There was once a travelling salesman that sold elixirs. He didn’t sell snake oil or fake miracle cures, but real potions infused with magic, for he was a magician by trade. The only problem, of course, was that nobody came to watch him perform, so he had taken to selling elixirs on the street to passersby.
The power of his potions, however, were different than what one might expect, because for every ailment they claimed to cure was produced an equal and opposite ailment. In other words, one simply didn’t drink them without consequences, but this, after all, is the risk of magic.
These elixirs were also peculiar in another way, as were quite picky about their effectiveness on the people that used them. In fact, the moment one was sure an elixir would work, the majority of its magic would dissolve and hide its true effects from the user.
Also, the moment someone acquired one of these elixirs and took it without thinking, attempted to sell it, or sought to understand its scientific properties, it would suddenly and mysteriously change. Even trying to name the elixir or describe its effects would produce similar results, almost as if the elixir itself thrived upon remaining mysterious.
However, when taken rightly, the user would feel the effects of these potions so strongly that they would be amazed by the way they suddenly felt, and even when the potency magic had faded over years, they would be able to fondly recall the experience. The problem, of course, was that these elixirs had a limited availability and a limited dosage – one fluid ounce per potion, and one potion per person for the rest of one’s life. There were also no refunds for obvious reasons.
And so, one needed to be careful about which elixir was chosen, how it was handled, and how it was taken. However, this fact did not stop many people from thoughtlessly and impulsively quaffing the very first potion they laid eyes, only to feel its effects for a minute or two and walk away disappointed. Nor did it prevent others from obsessing over them or scrutinizing each one too closely, only to be denied the magic they sought. But the ones that possessed faith in magic of the elixirs, who desired rightly without obsessing, and who thought about the potion without overthinking it would enjoy its true effects.
Once every year or so the salesman would come into town, drawn by a strange carriage that was both beautiful and haunting, like a finely decorated hearse or a beautifully sculpted mausoleum. One day there was a rather large crowd gathered around the square to greet the salesman as he stepped out of his carriage sporting plaid blue eyes and a kind smile. He was the kind of person whose presence made people’s soul stir with a mixture of excitement and fear, and when his eyes were upon them, you couldn’t help but feel strangely exposed and vulnerable.
With a voice that was simultaneously stern and gentle, loud and yet somehow soft, he waved his white-gloved hand above his head and called for the crowd of people to step back while he set up his wares. And has he was busy erecting his stand, the crowd could help but notice the contrast of their paltry clothes with the man’s finely fitted suit and freshly-shined shoes. It made them feel quite insignificant, and made him seem even more important.
Once his stand was set and his potions displayed before the crowd, he would ask each person why they were there. Some who were worn said they were sick and needed healing while those who were older looking for vitality. Some of the ambitious people wanted knowledge, and the timid ones wanted courage. The salesman seemed to listen earnestly and closely to each, but did not oblige their requests.
In fact, it seems that as the crowd continued to gather and grow, and the louder their cries became, the less interested the salesman became. And even after several minutes of hearing the crowd’s constant plea for different potions, the man was simply silent.
However, he wasn’t ignoring the crowd at all; rather it was clear that he became more engrossed in it and more visibly concerned for their welfare. And so, after many sighs, sad-eyed expressions, and many pensive strokes of his finely-combed mustache, the salesman did something odd. Raising his hands high in the air, he lowered them slowly to his side, and by the time they were still, the crowd had gone silent. They all wondered what he was going to say.
“These potions will do you no good,” he said firmly yet mournfully. This, of course, only produced more noise from the crowd. Some were simply nonplussed while others were outright angry. But again, as if by magic, the salesman spoke again and stopped their voices as if calming a storm on rough seas. Then suddenly out of the corner of his eyes, the salesman glimpsed a young girl sitting by the side of the road beyond the crowd. She was minding her own business, carelessly watching the clouds as they passed by.
“Little girl!” the man suddenly yelled. “Come here at once!”
The girl, awoken suddenly from her daydream, was surprised to see the nicely-dressed man in the middle of the square, and even more surprised at the size of the crowd. She wondered why she didn’t notice it before, walked calmly towards the man all the same, curious yet cautious, skeptical, yet full of hope.
Once the girl had reached the center of the square, the crowd parted before her, giving her space to approach the stand. Soon she and the salesman were staring face to face. Her heart fluttered with excitement, but also with fear. She knew that there was something special and dangerous about him and yet should couldn’t pinpoint the origin of her feelings.
“What is your name?” asked the salesman in his kind, powerful voice.
The girl answered: “Joy.”
“And are you happy?” asked the salesman.
“I think so…yes.”
“Then this elixir is for you.”
And with that the man reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a rather handsome-looking vial that gleamed in the sun. The little girl thought it looked like springtime and smelled of flowers.
“Will you take it? Asked the salesman.
She thought for a minute until she became convinced of the happiness she felt, but did not dwell too long on it. With a confident smile, she looked gazed the salesman’s gleaming eyes which mirrored the joyful youth of her own and knew he could be trusted.
“Yes!” she proudly declared, glowing almost as bright as the elixir.
And in that moment of confidence, faith, and excitement, she calmly opened the lid of the vial and put it to her lips, but to the salesman’s surprise and the surprise of the crowd, she did not drink the entire bottle, for the power and intensity of the elixir was so strong that she felt it would be too selfish to keep it all to herself. She then offered the rest to the salesman. The salesman’s eyes grew brighter as a knowing smile erupted across his face.
“My dear,” he said softly, “This potion is not for those who seek it, but for others who find it without seeking it. It would have no effect on me, you see, since I have already drunk my own long ago and shared it with many happy unwitting others. If you wish to share your elixir with another, you must first seek without looking, find without searching, and trust without fully knowing. Only then will you be truly happy.”
The girl took his message to heart for she understood its wisdom. And after exchanging happy, knowing glances with the salesman, she turned her back to him, moved past the gaping crowd, and sat beside the road again to watch the clouds pass by.