The Acolyte’s eyes stung from the sweat which was dripping off his forehead. He wasn’t adverse to hard work, which was all Acolytes knew, but the climb was arduous. The Mentor bound up the rocks along the path with the energy of a small child while he, more than half the Mentor’s age, had struggled along—weighed down by his burden. He knew the Mentor had his best interest at heart, it was his job after all, but the Acolyte would be dishonest if he didn’t admit to resenting his teacher a bit in this moment.
The Mentor was wise, but did he have to be so chipper?
The Acolyte had fallen to all fours when he’d reached the point where the Mentor had come to a halt. He wanted to vomit, but he’d not eaten before they left and so there wasn’t anything there to offer him that relief. Yet another thing he could resent his teacher over.
“Ah, you’ve come at last,” chuckled a merry voice. “I was afraid you’d given up and gone back to our camp.”
The Acolyte didn’t look up. “No, Mentor. I was summoned to follow, and I obey.”
“Ah, good. But obey to what end?”
The Acolyte said nothing. He was used to riddles. A water skin appeared in his peripheral vision. He reached up and grabbed it with a grunt of thanks. He should have offered more gratitude, but he was thirsty. He sat up and faced the path which he’d just climbed. It had been steep throughout, but toward the end of his trek the rocks piled up and the climb was more vertical than forward. As he gazed down he felt a bit dizzy. The Acolyte didn’t like heights. Shaking his head clear, he drank and offered the skin back to his teacher.
“My thanks, Mentor.”
The Mentor took back the skin and drank. “It is my honor, child.” He took another drink and placed his hand on the Acolyte’s shoulder. “Tell me, what burden do you carry?”
The Acolyte sighed. He shrugged the pack from his back and set it to his side, the rocks inside rang out to one another as though they were chattering. “The burden of despair, Mentor.”
“And why do you carry this burden?”
The Acolyte sighed. “I see death.”
The Mentor’s hand tightened with a comforting squeeze. “Yes, such is the way of things.”
“But, why is it this way? There is war and pain and sorrow, and… the child.”
The student could feel the teacher smile down on him, “Ah, the child. This has broken your heart, I think.”
The Acolyte’s shoulders slumped. “Yes, her fate should not be allowed.”
“And yet it was.”
“And you are bitter?”
“Yes. We could have saved her her life.”
“Yes, we could have. Had her parents had asked for help earlier, we would have.”
“But it’s all so… pointless. Why refuse aid? Why do people hate? Why do we kill?”
The Mentor’s hand lifted from his studen’t shoulder. “Ah, this is why I have brought you here.” He knelt and with gentle hand turned the Acolyte’s face toward his own. “We refuse aid, hate, and kill because our vision is small. Low to the Earth we see only a short distance, and that distance is made up of walls—both those we put around our hearts and those we put around our structures. These walls make our small vision even smaller, and they tell us to growl, ‘Mine.’”
The teacher stood. “But up here, our vision is expanded, and the walls which dominate down below don’t seem so imposing from up on high.” A hand reached out to the acolyte, who took it in his own and stood up.
“Come, child, and expand your vision.”
The Acolyte stepped around his teacher and gasped. Below him were clouds, dancing on the thermals, and eagles dove in and out of them like fish jumping in a pond. Far below, surrounded by a garment of trees, the river flowed by their city.
“The city, it’s so… small.”
The grin returned the Mentor’s voice. “Yes, child, it is.”
“But it filled with so much pain.”
“It is. Pain caused by the smallness of people. Of the rich who try to pen the poor like animals, and of the poor who become convinced they deserve to be so.”
“What are boundaries and resources and prestige up here?”
“Nothing. From here it looks as though there is room for all.”
The Mentor nodded. “As there is, child. As there is. But to understand this we small humans must ascend the mountain and capture a glimpse of the world through God’s eyes.”
“So why don’t we all come here?”
“Because, to ascend the mountain, you must have humility.”