It happened once upon a time that a scholar hired a boatman to take him across a wide and powerful river. As they left the shore, the scholar noticed the boatman’s way of speaking, which seemed to him very uneducated, and asked him if he had ever learned to read.
“No, sir,” said the boatman. “I never even learned the alphabet.”
“What?!” said the scholar, astonished. “This is a very great loss. Divine truth is given to humanity by the word. And every child has a natural curiosity – we are meant to learn.” The scholar raised a pious finger and wagged it at the boatman. “By not learning to read, you have wasted half your life!”
Just then the boat came into a part of the river where the current was very strong, and as the wind was also buffeting them, the boatman lost control of the boat. In a second it was racing downstream, with white water tossing on either side.
As the boat bounded and rolled, and foam began to pour over the sides, the boatman shouted to the scholar, “Sir, do you know how to swim?”
“No, I never learned,” said the frightened scholar.
“Then it looks like you’ve wasted your whole life!”