The story of the stonecutter

Once upon a time there was a young stonecutter who looked with envy upon the rich merchant who employed him. One day he was muttering to himself about what it would be like to have such freedom and power when, to his amazement, an angel appeared and spoke the words “You are what you have said.” In an instant, the stonecutter had become the merchant.

He was very happy with his lot until he saw the king of the land ride by with his coterie. “Now that’s the way to live,” he thought. Almost before he had asked, the angel had granted his wish and the merchant had become the king.

All was well until one beautiful summer’s day when the king began sweating in his heavy royal garb. “What freedom and power the sun has,” he thought. “It can float through the sky and call forth water from a king. That is what I would truly like to be.”

As the thought appeared in his mind, the angel appeared to grant it.

Now the king had become the sun, and he reveled in his freedom and power as he floated high above the earth. But after a time, a cloud appeared and blocked the land from his view. When he watched the lightning burst forth from the cloud and heard the roar of the thunder, he knew that he was witnessing true freedom and power. Before he even realized what was happening, the angel had transformed him into a cloud.

What fun it was to pour rain forth upon the land! Wherever the man-cloud went, forests were washed away, and puddles became oceans in his wake. But no matter how hard he tried, there was one huge mountain made of stone that stood immovable and unaffected by his rain.

“Surely that is the ultimate power,” he thought. “To stand tall in the face of any circumstance—that is true freedom and power.”

In an instant, the angel had made it so, and the man could feel the incredible power of being an immovable object in the midst of any storm. Yet even as he was delighting in his immense strength and resilience, he could see a small man chipping away at his base with a pick and a chisel and a hammer.

“That man is even more powerful than I,” he thought. “See how he is able to take stone away from me with just a few blows of his mighty tools. That is the kind of freedom and power I have always longed for.”

The angel appeared and once again spoke the words “You are what you have said.”

And with those words, the older but wiser stonecutter continued on his journey.

(Adapted from a Japanese folk tale)