He walked through the village at the foot of the mountain, head bowed and speaking to no one. They knew where he was going, and allowed him his silent contemplation. He passed outside the gates and began the ascent. The only sounds for many hours were his footsteps and the wind rushing past him. As he climbed high and higher, the air grew thin and cold.
He stumbled once, and caught himself. He found that he was breathing hard, but could not bear to stop for rest. There was one thing on his mind.
Finally, he reached it, and knew he had reached it. A great pagoda appeared through the mist as he reached the mountain top. So few had ever seen it, and fewer had ever worked up the courage to enter. But the man did enter, cleansing his mind of distraction and fear.
His footsteps echoed in the torch-lit hall, and reflections danced crazily off the water of contemplation pools. And there, at the end of the chamber, it sat: the Most Ancient Condescending Tortoise of All Wisdom. The man bowed, and though trembling, opened his mouth to form his question.
The tortoise cut him off. "I bet you came all the way up here to ask me the meaning of life. That's so original! How long did it take you to come up with that one?"