Fire flickered calmingly in the learned one's hearth, mingling itself with the smell of charred mesquite, as the preacher shut the tome with a note of finality, looking at the learned one with an expectant glance; the face of the learned one disguised itself with storm clouds of perturbed thought.  

For some time the two of them, having now become friends in truth, sat in contentment with the silence.  

Over the course of a fortnight, they had episodically made their way through the story of the Scholar, plowing the fields during the day, drinking mead and talking by night, searching for what the preacher described as the higher forms of Love, Beauty, and Justice.  

Now, it became clear that the journey was nearing its end, yet the fruit of the endeavor remained either unnamed or elusive altogether, at least from the point of view of the learned one.  

Finally, the learned one ventured a question, as the fire crackled and the sparks wafted up the chimney flu:

"Many days ago, we spoke of eternity as the chief desire and aim of this discourse. At the time, you surmised in words that seemed fitting to me that Time and its uses lead to Eternity, as a footpath connects to the highway.  Now we have wandered on every path between here and that highway and are hopelessly lost.  I have one question that I shall put to you, and you may answer, if you are able:  What power has a person over a thing or even over themselves?"

The preacher easily responded: "Quite simply, as stated heretofore, their actions, aims, desires, all of which encase themselves within the sphere of Time, fall within the actionable power of a person. Remember, my son, the parable of the plow from our earliest discourses and this answer plainly reveals itself."

"Aye, your faith in humanity continues to baffle me", replied the learned one, somewhat perplexed.  

"You spent much time telling stories, fielding those as examples; similarly, you painted a broad sweeping picture of Time and its use, with gratuitous dashes of metaphor.  Now, the next step looms from out your rushing rivers of thought:  If you hold to your belief with such certainty, why have you not established a method for Time and its use?  You preach in living color, with great eloquence, but my life receives no assistance!  Before me rise dangers and traps on every side; the traps of wealth in the story of the Merchant; the traps of comfortable carelessness and pleasure in the story of the Serf; the traps of false spirits in the story of the Scholar –  at least that is all that makes itself plain to me about his life at the moment, for the story ended with decided obscurity – ; now, here we sit, not a single step closer to establishing the path to eternity's highway.

The voice of the learned one rose near the end of his protestation, and he stopped himself short to recover composure.

"Forgive me, O preacher, for my desire for the best path betrays me."

"Nay, my son, no forgiveness seems necessary to one whose passion for rightness and goodness rouses his spirit, even if it be frustration.  In the stories we have discussed, a method disguises itself.  We can conclude that deep passion for wealth and gain only leads to a superficial piety, while no passion or piety for anything whatsoever leads to a fruitless and trivial life.  Ascending the tree of thought shows us how the love of power makes us most like an Abomination of Desolation, an enemy of the One, for at its root there lies the poison of pride.  Finally, in the case of the Scholar, we find that transcendence sets itself as the good and right aim of every moral action, a truth we established in the relationship between time and eternity in our first discourse."

"Truly, dear teacher, this neglects to answer my question, for these endless paths leading to the Pit are no method!  We dare not say "peace, peace", where is no peace!  Of all of the tales you told, I felt certain that the Scholar would find the path to eternity's highway, but even he, after every revelation possible, turned his back from the upward way and lived a life akin to the carelessness of the Serf.  If a method disguises itself in truth, should there not exist some tale of a soul that climbed past the precipitous peaks and reached a safe haven?"

"I regret that our discourse of these many months fails to satisfy the cry of your soul, my son.  Sometimes, one must look upon the extremes of moral failure to find the right path.  Can we not act in a contrary way to the Prince, Serf, Merchant, or Scholar?  It seems clear that acting in an opposite way, choosing to walk down a path different from theirs' will lead to truth and safety!"

"Nay, my teacher, for the first time I must disagree heartily, for some poor fool may one day be reading the story of the moral failings of the Preacher and Farmer, just as easily as we read of the Scholar, Prince, Merchant, or Serf.  There remains some stone unturned for us, but I know not what it may be.  I believe it relates in some way to the powers vested in men naturally – or lack thereof."

"My son!  To say such things reeks of nihilism and despair.  Surely you cannot hold such a view?"

And the learned one could not restrain the rush of words any longer:

"Yet, is it not understood that if the rains not come, my fields will wither away and perish; if the winds blow harshly from the East, my crops will die or catch the plague?  Moreover, if the Serf had not been born into his status of life and profession, may he not have also been a prince or a preacher?  May he not have lived differently if he had been driven to do so?"

"Powerlessness is not an excuse; possibly not even a reality!", replied the preacher.

With barely a pause, the learned one continued his soliloquy:

"If the Sun destroy itself in a blaze of cosmic destruction, it will not rise upon my field and the plants shall perish.  If my body by some stroke of misfortune fall ill or receive malady, none will remain to cultivate the fields.  If the great swarm of locust, blocking out the light of the Sun, descend from the Eastern steppes, my fields will be devoured and ruined.  Some say Man has tamed Nature ever and anon, but, as the truth to which I have born witness shows,  the strength of Man pales before the gargantuan heft of Nature; verily, Nature may crush Man at its whim.  What may stay these disasters from occurring perplexes Man, for he is keenly aware of his inability to establish life and of the immense power of a maelstrom, blizzard, or Starfall.  

What then is Man's first cause?  At its root, this truly is the only question ever asked by men such as yourself, preacher, or even by philosophers.   If it be not Nature, then it must be somewhat greater than Nature.  It seems foolish to conclude that things perishable may give birth to other perishable things ad infinitum, yet a human union may form such things.  But, of all infinities, the infinite regression or progression of things finite seems to be most absurd.  So, we must dig still deeper in this conundrum.  Perhaps it is right to conclude that Nature itself is imperishable, giving birth to the perishable, and sending the seed of its fertility out into every corner of the Cosmos?

Still, fewer ask what is Nature, and whence comes its nearly divine status? And, if truly divine in essence, how is it that it hath parts that wither and fade?  Stars perish, galaxies drift apart, things die everywhere.  Something within bemoans the utter wrongness of this fact.   Truly, why must Nature Herself be subject to such ravishing by Death?  Yet, this fact proves one thing: It is absurd beyond all ken to say that Nature is the Mother of all things, for things perishable always have a beginning and give birth to other perishable things.

In this light, Man's role as a child of Mother Nature, whether true or untrue, is unimportant, for it seems necessary that Nature Herself had One whom breathed upon her to give her life in days of yore, One who now watches, orchestrates, and brings into being from nothing.  The precipitous end of all human intelligence at the point of Origins is perhaps the most profound proof of the need for Divinity – and at very least, something infinite on which we lean –  to truly explain, describe, and prove.  The question will always remain, no matter the ostentation of Man's mind to answer otherwise, "from whence came such and such a thing?"  If Man continues on this line of inquiry, he stumbles on a rule: something infinite must necessarily lie at or near the point of origins.  This barrier beyond which the light of our reason cannot descry delineates the existential horizon of which we spoke many days ago!

However, if Man respond in a way that sunders himself from His First Cause, hiding from the searching path and taking easy answers, yea, if he cut the tree of human thought off at the roots, he begets death and destruction within and without such that no human action may lead to the Good and every human thought falters and dies at the foot of Insanity.  Witness Nietzsche."  

"Truly, you have learned more than I ever could have thought to teach from our discourse; for men are truly carried on to speak from the good indwelling Spirit.    I pray you, continue!" the preacher exclaimed.

"Having considered the world without, we have yet to shine the light of reason on Man's inner being.  You have spoken of Man's ability to pursue actions and achieve ends in the highest of terms, O Preacher, yet neglect to admit that often Man's deepest desires and noblest ends remain unachieved, unperformed, and, at worst, scarcely even manifested.  The only question a sane man can ask at the sight of such a tragedy and deep abomination is why?  If Man, having every intention towards the Good, with all the endowment of divine beauty and investment, still falters before reaching the prize, what good then is Man?  Is there any goodness within him truly?  Is a good end unrealized even indicative of a good man?  While your discourse has sought to establish the power of Man within the fields of Time, I feel, quite to the contrary, that Man is powerless before the ironclad advance of causality. The way his existence is begun, being quite beyond his power or choice, will similarly yield a chain of events, commonly known as a life, which will also be quite beyond his power, having once been begun in a certain fashion.

Inevitably, the next question breaks like ocean waves upon the shoals:  "Whence comes happiness if Man, being unable to change his course, fails at every turn to apply the actions necessary for his ends?  Must then not a single man ever be happy and fulfilled?

But then that leaves us asking, 'what is happiness?' And most say, the 'force of will to achieve ends, assuming those ends be in line with the Good.'  Yet, you – not I – have established that Man has no power to establish ends in line with the Good, as your tales have shown, and to the truth of which my own simple knowledge has attested.  You speak of the importance of proper utilization of time, and, in the next breath, divulge another immense failure of human-kind.  How is it that time, being held in such importance by all, is elusive and un-utilized in all of your examples?  This truly seems simple:  Man is without power in every circumstance, for His life will transpire in line with its pre-determined course, having once been set from birth, and possibly before.

Essentially, this answers my question: no method for harnessing time exists, and, if such possibilities avail themselves, they fly unlooked for from beyond the existential horizon of our minds, suddenly possessing us with immense force."  

The preacher made no move to speak, and continued listening intently to the farmer's oration.

"Finally, life drawing on to its close, Man looks upon his life, a mangled heap of chance occurrence and unrealized potential, and laments the loss of it all.  At this point, one cannot help but ask:

'Is Time even worth consideration, or Eternity even attainable, for Man cannot remedy his bound state, nor reach beyond that which he knows to attain the transcendent, for even his temporal tools are beyond his reach'

To which, I must say the following: A man must eat to live, and therefore a plow will always be needed to prepare the ground to grow nourishment for the hunger of Man.  However, the ends which one seeks will always be elusive, unless they are in keeping with the path laid out from the beginning.  So, we are left in a quandary: Man, unable to achieve his ends, but still expected to propagate life abundantly, is cut adrift in the sea of time, paddling in whichever direction he chooses with immaculate free-will, but nevertheless at the mercy of the storms and waves.  And so the end of the matter:

Life itself, being full of corruption, seeks to swallow Man whole, and Man is entirely helpless if his soul and body bear not the good indwelling Spirit, what I believe you call Eudaimonia."

The preacher responded with care:

"I am but a lowly preacher, having lead my congregation many a year. And many a wise scholar has propounded to me, in similar manner, what you have said.  But I ask you, what can a preacher say to a man raging headlong towards perdition but, "Repent, and flee your demise!", verily, in saying such a thing, assuming that he has that power? What can a preacher say to men who love mortal pleasures besides, "look, behold the Glorious Heavens and repent of your evil!', still assuming that they even have their eyes after all?  Verily, my son, the One hath not made all things known to Man, and the plight must truly be as dire as you say, but still the One hath found the place for the work of a mere preacher amidst such soul-darkness, and yea, the work of a farmer amidst the turbulence of Nature.  Man must not lament being cut adrift in the seas of Time, but be grateful to have a bark on which to float in the first place, for to think otherwise would end in death!  

From this starting point, engage in yes-saying to the life decreed, pursue your ends that seek after the Good, and remember the One, for such is all the duty of Man."