Alexander's Journey to Paradise
"Who is wise?" Alexander of Macedonia asked the sages of Jerusalem, "He who learns from all people," they replied. "Who is wealthy?" asked Alexander.
"He who is satisfied with what he has," answered the sages. "Who is powerful?" Alexander inquired.
"He who controls his own temper," the sages responded. These were not the answers Alexander, conqueror of the world, wished to hear.
"Tell me," insisted Alexander, "where do I find the Gates of Paradise "One must travel beyond the Mountains of Darkness into Africa. Many have set out on this journey, but few have returned," warned the sages. Alexander persisted and the sages provided him with directions and told him how to mark his return route.
Alexander and his armies marched into Africa beyond the Mountains of Darkness. They came to a great walled city. Three women clad in golden greeted them. "Send out your men to fight or surrender your city," ordered Alexander.
"Only women inhabit and defend this city," they answered. "You have come to Kartegenta, the fabled 'city of women.' It is, however, unwise for you to engage us in battle."
"Are you unconquerable?" asked Alexander.
"What have you to gain from us in battle?" asked the tallest woman defeat us, fame will not follow, for they will say of Alexander, 'He gains victory from women.' "If we defeat your army, the world will proclaim, 'Alexander falls before women.' You have nothing to gain and everything to lose."
Alexander saw the wisdom. His men and the women of Kartegenta shared a meal in peace.
"I have learned a great lesson from women," Alexander announced as he departed from the city.
On his journey to the Gates of Paradise, Alexander encountered a gentle Black people. They showed no fear of Alexander's armies. They left their fields to lead Alexander to their king. The African king invited Alexander to the great hall and ordered food brought to him. The king's servants placed solid gold loaves of bread made of silver before Alexander. They filled his cup with quicksilver.
"I cannot eat this food," complained Alexander. "Why have you given me inedible food?" "Surely you have come for our wealth for you could have remained own country and eaten common food," answered the king. "I seek your wisdom not your wealth," protested Alexander.
"Tomorrow, you will observe as I judge my subjects," promised the African King.
The next day in the court, two men came before the king. "State your case," directed the king to the first man.
"I purchased this man's property and planted an orchard. As I dug into the ground, I uncovered a treasure. I attempted to return the treasure to him but he refused it," testified the first man. "Is this true?" the king asked the second man.
"Yes," he replied. "I did not know the treasure was there when I sold the land, therefore, he bought the treasure with the land." "Impossible," cried the first man. "I could not buy what I did not know existed?"
"I can see that the two of you cannot agree," stated the king. "Do you have an unmarried son?" the king asked the first man.
"Yes," he replied.
"Do you have an unmarried daughter?" the king asked the second man. "Yes," he answered.
"My decision is that your son and your daughter shall marry," announced the king. "Your children shall share the treasure." All nodded in agreement except for Alexander. He laughed heartily. "You would not have decided the case in this way?" asked the king. "Certainly not," responded Alexander. "They would not have brought this case to my court. The first man would have hidden the treasure from the second man. When he discovered this, the second man would have stolen the treasure from the first man. Were such a case to reach my court, I would order both men killed and the treasure placed in the royal treasury."
"Does the sun shine in your land?" asked the king. "Yes," replied Alexander. "Does the rain fall in your country?" asked the king. "Of course," answered Alexander. Does the grass grow where you live?" asked the king. "Certainly," offered Alexander.
"And do you have cattle and goats in your country?" asked the king.
"Definitely," intoned Alexander.
"Then, I tell you that the grass grows; the rain falls; and the sun shines in your country not because of the people who are too cruel and greedy to deserve these gifts but for the sake of the poor animals," counseled the king. Alexander departed from these people as a richer man.
After a long march, Alexander and his men stopped to bathe in a stream. The water had a delicate fragrance. It cured the pains and wounds of the men who bathed in it. Alexander realized this was no ordinary stream. This was the river that flowed out of Paradise. Alexander journeyed on alone. He followed the river until he came to a cave guarded by a gate of thin threads. Alexander attempted to enter the cave, but the threads held him back.
"Let me enter," Alexander exclaimed.
A shadowy figure spoke, "You may not enter."
"I have traveled far and am the most powerful of men," replied Alexander. "You have no claim to this place, only the righteous are welcome here," replied the figure.
"Pray give me a token that I can prove I have come this far," pleaded Alexander. The shadowy figure tossed out a round object with a hole in the center. Alexander did not recognize it. He returned with the object to the sages of Jerusalem.
They placed it onto a pan of the scale. On the other pan, they placed gold. The object weighed down the gold. They piled on more and more gold. No matter how much gold they added the balance did not move.
One of the sages examined the orb and said, "I know what this is."
He placed the orb onto the scale. On the other side, he placed a pinch of dirt. The token swung level with the pinch of dirt.
"This orb is the bone that surrounds the eye of man. To man's eye, enough is never enough. It is only satisfied when rested in the grave covered with dirt," explained the sage.
Alexander realized despite his earthly power he shared the common fate of all men. He lost his temper and returned home an unhappy man.