Dawn had just broken and the sun's rays were beginning to slowly light up the village clearing. Always an early riser, the Shaman sat in the shade on an old tree stump close to the edge of the trees. A line of sunlight on the ground slowly approached his toes. Listening intently to the morning birdsong, he lifted his pan pipes to his lips and began to play.
The music and breath control took him quickly into a reverie in which he was aware of nothing other than the wonderful mysterious dance between the music of the pipes and that of the bird song. His surroundings disappeared from his awareness. The trees in which the birds perched disappeared. His body disappeared also. Left were the melodies and the breath, appearing nowhere, created by no-one, waves within waves of melody and rhythm intertwined.
Totally lost in his art, the Shaman did not notice that the young boy who had become his protegé came and sat cross-legged on the ground in front of him. He watched the Shaman's movements intently as the music made him weightless.
Eventually the avian jam session reached a natural conclusion and the Shaman gradually shifted perpective until he was once more looking out of two human eyes. Seeing his young friend in front of him, he smiled warmly and beckoned the boy to come and sit next to him on the tree stump which was easily big enough for them both. The early morning sun was creating a spectacular light show as it rose above the canopy before them.
"How did you learn to play like that?" the boy asked his mentor. "Can you teach me?"
"How? I have no idea how. I first picked up the pipes when I was about your age. Since then I have gradually learned not to play them," he said enigmatically. The boy gave him a puzzled look. "Art cannot be taught. I could perhaps teach you to produce some familiar combination of notes, but it would not be music."
"So how can I learn to play like you?" the boy asked again.
"If you learn to play like me, you will never be able to play like you," the Shaman warned. "But as you are here, one thing I will say to you today." To the boy's astonishment, he took his pipes and broke them in half over his knee. "Did you like my music?" he asked the boy.
"It was wonderful," the boy did not have the words to describe how he had felt.
"Now, listen!" the Shaman said. He placed the smaller half of the broken pipes to his lips and began to play. Then he switched to the bottom half and attempted to produce a tune with the longer pipes.
"How do you like these tunes?" the Shaman asked. The boy felt a little awkward. The tunes were a pale shadow of the one he had heard moments earlier, but he did not want to criticise this man for whom he had so much respect. To save the boy from his dilemma, the Shaman spoke again.
"As you move through life, some voices will try to encourage you to play only with the high notes. Others will try to persuade you to play only with the low notes. Which voices will you listen to?"
Before the boy answered, the Shaman smiled a big smile, causing his young friend to forget about answering the question and let out a little laugh.
"Go now," the Shaman said. "Your mother will be missing you."
The boy returned reluctantly to his family dwelling. As he approached the entrance he saw a small package on the floor. Pulling apart the large leaves which were used as wrapping, he unveiled a wonderfully crafted set of new pan pipes. A shiver of joy moved down his spine as he touched the pipes to his chest and went inside.
The Happy Cow website and all articles on it are created entirely voluntarily and free of charge. However, if you feel that anything on the site has been of value to you, you may wish to make a voluntary contribution to the upkeep of the site. Click on the 'Donate' button below.
If you have an inspiring tale or some interesting philosophy to share with us, please feel free to e-mail your ideas to