To the farmers the two monks looked like the comedy/ tragedy masks that adorned the theater in town. The older monk was bald, and smiled beatifically, as if every cold breeze was a kiss. The younger monk had a mop of black greasy hair and he frowned, looking again and again at his wet boots.
â€œFarmer Kerr!â€ said the older monk joyfully â€œFarmer Rae, thank you both for coming out here on this day.â€
â€œAnything to catch a thief.â€ Muttered Farmer Kerr.
â€œPlease! Please!â€ said the older monk. â€œNo name calling! My apprentice and I have come from very far to resolve the disputes of your world, and it would be very difficult to reach a consensus on this when we start from a place of bitterness. Let us give thanks to the light in each thing, and the blessings of this day.â€
â€œMaster, can we just get this thing over with?â€ said the apprentice. The Master smiled.
â€œYou have to excuse my apprentice, he is going through the stage of Philosophical Disillusionment. Heâ€™ll get through it soon enough and move on to Transcendence.â€
â€œI donâ€™t see how. Nothing actually means anything.â€
â€œHe is such a joy.â€
The apprentice rolled his eyes. â€œWhat exactly is the problem you people have here?â€
Farmer Kerr pointed at Farmer Rae. â€œRae stole my sheep.â€
â€œPlease!â€ The older Monk waved his hands. â€œStealing is so harsh a word. Can we say instead that the sheep seem to reside in his stable now, and you would like them to reside in your stable?â€
â€œMaster, if he took them, itâ€™s stealing.â€
The old monk pushed up the sleeves of his brown robe. â€œYoung and delightful apprentice, please observe the rite of joyful silence, the breaking of which results in the most excellent slapping of my stick on your spine!â€
The apprentice made a face and tried to scrape the mud off his boot on the bark of a nearby tree.
The monk turned to the farmers. â€œWho would like to tell me the tale of how the sheep moved from one field to another.â€
â€œWell,â€ said Farmer Rae â€œLast winter was harsh, very harsh, and some people did not have enough grain saved from the summer and their sheep were left bleating and hungry in the field. I could not stand to see the creatures suffer, so I took them into my stables â€“ with no complaint, I may add, from this man â€“ and I fed them, and kept them warm under my heat lamps, and the sheep survived. Now, here, in the early spring, someone wants his sheep, the sheep that without me would have died, back in his stables. These sheep would have died without me, therefore, they live because of me. I should keep them.â€
Farmer Kerrâ€™s face had turned red. â€œHe never asked me if he could take them! They are mine, he should give them back.â€
â€œYou do realize that you are arguing about sheep.â€ said the Apprentice. â€œThatâ€™s all you people do! You argue about sheep and land and fish. Donâ€™t you ever want to see what else is out there in the galaxy? Donâ€™t you realize that we live on the precipice of a black hole? Doesnâ€™t it bother you that the universe circles an orifice of nothingness? Of death?â€
The old monk shook his head, laughing. â€œMy apprentice, he always makes me laugh. Farmer Kerr, by taking in your sheep for the winter, and feeding them, Farmer Rae did you a service. Farmer Rae, you did take these sheep in unsolicited, which was not wise of you. Farmer Kerr rightfully owes you payment of half his flock, but since you did not ask permission for your deeds, your payment is lessened. Unsolicited acts should be those of goodwill, my friend. You, Farmer Rae, shall divide the flock into three parts, and you, Farmer Kerr shall pick the two thirds you desire for your own, leaving one third with Farmer Rae in payment.â€
They both grumbled.
â€œConsensus, my friends? Are you in peace with the settlement?â€
â€œFriend speaks my mind.â€ They muttered, not exactly in unison, but somewhere close.
â€œCan we go now?â€ asked the apprentice
â€œYes, my good and disillusioned apprentice. We shall go. Hold each other in the light, my friends!â€
â€œThose people will be dead in fifty years.â€ Said the apprentice, as they trudged against the swamp towards their ship.
â€œPerhaps less.â€ Said the Master â€œThis does not mean that we do not have this moment. Ah, look! The second sunrise!â€
The land in the west glowed green as the second sun bloomed on the horizon.