The boy watches his father chop the wood into sizable chunks, preparing kindling for the nightly fire.
The boy — roughly six years old and full of life — collects sticks, mimicking his father as he crouches slowly and carefully to gather the logs, holding them tightly as he rises with the same speed.
The boy watches as his father lays down the firewood in its designated spot, wipes his brow with a tattered rag, then stares into the distance. He doesn’t gaze aimlessly into the evening sky; instead, he admires a mountain far off in the distance.
The boy has often thought about this mysterious mountain: how far away it sits; how high its mighty peaks rise to the heavens; what secrets lie at the top.
All the boy knows is that the mountain has been there his whole life. Maybe even longer.
The father notices the boy staring at the mountain as well, and sees his face growing curious. The father knows it is never a good idea to keep a child curious for long.
“That is Mount Ecclesia,” he says to his bewildered firstborn. “It is not for you, a boy so passionate and full of life; it is for those who long for a journey, for those who find themselves empty and searching.”
“Has anyone made it to the top?” the boy asks.
“Many have taken the journey, but few have returned. There are tales that one man made it to the top, but he has never been seen since.”
The father, noticing his son’s longing for answers, takes him by the hand and leads him inside for dinner, away from the view of the mountain. The boy continues to stare, attempting to quench his curiosity.
Before they enter, the father — hoping to settle his son’s inquisitiveness for now — pauses and looks into his eyes. “There is a time to search, son. That time is just not yet.”
20 years later:
The boy is now a man. Time has passed, and life has become difficult.
There is famine and destruction in the land. The father has died of disease, and the man finds himself feeling meaningless and empty as a result.
He remembers his father’s words of long ago:
“There is a time to search…”
After 26 years of living, the man decides to climb the mountain.
The mountain boasts a large sign at its bottom, words visible only to those who intend to read it.
“Mount Ecclesia: Deny yourself nothing your eyes desire; refuse your heart no pleasure.”
The man stands and stares at the sign, the same confused look on his face he displayed twenty yeara earlier while gazing at this same mountain. He longs for his father to tell him the sign’s meaning. He misses his father.
He grabs his stick and starts walking.
After hours of travel, he arrives at the first stop of his journey. He hears upbeat music and shouting from a mile away, and as he reaches the source of the commotion, he finds himself in the midst of a giant party. There are hundreds of men barely dressed, and women wearing even less. There is dancing and feasting and a crowd of people gathered around a Hookah. Grown adults weave swiftly from person to person, dancing like they are children again.
The man decides to join the party. “I will find fulfillment here,” he says.
And he does.
The man parties for three days straight. He drinks as much as he desires, dances with as many women as he wishes and laughs merrily with the other guests, all who also long to receive their fill of happiness.
But on the fourth day, the man feels even emptier than he did before arriving. He decides to move on.
After days of travel, the man comes across his second stop.
Large vineyards sweep the mountain’s flat land as far as the eye can see, producing miles of mazes and an unlimited supply of sweet wine. Gardens cover the landscape, cultivating vegetables as big as giants and fruit with the colors of a kaleidoscope. Reservoirs cover the insides of the mountain, large balconies hovering over the crystal blue water that allows the breathtaking view to be captured.
The man is awestruck of the stunning beauty that surrounds him.
“I will find meaning here.”
And he does.
The man enjoys the great projects for weeks, spending endless hours among the mighty vineyards, tending the gardens and enjoying the limitless splendor that warms his soul.
But a few weeks pass, and the man begins to feel meaningless again, even stronger than before. He decides, once again, to climb the mountain. He continues to search.
The man reaches a cave near the top of the mountain — his third stop.
He enters the cave and his jaw drops instantly to the floor. Piles and piles of gold and silver, the treasure of kings, rise high and wide towards the ceiling of the cave. Men immerse themselves in the treasures like one lying in a bathtub, counting the innumerable fortunes that surround them.
The man is absolutely delighted and decides that this is why he has climbed the mountain. He has reached a place of pure contentment among the riches of a thousand kings.
“I will find happiness here.”
And he does.
The man spends the next couple years counting silver, polishing gold, and gathering more wealth. He bathes in his collection and smiles brightly as money continues to pile in.
But after a few years, the man begins to feel that dreadfully gnawing emptiness rising to the surface. He finds himself dissatisfied — always chasing more wealth, always chasing after the wind. He is discontented and now drowning in meaningless.
He decides to continue his journey up the mountain.
The man reaches the top of the mountain, expecting to be welcomed by a parade of people enjoying some great festivity. He expects to find the one thing that inevitably gives him meaning, something that will fill the gaping hole inside of him.
Instead, he finds nothing.
He sees an old man crouched near the edge of the mountain, about a half mile away, gazing out into an ocean of green grass and blooming trees.
As the man approaches, he sees the old man up-close. He sees facial features as royal as a king’s but also tattered like one who has experienced great hardship.
He sees the face of someone who appears very wise, and very joyful.
The old man introduces himself as Solomon and invites the man to crouch down with him.
“You come here seeking meaning, do you not?” asks Solomon.
“I do,” replies the man. “My father once told me that there is a time to search; I am doing just that. I find no meaning in life, and so I journeyed here hoping to restore that meaning. But I find nothing. It’s just a meaningless mountain filled with partying, projects and money. They have no lasting pleasure. Everything is meaningless.”
The old man lets out a gentle smile, grinning particularly at the last sentence like he has once wrestled with these words as well.
“Let me ask you, young man: you’ve climbed Mount Ecclesia in search of meaning, and you come across things the world says will make you feel whole — and some of the most incredible things at that. This mountain features the most magnificent parties, the most beautiful and innovative projects and the most amount of wealth you will ever see. Yet you still feel empty. Why do you think that is?”
The man sat in silence for a bit, not able to respond, praying this old man had the answer that he did not.
Solomon, sitting up straight and balancing himself with his cane, stares into the man’s eyes, searching to find just the right words, words that are upright and true.
“Here is the conclusion of the matter: A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? You must find meaning in the daily gifts God has given us, not from the things of this world.”
And with that, the old man crouched back to the ground, laying his cane down slowly and carefully. He gazes out into the great wilderness in front of him, thousands of feet above the land that the man has not walked in years. Then, softly raising his face to the sky, taking in the gentle breeze that surrounds him, he says:
“Feel the wind, young man; enjoy it. But stop chasing after it.”