"Will there not be a dawn for the righteous?  Why doth the ungodly Prince continue in his way without condemnation from the One! Let his damnation be swift!", spoke the learned one with great rancor and despair.

"Your sentiments align with my own, my son...Truly, men of great gifts can feed on the flock and take their pleasure at their whim.  Moreover, the damage to the Cities of the East that occurred on account of this Prince's wrongdoing continues to reverberate across the globe, touching us even here in this humble abode alongside the barley fields."

"Would not the people of the Eastern Cities eventually see this abomination and revolt?  For truly, their righteousness is known even to the ends of the earth!", conjectured the learned one, "why has there not been some great stir?"

"Your questions spun within my mind ever and anon after these great events came to pass", replied the preacher, gazing wistfully into the barley fields as the sun set once again over another day of discourse, "the greatest evil of the Prince is his corruption of the people.  The cities have been anesthetized against wickedness through sweet words and cunning flattery; till now, their bacchanals rival the men of the north in orgiastic display.  Such things did not happen immediately, but their seeds had lain in the ground unmatured and unpursued, till the Prince simply revealed them and loosed their true nature upon the world."

"Yet again, I must protest!", declared the learned one, "for the people of these cities have always held the Oracles in high regard, spending every moment of each day in the contemplation thereof, even while about their daily tasks.  The Oracles, being the very Words of the One, cannot allow for the advent of such corruption; moreover, they would undoubtedly cleanse the entire being of a person so they could not give in to such corruption", opined the learned one.

Again, the preacher continued to teach:  "Do you recall that the Prince maintained great knowledge of the Oracles, verging on prophetic might in his declamation thereof?"

"Yes, indeed, so it has been said."

"Do you think that the common people would be susceptible to the same fatal error into which the Prince fell, in that he believed the Oracles to only speak of him, his life's ends, his glory and power, his actions?"

"It seems to follow that such an error would carry itself out in the people as well.  Yet are we even agreed as to the nature of the Prince's error?  Could he not have simply delighted in different things, things contrary to the Oracles, and summarily fell?", inquired the learned one.  

"In saying this, you simply restate my perception of the Prince's error in a different way. For aye, the Prince delighted in abominable things, but his delight used the Oracles themselves to advance his own ends, his ambitions, the needs of his own ego.  When he read an oracle referring to a king, he could only think of himself.  When he read moral dictates, he saw the ends of those moral actions to be his survival and happiness only.  There was never the illumination of Eudaimonia in his soul!  For truly, the One knows what is in the hearts of Men, and entrusts himself to them as he sees fit."

"So even his actions of righteousness were accounted as wickedness?" concluded the learned one with fatal finality.

"You have spoken truly", responded the preacher.  

"This teaching is hard.  Who can hear it?"

"Any such as have the desire to love the Good in all things, to love the One unabashedly in every aspect of existence, every fiber of their being.  As we have seen, this is all that is required of Man ."

"You say 'all that is required of Man' as if it were but a light thing.  I see no power in humanity to do these things.", dejected the learned one yet again.

"Remember again, my son, the parable of the plow, for it images the nature of things truthfully, and, if it is plumbed still deeper, we will find a method for true and honest living therein."

And so the learned one and preacher slept again, rising the next day to continue their discussion in the barley fields, while cool, but slightly chilly, wind blew from the east.

"It seems the next step of learning is to inquire after the common people in the Prince's kingdom to see if their hearts were truly bent upon wickedness in the same way as their ruler", said the learned one, thinking aloud.

"Agreed," affirmed the preacher, "next, let us consider the life of the Merchant, a man of great industry, wisdom, foresight, and honesty."

"Finally, you present a man of success and truth!"

Without acknowledging the learned one's comment, the preacher continued, "The Merchant lived in the greatest of the Eastern Cities in the days of the old king, and lived to see both the reigns of the old king and the Prince.  The Merchant created a thriving business processing goods at the city gates, inspecting for quality and safety, and eventually ventured to buy some goods at a low price, selling them in other cities at higher prices.  He dealt shrewdly in business affairs, but maintained his honesty in all things, never speaking well of a good or service unnecessary to his buyers, nor ever speaking ill of a competitor's product more necessary to the life of a buyer.  In addition, the Merchant threaded the Oracles through his daily life, contemplating them throughout the day, displaying them prominently in his offices, and placing them on his products to be shipped abroad.  In all things, the Merchant was spoken well of by all."

"And finally, we establish a simple method for proper living, based upon this man?", spoke the learned one with relief.

"Hear the teaching to the end, my son", replied the preacher, and then continued, "the Merchant had a one and only son whom he loved dearly, to whom he spoke such truth as he could relate when he had opportunity.  Often, the son accompanied his father on business affairs beyond the Eastern Cities, listening to his father"s teachings and learning his father's ways.  It was not long before the two were nearly identical in mannerisms and bearing, and most spoke endearingly of how the son was the exact imprint of his father, the Merchant."

"And what was the general bent of the Merchant's teaching?" queried the learned one.

"The sayings of the father were many, but I will summarize them for you as I am able:

Oppress not the poor or downtrodden, but grant them redress; you know not when they may also bring goodness to your house.

Beware the double-tongued buyer and the bringer of false news.

Heed not the entreaties of those whose end is unjust gain, but seek honest wealth for your household.

Love and prize the wife who is honor to her father, wealth to her husband, and gentleness to her children.  She shall bring great gain.  

Do you perceive the similarity between these sayings?"

The learned one thought for a while, as the wind continued to gather force from the East, bringing dark clouds over the edge of the horizon, then he spoke:

"Could it be that the Merchant prized his accumulated honors, privileges, and wealth, and thus set the skillful accumulation thereof as the ultimate end of his sayings to his son?  Moreover, might he have considered these things as evidence of great favor from heaven?"

"You hit close to the mark, learned one, but there still exists a better way to say this truth.  Let us explore the Merchant's life still more to see how things carry themselves out."

"Let it be as you say."

"The Merchant lived well all of his days, and his house was even honored of the old king.  Never did any have aught with which to speak ill of him, until the very last days of the Merchant's life, when his son began to apply the teachings of his father.  The Merchant set an end for his sayings, as you truly perceived, and the son, having been influenced by his father's ends all of his life, sought to put them into practice in every way possible.  The son began to associate with younger businessmen a generation ahead of his father, who also prized gain in their daily affairs.  For indeed, why should he not associate with such men, since they shared the values of his father?  Before long, he imitated them as surely as he imitated his father.  But alas, their conversation held little value, and lead the son into wrong-doing.  At first a little, but then whole-sale, the son gave his time to the pursuit of gain, disregarding the sayings of his father, rationalizing it on the basis of this:  "If my father's ends are towards gain for the family and household, must I not also do what is necessary for the care of my progeny?"

And so the son built a mercantile empire twice the size of his father's, with brutal efficiency and disregard for any rules of trade.  His father grew old and gray and heard of his son's affairs from what friends of his remained alive and active in the city's markets.  Soon it became clear that something had gone entirely awry with the son's soul, and the teaching of the Merchant had come to naught.  

Thus, the father called to the head servant of his house saying, "Arise, let us prepare the house for a great feast, let there be wine, music, and merriment, for we shall house my son and his family this very night!"

And so the servants readied the house for feasting while a messenger was sent to invite the son from his abode.  

The finest of meals was prepared: fowl of the air grilled over flame to crisp perfection, sweet apples and berries, savory venison seasoned and sautéed, and warm loaves of sourdough, streaked with cinnamon.  

The torches were lit, the tables were set, and friends came from every city street to partake.

Finally the son arrived, dressed in purple livery, with a joyous countenance, nevertheless his visage shadowed with some evidence of fire and shadow, the ambition of youth, and possibly something more....  

His elderly father embraced him saying, "Friends, welcome my son, and drink a toast of wine in his honor!"

Thus the vats of wine kept since the day of his father's wedding were unsealed and enjoyed by all.  

The father and son walked arm in arm to the head of the table to enjoy the meal prepared, and the father queried his son with great compassion:

"How go your affairs in the City as of late?"

With pride, the son responded, "Very well, my father, I have made us the sole purveyor of all goods related to battle bandaging, raising our profits seven-fold; what is more, the guild of the Pilgrims has been driven from the city and their competition will no longer waylay us in our affairs abroad."

"I hear talk of more affairs of yours that have advanced the business.  What more have you accomplished?", inquired the father even further.

Barely concealing his satisfaction, the son continued, "I have created a system wherein families may invest in properties, goods, or entire mercantile enterprises, with the hope and aim of future return on their investments.  This will allow poor families to become rich, and the rich families to double, even treble their wealth!"

"So my son has exchanged the affairs of business for those of charity?" queried the father wryly.

"Nay, my father, call it not charity, but rather, shrewd dealing,  such that you have always taught me from birth."

The noise of the party continued, and the music nearly covered the father's next response, as the light of the hearth flickered brightly outlining the dancing shadows of the party and the father with his son against the stone walls.

"Very well...and do you encourage investment in some enterprises or goods that you know to be worthless?  For such was never in accordance with my teaching.", spoke the father sternly.

Taken aback, the son hid himself behind lofty speech:  

"I merely seek to live in keeping with the greatness of our lineage, providing the best course for the generations yet to come!"

The father advanced still further:  "Do you not know that the greatness of our house lies in its fair dealing?  That we use our time to do good to all, not merely the limited cult of our house and family!"

"Nay, my father, in this you are regrettably mistaken, for truly I do such as you have taught me since my youth!"

"Name the teaching wherein I taught you to oppress the simple and poor of the earth!", exclaimed the father with great consternation.

Words of the conversation had drifted around the jovial courtyard for some time, but with the father's final exclamation, many stopped and glanced sheepishly up towards the head of the table with concern in their eyes.  Some showed enough deference to leave, and the rest gradually moved out to the city street to continue the revelry.  

After a spell of quiet, the son finally responded, "My father, was it not you who set profit and good success as the end of every teaching?  Even when you counseled me to stay far from the District of the Harlots, you spoke of how my reputation would be harmed and profit hindered.  When you railed against the doctrine of the pilgrims, who shunned things of mortal value, you did not consider their teachings, but declared how poor profits would be if more citizens came under their creed.  Above all, you have extolled the building of great enterprises and powerful exploits of men; such has filled me with desire and joy, desire to build something for our kin and joy to have had such a wise and divine father!"  All this spoke the son with admiration and awe in his eyes, along with ambition and youthful desire, flaming like the twin peaks of two subterranean volcanoes side by side.  

The father recoiled and looked downward as if struck, and was at a loss for what he could possibly say to the son whom he loved, who had simply followed the misbegotten teachings of a well-meaning fool.  

He looked up at his son with tears in his eyes:  "The One has no room for the brutal and oppressive, for the guarantor of falsehood, the lover of mammon; yet such have I been!  O woe to my soul! My very flesh and blood hath been lead astray!"

"Nay, my father, the nuptial wine of yesteryear merely fills you with nostalgia and melancholy.  Let your heart be glad, for this house shall be great and known from shore to shore!"

And so the father, once the good Merchant, now become a regretful man full of sorrow, watched his remaining years fade like the last blooms of summer gone too soon, when winter falls from the north.  His son became prominent in the city more than he had ever been, and made great deals of business with the very household of the royal line, even Alcibiades himself.  

The Merchant died a repentant man, mercifully chastened, but his son lived on full of years, and wickedness.

At this point the thunderclouds from the East began to expel great drops of rain, while the wind gathered in intensity, thrusting the learned one and the preacher back towards the safety of the indoors.  

The preacher lit a fire once more to bring warmth, while the wind beat against the house from outside, and the rains endeavored to wash it away entirely.  

"Methinks life be somewhat like us here, hid away in a little cottage, attempting to keep warm, seeing whether or not the house we have built will stand against the storms!", mused the learned one good-naturedly.  

Laughing, the preacher responded, "The truth of a common farmer clarifies all!"

"Do you discern how your musing might relate to the life of the merchant?" asked the preacher, attempting to take the teaching to its conclusion.  

"I believe I may contend to answer your question based upon the frameworks we have established:   A man uses his time to plow his field, but he may also use his time, much like a man spends money, to build a house, that house representing his life.  If he take great care to insure the quality of his foundation and the quality of his building materials, his house will stand.  Similarly, if he care but little for the strength of his foundation, and acquire cheap material, the house will collapse in such storms as these."

"And what, pray tell, was the foundation of the Merchant, what, in essence, were his ends until the day he repented in sorrow?" asked the preacher pointedly.

"The accumulation of gain, that vile beast, Mammon, which holds the hearts of the citizens of the Eastern Cities."

"This, my son, is the summation of my teaching on time and its relation to things common.  You have spoken well.  The Prince, setting the spirit of the age into play, influenced countless thousands of lives.  His ends became the ends of his subjects.  Many were lead astray, and but few have repented."

"What else remains to consider, for this treatment deals thoroughly with matters of life and death?" asked the learned one inquisitively.

"What remains?  Namely, the whole host of heaven, robed in the array of celestial majesty, the plane of higher beings with their empyreal fires, and eternity itself, hidden in some secluded hollow in the heights!  These things previous have been but some shadows of the higher realities; the Sacred Flame itself remains unexplored, uncontested.  The most difficult leg of our journey lies before us, my son.  Pluck up your courage, and let us ascend the mountain of wisdom itself!"