There was a stonecutter who earned his livelihood by hewing rocks from the mountain. This was back-breaking as well as spirit-breaking work, and he would often curse his fate. "Why was I destined to be so lowly and humble? Why are other people so wealthy and mighty while I break my bones every day from dawn to dusk to put food on my table?"
One day, as he was engaged in this reverie, he heard a loud tumult in the distance. He climbed to the top of the mountain and could see a parade far off. The king was passing by, and on either side of the road there were throngs of people shouting, "Bravo," and throwing flowers at the royal coach.
"How wonderful it is to be great and powerful," the stonecutter thought. "I wish that I could be king."
As he spoke, he did not know that this happened to be his moment of grace, during which his wishes would be granted, and he suddenly found himself transformed. He was no longer a stonecutter. He was the king, clad in ermine, sitting in the royal coach drawn by white horses and receiving the acclaim of the crowd. "How wonderful it is to be the mightiest in all the land!"
After a while, however, he began to feel uncomfortable. The bright sun was shining down on him, making him sweat and squirm in his royal robes. "What is this?" he thought. "If I am the mightiest in the land then nothing should be able to affect me. If the sun can humble me, then the sun is mightier than I. But I wish to be the mightiest of all! I wish to be the sun."
Immediately he was transformed into the sun. He felt its mighty, unparalleled force. He could give light and warmth to everything in the world. It was his energy that made vegetation grow. He could provide warmth when he so wished, or devastating fires when he was angry. "I am indeed the mightiest of all," he said to himself.
But suddenly he found himself very frustrated. He wished to direct his rays at a given point, but was unable to do so. A great cloud had moved beneath him and obstructed his rays. "Here, here!" he said. "If I am the mightiest, then nothing should be able to hinder me. If a cloud can frustrate the sun, then the cloud is mightier, yet I wish to be the mightiest. I wish to be a cloud!"
As a great, heavy cloud, he felt very powerful, dumping torrents of rain wherever he wished, and blocking the mighty sun. But his joy was short-lived, for suddenly he was swept away by a sharp gust of wind against which he felt himself helpless.
"Aha!" he cried. "The wind is even mightier than a cloud! Then I shall be the wind."
Transformed into the wind, he roared over oceans, churning immense waves. He blew over forests, toppling tall trees as if they were toothpicks. "Now I am truly the mightiest," he said.
But suddenly he felt himself stymied. He had come up against a tall mountain, and blow as he might, he could not get past. "So," he said, "a mountain is mightier than the wind! Then I wish to be a mountain."
As a tall mountain, he stood majestically, his peak reaching above the clouds. He was indeed formidable. Neither wind nor sun could affect him. Now he was indeed the mightiest.
All at once he felt a sharp pain. What was this? A stonecutter with a sharp pickax was tearing pieces out of him. "How can this be?" he asked. "If someone can dismember me then he must be even mightier than I. I wish to be that man." His wish was granted, and he was transformed into the mightiest of all: a stonecutter.
A while back a young man consulted me, seeking advice regarding a choice of medical specialties. He was a radiology resident, but was dissatisfied with that specialty. He was considering either psychiatry or anesthesiology. Prior to radiology he had served a year's residence in internal medicine, but did not like that specialty. Prior to medical school he had gone to engineering college, but had left there after one year. Now he wished to know what I recommended he do.