I met a man on the side of a mountain. We met at a narrow pass where only one could walk at a time – I going up and he, down. Behind him, the dusty trail snaked skyward. We both paused and he looked at me with an expectant smile. Trying to hide my annoyance, I motioned for him to pass first. He simply stood there and smiled again. As I began to move, he spoke.
“To see with the eyes, some they go up and they come tell. Which is better?”
What in the world are you talking about? I thought. Politely: “Excuse me?”
“To hear the story or to see with the eyes? Which is better?”
I smiled broadly and pointed up the mountain. “Oh of course! It’s better to go see for yourself.” Thankful to be on my way and eager to be done with the hike, I turned to continue up the trail. He turned too and over his shoulder said, “For me it is enough.”
It is enough? So he hadn’t just come from the top. He had climbed halfway and then decided that the stories were good enough for him. He didn’t need to see the top – didn’t need to look down into the crater of the now extinct volcano, didn’t need to walk the rim, didn’t need to see the view of the Great Rift Valley from the peak. The stories that others brought down – these were enough.
What is that? A triumph of faith? Or a tragedy of human resignation? Without even pausing to consider the options, I assumed that first-hand experience is always preferable. Yet, has not Thomas been condemned for the same assumption? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. Why is that true? Those who stay on the plain may have faith that the peak is lovely, but oh what glories they miss! Or is it their glory to listen and believe? And of the one who said “show me!” – what of her?