In the distant past, there was once a young and wealthy statesman who was on a diplomatic mission. Pausing by a river at night, he heard the haunting sounds of a lute. A passionate musician himself, he took up his own lute and eventually found a goatherd sitting on an old ruin. In those days, an aristocrat would not associate with a commoner, but the two men struck up a friendship through their music. Their playing was as smooth and natural as flowing water.
Once a year, the ambassador and the goatherd would renew their friendship. Though they had the chance to play their music with others during the rest of the year, each man declared that he had found his true counterpart.
The ambassador tried for many years to lift the goatherd out of his poverty, but his friend steadfastly refused. He did not want to pollute their friendship with money.
Years later, when the ambassador was gray haired, he went to the appointed spot, but his friend was not there. He tried to play alone, but his melody was forlorn. Finally someone came to tell him that his friend had starved to death during a recent famine. This news made the ambassador despondent. He was caught in the irony of knowing that he had the money to save his friend, and yet he understood the man’s values as well. In sorrow, the ambassador broke his lute. “With my friend gone from the world, who will I play my music for?”
True friendship is a rare harmony.
– 365 Tao