nce upon a time a long time ago in a land far away there was a young man named Arif who lived with his father in a little stone house beside a great ocean. Arif and his father were fishermen and although there was always fish to eat and warm clothes to wear and songs to sing, Arif dreamed of the day he would be rich and famous and powerful.
One day Arif’s father said to him, “I have taught you all that I know. What is it you would do with your life?”
“I do not want to be a fisherman, father. I would I like to have a great home and fine clothes to wear. I would like to have many servants and when I say ‘do this’, it would be done.”
“Then you must seek your fortune elsewhere, Arif. There are no magnificent homes or fine clothes or servants here.”
“When I have made my fortune, I will send for you, father. I will share with you all of my treasures,” Arif promised.
The father smiled and said, “When I was a young man I too left home. I sailed all the seas of the world and saw many strange wonders. One night, as I sat on the seashore, a mermaid rose from the ocean and gave me this small shell.” From his pocket he drew out a pink seashell on a long cord. “It is a magic shell for it talks and can answer any question you ask if you put it to your ear. Wear it around your neck until we meet again.”
“Thank you, father,” said Arif politely. He had seen the seashell before and knew it was not magic. It had not made his father rich or famous or powerful. So Arif said goodbye and went to seek his fortune.
After two days Arif came to a place where three roads came together. One road went toward a dark woods; one road followed a wide river; and one road went over a tall mountain.
“Which road shall I take,” he wondered. Then Arif remembered the magic sea shell his father had given him and smiled. “I shall ask the sea shell what to do.”
He put the shell up to his ear and said, “What road shall I take to become a rich man?” Just below the roar of the ocean in the shell he heard a small voice saying, “Follow your heart.”
“That’s no answer,” Arif thought, so he decided to follow the road along the wide river. Soon he came to a city so big that it would take a man a whole day to walk from one end of it to another. As Arif went through the high city gates, a tall dark man on a beautiful black horse galloped past him.
“Who was that,” he asked the guard at the gate.
“That is Theodoro Abul Abdul,” the man replied.
“What kind of man is he?” said Arif.
“A merchant. He travels over many lands buying and selling.”
“Is he rich?” said Arif.
“Rich!” the man laughed. “He is the richest man in all the city.”
“I shall become a merchant, too,” thought Arif. “Then I shall be as rich as Theodoro Abul Abdul.”
The next day Arif went to the merchant’s home and asked to work for him. Theodoro Abul Abdul saw that Arif was young and strong and willing to learn so he made him his assistant.
For many years Arif loaded bundles of the finest cloth and rarest spices on the pack horses and traveled throughout the lands with Theodoro Abul Abdul. At each city they bought and sold. Little by little their purses were filled with gold and jewels.
One day Arif told the merchant, “I have learned all that you taught and now I will make my own fortune.” So Arif traveled to many great cities buying and selling, and in time he too had many bags of gold and jewels.
“Now I too am rich,” thought Arif. “I shall send for my father and share my fortune with him as I promised.”
As Arif traveled homeward, he came to the crossroads where the three roads met. “Many things have changed since last I was here,” thought Arif with a smile. “Since it is late I shall rest here and continue my journey tomorrow.”
That night as he slept, Arif was beset by thieves. After beating him, they stripped him of his fine clothes and took his gold and jewels. They took his horses and fled.
Arif cried out, “All of my treasure is gone. The labor of years is no more. What shall I do?” He pulled his beard and wept.
Then Arif felt the sea shell around his neck his father had given him. That the thieves had not taken! Arif put the shell to his ear and asked, “My treasure is gone. What shall I do?”
Arif heard the seashell reply, “Follow your heart.”
“The same thing I was told before,” Arif said in despair. “I must start all over again. But this time I shall guard my treasure more carefully.”
The next morning as Arif was walking down the road that led to the City, a mighty prince passed by with his army. “Take that beggar there,” said the Prince to the captain as he pointed to Arif. “If he fights well in the battle, he will have the chance for glory.”
“But I am a merchant, sire. I know nothing of fighting,” said Arif, bowing low.
“A merchant!” the Prince said laughing. “You have no fine clothes and proud horses.”
“I was beset by thieves, your highness…”
“Silence!” roared the Prince, striking Arif. “Do as I say or die now!”
So Arif gave up his dream of being a rich man. He marched to war with the Prince’s army. In time he learned how to use a sword and how to fight. He learned how to follow and how to lead.
After many battles, the war was won. The Prince called to Arif and said, “You have fought well. Stay with me and I will share my glory with you.”
“I was foolish to desire riches,” thought Arif. “Treasure can be stolen. I will become a famous warrior. Songs will be sung about me and my name will live forever.”
So Arif served the Prince well and led his army in many battles. Songs were sung about his brave deeds and the Prince gave him all his heart desired.
One night Arif remembered his father and thought, “After tomorrow’s battle I shall send for him to come to me. He will be proud to share my glory.”
The battled went badly the next day and later that night the Prince ran away, taking his fine horses and jewels and gold. He left Arif and the tired army behind. The next morning, the enemy came in even greater numbers. Arif and his men fought bravely but the enemy pursued them into a dark woods. Finally, Arif sat down under a large tree and bound the wound in his arm. He was surprised to see he was once again at the crossroads that he had passed so many years ago.
“First I lost my treasure and now I have lost my fame,” thought Arif. “What shall I do now?”
He still wore the little seashell around his neck so he asked, “Where shall I now seek my fortune?” Arif could barely hear the seashell say, “Follow your heart.” “This shell knows nothing of life and its sorrow,” he said bitterly.
Just as he was ready to fling the shell away, he was surrounded by enemy soldiers. He was taken prisoner and marched over the mountains to a far distant country. When it was learned Arif knew the art of buying and selling, and the art of fighting and warfare, he was given as a servant to the Prime Minister of the King.
The Prime Minister said, “If you serve me well and truthfully, one day you I shall set you free.”
Arif bowed down very low and thanked the Prime Minister for his mercy. “How foolish I was to think that glory was the key to success,” thought Arif. “Glory lasts such a little time. The only thing that matters is power. With power you can make men slaves or set them free.”
Arif learned how a people are governed and how they are controlled. He learned how laws are kept and broken. After many years, the Prime Minister said to him, “You have been a good servant and now I will keep my promise to set you free.”
Arif was a free man but continued to do all the Prime Minister asked of him. To those he liked, Arif gave favors and to those he did not, he shunned. Soon everyone feared him.
One day, Arif thought, “At last I am successful and secure. I will send for my Father so that he can share my power.”
But that night there was a bloody revolution and the King was killed. Arif ran to the palace but as he entered he heard the Prime Minister say, “Arif knows too many of my secrets. I can not be King while he is still alive.”
Arif left the palace by a secret door and escaped with nothing but the clothes he wore. He hid in the woods by day and traveled down lonely roads by night. After many weeks he found himself again at the crossroads. He remembered all that had happened since he had left his father’s house.
“I have failed,” he thought sadly. “My riches were stolen from me. The songs that were written of my courage have been forgotten. My power did not last. I have nothing now to share with my father.”
When Arif thought of his father, he remembered the seashell and once again put it to his ear. “Where shall I find my fortune?” he said. The shell answered, “Follow your heart.”
Arif pulled the shell from his neck and threw it on the ground. “When I ask for treasure I am told to follow my heart! Where can my heart lead me?” Then Arif remembered the little stone house by the great ocean. He thought of his father and all of the people he loved. He thought of blue sky and green fields. Arif began walking.
When he arrived he saw his father watching the dolphins playing in the waves.
“Father, I’ve returned.”
“Have you come home a rich man, Arif?” asked the old man.
“Very rich for I carry my treasure here,” he said tapping his heart. “The riches of heart can never be stolen, the songs of the heart are never forgotten, the power of the heart is eternal.”
“Then you have indeed found your treasure,” said his father and embraced him.
All the rest of his days Arif was happy man. He was rich in friendship; he was famous for his tender heart; and he was powerful in helping others.