“What do you mean? I climbed the one in the middle. I climbed the one on the right. I climbed the one on the left. I’m all out of mountains!”
“And yet you have still not climbed the right mountain,” the old man said. “There is one more mountain that lies along the path. It is not as tall as the other three, and many fail to notice it. Most ignore it completely! That is the mountain that you must climb. You will find what you need at the top of the mountain.”
The traveler left the hut, filled with a mixture of desperation and hope. He set his feet upon the desert path, and followed it over hillocks and dunes, winding between the cacti and sage brush. This time he payed better attention, and just as the old man had said, there was another mountain beside the path. It was not as tall as the other three, nor as far away. And since the day was barely half-past, the traveler decided to climb to the top right away.
Upon reaching the summit, the man was shocked to discover that there was no hut at all on the top of this mountain. Instead, there was a great wooden cross, and a small cave not far from it, with a huge stone sitting beside it that had once stood in front of the entrance.
When the man looked up from peering into the empty cave, he was surprised to see his father and older brother standing beside him, smiling warmly at him. It had been so very long since he had seen either of them, that he had almost forgotten what they looked like, but a voice inside him told him that they were indeed his Father and Brother.
It was then that the man realized that he had been to the top of this mountain before. In fact, this was the place where he had been born! With joy he fell on his knees at their feet, and cried, “Father! Brother! I have been away from you for so long! I have journeyed far and I lost my way. I looked for life and lasting peace in all that this world has to offer, but I’m more empty and distressed than ever!”
The man’s father embraced him, and said, “My son, have you forgotten all that I taught you? Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, you have no room to love me. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, are empty tricks that do not come from me. The world and its desires pass away, but the one who does my will lives forever.”
The man’s older brother also hugged him, and said simply, “Welcome back!”