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THE KING'S LEGACY
A Story of Wisdom for the Ages
By Jim Stovall
David C. CookCopyright © 2003 Jim Stovall
All rights reserved.
Material possessions will all pass away, but the Wisdom of the Ages will last forever.
* * *
Once upon a time, there was an enchanted kingdom in a land far, far away. The kingdom was ruled by a benevolent and much-loved king. He had led his people through many difficult times, and they had finally reached a golden age of peace, prosperity, and happiness.
The king summoned all of his wise men together and said, "Now that our land is enjoying a season of prosperity and peace, I wish to leave a permanent legacy of my reign as your ruler."
The king went on to tell his wise men that he would like their best thoughts and ideas about what he could do to create a fitting tribute to all the people of the kingdom and his reign as their leader. Each of the wise men left the Throne Room determined to come up with the best idea to present to the king, as they all knew that the king's chosen action would be remembered for generations.
On the appointed day and hour, the wise men reconvened in the Throne Room.
The king said, "I want to hear your suggestions one at a time, so that I might determine what would be a fitting legacy for me to leave in honor of my reign as king."
The first wise man approached the steps leading to the throne, bowed with dignity, and began. "Your Highness, since the beginning of recorded history, great rulers have left magnificent feats of architecture as tributes to their greatness. One need only look to the east and think of the great pyramids that have stood for generations and will remain throughout time, paying homage to the pharaohs."
The wise man bowed again and backed away from the throne.
The king fell silent and was lost in deep thought, then said, "I am pleased with your suggestion as it has much merit. Indeed, a great edifice could stand for thousands of years to proclaim the greatness of our people and my reign as their king."
The second wise man approached the throne and bowed reverently. He said, "Oh great king, if I may humbly suggest that a gold coin be designed and minted bearing your image and in your honor. This coin could be distributed throughout the kingdom and, carried along the trade routes as if by friendly winds, it would be distributed around the world signifying your power and majesty."
The king nodded and smiled. He seemed pleased with this suggestion also. He then beckoned the next wise man to approach. The wise man dutifully bowed and said, "Your highness, may I suggest that a monument of heretofore unknown proportion be erected in your image. Great reflecting pools and immense gardens would surround the statue. People would travel from the four corners of the earth to marvel at its splendor and pay respect and tribute to your greatness."
The king smiled and stated, "Each of these suggestions has been well thought out and presented. Before I go to deliberate my final decision, are there any other suggestions?"
After a long pause, the eldest wise man stepped forward. The king smiled and said, "My great and wise adviser, you have been with me from the beginning of my reign to this day, and you have always served me well. What say you in this matter?"
The elderly wise man replied quietly, "Your Highness, may I suggest that each of my colleagues has proposed a fitting tribute to your greatness in the traditional sense; however, great buildings, gold coins, and monuments serve as tributes to other rulers from other days. May I humbly offer my suggestion? Something altogether different?"
The king nodded in assent.
"The one thing that could pay tribute to your greatness for thousands of years to come would be the proclamation of the Wisdom of the Ages. This would be an opportunity for you, oh great one, to communicate the greatest secret of the known world to benefit all humanity.
"Buildings and coins and statues will all pass away, but the Wisdom of the Ages would last forever. This would, indeed, be a fitting tribute to the king I humbly serve."
The king fell into deep thought. Finally, he told all of his servants and the wise men to leave him so that he might choose the tribute most fitting to his reign as their king.CHAPTER 2
The Search for Wisdom
Wisdom will benefit all people and will forever improve the lives of all humanity.
* * *
It came to pass that for many days the king was not seen throughout the palace. Instead, he deliberated thoughtfully in his private chambers as he wrestled with the question of a permanent tribute to his years on the throne.
The thought of the largest building in the world or even an entire city erected in his name was compelling. But then, the vision of a beautiful golden coin displaying his likeness seemed more pleasing. And then again, what leader would not want an ornate monument erected to honor his memory for all time?
Day and night he struggled with the weight of the question at hand. He paced back and forth throughout his chambers and then walked the length and breadth of the parapet surrounding the castle. The view allowed him to look upon his kingdom from every direction. While he was pleased with all he surveyed, the answer to the question of a fitting tribute eluded him.
After many days, the king once again summoned all of his wise men to the Throne Room. As they entered, the wise men noticed that the king was tired and haggard.
The king spoke in a weary voice. "For many days, I have weighed the decision before me. A great building, a gold coin, or a monument. Each would be a most acceptable and fitting tribute. Yet I continue to ponder this most unique idea of passing on the Wisdom of the Ages as a tribute to our people, our kingdom, and my reign.
"I have not been able to escape from the idea that proclaiming the Wisdom of the Ages would be an ultimate and final tribute. However, what has eluded me these many days is a burning question in my soul." The king paused dramatically, then looked at each of his wise men in turn. He rose to his feet atop the throne dais and posed the question: "What, after all, is the Wisdom of the Ages?"
The Throne Room fell silent. All present were lost in their thoughts.
The king broke the silence and proclaimed, "As you are my trusted advisers and wise men, I look collectively to you to articulate the Wisdom of the Ages. Retire now to your chambers and begin deliberating among yourselves as to the form and nature of the Wisdom of the Ages."
The wise men appeared stunned and forlorn as they shuffled from the Throne Room.
Many days passed, and the king was growing agitated that he had not yet heard from his council of wise men. Shouldn't wise men be able to articulate wisdom?
Finally, he summoned them back to his Throne Room. He said, "For many days, you have been deliberating one question among you. That is: What is the Wisdom of the Ages that I will proclaim as the eternal tribute to my reign as king?"
The king looked upon his wise men expectantly. Finally, the eldest and most trusted wise man stepped forward, bowed deferentially, and said, "Your Highness, I am most dismayed to inform you that all of your wise men collectively have not been able to agree upon one single aspect of wisdom that you might call the Wisdom of the Ages. While there is certainly much wisdom among us, I know Your Majesty wishes to reduce all wisdom to one single proclamation that will embody the Wisdom of the Ages."
The king sprang to his feet in frustration, his fiery eyes canvassing the assembly of wise men. In a calm but strong voice he stated, "I am very disappointed and somewhat bewildered that all of my advisers—representing the wisdom and experience that I rely on to rule our kingdom—all of you together have been unable to come up with one simple statement of the Wisdom of the Ages."
The king returned to his seat on the throne, gazed upon all of those gathered in the Throne Room, and proclaimed regally, "I, as king, will be forced to decide on this matter myself, without advice from my wise men."
The king rose and left the Throne Room. He entered his chambers and was not seen again for many days. Once again, he paced the length and breadth of his private quarters and walked around the parapet atop the castle many times, gazing upon the entire kingdom.
Finally, he declared there would be a royal announcement made that very day in the Great Hall of the palace. At the appointed hour, all of the royalty, members of the court, artisans, and nobility were gathered in the ornate and massive Great Hall.
The king entered through a gilded door and moved to the top step. After remaining silent for several moments, he declared, "My loyal subjects, you have honored me with your dedication and faithfulness for many years. Our kingdom has been blessed in recent days. For this reason, I want to leave a legacy of our people and my reign as your king. I have rejected the suggestion of constructing a huge building, minting a gold coin, or building a massive monument as a tribute. Instead, I have decided to declare and proclaim the Wisdom of the Ages that will stand as a symbol of our collective greatness for all time.
"The Wisdom of the Ages will benefit all people from all lands forever. It will improve the lives of all humanity. However, in order to discover wisdom sufficient to have an impact upon the lives of all people from all walks of life, we will need to hear from all different types of people declaring their own wisdom. From these declarations, we most certainly will uncover the greatest wisdom of all time. Yea, verily, the Wisdom of the Ages."
As the king paused, the Great Hall was filled with thunderous applause. The king resumed after the applause died down. "Beginning tomorrow and each day following, we will hear in my Throne Room from one of our citizens declaring his version of the Wisdom of the Ages. By this means, we will certainly establish and be able to proclaim the Wisdom of the Ages to all people for all time as a tribute in perpetuity. So let it be written, and so let it be done."CHAPTER 3
A fair exchange between honorable men benefits all humanity.
* * *
The next day dawned bright and fair. The king rose with a great sense of expectation, as he knew he would begin his quest to discover and proclaim the Wisdom of the Ages that day.
At the appointed hour, the king entered his Throne Room, climbed the stairs of the dais, and sat on his throne. The king's court and the nobility, including the wise men, were already assembled throughout the great Throne Room. The king nodded to one of the doormen, who opened one of the great doors at the back of the Throne Room and ushered in the first citizen who would share his version of wisdom.
A splendidly dressed elderly man entered the Throne Room and proceeded up the carpeted center aisle. He stopped at the base of the steps that ascended to the throne. He bowed solemnly and waited to be recognized by the king.
After a weighty pause, the king spoke. "All assembled here, pay heed and hear my words. We have gathered together to pursue a tribute to our land, our people, and my reign. This tribute will take the form of a proclamation of the Wisdom of the Ages. We will be hearing from our citizens, who will be declaring their own wisdom so that we might discover the ultimate Wisdom of the Ages, which will affect all people for all time."
The king addressed the gentleman before him. "What say you of the Wisdom of the Ages?"
The elderly gentleman bowed again and began. "Your Highness and all nobility assembled here, I humbly ask that you hear my words. I am a merchant. I have been such for many years. As a merchant, I have traveled to all of the greatest markets and ports throughout the civilized world. I have dealt with many people and bargained with them for their prized possessions. I have sold precious goods to the people of our land.
"It has been my experience that people show their true colors when money is involved. The content of a person's character is clearly evident when gold coins are hanging in the balance. My experiences have taught me many lessons and led me to an understanding and a degree of wisdom where people are concerned."
The merchant paused, surveyed all assembled, and addressed the king again. "Your Majesty, the wisdom that has presented itself to me comes predominantly in the form of barter, negotiation, and trading with all types of people. The profound truth I have discovered is that there is no good transaction that is not good for all parties involved. If one party prospers while another suffers, it is a bad trade.
"At the end of a transaction, both parties leave with either money or goods that they did not have before. But the most important thing with which they should leave is a new and solid relationship. Relationship and trust are the basis of all good trades. People far and wide know me and know my reputation, but above all, they know that my word is my stock-in-trade.
"When a merchant treats his customer well, generally that customer will tell a few close friends of the good experience he has had. But if a merchant treats a customer poorly or cheats him, that customer will tell everyone he knows. We live in a world where bad news travels faster than good news. It takes many years of fair dealing to build a good reputation, but it takes only a few bad trades to gain a poor reputation."
The merchant paused, collected his thoughts, and continued with renewed confidence and energy. "When people deal with me, they enter the transaction with a certain expectation. Generally, that expectation is based on either my reputation or what I have promised them. There are no good or bad deals in and of themselves. They are all judged on the basis of the initial expectation.
"When people deal with a careless merchant, they will leave with the feeling that the exchange did not live up to their expectations. When they deal with a good merchant, they will leave feeling that their expectations were met. But when someone deals with a great merchant, the experience will exceed every expectation. That customer becomes a marketer for that merchant, telling everyone with whom he has influence of his positive experience.
"Being a merchant—a seller of goods and services—is truly a high calling, one that honorable young men can aspire to. We merchants take the best efforts and collected artistry from craftsmen in the form of goods, and we sell them in the form of hopes and dreams to hardworking people who have saved their funds in order to make a transaction.
"We merchants make the wheels of commerce go around. Our goods make people willing to work hard as they aspire to create better lives for themselves and their families. Our gold coins purchase products from tradesmen who give their best effort every day because those efforts are rewarded."
The elderly merchant bowed slightly to the king as he concluded. "Your Majesty, the wisdom I present to you is simple but profound. A fair exchange between honorable men benefits all humanity."
The elegantly dressed merchant turned, retraced his original steps along the carpeted aisle, and left the Throne Room through the massive and ornate door. The king rose to his feet and addressed the assemblage, breaking the silence in the Throne Room.
"Indeed today, we have heard wisdom. This wisdom takes a form that I had not considered, but it is, nevertheless, profound. Let us all retire and contemplate the wisdom of the merchant."CHAPTER 4
If there is nothing worth dying for, there can be nothing worth living for.
* * *
The next day, the nobility and all of those in the king's court entered the Throne Room with great anticipation. As they took their places, they discussed what they had learned the previous day in the wisdom of the merchant. A number of the king's wise men were sure that the elderly and experienced merchant had certainly expressed the Wisdom of the Ages, worthy of the king's tribute.
The Throne Room fell silent as the king entered, mounted the steps of the dais, and sat on his throne. He looked over the assemblage and said, "Certainly you all would agree after yesterday's session that the decision to proclaim the Wisdom of the Ages as a tribute to our people was a good decision. I thought far into the night on the wise words of the merchant and how they might help the human race for years to come.
"Many have denigrated the role of trade and barter as nothing more than greed for greater profits. The merchant showed us that trade is truly about profit, but not just for a few participants. It does lift the quality of life for entire communities and kingdoms.
"Yet, my friends, I do not feel in my heart a level of peace that tells me our quest is finished. And so we shall continue to hear the Wisdom of the Ages as expressed by our most excellent citizenry."
The king nodded to the doorman, who opened the door and ushered in the next citizen. A large man walked down the carpeted center aisle, wearing full battle armor and carrying a helmet.
He walked with a confidence and certainty of stride that comes to a man who has seen life and death hanging in the balance on the battlefield. He stopped at the bottom step and saluted the king. The king smiled broadly in recognition.
Excerpted from THE KING'S LEGACY by Jim Stovall. Copyright © 2003 Jim Stovall. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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