Once upon a time, not long ago, nor very far away lived a wise man. His name was Saber. This wise man was known to travel far and wide looking for students who could take his knowledge learn from it and expand upon it. This took Saber to many places and in each place there was always a fierce debate as to who was smart enough to become the teacher's newest pupil, for he taught only one student at a time.
Saber entered a small town a long distance from his home, but knowledge of his quest preceded him. The entire town was present to seek the apprenticeship of Saber. The people shouted for his attention and were quite unruly. It took some time, but they finally calmed down as Saber got off his mule and waved his hands for silence.
Saber slowly mounted the steps in front of the local town hall and said, "I have a problem." The people all called out, "tell us the problem, we can solve it." Saber looked over the people as they crowded into the square and he said, "As you know, I am looking for a new student. The person that can solve the problem I pose will become that student."
With this there arose a great noise as the crowd became abuzz with prospect of one of them becoming Saber's new student. With deliberate action, Saber took a small box from his cloak. From this box he removed a bright, white piece of paper. It was certainly the brightest and whitest piece of paper the crowd had ever seen. As he held the paper aloft for all to see clearly he said, "The problem I pose is in two parts: What color is this paper? And you may not say that it is white."
The buzz in the crowd grew very loud as men, women and children began shouting out their answers - it's gray, it's blue, it is colorless they called out. With each answer Saber said, "No, that is not correct." Every hue and color was called out, many of which were repeated several times because it was so difficult to keep track. And each time Saber said, "No, that is not correct."
As the afternoon shadows grew long and the people's voices became hoarse from all their shouting, a young man seated near Saber stood and said, "The paper is white." The crowd immediately denounced the man as a fool. "You can't say that the paper is white! Were you not listening?" The young man again turned to Saber and said, "The paper is white." At this point the crowd was angered and embarrassed that the young man would again say such a thing. Saber must certainly think that their town was foolish and unworthy of his presence. They turned on the young man with true vehemence. "You must stop talking. You cannot answer the question. If you say that again, we will put you in the stocks. That way everyone can get a clear look at what a fool you are." The young man was now frightened. He was ashamed of what he had said and could not bring himself to speak.
Saber looked at the young man and said, "What color is this paper? And you may not say that it is white." By this time the young man was completely cowed by the large crowd and in a quivering voice he said, "The paper is blue." The crowd cheered the young man feeling vindicated that they would not be thought to be fools by Saber.
Saber looked at the crowd and said, "None of you have answered my question correctly and I must now leave." As Saber began preparing for his departure, the crowds grumbling grew louder and louder. They were disappointed that no one from their town had been smart enough to answer the question and they demanded to know the answer.
Now seated on his mule, Saber again held the paper up and said, "The paper is obviously white." The crowd was very angry that they had somehow been tricked and they moved in on Saber. It was only their great respect for his wisdom that kept them from injuring him. The young man who had said that the paper was white grabbed Saber's boot and shook it. "I was right" he called out, "I was right." Saber looked sadly at the young man and handed him the sheet of bright white paper.
Saber raised his hand to calm the crowd and said, "The problem was not what color the paper was, for it was plainly white, but who would see the truth and reveal it to the others." Saber then looked down at the young man who had answered correctly and said, "You answered true, but then you became afraid of the truth and answered falsely. By failing to remain true to the truth, you failed yourself and failed to show that you had the courage to teach others that no problem can be solved when the truth is ignored."
With that, Saber trotted off on his mule to look for his next student. As he rode away he wondered about where he would find another piece of paper that was as bright and white as the one he had given away.
-- Harald Martin