The Savior found the Seeker alone and weary and begging for meaning.
“You wish to be enlightened? You wish to know the truth? The truth of all things?” the Savior asked.
“Yes. Desperately,” the Seeker said. “I’ve endured so much hardship, I cannot bear any more. I need to understand how to live.”
“You see this barrel full of stones?” the Savior asked.
The Savior pointed to a wooden barrel standing up to his waist and brimming with large rocks.
“Yes,” the Seeker said.
The Savior pointed at two small, metal buckets.
“And you see those pails?”
“Yes,” the Seeker said.
“Fit all these stones from the barrel into those buckets and then you will know the truth.”
It seemed impossible. The pails were small, capable of holding only a fraction of the barrel’s stones.
“Is this a riddle?” the Seeker asked.
“Perhaps. Perhaps not,” the Savior said. “You must do it, and in the process you may come to understand what this challenge is. If you are worthy of enlightenment, you will find the answer or solution. And when you find it, call for my return, and I will bestow you with truth.”
The Seeker spent the following decades trying to solve the puzzle. At night, he lay awake trying to imagine what clever play on words might solve the riddle, if that’s what the Savior’s challenge was.
And his days were all spent laboriously filling the pails, never finding the right combination to fit. The task seemed impossible.
So desperate was the Seeker, he had taken to numbering each stone and calculating every possible combination of the stones to fit into each pail. It had taken years for the Seeker to formulate since he was no mathematician.
The Seeker was midway through executing his formulated combinations when he fell ill. He was, by then, very old.
On his deathbed, he called out to his Savior.
“I have not solved the puzzle,” he said. “I don’t believe it was even solvable.”
“Correct,” his Savior said. “It was never solvable. There was no solution.”
“Then why torment me as you have? You are hardly a Savior. You’ve allowed me to waste my life shuffling stones.”
“From the beginning your wisdom should have told you there was no solution,” the Savior said. “Your wisdom was the solution. But you sought enlightenment so eagerly – so desperately and stubbornly and so fearful it might elude you – that you tossed the solution aside. And that was your folly, not mine.”
“Is there at least salvation for me?” the Seeker asked. “I never wavered from my duty.”
“That was never part of the bargain,” the Savior said. “I offered enlightenment but never salvation.”
“Then enlightenment – ultimate truth – is unattainable. I should have known. I should have understood. And perhaps I did, without wanting to accept it, because life without it didn’t seem enough.”
“Yes, it is unattainable. And yes, you knew that too. And that understanding is all the enlightenment I could have offered,” the Savior said.
So the Seeker died, having spent most of his life senselessly filling pails with stones, only to understand in the end that his enlightenment was necessarily limited by his capacity for knowledge.