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With Do and DoNot, There Is No Try



This is a story from one of the Panda Warrior's later teachings. And despite the fact that I'm in the middle of another story, this one claims that now is the time for it to be told.

Long ago, in the days before stories, there lived a man, and that man's name was Heerow. He lived on the grasslands at the foot of Sacred Mountain.

This man Heerow was not a happy man. Though life on the grasslands was easy, he found himself trapped between Do and DoNot. These two were at war constantly within him, and because of their conflict he found himself completely unable to try.

So, one day, he decided to take his Do and his DoNot, and climb with them up Sacred Mountain. He hoped that the sacred heights would persuade them to make peace, or if not, that he might leave them both there and be rid of them.

Having decided, he set out, with Do on one shoulder and DoNot on the other, to climb Sacred Mountain. But, as often happened, he was soon brought to a halt by their constant whispering in his ears, one on one side and the other on the other.

"Do, do!" said Do. "You have to do more. No one will respect you if you're not doing the most; you only matter if you're the best. It is by doing that we make our mark on the world; it is by doing that we know we're alive; it is by doing that people will know that we were alive after we're gone."

"Do not, do not!" said DoNot. "Nothing you do will matter anyway. No one will respect what you do; someone will always surpass you. The world is too vast for any mark of yours to matter; nothing you do in the world really makes you feel alive; and when you're dead, who cares what you've done?"

Gradually, Heerow's footsteps faltered, and he stopped, looking up at the slope of Sacred Mountain rising in front of him, now seeming impossibly far and hopelessly high.

Suddenly Goad joined in from behind. "Go on then, you miserable man. Can't you even change this one thing?"

Goad's counterpart, Flail, appeared in front of him. "Of course you can't, you miserable man. What made you think you could change anything?"

Heerow fell to the ground, crying and clutching his head. How long he sat there in the dirt on the path to Sacred Mountain, he could not later recall. But at length he regained his composure, because there was somebody coming down the path from Sacred Mountain.

It was an old man, leaning on a staff. His hair and beard were white and flowing. His smile was gentle and crinkled his eyes. He had taken pity on Heerow, and come down from Sacred Mountain to help him.

Nodding towards each of the voices as if he could see them, the old man gestured to them all to gather round, but when he spoke, it was directly to Heerow.

"So many! And no two alike, though they are all part of you. It is you that they protect, each one. They spare you by hiding your fears from you; they hide you from the world because of their fears. But their loving care comes at a price: each one believes that happiness is much less important than the evil they strive to prevent. Yet a life devoid of evil but also devoid of happiness may be the hardest life of all."

The old man addressed each voice in turn.

"Goad, why do you prod him so?"

"If I were not to prod, he would never change anything, and risk being always unhappy."

"Flail, why do you cut him so?"

"Though he may be cut, at least he doesn't change anything. We're safe now; why risk change in return for the doubtful possibility of happiness?"

"Do, why do you push him so?"

"Without deeds, how will he know he's alive, or make himself immortal, or important, or happy? He doesn't know how to be happy; at least let him be busy."

"DoNot, why do you restrain him so?"

"Deeds will not make him alive, or immortal, or important, or happy. If he is busy all the time, how will he learn to be happy?"

Then the old man turned his attention to Heerow himself.

"You see, each one wishes you well in its own way, yet each is deceived in some way, each sees only part of the problem. Still, though the voices are many, it is you who are the greater. Why is it that you have no voice?"

Heerow looked up, startled. Realizing he was still sitting in the dirt, he sprang to his feet, and finally spoke.

"DoNot, you are right. I will not do, all the time. I will also spend time learning about happiness, if you will help me."

"Do, you are right. Some things must be done, not necessarily for immortality or to feel alive, but just simply to live. I will do what is necessary, if you will help me."

"Flail, you are right. Safety is important. I will keep it in mind, if you will help me."

"Goad, you are right. Things must change. I will not waver, if you help me."

"But it is I, Heerow, who must decide. I say what we do, and what we do not. I need the help of all of you, but it is I who must lead."

And, thanking the old man for the gift of his wisdom, Heerow set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

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