I once met a man who dreamed of flight, and as he studied, he thought of himself sitting on the roof of the world and watching the ants that worked feverishly below. Then his peers asked of him, “What is your ambition?”
And he replied that he wished to soar and scrape the cloud-tops with the palm of his hand.
So they said to him, “Fool!” And they rebuked him harshly.
Some time later, they came to him again and asked of him, “Now what is your quest?”
He replied, “I hope that I might one day glide over yonder mountain peak and match the eagle in his dive.”
Now when the time came for the man to come by his own dwelling, he found all places to be filled. Down the high streets and through the gutters he trekked, but not a soul would offer a lodging to him although he could afford it. Then the man came to a hamlet some distance from the town’s high walls, and he found a group there and made his dwelling in a hovel among them.
The man asked of them as they sat by a fire under a wide sky, “Why do you live away so? What was your action that made you so unwelcome among the townspeople?”
At his question, the group drew silent and lowered their eyes as if in shameful remorse. All was quiet but for the crackle of the flames until one of their number spoke, an ancient beggar in a ragged cloak. “We are those who said, ‘Look left,’ as the crowd turned to the right fork, those who might leap when the crowds said, ‘Crawl.’ Yes, we are the ones who said to them, ‘We shall build,’ when they were wont to destroy, those who said, ‘Give of yourself to those in want,’ when they were wont to keep for themselves. We cautioned, ‘Hold back,’ as the crowd said, ‘Forward charge.’ And then we heard their grumblings against us, and we learned to keep silent and flee from our fellow man so that we might be unharmed.” Then the beggar asked of the man, “Why has it been that you take your place among us?”
The man replied quietly, “Because I wished to fly as they deigned to walk.”
The beggar did not change his gaze. He looked upon the man and said to him, “You have a worthy ambition. Do not lose hope, for while they may be stiff-necked behind the village walls, they can take change gradually. And one day, yes, one day, you will fly.”
I once met a man who dreamed of flight, and all through his study he lost not his resolve. Through the help of others, he worked and plied his trade. Now he lives on the mountaintop, a worthy governor of the village that once shunned him, and keeps an eagle with him at his home. By his order there were built in the village great towers of peace and learning, and atop these he stands often, and seems to scrape the clouds with the palm of his hand.
It is said, “At every crossway on the road that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.”
But I beseech you: do not lose sight of the clouds