“Come in,” I said. “I just made tea.”
“Thank you,” he said, “That sounds nice.”
He followed me through the house and into the breakfast nook. He sat down at the little table while I got cups and saucers from the cabinets.
“What brings you this far from home?” I asked him.
“I am not really sure,” he said. “I just started walking this morning. I was thinking mostly. I didn’t realize just how long I had been out. The next thing I knew I was looking at your front door. I must have walked several miles today.”
I poured tea for both of us and then sat down to join him.
“What were you thinking about?” I asked.
“Nothing really. Or maybe everything.” He paused. His brow furrowed as if he was in very deep thought. “You know,” he continued, “I am a very happy man. I have everything that I have ever wanted. I am happy with my job, my family is happy and healthy, we never truly want for anything. But…” he paused again, “…I feel like there is something missing.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“I’m not really sure. I just feel an emptiness.”
“Spiritually, emotionally or intellectually?”
“I’m not sure, all three maybe.” He paused again, staring intently at his tea cup. “This tea is very good. What is it?”
“It is a blend that I make myself. It is Green Tea with a few herbs that help to relax the body and mind.”
He smiled, “I could sure use that.”
“You know,” I said, “emptiness isn’t always a bad thing. Many people actually strive to find it as apposed to filling it up.”
“But that is a different kind of emptiness,” he said.
“Is it?” I asked. “Have you ever looked close at a wagon wheel?”
He looked a bit confused at this change of subject. “I suppose,” he said.
“There are as many as thirty spokes on that wheel,” I said. “Each of those spokes connects the rim to the hub. But what is it about that wheel that makes it useful?”
“I don’t know, the shape?”
“No,” I smiled, “it is a wheel, so it is already round.” I pointed to the tea pot sitting on the table. “See this tea pot? I made it myself. I actually formed the clay with my hands, fired it and glazed it. I painted all of the intricate designs by hand. I am very proud of it. But, what is it about this tea pot that makes it useful?”
“It holds tea?”
“You are getting closer,” I said with a smile. I pointed to the back door of the house. “Tell me, what do you think is the most important part of that door?”
“I suppose the knob,” he said. “You couldn’t open it without it.”
“The knob is beneficial, yes. Just as the spout and handle are beneficial to the tea pot or the spokes and hub are beneficial to the wheel. But all of these things have one thing in common. They have emptiness.”
I let him think on that for a few seconds before I continued.
“The wheel has a hole in the middle for the axle to go through. That emptiness, that nothing is what makes the wheel useful. The tea pot has an empty space inside that can be used to hold water. The door has an opening that is empty.
“If these items did not have that emptiness, that nothingness then there would be no room to put anything else and they would be useless.
“That is true in everything. If your spiritual, emotional and intellectual spaces are filled then there is no room for more and they become useless. Therefore the wise man will strive for emptiness so that he is always ready to learn more.”
He stared at me for a few seconds. “Why is it that you always talk in riddles, old man?”
“I never talk in riddles,” I smiled at him. “But I have noticed that you tend to listen in them.”
We finished our tea and I walked him to the door. He would be back, as he always is.