The Wisdom River


From The Ancient Scroll, the last existent book in my epic series of philosophical fiction, Volume 7, due out Spring of 2019. Editing just now, I came across this short passage and thought it might be good to share today, since we're so clearly in a time in need of wisdom. The setting is a Methodist church in New York City in 1935. Reverend Bob Archdale, a native of North Carolina, has just entered the church kitchen at the end of the afternoon, and finds his new mysterious handyman at the table with a book.

“I see you’re doing some reading,” the minister observed.

“Yes, after completing my list of small jobs around the church for the afternoon, which went more quickly than I had thought, I decided to take a break and have a glass of water. And then I looked around at your books on the shelf here and picked one to peruse. I hope that was all right.”


“I actually found several of interest. This is your English translation of the ancient Chinese classic, The Tao Te Ching.”

“Oh, yes, I recognize the cover now. And my books are all yours while you’re here, so avail yourself of them at any time.”

“Thank you.”

“You read things from many cultures, it seems.”

“Yes. I find it fascinating that the wisdom about life to be discovered across cultures and throughout very different times is so similar, deep down.”

“My feeling exactly.”

“People’s lives seem so vastly different in various parts of the world, but human nature is always the same, beneath it all. And so the basic insights that help in one culture, will likely help just as well in another.”

“I agree completely.”

“I love the image of a wisdom river that runs for thousands of miles.”

“Oh, I don’t know that image,” Archdale said.

“This ancient, winding river, in all its twists and turns, passes and feeds a vast variety of different plants, trees, and vegetation along its way, winding through forests and grasslands, high country, and low, and for the entirety of its span, it brings the same cool waters to all.”

“Very nice.”

“Yes, it’s a wonderful image for the deepest insight, ever flowing, nourishing, and growing all those of us who would draw from its waters, whoever we are, wherever we live, and whatever our different circumstances might be.”

“I like this a lot,” Archdale commented.

“We too often focus on our differences, on what separates or divides us, while this single stream of truth and value could unite us all.”

“I think your stream, your river, goes quite deep, and far.”

“Yes. I agree. I gain the most from books like this that focus well on life and reflect on what can be learned from it and about it. Some of the most profound secrets available to us hide in plain sight.” He thought for a moment and said, “Many important insights remain hidden to most people because, in contrast with our often superficial perspectives and expectations and prejudices, they can seem outrageous and false at first glance. For example, there is the truth that selfishness is self-defeating, or the insight that, as an adult, you must first give in order to properly receive, or the surprising fact that humility can be a source of power and greatness. Such perspectives can seem false to the superficial glance. But it’s rather the surface illusions hiding these insights that are deceptively false.”

“That’s quite profound. You, my friend, are even more of a philosopher than I realized,” Archdale observed.

“Thank you,” Santiago replied. “I’m indeed a lover of wisdom. It’s the greatest source of power on earth. I seek to find it, embrace it, and live with it intimately, in everything I do.”