The gatekeeper said, "There is mortal quandary that you must address within your heart before you can go through these gates."
Standing before the iron bridge, I saw a delicate mist form over the river that flowed far below. My strength was fleeting, my breath ragged.
He went on.
"First you must ask yourself; What do you love? To know what you love is a noble thing. To know love, to be filled with love, is what some call enlightenment, samadhi, salvation, or ecstasy. Love dissolves the borders between us and them; love is how we know our lungs are the lungs of the earth, our fingertips are the fingertips of our brothers and sisters. The most precious gift we possess is the ability to know and be love."
His words rang true but my stomach grumbled hungrily.
I said, "As much as I love to talk about love, I still need to feed my belly. I still need to go through this gate and cross this bridge. I am on a long journey and conversation warms my heart, but it doesn't put food in my hungry belly or new boots on my sore feet. My journey is mine, and what you can say might feed my soul, but I need to continue toward my goal, if you don't mind."
He nodded and struck the gate with his silver staff. The gate resounded over the chasm below, echoing into the farthest unseen nooks and crannies of the cliffs that rose from the water.
"Secondly, now that you have glimpsed the forms and shadows of love and believe with certainty in your heart that you know what love is, you must follow the forms and shadows of love to the ends of the earth. Your journey might fill you with exultant joy, and you might find laughter around every corner, but this well trodden road can just as well lead you into a maelstrom of pain and suffering. But the road itself will always continue toward love. This journey is called many names by many people, but call it what you will. If your heart resonates with the road, you are on the right path."
I stood at the gate hungry, tired, and a little scared. I wanted to go through, but the gatekeeper gazed at me with dark eyes shrouded in shadow.
I told him, "I have found love, I have seen her glowing form, and I have heard that she resides at the end of this road. That is why I am on this journey. I have had a taste and I cannot forget it. I am not sure I will survive, but I have no home nor any family where I came from, so I have no reason to go back there. I must go forward to find her, I must continue or I will perish right here at this gate."
The gatekeeper grinned.
"You have seen the form and shadow of love and are certain you know her. I think you are right, you must continue onward through this gate and over this bridge. Now, beyond this bridge is a land of darkness that you must be prepared for, otherwise you will not survive long. Here, I will give you my bow and some arrows so that you are at least moderately armed against a certain and immediate death beyond this bridge. Go now and find her at the end of the world. This road leads all the way there. Perhaps I will see you again."
The gate swung open with a rusty whine, and he bowed and offered his weapons to me. I slung his bow and quiver of arrows on my back and thanked him. He waved me on. I took a step through the towering gates. My feet were so sore I could hardly walk, but I knew that I had to continue. I could not just sit there and weep for the pain.
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