Four men were lost in the Wastes. They had neither food nor water and were on the verge of death when they found an old man sitting on a large stone. The old man held a pitcher made of common clay. In front of him were four glasses, one red, one green, one black, and one blue.
“You are halfway to salvation my brothers,” the old man told them, “but I cannot guarantee you will leave the Wastes alive. All I can offer you is a drink from this pitcher to take with you for the rest of your journey.”
“In the red glass the pitcher will pour the most delicious wine, the green the juice of sweet fruits, the black the beautiful dreams of the liquid lotus, and in the blue, only plain and pure water. You may make any choice you like but you will choose for life. If you make it out of the Wastes alive, you will know no other taste on your lips for the rest of your days”
The first man, a wastrel, chose the liquid lotus. “What is life if one can’t dream?” he said, deaf to his companions’ pleas to change his choice. The second man, a drunkard, chose the wine. “What is life if one can’t rejoice?” he said when the others protested. The third man, large in appetite and size, chose the juice. “What is life if one can’t savor its sweetness?” he reasoned. The fourth, a simple and selfless man, chose the water.
“Water is life.” He said in his defense as the others mocked him.
The old man filled their cups and sent them on their way. The wastrel danced and sang with imaginary women, and as the dream took hold of him, laid down in the poisonous, red sand and buried himself alive. The other three, unable to wake him from his dream, left him to his death.
The drunkard kept with his companions for a while but the wine began to swell in his head. The joy of his drunkenness turned to sorrow and his companions left him after he fell into a slumber from which he did not wake.
The juice nourished the portly man for a time, but its sweetness began to corrupt his body. A new and stronger thirst grew in him with every drink. Over time it created madness in him, and in desperation to weaken the sweetness of his drink he mixed it with the bitter, poisonous sand. He then drank it, and died.
The simple man wandered alone. Despite the fates of his companions, at times he envied them in their deaths. For the man knew that he too may not make it out of the Wastes, and he cursed the tastelessness of the water that cured him of his thirst but would bring him neither salvation nor joy.
But when he did make it out of the Wastes, he was welcomed home with a great celebration. A great feast was held in his honor, it was then he found the old man’s words were true. For no matter what he placed in his mouth, whether it be a sweet wine or roasted fish, all he could taste was water.
Yet the man did not curse his fate. He rejoiced with his family and friends, savored the warmth of his home and bed, and was thankful for every breath he took for the rest of his life.
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