Stepping Stones to Freedom

Principle #11

HOW MANY STEPPING STONES ARE THERE?

 

Mr. Babushnik always claimed that skipping was a woefully underused form of locomotion. He would often state that he could never understand why at some point almost all adults stop skipping. For him skipping was an activity that one should engage in to the very end of one’s natural time on earth. To that end one would often see Mr. Babushnik, an elderly gentleman dressed in his white suit and fedora, cane in hand, gently skipping down a path in the park followed by a bevy of children gleefully skipping behind him. It must have been quite a sight, perhaps reminiscent of a mother duck with her chicks following close behind in her wake.

One day, after a typically hearty skip, we found ourselves near the lake in the center of the park. For no particular reason, I had picked up a flat stone and with a quick flick of my wrist had sent it flinging through the air over the lake. It was a good throw and the stone skipped across the water’s surface, three or four times before plopping with a final splash and disappearing into the water’s depth As luck would have it, the stone’s final plunge landed near a small stone outcropping upon which stood a brown and green mallard. Around the duck on the stone, but still in the water, were several of her ducklings trying to climb up upon the stone with her. It was an odd and funny sight. We all laughed. And then the question seemed all the more obvious:

R: How many Stepping Stones are there?

Mr. B: Oh, perhaps there are two, ten, a thousand, a million... I really don't know. Whatever number that you need.
I had a friend. Well, he always said that the Stepping Stones are like the stones in a river that you step across to get to the other side. The other side of the river being enlightenment.

Now, my friend always said that the first step was to just to jump onto the first stone in the river. It doesn't particularly matter which stone it is just as long as you begin. Then you look around and jump onto another stone. Each step takes you farther into the river and farther on your journey to the other side.

By the way, the river is so wide that you can't even see the other side. You've just heard stories that it's there.

At some point, though, when you look back, you can see the trail of stones behind you...but you won't be able to see the shore anymore. The stones just vanish into some sort of mist. But you still go on traveling forward quite confidently. Then one day you look back and you would swear that there are less and less stones behind you. Is it just your imagination? But indeed each time you look back there seem to be fewer stones. Eventually there are just two or three. And then with each step there's just one stone behind you.

After a while, that stone vanishes and there is only the stone that you are standing on. And finally one day...poof! There are no stones at all.

Then you discover that you are standing on the water. And when you look around there is no shore to be reached. And enlightenment? It was never there in the first place.

And with that Mr. Babushnik begin to skip down the path. And we all quickly followed, skipping in his wake, trying to keep up, because he was quite a fine skipper.  As I skipped along bobbing up and down I suddenly remembered the ducks, the ones who had been struggling to climb on that one stone in the lake. I stopped and turned around. Indeed the stone upon which the mother duck had stood was now empty and neither she nor any of her brood could be found. There was I feeling then that I could not place. And since I could not recognize what I felt I simply turned and skipped after Mr. Babushnik along with his other  friends.