job with Gustav Ehrlich turned out to be rather
simple—Walker had to follow directions and do what he
was told. He
became fascinated with the work very quickly, as he
mixed the flour and the sugar and the salt, as he
learned the different types of bread and the different
ingredients that went into them.
Why did this bread take eggs, while this other
took no eggs, but needed milk? Why did they include yeast in the recipe for this bread, but
not in another? More
than anything, he loved smelling and tasting the results
of their work. The taste of hot fresh bread was one of the nicest sensations
he had experienced, and it never lost its beauty.
Getting up as early as they needed to was no
problem for Walker, for he loved to see the sunrise each
morning through the window of the bakery.
was also amazed at how the flour stuck to his arms—the
first few times he worked with it, he wasn’t quite
sure that his arms hadn’t become completely white for
good, that he hadn’t changed himself by working with
the flour. When
he worked with it for a long time, it got in the air and
floated all about him, and he loved to look at himself
in the mirror at those times to see how the flour had
gently settled on his hair and face and shoulders.
It always brought a smile to him when he saw his
most wonderful thing about the bakery, though, had to be
the oven. It
was immense, and it took an entire hour to heat up in
the morning. That
was one of Walker’s most important jobs, filling the
bottom level of the oven with wood and getting a healthy
fire going as soon as he woke up.
He loved to watch the fire catch, usually very
slowly, creeping along a piece of wood until it covered
it fully, then turning the wood to black as the wood
spent its energy. The
heat was beautiful, too, especially early in the morning
when there was a chill in the air.
noticed Walker’s fascination with the flames.
beautiful, isn’t it?” he asked Walker one morning.
He picked up a piece of wood.
“Fire isn’t quite clear to me, but I think I
have a pretty good idea of how it works.
You see this piece of wood?”
He handed it to Walker, who examined it closely.
It’s dead, for all practical purposes.
But it’s full of potential, just like you and
see, the flame is nothing more than a catalyst that
allows the wood to expand to its potential, that allows
it to release its energy in the form of heat.
When the wood is lying on the ground, it expends
no energy, but it is full of potential.
That potential is converted either by animals and
insects that eat of the wood, and thus turn the
potential into energy that drives their bodies, or by
flame, something that allows the energy actually to be
energy, as opposed to potential. Anything that burns is the same way—full of potential, yet
until the flame is applied, it can be nothing helpful,
Potential does nothing to help anyone—it’s
the fulfillment of that potential that becomes helpful
to the whole world.
and I are very similar—every person on this planet is
full of potential, yet unfortunately, few people ever
reach their full potential.
Do you know why?”
they have no fire?”
Most people sit around, doing the same things
over and over, waiting for some sort of catalyst to come
along and turn them into fulfillment of their potential.
They don’t understand that the catalyst rarely
just comes to them—they must go out in search of it,
and they must actively try to find it.
many people, as soon as they find that catalyst, they
try very hard to put out the flame, because they’re
afraid of what’s going to happen when the flame
engulfs them completely.
They have the opportunity to reach fulfillment of
their potential, yet they shy away from allowing that
potential to break free.
They want complete control over the fulfillment
of their potential, not realizing that it’s only in
the letting go of the control that they can ever find
others, sadly, spend their entire lives running from the
flame, never letting it touch them, for their fear is so
strong that they cannot live fully.
They spend their lives in darkness, fearing the
illumination of the flame that would allow them to see
through the darkness that they choose for themselves.”
stared at the wood in his hands.
His eyes ran over every curve, every split, every
grain, every aspect of the thing.
It did, indeed, seem dead in his hands, but he
knew what would happen if he were to put it into the
fire—it would catch along with the other pieces, and
add its heat to the heat of the rest of the wood, adding
to the energy that filled the oven and turned the
mixtures of flour and water and egg and salt and
whatever else was in there into something edible,
something that was a necessary part of the community.
when the energy is gone,” Walker asked, “what then?
The wood is gone.”
we find more wood,” Ehrlich replied.
“But that, my friend, is the most beautiful
part—we humans are like wood in that we have potential
that may or may not be reached, but we have the
extraordinary ability to replenish our energy.
On the purely physical level, we can eat, and we
can sleep, and our bodies can continue on, with just as
much energy as before, perhaps with even more.
spirits, though, are renewed every time we feel
satisfaction with an accomplishment, every time we hear
the words ‘thank you,’ every time we see the
positive results caused by something that we’ve done.
Our spirits are a wonderful gift, yet we spend
very little time trying to make our spirits grow, trying
to develop them, trying to help them reach their
will spend years learning information or processes or
knowledge, but very few learn about the higher part of
was thoughtful. “This
spirit,” he asked, “do I have one?”
course you do, Walker.
And yours is strong—as strong as a child’s, I
would say. Somehow,
you haven’t allowed it to weaken, as most of us adults
work very hard to keep my spirit healthy, to keep it as
healthy as a child’s spirit.
It takes a lot of work, though—I have to think
all the time about ideas that I wish to accept or
reject, about actions I wish to take or not take, about
people I wish to spend time with or avoid—there are so
many ways that we can hurt our spirits, and for some
reason, it seems that most people search out the ways
that most harm them.
Usually, it seems to come down to fear.”
must be very strong, if people can make themselves
unhappy because of it.”
the relationship between people and fear is much
trickier than that.
It may be simply a difference in words, but
people don’t make themselves unhappy because of
fear—fear enters them and causes them to make
But you’re right, my friend—fear is probably
the strongest element on this planet, for it controls a
great number of people.”
you tell me more about fear?” Walker asked.
learn more about fear than you want to.
Right now, we have bread to make.”
smiled. He couldn’t imagine learning more about anything than he
wanted to—every little bit of information that he
learned opened up an entirely new realm of knowledge of
which he knew nothing.
He loved it.
Walker first steps onto the road, he has no
thoughts, no history, no memories, and no clothes.
As he travels and meets people and learns from
them, he comes to know more about life, living,
and becoming the person he's meant to be. Walker
is a parable of a man who has no past and no
future, but who learns to make the most of each
precious present moment as it comes.