Duck Soup: First There Is a Mountain

Sierra Club president Adam Werbach likes to relate the following story, though I suspect it is not original with him, because it has an ancient ring.An old man lived in a tiny hut in a small village by a little river. Every morning he placed his pick and shovel in a rusty old wheelbarrow and trudged several miles to the foot of a great mountain. There he began to work."Clink. Clink. Clink." He would pick away at a vein of copper ore and shovel the precious rocks into the barrow. When he had loaded all that he could possibly move, he would grip the handles and begin the long walk home.Day after day, year after year, the old man's work was the same. While he knew he was blessed with good fortune in many ways, in mid-summer, when the hot sun beat fiercely on his neck and back, the sweat and burning heat would make him long for a different life. One day when the sun seemed particularly cruel the old man cried aloud."It's not fair! The proud sun rules the sky all day and makes this poor, powerless old man miserable. I wish I was as powerful as the sun!" And because this is a magic tale, in a twinkling of an eye the old man found himself staring down at the world below. He had become the sun!Oh, how he loved his new life! He beat down on old men trudging behind wheelbarrows and plows. He made plants grow. He baked the ground brick-hard, and he evaporated lakes and oceans into great billowing clouds.Then one day, while he was being more than usually broiling and blistery, one of those big clouds rolled in between the sun and the land. He could hear old men giving thanks for the shade, and he blazed twice as hot to try to burn the cloud away. But the cloud just got bigger. He blazed hotter still, and the cloud began to rain. It cooled the old men, and slaked the parched earth, refreshed wilted plants and ran down into lakes and the sea."It's not fair!" he cried aloud. "The clouds are the true rulers of the world. Even the sun cannot make them go away. I wish I was as powerful as a cloud!" And because this is a magic tale, in a twinkling of an eye the old man found himself billowing between the sun and the world below. He had become a cloud! Oh, how he loved his new life! He brought shade to weary old men trudging behind wheelbarrows and plows. He filled the oceans and watered the land. The sun could only shine by his permission, and the rivers only flowed at his whim.Then one day, when he was feeling more than usually pleased with himself, he felt a tug at his foot. He pulled, but he couldn't pull free. His foot was caught fast, and he looked down to see a mountain peak was holding him tight. He tugged and he tugged but he couldn't get loose, so he rained and he rained to try to wash the mountain away."It's not fair!" he cried aloud. "The mountains are the true rulers of the world. Even the sun and the rain cannot make them go away. I wish I was as powerful as a mountain!"And because this is a magic tale, in a twinkling of an eye the old man found himself stretching almost to the sun with his feet on the bedrock below. Clouds swirled around his head. He had become a mountain!Then, as he swelled with pride in knowing that he was truly the most powerful thing in the whole world, he heard a tiny sound."Clink. Clink. Clink."That story reminds me that we each have the power to move heaven and earth, even if it is only one wheelbarrow at a time. The work is before us as it has always been before us. The tools are at hand -- they have never been far away.We can thank each other for the work we have always done. Let us give thanks for the work we now begin.

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