The Far Fields

Once upon a time, a paleontologist and a monk would often encounter one another in the great far fields of stars and night trees. Sometimes, the monk would be on his knees, praying. At other times, the paleontologist would be on his knees, chiselling out stones or fossils by the light of a lantern or torch. One evening, they met as they were both walking from opposite directions of the road through the fields. Our lives are very similar, said the paleontologist. We spend a lot of time on our knees. Perhaps there is something like prayer in my work. That’s possible, said the monk. Perhaps when I pray, I am also examining stones and fossils in a different way. And in one sense, we are both communing with our friends. The paleontologist especially liked this last statement as he rubbed a trilobite in his palm. Then he asked whether they were praying or studying the same things. On your knees, you encounter what is up front and close, said the monk. On my knees, I meet what is behind and beyond. One is the reason for the other. The paleontologist was not yet convinced, but he took the monk by the arm and said, Let us walk together. The night is beautiful and it is true.

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