‘I said learn and teach,’ retorted the philosopher. ‘It is never enough simply to notice what is going on, you must also find out the causes because we can only understand the world when we understand the causes.’ They knocked on the door and were received by the inhabitants: a couple and their three children, all dressed in ragged, dirty clothes.
‘You live in the middle of the forest with no shops anywhere around,’ said the philosopher to the father of the family. ‘How do you survive here?’ The man very calmly replied:
The philosopher said nothing. Having no alternative, the young man did as he was told, and the cow fell to its death.
The scene remained engraved on his memory. Many years later, when he himself was a successful businessman, he resolved to return to that place, to tell the family everything, to ask their forgiveness, and to help them financially. Imagine his surprise when he found the place transformed into a beautiful farm with flowering trees, a car in the garage, and children playing in the garden. He was gripped by despair, thinking that the humble family must have been forced to sell the farm in order to survive. He hurried on and was greeted by a friendly servant.
Astonished, he ran into the house, and the owner recognized him. He asked about the philosopher, but the young man was too anxious to find out how the man had managed to improve the farm and to raise his standard of living so dramatically.‘Well, we used to have a cow, but it fell over the precipice and died,’ said the man. ‘Then, in order to support my family, I had to plant herbs and vegetables. The plants took a while to grow, and so I started cutting down trees to sell the wood.