Guest Post: Speaking in Parables

Today’s guest post comes from cartoonist and author Thomas J. Mohr, and is written in the form of a parable. I’ve long wanted to incorporate this storytelling type, based on the model of Christ himself, into our site—and that could very well happen sometime in the future. But for now, please enjoy this singular and lovely piece based on Jesus’ parable of the sower. You can see more of Thomas’ work on YouTube and through Amazon.

The Climb

Four men stood at the base of a great mountain. A mountain that stretched far beyond the clouds and into the sky. Each of the four men had received an invitation from The Great Master, Yama no Dai Sensei, to come to his palace at the top of this towering mount. He instructed the four to eat no food, bring no water or provisions, to watch their steps on the path ahead of them and to never leave the path for anything.

Thus the four began the climb. The first was a scholar named Toriya, whose wisdom was sure to please the master. The second was a monk named Ishino, who eagerly accepted the master’s invitation without a moment’s delay. The third was a feudal lord named Togemon, the most handsome man in all the land. Surely The Great Master must have invited him for this fact! And the fourth man, the unlucky fourth, was a criminal known only as Shujin. Would The Great Master welcome this man, this known thief and murderer? “Certainly not!” The others concluded.

Three days and three nights they climbed, their brows had filled with sweat and their feet began to ache when at the foot of the mountain, a crowd of villagers shouted for Toriya. They were calling out for him to return to their village with them because they needed his wisdom to help protect their land from invading bandits. Toriya stopped to ponder their request and concluded that if he were to continue climbing the mountain, he would either succumb to thirst or starvation, assuming he didn’t get caught in a landslide or fall to his doom. So the villagers tossed a rope up for Toriya, he climbed down off the great mountain and returned with them to their village.

But the other three pressed on. Eighteen days had now passed since the beginning of their climb, they ate no food yet drank only the water from the skies and what streams and ponds they found on the great mountain. Still, Ishino the monk’s early enthusiasm waned. What if Toriya was right? What if there was nothing at the top? Then they were climbing this massive rock for no reason, other than to become the butt of some twisted hermit’s joke. And the more he thought of this the angrier he became at himself for leaving his beloved monastery so enthusiastically for a master he had never met, only to succumb to starvation on this barren mountain. So when he and the others came to a bush filled with bright red berries, the monk made his decision. Ishino dived into the bush, eating the brilliantly colored berries by the fistful, despite The Great Master’s warning. But just as soon as the monk had his fill, he groaned from the pit of his stomach and succumbed to the poison within his last meal. 

And so the remaining two pressed onward. Thirty-five days and nights had now passed since their climb began and two days and nights since their last drink of water. Their feet were bruised and swollen, their hands dry and cracked, their faces unshaved and dirty. This bothered Togemon. At the foot of the great mountain he retained his famous dashing looks, but now that he was so near the top, he appeared nearly indistinguishable from the criminal, Shujin. His silken robes, once splendid and glittering, were now torn and dirty just like Shujin’s rags. And his feet, once shimmering and smooth in the finest sandals, were now as bare and dirty as the murderer’s. Then to make matters worse, a thought occurred to the feudal lord. What would The Great Master think if he were to see him this way? After all, it wasn’t too hard for him to imagine how his fellow lords and concubines would react to his present condition. Would The Great Master think any differently? Surely not! For The Great Master must be different if he were inviting a common criminal. But if he were as the other feudal lords, such as himself, surely he would! Surely not! Surely yes! Surely not! Surely yes! No! Yes! No! Yes! No! Yes! Eventually, Togemon’s thoughts circled around him so much they began to choke the very life out of him. Soon the feudal lord swooned and fell over the side of the great mountain, never to be seen again.

“I have committed unspeakable crimes against you and your kingdom, and I am unworthy of your love and mercy.”

Shujin, the unlucky fourth, wept bitterly and moved on. Forty days and forty nights had passed since four men came to the great mountain, but now high up into the clouds, only one remained. Shujin, the thief and murderer. If the other three had no chance of reaching the palace of The Great Yama no Dai Sensei, what chance did he? His hands were hard and numb, his feet cracked and bleeding, to say nothing of his appearance, which was mangled and dirty. Starved and nearly half blind from weeping over crimes past, what hope could he possibly have? And yet, unlike the others, who were invited from places of wealth and comfort, he received his invitation in the face of a lifetime in prison. Shujin was given a pardon and a choice: Either stay on the path of his own destruction, or accept The Great Master’s forgiveness and come to his palace. The way was hard and the weather was brutal, but the choice was clear. “Not my will, yours be done.” He whispered over and over, until in the very last few hours of the fortieth night, he reached the very top. His eyes were immediately healed at the sight of The Great Master’s palace beyond the great mountain, so bright and shimmering as the stars of the sky, mere words fail to describe it’s immeasurable beauty. The only thing that could put this Aurora Borealis of colors to shame was The Great Master himself, whose brown face covered with white hair shone like the sun, came from the front gate in silvery white robes to greet Shujin. But as The Great Master walked toward him, Shujin uttered the words, “I have committed unspeakable crimes against you and your kingdom, and I am unworthy of your love and mercy.”

But The Great Master simply embraced this dirty man saying, “Well done, my true and faithful servant. From now on and forever, your name will no longer be Shujin, but Honto no Tomodachi, for you have proven your faith in my promises to be true. Come, let us celebrate this occasion. Follow me.” And then he took Honto no Tomodachi inside the great palace for the great feast prepared for him. “Wait!” you ask, “What was inside the great palace? What was served? Was he treated well? Was it wonderful?” I cannot fully answer except to say that it was very wonderful, more wonderful than anything on this earth. But you’d have to climb the great mountain yourself to find out. Will you make the journey?

Thomas J. Mohr, (or rather what’s left of him,) is an author, cartoonist, writer and occasional filmmaker/actor from Bostwick, Florida with an insatiable passion for East Asian/Asian-American Media (which includes anime among other things,) and the miracle of Christianity. 

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