THE FOOLISH YOUNG FARMER
There was once a foolish young farmer, eager to succeed through his own endeavours, impatient to be his own master and consumed with his own ambitions. Unwilling to wait for his inheritance, the foolish young farmer approached his father, an altogether wiser and more reasonable man, and requested his share of the family land.
The father asked, “Son, why do you wish to labour alone? Here is where you should be, part of the family, part of the farm.”
The foolish young farmer was proud and arrogant; the correct confidence in his own abilities had turned rotten through vanity.
“I am my own man,” he replied, “I cannot work under another!”
With a heavy heart, the father agreed and gave his beloved son the land that had been set aside for his inheritance, and, as a gift, the father gave the son the seed to plant in the field. With no sign of gratitude, for he thought it was his by right, the foolish young farmer took the land and the seed and took his family out from his father’s house. With his own hands he built them a new home on his own land, and with the seed he planted his crops.
The foolish young farmer looked into the valley and watched the workers in his father’s fields, “Hah!” he thought, as he despised them, “My effort is not spent on others, my labours support me and my family! I am master of my life!”
The seasons turned and the days stretched into summer, a dry and dusty summer that brought the most severe of droughts. The foolish young farmer gazed at his land, the land he had worked, the land he was master of, and he watched it begin to dry and crack and turn to dust, his crops failing for lack of water. In the valley, in his father’s fields there was abundant fruit, for his father had stored water in the plenty of the spring and now irrigated his land with the precious liquid. The foolish young farmer watched in bitter anger.
One day, as summer reached its full and withering bloom, the young farmer’s father came to see him.
“Son,” said the wise old man, “From our land we see that your land is becoming a dry and dusty desert. Let us give you water, for we have plenty to share.”
“No!” raged the foolish young man, “I will accept no man’s help! This is my land, and I will work it myself!”
“Son, without water, your crops will fail and you and your family will starve,” pleaded the father, “Please, let us give you what is needed!”
The son regarded his father, and beyond him, in the distance he could see the workers in his father’s green and luscious fields. For a moment he watched them as they busied to and fro and again his conceit rose within him.
“Go away, old fool!” he shouted, “I will brook no interference! This is my land and you shall not have it!”
“My son, all I offer is help,” said the father, “All I offer is what you need!”
“Away from me!” roared the foolish farmer, his reason clouded with insolent pride, “You will not see me beg for your help! I would never give you the satisfaction!”
The wise old man saw his son, twisted by pride and selfishness, and wept as he turned away and returned home.
The summer grew hotter and the foolish young farmer could only watch as the drought drained the life from his crops, leaving behind only cracked and barren land. With growing sorrow and desperation, he wandered through his land, beneath his feet the earth was no more than dust now and his crops were no more than a distant memory.
“Why has this happened to me?” he thought, bitterly, “How could all my work turn to dust!? I am lost! My family will starve! We will die!”
Just then, as the young farmer stared forlornly at the ground, his eyes caught a glimpse of something bright and glittering shining through the dead, broken land. The farmer dropped to his knees and scrabbled in the dust. With amazement he pulled from the ground a nugget of gold, nearly as big as his own fist!
The foolish young farmer leapt for joy, he reeled and danced and capered as though drunk.
“Hah!” he cried, “Now I know why my father wanted me to return. He wished to take my treasure from me! He is jealous of my good fortune and my wisdom in asking for this land now, before he could hoard the wealth unto himself!”
The foolish young farmer ran to his house, triumphant, to show his family how his wisdom and endeavour had brought such a glorious reward. The family were glad, and the next day the young farmer was able to buy food, drink and new clothes for his family and fine gifts and decoration for his home.
The old farmer heard of his son’s good fortune and went to see him again. Before he reached his son’s house the foolish young farmer came to meet him.
“And what do you want now, old man?” he sneered.
“To see you well and content my son, to see you happy.”
“Oh, I am happy, old man, and rich!” crowed the young man, “Do not think that you will receive anything from me, though, you who abandoned me here in time of dreadful need! You will get nothing from me!”
“I want nothing,” said the wise old man, bemused, “I have all I need, apart from your company and your love.”
“Away from me, parasite! You do not want my love! You want my treasure! You shall not have any of it! Now leave my land!”
Again, the wise old farmer turned in tears and returned home.
The foolish young farmer and his family rejoiced in their wealth, they ate the best food and drank the best wine, they looked at the finest paintings and dressed in the most luxuriant of clothes. Their money became their comfort and they guarded it jealously. No one in need ever found them generous, no one in want ever found them kind. In the midst of their great riches they were paupers, stricken by a poverty of the heart. The foolish young farmer and his family lived lives full of luxury and they remained apart from those around them.
The next year came, and the father, and his workers, began to work the land. The foolish young farmer, now grown fat and lazy, watched from the distance and scornfully laughed at the workers in the fields.
“They rush about like ants!” he laughed, “We live as royalty! My wisdom and my fortune lifts us above them.”
As the year rolled on and spring came the land began to bloom, lush growth covered the father’s land. The foolish young farmer still laughed at the workers and their efforts, even though his own land was choked with weeds, for he believed himself rich and through those riches he believed himself wise, and he believed his wisdom was great and would sustain him.
Harvest time approached, the father’s fields were golden with grain and heavy with fruit, still the foolish young farmer watched in contemptuous amusement.
One day, just as the workers started to work on his father’s harvest, the foolish young farmer’s wife came to him as he stood in the weed ridden fields watching,
“Husband, we need more food and wine,” she said.
“Take money to the market, and buy some then!”
“We have no more money, it is all spent!”
“Do not be foolish, woman!” barked the farmer, “I found the gold nugget, I saw its size and beauty, I know its worth! Of course we have money!”
“Husband, we do not! It is all gone! We have spent it, on rich food, fine wine and good clothes. We have no more money, what shall we do?”
The foolish young farmer did not answer her, he fell to his knees and began to tear at the ground, for it was here that he had found the gold and he hoped to again. The young farmer dug and dug, his hands becoming covered in dirt, the skin broken and bruised, for they had become soft for lack of work, his fine clothes were covered in earth and his sweat dripped from his face.
“Where is it?” he cried, “Where is my gold? Where is my treasure now?”
The foolish young farmer and his wife wept, for they could find no more gold in their field.
As they lay on the ground sobbing, the foolish young farmer’s father approached, for he had seen their distress and knew the state of their land. The foolish young farmer looked up as his father came near,
“What now?” he cried, “Have you come to gloat? Have you come to laugh at our misery? Get away from us you leech, you shall not feed on our pain!”
The old man stood quiet and calm, his eyes full of compassion, his heart overflowing with sympathy,
“Son, I have come to offer my help.”
“You come to take away my land, you come to take away my treasure!”
“Son, what treasure is there here,” said the father, gently, “I see only a dry dusty field choked with weeds, a soil cracked and barren, and my son and his family in need of help.”
“No!” cried the foolish young farmer, “I will find more gold, I will find the seam it came from, I will mine it, we will be rich again!”
“Son, you are a farmer, not a miner. You should work the land, not burrow beneath it like a mole. I did not bring you up to live and work in darkness!”
“I will find it, I tell you!” insisted the son, blind to the outstretched hand of help, “The gold lies here somewhere, and I will find it again!”
The son began to claw at the ground again, with ragged motions and frenzied activity. The earth lay unyielding, almost mocking the frantic young man, the gold remained beyond his reach, as he wailed,
“Where is it? Where is my treasure? Where is my gold?”
The wise old farmer wept for his son. Slowly and carefully, for he was an old man, he lowered himself to the ground and knelt before of his son,
“Son, the gold lies under my land.”
The foolish young farmer looked at his father full of angry disbelief, his despair giving way to rage and hatred,
“You knew! You knew where it was all along didn’t you?” he fumed, “You tricked me into taking this land so that I would not find the treasure, so that you could keep it to yourself! Liar! Thief!”
“I cannot steal what is already mine, my son,” said the father, with gentle authority, his words suddenly clear with truth, “You asked for this land, I begged you to stay. I offered only help, you heard only scheming and deceit.” The father held out his strong, callused, work worn hands, “Now,” he said, “Come home with me, all of you.”
“Snake! Viper! Liar! Devil!” screamed the foolish son, his reason blinded by greed and selfishness, “This is all your fault! You abandoned us, betrayed us and drove us from your home to this forsaken land!”
“No, my dear son, it was you who asked to leave, it was you who was impatient for independence and freedom. I only wish for your return.”
“No!” cried the son, again, “I will never return to you, do you hear me? Never!”
“Son,” said the old man, “Open your eyes and look about you. See what it is you cling to. See what it is that you place above me, above your rightful place, above what you need.”
The foolish young farmer did not look about him, instead his tear reddened eyes regarded his father’s face. For a long time neither man moved, neither man spoke, they only looked into each other’s eyes, as if looking for a secret doorway into the other’s heart.
It was the son who looked away first, his eyes still clouded with tears. He gazed around his land and saw for the first time how truly corrupt it was. The soil was stifled with weeds, its goodness long since stolen and squandered on useless crops, dust rose at every footfall for no rain had relieved the parched, cracked earth for many days. His land was as his heart, broken, impoverished and almost dead. He slowly raised his head and looked into his father’s gentle eyes.
“Why do you not condemn me?” he asked, wiping his tear streaked cheeks, his voice quiet and confused.
“I see no-one here to condemn,” replied the father, “I see only my son.”
“But you see this land, the land you gave me, and you see how I have ruined it,” said the son, “And yet, I cannot see anger in your eyes, nor accusation or derision. Why do you not despise me?”
“I do not see ruined land here, I see only see my son.”
“But, I do not understand!” protested the son, “I have done so much wrong, I have dishonoured you and all you taught me. Why are you not ashamed of me?”
“Son,” the wise old farmer said, “You are all I see here, because it is you I have been looking for. You do not need to understand, only accept and return home with me.”
“You still wish for me to return home?” the foolish farmer asked, “You still wish for all of us to return to your lands? We have nothing to bring, no food or money to offer.”
“Son, all I desire is to have you by my side, to have your family with us. All I wish for is to be your father and for you to be my son.”
The father carefully stood, sighing as he did so, for he was no longer young. He held out his strong hands once again to his son, “Come home with me,” he smiled, “All of you.”
The son looked around his land once more, then to his father, and then finally he looked down into the valley to his father’s house, to the lush, green grass and the well tended fields.
“Father,” he said as he took the old man’s hands in his own, “Take me home.”