Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Parable of the Low Hanging Fruit (Part V)

No one at the inn stirred earlier the next morning or set out on the road more quickly than Omniscio. But it was back to the Academy, not his planned destination, that he hied. His opinion of Agrono had changed, not by virtue of anything that the cultivator had done, or any action of his observed by the great scholar, but because of what another scholar said.

Omniscio rode past the Academy straight to the orchard. And, when it first came into view, he was struck by its fullness and opulence. Everywhere he looked he beheld bough after bough bedangled with bedazzling fruit and, with a pang of remorse, remembered when he first met Agrono in the orchard of the Aquisitivos, and the dreams the two men once shared. Once again he heard beautiful music lilting through the trees and knew that it would lead him to Agrono but this time, as he came into the clearing and spotted the pensive piper, he knew that there would be no return to those shared dreams. Agrono’s expressive face was filled with resolve but tinged with sadness.

Omniscio rode closer and looked down at Agrono. He somehow knew he should alight from his high horse and meet Agrono on his own ground, but he could not bring himself to it.

“You have done wonders with the orchard,” he offered instead.

Agrono spread his arms as if bestowing a great gift. “It is yours,” he said expansively.

“It is ours, Agrono. It is what we envisioned.”

Agrono’s eyes hardened but he bowed slightly for he was ever polite and said, “I leave it to you. If you replenish the soil and tend to the trees, it will take care of you.”


Agrono nodded in courtly manner. “I leave you the orchard I promised.”

“But where will you go?” asked Omniscio accusatorially bracing himself to hear that it would be the Academy d’Empirici.

“To the portion of this orchard I have earned,” said Agrono. “It will be enough for me and my family.”

The cultivator bowed slightly again, then turned away from the great scholar toward the simple but sturdy abode he had built in the new orchard.

“But what of your children?” Omniscio asked haughtily, thinking the promise of his education might cause the cultivator to reconsider.

Then Agrono wheeled to face Omniscio with something much firmer in his mien. “I will teach my children this” he said, “that the only low-hanging fruit that they will ever find will be in the orchard of their own effort, and only after many seasons.”

“Ah, now Agrono, you must understand that –“ Omniscio began.

Agrono raised the palm of his hand as if to say, “No more,” but what stopped the scholar from speaking further was the sight of such deep sadness that had suffused the face of season cultivator.

“You have learned much,” said Agrono, “but you have nothing to teach my children.”

The scholar spurred his horse just as Agrono turned on his heel, and the two men went their separate ways never to speak again.

But life is not a story where the short-sighted suddenly experience vision-correcting epiphanies or suffer the consequences of their actions. They continue to stub their toes on the roots of their own intransigence or thwack their skulls on the limbs they have ridden under many times before. And, so Omniscio, felt no need to make any corrections in the course of his life. The orchard continued to thrive after Agrono left and Omniscio never let anyone forget that its very existence was born of his imagination and came into being through his initiative. But he did not see to it that the soil was replenished and the trees were tended to and the orchard began to decline. Yet, the pace was slow and the full effects of it were not realized until long after Omniscio was gone. As his days dwindled, Omniscio spent more and more time tending to his biography in hopes that he might dictate what others would believe of him. But the words of Agrono and the young teacher he overheard at the inn had a way of creeping back into his brain and that would send him back to his biography to argue his merits even more strenuously. He became increasingly sensitive to slights, real and perceived, and, in his last days, was forever calling some young scholar or some attendant to his side to ask, “What are they saying about me?”

Nor did the Academy d’Omniscio fall into ruin; its stature remained significant over the centuries but it was eclipsed by the Academy d’Empirici a few years after Agrono’s departure, not because there was any sort of cause and effect, or because of the plentitude of fruit but because the school founded by Heuristico and Hermeneuti placed as much value on knowledge derived from observation of nature and in experience in the field as it did on isolated study.

Agrono lived out his days loving, and being loved by, his wife and sons. They made their life amid, and their living from, the orchard. Improvements in trade and technology made it possible to ship the plums of Agrono to more and more markets which only increased the demand. The profits from the increased distribution, under the loyal and capable management of Schiavo, allowed the cultivator to buy more land and slowly expand the orchard, always taking the time to produce the best fruit.

Many came to study Agrono’s ways, including scholars and cultivators, and he was always generous with his time and counsel, but whenever someone tried to heap plaudits on his wise old head, he gave a dismissive wave of his hand and insisted, “I would be nothing without the soil and the trees.”

1 comment:

Eric said...

Wisdom is not always acquired gracefully. Much as the sweet juice of a potent plum becomes something less enticing as the plum becomes a prune, so do the travails of failure heap weight upon the dreams of the young. Perhaps the moral has nothing to do with the search for the low hanging fruit and everything to do with the eternal motivation of hope intersecting the dream of success. Or, as it was once written: all fruit hangs low for those who stand tall.