Lessons of the World
Lesson One- Chance
Deep in the heart of the mysterious, wooded, and highly misunderstood landmass known as Mississippi, tucked between the bayous of Louisiana and the foothills of Alabama, a very old man and a young man wandered aimlessly through the thick pine forests of the Mississippi Pine Belt…
Ancient Wen halted their trek in front of a massive moss-covered boulder and studied its weathered, craggy features; his giant apprentice, the young and inexperienced Joseph bump into him. Immediately the young man began gushing a long stream of apologies.
Ancient Wen held up one wrinkled hand, silencing his ungrateful apprentice. "Silence please, young Joseph," the old man commanded politely. He stroked his white fu manchu mustache. "This is a most excellent place for my dusk time tea. Please set the water to boil."
Without a word, the giant man dug out a small, collapsible pot from his backpack and filled with water from his leather canteen. Next, he gathered up some dry pine needles into a small, tidy pile and lit the pile with a match he struck on the bottom of his sandal. Joseph soon had a neat, little fire blossoming underneath the thick pine tree canopy.
"What kind of tea would you like, sensei?" Joseph asked.
Ancient Wen sighed as he leaned against the cool stone of the boulder. Ah yes. What type of tea? One of Life's most difficult questions. Hmm, he thought. The old man took of his bamboo pan hat and placed it on the ground beside him. What type of tea? He watched the February sun sink a little lower into the horizon; burnt orange light lit the pine forest around them.
Joseph stirred the water with a stick. "Uh, sensei, the water's boiling."
"Yes. And so it is as such when water is heated up by fire," replied Wen casually. "But you know that already, young Joseph. It is one of the most basic principles of Life, for hot water is very key to make making good, hot tea. This just so happens to fit perfectly into my plans, also. It is now time to teach you about Chance, one of Life's most mysterious but important Lessons."
"Chance?" Joseph repeated, cocking an eyebrow. He added a few more twigs to the fire to keep it going.
Ancient Wen nodded slowly in agreement. "Yes, Chance." The old man pulled a cigarette from underneath the brim of his pan hat and lit it with as snap of his fingers. Puffing a few times on if to get it going, Wen asked, "How would you test Chance, young Joseph?"
Joseph's mind went to static. How do test test Chance? Is it the same thing as Luck? Can you push it the same way as Luck? He guessed so. The young man scratched the side of his head as he thought about the answer for a few minutes. Finally, he formulated a solution for what he thought the correct answer was. Joseph dug out a shiny quarter from his robe pocket. "Uh, you could flip a coin to see if it lands on heads or tails?" The statement came out more as a question than an answer.
Ancient Wen cracked a smile. He blew out a trio of smoke rings through his nose. They wavered in the air a few seconds before being blown away by the chill breeze. "Very good, young Joseph. Very good. You could flip a coin, just like you could roll the dice or pull the slot machine's arm."
"Or bet on racehorses?" added Joseph hopefully.
"Well…yes. You could," Wen said with a slight nod of approval. "But often times bets on racehorses are rigged." He suddenly went quiet again. "That would be testing Chance in an extreme form: Could you beat the house? Excellent, young Joseph. I can tell you're learning."
Joseph's face spilt wide with a toothy grin. He shifted a little bit out of embarrassment on his bed of pine needles. "Thank you, sensei."
Ancient wen took another long drag on his cigarette and blew out a family of prancing deer. "Would you like to test Chance yourself, young Joseph?"
Joseph's grin widened to a smile. He nodded his head; his excitement had grown to that of a child in a candy store. Joseph leaned in close to his sensei. "Yes, sensei. I would like to test Chance. How can I do it?"
Ancient Wen swept a hand over to their packs placed at the base of a gnarly old pine tree. He watched the smoke deer family prance away on the wind. "If you really want to test Chance, young Joseph," explained Wen, "all you have to do is answer your own question from earlier: What type of tea would I like? Simply reach into my pack without looking and pull out a can of tea."
"Yes, sensei," said Joseph.
He dragged over Wen's pack and shoved a hand deep inside. Joseph gave his sensei a questioning look, and Wen waved him on. Joseph nodded, steeling himself for the task at hand. He was about to test Chance. There was no room for any error, especially since sensei watching was watching. Okay, he thought. Here. We. Go. Joseph rummaged around a bit until his fingers wrapped themselves around the can at the bottom of the pack. Pulling it out, he held it up to the dying light of the sunset no read the label. Joseph blanched. He showed his sensei.
Ancient Wen's white, bushy eyebrows creased came together. He rubbed his fu manchu. "Earl Grey? Ugh. Come now, Chance; work with us here," Wen said. "Test Chance again, young Joseph."
Joseph pulled out another can. "Cinnamon Camomile this time, sensei."
Wen clapped his hands together. "Ah yes. Good test of Chance, young Joseph. Cinnamon Camomile is a great choice."