that the apple could kill. Some had even said that only a bite, and one would die. Thus, just an answer would not do. No. It must be the undeniable truth.

The fear in this youth is not from what he does not know, but from what he knows. He knows more than some, less than others, but, most of all, he does not know that he does not know the truth, for he has been told that the truth is there for all to know, if one will only take the apple and eat it.

“What do you know of the apple?” I asked.

The youth spoke. “I have seen the apple go from green to red. I believe what I have seen.”

“What you have seen, you have seen,” I said. “What do you know?”

“Once, a friend I know ate some apples, and the next day, when I awoke, he was dead,” the youth said in great sincerity.

“A lie has no taste,” I said, “and your friend was killed by the truth. What do you know of the apple?”

He answered, “I know that I fear it. I fear that I have only one life and only one choice. I fear what that choice will do to that one life,”

“Then live more than one life,” I said, “for I am not the apple.”

The youth cried, “I have only one life to live!”

“Then,” I said, “you must eat the perfect apple.”

“Where can I find the perfect apple?” he asked.

I answered, “It grows where you have not looked, on trees untouched by the hands of man. Never on a low branch, always up high. If you do not seek to find the perfect apple, then, when you see it, it will be a dark snake on a golden pond. Kill the snake, and the apple will appear. I warn you, if you see the snake and let it live, you will go blind.”

“Master,” said the youth, “what is this snake on a golden pond? Where is it, and why have I not seen it?”

“The snake on the golden pond is the guardian of your fears, and the golden pond is the beauty of mystery. Where it is, is known only to you, for though you say you have not seen it, without your eyes I could not have described it.”

“Master,” he pleaded, “I wish with all my heart to find the perfect apple. Where may I find it?”

I replied, “The distance from here to the tree upon which grows the perfect apple is very short, but the travel is so difficult as to be impossible for some.”

“What must I do to take this journey?” he asked.

“You must remove the stone that you have been balancing on your shoulder,” I said. There was an alarmed look on his face.

“Master, I cannot do that. The stone I balance on my shoulder is the way my friends and I find a common interest. Without it, we would be unable to be friends.”

“The stone is very heavy and cuts into your skin,” I said.

“Yes, but I must keep it if I am to be accepted by my friends. Why some of them even have stones bigger than mine and are bent nearly double by the weight. I must keep mine.”

I replied, “Did I not tell you the distance was short, but the journey difficult? Put off your stone.”

Sadly, he walked away keeping the stone balanced on his shoulder. “I'll find another path, or an easier way,” he said.

“Your heart was not pure in the desire to find it,” I whispered, and, with that, I ate the apple I was holding in my hand.

Brian Gray Sunday, December 28, 1986 3:00 a.m.

Tell Me, Humble One


I saw the man passing by me, and though he seemed to look my way, I knew he could not see me, for he had only one eye, and it was turned inward. Not having the ability to look outward, away from himself, he saw only himself, yet, was quite content to be this way.

“What I cannot see cannot be any loss,” he said.

“I am a doctor,” I told him. “Perhaps I could operate.” But, when I said this, his ears fell off.

The cave echoes, because there are not people to fill its emptiness, and all the screams from time memorial will not remove the emptiness.

“Talk to me,” he said, but I knew words would be wasted on a man with no ears.

When he could not hear me, he began to sing a song about his life. It comforted him so much that he did not care that his ears were gone.

I discovered later that he was a pilgrim, like myself, on the way to the Great Festival, a place where many happy, friendly people gather. However, his second eye, the one that looks outward, never developed, and he ended up singing his song in the cave called “Important.”

Brian Gray January 20, 1989 2:38 am.

The Golden Chalice


“Take this bowl and it will lead you to what you seek,” the old man said.

The student stared in disbelief at the smooth, wooden bowl and wondered aloud how this could even remotely resemble what he was looking for. He had seen someone carrying a golden chalice that shone like the sun. That was what he wanted to possess. This plain wooden bowl was disappointing, but he had been told that the old man knew where a golden chalice could be found like the one he had described. He somehow felt that following the old man's advice might be useful.

“Start where you end, and end where you begin. Keep what is not kept, and finish what is not finished. Fill the vessel with what is empty, and what is empty shall be filled,” the old man said.

The young student looked puzzled, and said, “I just want to find the golden chalice. Where is it?”

“Gold does not find gold, and wood grows into trees,” the old man said with a smile.

Furious, the young student was about to throw the wooden bowl away when the old man said, “Throw away the wooden bowl and you will die.”

The young student hesitated in mid-swing and clutched the wooden bowl tightly now.

“Where do I search, then, for the golden chalice?” he asked.

“Take the wooden bowl to a lake that is beyond this horizon. There you must fill the wooden bowl with the water that is in the lake, and take this water to the other side of the mountain that you will find there. On the other side of the mountain is the golden chalice which you seek,” the old man said.

The young student promised that he would do as the old man had instructed, and, no sooner had he said so, than the old man disappeared, leaving the young student pondering the things he had spoken.

On the way to the lake, the young student saw a silver bowl lying by the side of the path and thought, “How much nicer this would be in which to carry the water that I am to carry over the mountain.” But, when he picked it up, the bottom fell off, and at that moment he remembered the old man's words, “Throw away the wooden bowl, and you will die.” He shuddered for a moment and thought to himself, “I wonder if that is true?”

He didn't ponder long before a bird flew up and perched on a limb nearby. The bird spoke, much to his amazement, and said, “Start where you end, and end where you begin. Keep what is not kept, and finish what is not finished.” And, as suddenly as he had arrived, he flew away.

The young student began to rethink his thoughts of parting with the wooden bowl, and determined now to move on toward the lake. Once there, he was amazed at how large the lake seemed, for he could not see the other side, and its immensity seemed equal to the mighty ocean. He filled the bowl with its water, and immediately the lake shrank to half its size, and the mountain of which the old man had spoken suddenly loomed ahead on the other side.

The young student was just pondering the way to get around the lake when a fish came to the surface bearing a golden chalice like the one he was seeking.

“Here it is,” he thought, and now he would not have to take this wooden bowl beyond the mountain, but could simply reach out and take the golden chalice from the fish. Yet, just as he began to reach for it, the fish spoke and said, “Your hands are too narrow, and your feet are too short. If you take this chalice, you will turn into a fish like me.”

Shocked, the young student withdrew his hand and asked, “What do you mean?”

The fish replied, “Only when you have gone beyond the mountain will you know how to end what you begin. To find what you seek is to keep what you have not kept. There they will measure the length of your hands and the width of your feet. Only that golden chalice which has your measurements will stay golden. Without those measurements, your chalice will turn to paper.” With that, he swam away.

The young man walked along the shores of the lake, and saw wooden bowls lying next to skeletons. “The old man must have spoken the truth,” he thought to himself.

At that very moment, the lake disappeared, and the mountain was now beneath his feet, and as he climbed, with each step he began to reassure himself that he was going to keep his promise, take no shortcuts, and reach the other side of the mountain to find the golden chalice. He had no sooner said this to himself the seventh time, when the mountain shook, and began to fall away, leaving him now looking into a beautiful valley filled with wondrous sights. And as he stood in awe, feeling so insignificant and small, the old man appeared and spoke.

“Your journey is complete, you have found that which you seek,” he said.

The young student asked what he meant, and the old man said, “Look at your wooden bowl.”

There in his hands was a golden chalice, and inscribed along the side was his name in a beautiful script and the words, “This is the beginning of truth.”

Brian Gray September 29, 1993 8:30 p.m.

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    • Hanavee profile imageAUTHOR

      Brian Gray 

      2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Damian,

      Thanks for the comments. I felt it was time to share that one with the readers. The photos of the caves were from my trip through Northern China, the Lung Men Grottoes. The "raft," or the building to look like a boat in the water was near Lung Men. The photo of the trees was one I took many years ago near Woodstock, New York, on a winter day.

      Brian

    • profile image

      Damian Fedorko 

      2 years ago

      I always remember the mountain and it's a great article and the photos are good.

    working

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