A boy walked a path in the forest on an early December morning. The air was cool and he knew snow was around the corner but the sun was warm on his unlined face. He had walked this path before but never this far. As he rounded a corner, he came upon a fork in the trail. Both paths looked equally fascinating and he stood in thought until he heard a voice behind him.
“Which path to take, that’s the question.”
The boy turned to see a fox laying in a dappled patch of sunlight. The fox’s coat glistened and he still bore the signs of a good summer’s hunting. He looked fat, supremely happy and a little mischievous. The boy was taken aback because it’s not every day that a fox talks to you in the forest. He overcame his shock and tenatively answered “I don’t know which way to go”.
The fox stood, stretched and licked a paw before replying “You can go left, you can go right or you can turn and go back home. Each choice has a consequence.”
“Where do the two paths forward lead?”, asked the puzzled lad.
“Well they lead into the future.”
“Where do they end?”, wondered the boy.
The fox smiled and said “Both paths end at the same point”.
“And where is that.”
“Why the end, of course”, replied the fox and his smile was replaced with a smug look.
This angered the boy who was sure that the fox was playing a game with him. “Then what difference does it make which path I take?”
“In the end it makes no difference at all” said the fox. “What you have to consider is what happens as you walk along each of the paths. One is straight and flat and the other twists and climbs and falls throughout its entire length.”
“Then I will take the easier path” said the boy feeling all clever. “Why would I want to take a path that will tire me?”
“Because there is nothing to see on the straight path. Nothing will interest you nor will it challenge you. You’ll meet no one and you may find yourself tiring from the monotony of the journey.”
“And what will I find on the other?” wondered the boy.
“Excitement, danger, companionship and loss” was the reply.
The boy was frightened now. One one hand, the flat path sounded easy but the other path stirred something deep inside him. He thought and thought and finally asked, “Can I go back the way I came?”.
“Certainly”, replied the fox, “but you will come back here again and again until you finally choose a path. The longer you take to make the decision, the harder it will become”.
“What if I start down one path and then decide I should be on the other? Can I switch paths later on?”
“That is possible but very difficult”, was the reply. “It gets harder the farther down the path you travel, but you are always able to get to the other path. Change will involve sacrifice.”
Something was still bothering the boy. “You said that the end of either path is the same. What is at the end?”
The fox pondered this question for a minute and finally said “sleep – sleep without end.”
With these words, the fox stretched again and calmly passed the boy and started down the twisting path. “Can I come with you” cried the boy as the fox disappeared from sight.
“You may follow” came the faint reply, “but the journey is yours alone. Choose now and choose wisely”.
A silence filled the air and the boy knew that he would never see the wise fox again. He looked left and right and weighed the options. Finally, he stepped forward.