Once upon a time, there was a group of people who lived in a forest in the bottom of a little valley. And these people were unhappy, for they lived their lives in shade and darkness, for the sunlight could not pierce through the canopy of trees that stood overhead. And these people longed to feel the sunlight on their skin and smell the warm breeze, but they did not know how to go about doing this.
And so this continued until one little boy who discovered how to climb an apple tree. And the air was clean and sweet, and the little boy could see for miles around him, and he was happy. And when this little boy looked down on the ground below his great tree, he remembered the people milling about on the grass, and they looked lost and unhappy.
And so he lowered down a rope ladder and invited the people on the ground to join him in his club, and he named the tree Salvation. But when he let some of the people into his tree, he found that there were disagreements between the club members. And so he evicted them all back to the ground below and announced that there were new rules to join the Apple Tree Club--in order to maintain order in the tree, everyone who wished to climb the tree of Salvation must first agree to never disagree with the little boy. In this way, there would never be strife in the tree, for all would agree. And even if one of the club's members privately disagreed with the rules of the Tree, he would be forced to leave the club, for disbelief showed a lack of faith in the club.
And for sure it was much more difficult to become a member of the Apple Tree Club, and the little boy would only lower his rope ladder for those who truly agreed with everything he said and lived their lives the way he thought was best. And though most of his rules were just and fair, some were outdated or close-minded, but he required absolute obedience of all of the rules. And over time, the little boy added more and more requirements for those who wished to join the club, and he published his rules in a little book. And the people on the ground below began to mill about restlessly, for they wished to climb the tree, for they had heard the air was cleaner and smelled of apple blossoms up high.
But they could not all join, for they could not live their lives on the ground the way the little boy wished they would. And so the people down below began to read the book he had given them more critically, and different people read the book in different ways. And so they formed groups down on the ground promising others who came to the foot of the tree that they knew the way to climb the tree, though they themselves were not up there. And so the groundlings began to divide into sects, and they would fight amongst themselves about which group had the right way of it, and still the little boy would only allow a select few into the Club.
And the roots of the tree were washed in blood, for the fights grew more and more violent, and the little boy watched in disapproval, knowing that he didn't want any of them in his club, no matter how worthy those on the ground thought they were or how well they could quote his rule book. And he would amuse himself by lowering his rope ladder to those on the ground below, but no matter how much they strained and leapt for it, it was always just out of reach, and those in the Apple Tree Club laughed.
And it came to pass that one of those on the ground looked around and noticed the blood-washed grass and the fighting around her, and she backed slowly away from the commotion. And each of the groups turned to stare at her, wondering why she was no longer clawing at the foot of the tree in order to get into the club and dine on fresh apples. But the little girl was not interested in playing the games required to get into the tree, nor was she interested in fighting others for her own membership in the club.
And so the little girl went for a walk by herself through the woods, and though it was frightening, for she was alone and the path was not clear, she came to another tree that was just as tall as the Tree of Salvation and it had just as much fruit. But this tree was difficult to climb, for she was dependent only on herself as she tried to reach each tree branch above her head, and there was no rope ladder lowered down for easy access. And finally she found herself perched on the highest branch and could see for miles and smell the apple blossom-sweetened air. And she could still see the Tree of Salvation, for they were both high above the ground, but she had no desire to climb it, for she had her own tree, which she named Enlightenment.
And those who were clustered around the foot of the Tree of Salvation, convinced they were almost in the club, watched her with stormy eyes as she she lifted her face to the sunlight and basked in its warmth. And so they snuck through the woods to the foot of her tree, and they used an axe to try to cut the tree down, for they were suspicious of all who did not want to join the Apple Tree Club in the Tree of Salvation. And because they focused on destroying the Tree of Enlightenment, they lost sight of what their original goal had been, which was to climb to fresh air and happiness. And still the Tree of Enlightenment stood strong, for those who were still in shadow were too weak to destroy it. And as they hacked at it, they missed its strong trunk and instead hit the soil at their feet, digging themselves into a hole where even the brightest rays of the sun could not reach them.
And still the little girl lived in peace in her tree, and though she did not start a club and lower a ladder to help others climb to the sun, she would occasionally drop apples to let those who were still in shadows taste the sweet fruit, and she would tell them to take the path to find their own tree to climb, for she could see there were many trees in the little valley. But those who were still in darkness were afraid to climb a tree by themselves, and would instead take refuge at the foot of the Tree of Salvation, hoping the little boy might someday lower the rope ladder down to them.