There once was an old, wise, craggy-faced woman with long, gray hair. She was a witch and a fortune-teller, yet many believed she might be an angel. People feared her because of her supernatural abilities. Many even worshiped her. She once set an entire invading army on fire with the stroke of a spell. She had predicted the futures of dozens of people—only people whom she felt compelled to select—and all of them had come true, even the outlandish predictions, like peasants becoming kings and kings becoming slaves.
They called her Agalair. Agalair lived in a cave by the sea on the outskirts of the city, only leaving whenever there was something important for her to do—like casting a spell in a battle or predicting someone’s future. People had long searched for her cave but could never find it. One day, she emerged from her cave and ventured into the city. Once people caught a glimpse of her, they stopped whatever they were doing and bowed. And then they followed her to see where she was going and what she was doing. As she walked through the village streets, through the havoc of the busy marketplace, she approached a twenty-year-old boy who was selling fish from a street tent (his father was a fisherman). Upon seeing Agalair, the Fisherman's Boy bowed before her. “Arise,” she said to him, placing her hand beneath the boy’s chin and lifting it up. “One day, you will be the king of this city,” she said. “And you will marry a queen from a faraway land. The gods have much in store for you. All will lead you to your destiny.” Upon hearing this decree, the boy fell to his knees once more. And then Agalair snapped her fingers and disappeared into a puff of smoke. From that point on, the Fisherman's Boy became the talk of the village. And yet, for the next ten years, he continued to sell his father’s seafood in the streets. He made no political moves. He did not try to find his queen. People would ask him, “What are you doing? Shouldn’t you build an army to take over the palace? Or journey to a faraway land to find your queen?” Their critiques frustrated the Fisherman's Boy, but he trusted in Agalair’s decree. All will lead you to your destiny. The boy would respond to them, “How am I supposed to be king if I cannot even sell seafood in the market? And how am I supposed to marry a queen if I am not committed to my family trade?” Ten years later, the boy’s father had died, and the Fisherman's Boy became a Regular Fisherman. He still had not made any political moves. He still had not tried to find his queen. People would ask him, “What are you doing? Shouldn’t you leave your family’s trade behind already? Shouldn’t you journey to a faraway land already to find your bride?” Their critiques frustrated the Regular Fisherman but he trusted in Agalair’s decree. All will lead you to your destiny. The Fisherman's Boy who had become a Regular Fisherman would respond, “How am I supposed to be king if I cannot provide food for my village? How am I supposed to find the woman I love if I do not supply food for the people I love?” Ten years later, the Fisherman's Boy who had become a Regular Fisherman was now a Seafood Tycoon. He had taken his family trade to new heights, which were more like depths because seas are not like mountains. His fisherman skills had made him very rich and successful, so he purchased a dozen ships for fishing and hired a hundred fishermen. He was supplying over eighty percent of the city’s seafood.
But he still had not made any political moves. He still had not tried to find his queen. People would ask him, “What are you doing? You are getting old! Shouldn’t you at least step foot in the palace and see what happens? Shouldn’t you at least set sail and see who you might find?” Their critiques frustrated the Seafood Tycoon, but he trusted in Agalair’s decree. All will lead you to your destiny. He would say to them, “How am I supposed to rule a city and make it flourish if I cannot grow a business? How can my love for my bride expand if I cannot multiply what I already have?” Ten years later, Agalair once more emerged from her cave, her first time in forty years, since she had visited the Fisherman's Boy who had become a Regular Fisherman who was now a Seafood Tycoon. She had not aged. But by now the Seafood Tycoon was sixty. She journeyed to find the Seafood Tycoon who, since ten years before, had tripled his number of ships and fishermen, and was now supplying ninety-five percent of the city’s seafood. But by now he was an old man, and every day he heard the critiques and complaints from his fellow villagers. They saw him as a fool. When the Seafood Tycoon saw Agalair, this time he did not bow. He was frustrated with Agalair, yet he still trusted in her decree from forty years before. “Do you know how many insults I have received from the village people because of your decree?” he screamed at her. “Every day, people question my life and my motives and tell me what to do. I have been called names. I have been told that I am a fool. I believed your decree, that ‘all will lead me to my destiny.’ I took your words seriously. And look where it got me. I am a rich man, but I am also the village fool. I am a man who is getting old, who is dying, who is still doing what I have always done: fishing.” Agalair stared at the Seafood Tycoon yet did not say anything. She patiently waited for him to calm down. “I’m sorry,” the Seafood Tycoon softly said, looking down at the floor. “It is just difficult to both believe your decree and live as if all things will work together toward my destiny.” “I understand,” she gently said, pausing. “Do you know why I do not age? Do you know how I can sit in my cave for decades, waiting for a vision, and not go insane?” “No, I’ve never thought about it,” he said, still staring at the floor. “Because I learned to believe what you are learning to believe—that the only thing that matters in regard to my destiny is what is presently unfolding,” she said. “Even when nothing feels to be unfolding at all.” “Do you know where I am from?” she asked him. “I do not,” he responded. “A faraway land.”
By Stephen Copeland
This parable was first published on copelandwrites.com.