Once upon a time there was a wise old man who had lived a full and adventurous life. In his youth he had scaled mountains, fought many warriors, and defended virtue. In those years of adventures he met and befriended three ancient dragons, who thereafter had watched him grow in wisdom and judgement.
On his one hundredth birthday the three dragons came and offered the man one wish each, and a condition. They told him that with each wish they would judge his wish, and if it was wise they would add thirty-three years to his life, but if it was foolish they would subtract one year. And then they departed, to return singly and ask for his wishes.
The first dragon returned a week later and asked for his first wish. The old man responded “I wish for rain in the season of rain, and sun in the season of sun.”
“That is an extremely pedantic wish for a great adventurer such as yourself,” remarked the dragon.
“In my travels I have learned that wishes have a way of going wrong. I could have wished that everyone in this province would have enough rice at all times, but such a wish would have made the people here fat and lazy. I could have just wished for rain, but such a wish could flood the land forever. instead I wish that everyone in this land will have the right conditions to prosper when they put in their own efforts.”
The dragon nodded, impressed. “That is truly a wise wish. It shall be granted, and you shall have thirty-three extra years of life.” And with that the dragon departed.
One year later the second dragon came and asked the old man what his wish would be. The sage smiled and said “I wish that everyone in this province will think twice before they speak.”
“That is a complicated wish, and its purpose is not altogether clear.”
“I cannot wish for fools to become wise, or they will turn their wisdom to evil ends, having come by it without the requisite effort. I cannot wish for liars to become honest, or they will find a way to twist the truth until no man trusts it any more. Instead I wish that every person will think before they speak, and realize what effect their words will have, and will therefore have time to grow and improve.”
“That wish is wise, and difficult, but worthy. I will grant it as I can, and grant you thirty-three years of additional life.”
Only a week later the third dragon came to the man and remarked that his wishes thus far had been wise and insightful, and asked what his final wish would be.
“I wish that all the dragons will depart out of this land forever.”
The dragon was incensed and demanded an explanation for such ingratitude.
“I meant to disrespect, Ancient One. Truly the dragons are wise and strong, but your strength has become our weakness. The people depend on you instead of exercising their own minds and muscles. They apply to you for justice instead of gathering wisdom. I do not hope that the dragons would die or disappear, just that you would move beyond the borders of this land.”
The third dragon calmed down, his own wisdom satisfied.
“your wish is worthy, and wise, but there is a problem. If the dragons leave the land you will not live an extra hundred years, for our power will leave the land with us.”
“That is well. I would not live two hundred years on borrowed time. I would rather live my appointed span and die with dignity.”
The third dragon bowed low, and granted the sage’s wishes. And the rain fell in the season of rain, and the sun shone in the season of sun. The people of that province were known for being quiet and well-spoken, and on the few occasions when someone sought the wisdom of the dragons they earned the right to that wisdom through their own toil, and soon learned to trust one another instead of seeking abroad for wisdom.