©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
In ancient times, so the story goes, a homeless old man was befriended by a young boy in a similar plight. The old man’s name was Trocanthio; the boy’s, Marcos. An orphan, Marcos made his way from village to village in search of food and a roof over his head. More important, however, than his search for a full stomach and a comfortable, dry place to sleep, was his quest for something else—a reason.
I wonder, the boy thought to himself, why must things be as difficult as they are? Do we make them so ourselves, or is it just meant to be that we should struggle as we do?
Wise thoughts for a boy as young as Marcos. It was just this type of thinking that prompted him, one day, to approach Trocanthio, who happened to be traveling the same road. I’ll ask him a question or two, thought Marcos.
Marcos notice that the old man carried a large, covered, woven basket on his back, a basket that appeared to be very, very heavy, especially for someone as old and tired as he. When they stopped to rest beside a small brook, the old man wearily settled his basket on the ground. To Marcos it appeared as though the man carried all of his worldly goods in that one basket. In fact, it seemed a much heavier load than even a younger, stronger man could carry very far.
“What’s in your basket that makes it so heavy?” Marcos asked. “I’d be happy to carry it for you. After all, I’m young and strong, and you are advanced in years.”
“It’s nothing you could carry for me,” Trocanthio answered.“I must carry it for myself. One day,” he added, “you too will carry a basket just as weighted down as mine.”
Over many days and many roads, Marcos and the old man walked long, wearisome miles together. And although Marcos often asked old Trocanthio questions about the lot of humans to toil as they do, there were no answers. Nor could he learn, try as he might, what treasure of such great worth was stowed in the old man’s basket. Sometimes, late at night, at the end of a long day’s journey, Marcos would lie down pretending to sleep and would listen to Trocanthio quietly talking to himself as, by the flickering light from a small fire, he sorted the contents of his basket. But in the morning, as always, he would say nothing.
It was only when Trocanthio could walk no more that he revealed his secret. In their last few hours together, he explained to Marcos not only the secret of the basket he carried, but also the reason that so many humans struggle as they do.
“In this basket,” Trocanthio told the youthful Marcos,” are all the beliefs about myself that were untrue. These are the stones that have weighted down my journey. On my back I have carried every pebble of doubt, every grain of uncertainty, every millstone of misdirection, and every putdown that I have encountered. Without these, I could have gone far. I could have lived the dreams I once harbored in my mind. But I have ended up here at the end of my journey with my dreams unfulfilled.” And without even unwrapping the braided cords that bound the basket to his shoulders, the old man closed his eyes and went to sleep for the last time.
Before Marcos himself bedded down that night, he untied each cord that bound the basket to the old man and, lifting it free, carefully set it on the ground. When he had done this, Marcos just as carefully untied the leather straps that held the woven cover in place, and lifted it aside. Perhaps because he had been looking for an answer to his own quest, Marcos was not at all surprised at what he found.
The basket that had weighted old Trocanthio down for so many years—was empty.
What are you carrying in your basket?