A stonecutter chipped away at a large stone. He had been toiling for hours in the sun, when he saw the tax collector pass by. “Oh, how I wish I could be the tax collector,” he thought. “To collect a salary for gathering the taxes of us poor laborers, to be feared and respected in every household. That is what I would like to be.”
And suddenly, he was the tax collector. He went from house to house, collecting taxes and being treated with respect and dignity. Then he saw the magistrate ride by, carried on a silken seat. Everyone stopped and knelt before the magistrate, even the tax collector. “Oh, how I wish I could be the magistrate,” he thought. “To be carried rather than have to walk, to have everyone kneel before me, to live in such luxury. That is what I would like to be.”
And suddenly, he was the magistrate. He sat on a soft silken seat, and attendants carried him along the road, and all men and women knelt before him as he passed. But in his soft seat, and in all his fine clothes, he quickly became uncomfortable under the hot sun. “Oh, how I wish I could be the sun,” he thought. “To be higher than all people, to cast light in whatever direction I please, to have all creatures under my power. That is what I would like to be.”
And suddenly, he was the sun. He could shine his light here or there, baking the dirt of farmers and withering whatever plants he wanted. But there were places he could not shine his light or cast his heat, for the clouds provided shade for the ground, defying his intentions. “Oh, how I wish I could be the cloud,” he thought. “To be able to defy even the sun, to cast shade for protection and rain for crops. To have farmers pray for me and everyone taking shelter under my protection. That is what I would like to be.”
And suddenly, he was the cloud. He could laugh at the sun, and give shade beneath himself. He gave rain to the fields, and heard the blessings of farmers for his generous gift. But he could not give shade or rain wherever he wanted, for he was at the mercy of the winds that directed him to and fro. “Oh, how I wish I could be the wind,” he thought. “To direct the clouds, to give a gentle breeze or a powerful storm as I see fit. That is what I would like to be.”
And suddenly, he was the wind. He moved the clouds, he swayed the trees, he blessed or cursed the people as he saw fit. He had power over everything, except there was something he could not move. A large stone sat on the ground, and no matter how hard he tried to sway it, the stone resisted. “Oh, how I wish I could be the stone,” he thought. “To be a master of myself, to be unmoved by wind or rain or sun, to last thousands of years undisturbed. That is what I would like to be.”
And suddenly, he was the stone. He sat, unmoved by wind, unharmed by sun, and with rain shedding from him without effect. He sat, master of himself, to last through the years. But he felt pain, slight but incessant, as something damaged him. He looked to the source, and he saw the lowly stonecutter.