Once upon a time ago, there was a little boy whose father took him to town to show him the train station and the trains that regularly stopped there at the dirty factory town where they lived.
He wanted to show his son the vehicle that had brought the family from a distant city of many benefits. The little boy was very frightened as they stood on the very edge of the platform as the first train he ever saw close-up roared into the station. It was so close he could almost touch it, its whistle blasting into the very marrow of his bones.
He stood in fearful awe because his father had already told him of the train’s invincible power and majesty, and it was surely true. He also feared because his father had told him how dangerous a train could be. If he were not careful, a train could even take him away before he was ready to go, and worse, take him to a place of evil. In the powerful presence of the train, he remembered that warning very well and he shrank back in fear.
But then his father also told him that the right train provided many benefits. He told his son that there would come a time when he would have to buy a ticket and take a train to return from whence the family had come. He spoke of the wonderful benefits in that big city, a place where there was no suffering, unlike this small town. Instead there were many rewards. But his father emphasized that this was only going to happen provided he took the right train. Worst of all it seemed, there was only one “right” train.
The threat that had dominated his first experience with trains made the evil outcome seem far more likely than any possible benefits that any train could bring. Suddenly his parents were gone, and his relatives told him they had taken their train to the City of Desire. How cruelly betrayed he felt to be so abandoned. Now he was even more fearful of all trains because of their potential to suddenly snatch him to the evil place called “The City of Suffering.”
He wondered which train went to which City, if the train only went to the one city or both, and which city it arrived at first, and how he would know what ticket to buy?
Was there really such a thing as a “right” train or a “wrong” train?
He worried that even if he got the right train, how would he know when to get off?
Those whom he asked gave him conflicting information. Sometimes they just smiled or were silly. His quest was like a nightmare. So he devoted his life to a study of trains and cities.
He tried to find out which train went to which City with what qualities and how to recognize it. He became determined to know all that there was to know about trains. The result was that he became fearfully obsessed, ignoring other important dimensions of his life. Though he sought the information desperately, many alleged facts were inconsistent. He truly wanted to arrange to buy the right ticket. Thus he progressively gave up his useful life in his little town to worry instead over his father’s admonishments, trying to do all the right things that would insure that the train he chose would at least not hurt him. He was determined to reach the desired “City of Salvation.”
One day after he had become an old man, without his expecting it, he suddenly realized that the train intended to take him to the desirable city his father had always told him about had already arrived in the station and left. In spite of his obsession over his doubts, in his ignorance, he had put off buying the required ticket. Because the old man had not taken the correct steps to prepare, he had not expected the train to the City of Desire’s sudden arrival. It turned out that the train’s appearance was no more remarkable than any of the other trains that came and went. He had not learned what to look for because he had not learned how to look. Thus he did not recognize the train when it had come. So the old man was left alone in the place of his birth.
Abandoned and fearing to die there, he bought a ticket for the very next train that entered the station. Then in fulfillment of his worst fears, he found himself being taken to yet another suffering little town with a whole new set of impoverished and frustrating experiences.
As the train carried him to this unhappy new city, in the midst of his disappointment and emptiness, the friendly conductor helped him recognize how his life had been wasted in acts of futility. He showed him how he had deprived himself of the happy journey he had so earnestly sought. He now knew that it was only the quality of the journey as defined within himself, and not the destination that was of actual importance. He learned that the quality of one’s life buys the “ticket” that determines the location. His devotion to tasks in service to others in the little town were the price of getting the right ticket. He had been sent to serve the duties fate had placed before him.
In his obsession over finding the right train, he had failed to serve his community effectively, compassionately, and lovingly, and to so act to improve the quality of life for others in the imperfect community where he found himself placed. Too late he had now discovered that offering acts of devotion was the fee hat bought him the right ticket. Alas! He had learned too late that in the certain Truth of time, he would always earn a ticket on the train of his desire, the one he chose through his actions. He learned that right actions began with his thoughts that would bring him to the station at the right time and place to receive the only available ticket for him, the one he had earned and deserved by his acts of unconditional Love, or negligence, selfless service, or outright evil.
He remembered suddenly that he had received this same guidance before somewhere, but had forgotten. He thanked the conductor and promised himself that he would never forget what he had so painfully learned; but as his train was approaching his new town of opportunity, as had happened many times before, he found himself falling asleep in the dream time, dreaming of impossible possibilities and reawakening in his new city, and into a familiar distressing and depressing confusion.