Four novice monks approached the spot where they had been directed to visit by their teacher. It was quite a secluded spot, and required a significant effort to arrive. They came to the location their teacher described: they saw a bridge there--a finely constructed bridge that was the only visible way across a legendarily deep trench.
The monks stopped as they approached the bridge.
"Look at the glimmering materials used in the construction--how wonderful," said one monk.
Said another, "I have studied architecture some myself, and the history of bridges in particular, but I have never seen such a wonder."
Another monk, less impressed but still cheerful, said, "It is a fine bridge, but certainly not altogether original--I have seen a similar construction at the Northern edge of our province over the Xu River."
The fourth monk, the monk most inclined to metaphysics, mused, "Indeed it is a beautiful structure--almost inevitable-looking. I wonder if we can imagine, any longer, a world without it."
The monks passed a number of hours in such conversation, admiring the bridge, dissecting its peculiarities, occasionally even criticizing some finer point of its design. The sun lowered in the sky. Finally, one of the monks suggested, "We'd better get back to the monastery; our teacher may be waiting up to question and supplement our powers of observation and analysis."
When the monks returned to the monastery, their teacher was sweeping a walk-way. When he first saw them, he stopped, put his hands on top of the broom-handle, rested his chin on his hands, and sighed. "The dutiful imbeciles," he muttered to himself.
Then he said aloud, cheerfully, even as he sublimated his disappointment: "Well timed, monks!--I was just about to start another discourse on the art of bridge construction; your journey has certainly prepared you to listen well!"
During the lecture that night, the novices asked their teacher many fine questions. They were well-informed, and demonstrated acute perception and a knack for critical thinking in their questions following the talk. Their teacher told them he was very pleased with their progress, and would suggest another journey some time next week. The novices were very excited at the prospect.