It was just moments after heavy morning rain poured down the mountain and it was then when three weary and wet travelers met at a crossroad. Two of them were brothers coming from different directions, ant the third one was sitting on a conveniently placed rock where the two roads converged into one.
"Hello, Andrey" – said one with the bald head, from which droplets of rain still ran down to his long damp beard – "I see from your frown you have not found the way to the legendary monastery of Opta?"
"Be also greeted, Aleksey" – another replied, his long hair stuck to his cleanly shaved face in wet strands – "I do believe I was as successful as you were, as here we are - together."
The third man stood up without saying anything and started down the road.
"Wait!" – the brothers shouted in unison – "don't just go alone! This country is wild, where wild beast and wild man alike run amok - we shall accompany you to where it's safe; it's our duty to help anyone in need and you need not go and fall victim to the wilderness!"
Good people they were, no wonder becoming later known as Saint brothers Dun of Sky: even when lost themselves, they would not turn their backs on someone in need of guidance through the treacherous land of Ruscovite Mus, and thus set on a journey on behalf of someone else. They were quick to catch up with a man who, as if without any worry at all, steadily and with no rush continued to the destination only he knew.
As they went along their silent companion, they would try to engage him – but to no avail: their associate was so silent, they even considered him a deaf-mute, until some bird launched into a song and he abruptly stopped, turned his head to the side, and silently smiled, closing his eyes. It then became apparent to Aleksey and Andrey that they were traveling with someone vowed to silence. It soon became very apparent that indeed, they were traveling with a learned monk, when they sat to eat and rest: their companion started scribbling diagrams with a stick on the mud which brothers, not uneducated themselves, quickly recognized as a mixture of UML and simple flowchart.
"Perhaps the Master of this monk could know the whereabouts of the distinguished monastery of Opta" – they thought aloud and to each other. – "perhaps it is destiny who brought us together so that finally we can learn what makes a man learned and what does it take to make a Master out of a learned man?"
Brothers have not taken a vow of silence, and so, soon after resuming their travel, began talking:
"Andrey, do you suppose that contemplation and knowledge is more important than action itself? You too have seen the horror of action without knowledge and contemplation: code without order, inflexible, brittle and ugly as sin," – Aleksey said – "abomination in Gods' eye; causing only suffering to all that touch it."
"You are of course right about the thoughtless action, Aleksey," – Andrey replied thoughtfully – "but consider the perfect design, ideal specification. What good does it do if it is never implemented, because nobody can take action? What good is a perfect thought combined with perfect knowledge if it can not be applied to bring joy to the man, because it allows no deviancy in its' perfectness. World is imperfect, we both know that, so why should code be?"
Brothers went silent soon after and walked on silently all until the evening until darkness fell and it was too dark to continue, so they started a fire to keep them warm throughout the night.
"I think," – began Andrey this time, his grey blue eyes never straying from the fire – "that indeed both knowledge and action are equally important. Like sailing a ship: if one doesn't know how to sail it, their life is forfeit, if one knows, but sails not, they get nowhere also."
"Right you are, my brother" - Aleksey continued - "However, by your own example, the wager you wager is not the same if you know what you're doing or not."
A silent snore interrupted their dialogue: their companion fell asleep while sitting by the fire. Both brothers smiled in compassion and continued their talking.
"Indeed, Aleksey" – Andrey said – "But here we speak of a very specific knowledge, one that lies beyond the knowledge of the world and concerns itself with the knowledge of oneselves' knowledge instead. How can one conceivably know what one knows not?"
A distant whistle, or perhaps a scream rang out in the night, all the birds fell silent and even the darkness itself seemed to become darker. The brothers hastily put out the fire as not to attract the Nightingale the Robber1 rumored to roam the woods, and soon only the faint glow of the embers could be seen.
"It is very simple to see in other peoples' work, I think," – Aleksey whispered – "you and me, we've seen code written without deeper understanding of what lies in the domain outside the code; likewise, we've both seen code that is written with the knowledge of the domain and its' rules, but with utter disregard of the laws of design –"
"– and in both cases the code is useless: either incorrect in its' behavior, or unbearable in its' ugliness. However, nothing's worse than code that disregards both the domain and the laws of design" – Andrey whispered back – "but the occurrence of such code is natural, and even prevalent, because rarely a junior even with seemingly vast experience understand their limitations until they encounter them themselves."
"Yes, indeed, the path to effortless elegance is paved with thorns of countless failures" – the brother responded. – "But enough of that, the night is late, and we better retire for the remainder of it."
And so they did.
Bright morning sun soon dissipated the dampness of the night and soon the three travelers were on their way again.
"So what makes a senior senior?" – Aleksey mused while walking – "I think we made clear yesterday that experience alone is not sufficient. Knowledge of both types is also important: if one knows what one knows not, that lack of knowledge can be quickly amended"
"I think, ability to tell what's beautiful and what's not" – said Andrey somewhat dreamily – "what's elegant and flexible and extendible and what's rigid and dead; a senior writes code that has quality outside of correctness"
Their companion abruptly stopped, and took his head into his hands as if something terrible had happened. He shook his head, and uttered "no, that's not right" under his breath.
"That's true," – Aleksey said, ignoring the strange behaviour of the learned monk, perhaps rightly intuiting that it was not a remark about their discussion – "but I believe that quality comes from patterns we know and follow. I don't think there's some inherent beauty in terms of ideal forms, but rather a senior is just Pavlov's dog that's been trained to salivate whenever a right pattern emerges and can actually emerge the right pattern when salivation is needed."
"And the pattern is right, because someone told us it's right, right, brother?" – quipped Andrey – "And how do you suppose someone knows that if not for the intrinsic rightness and fit of the pattern to the problem? Do you suppose procedural style was not inherently worse than object-oriented and those were not inherently worse than functional?"
"Worse? Brother, Smalltalk was too beautiful for the world, but some eight-out-of ten web programs used to be written in PHP" – Aleksey laughed – "and here you are talking about inherent beauty that lies outside the eye of the beholder!"
"Well perhaps PHP was intrinsically better than Smalltalk!" – Andrey shouted angrily, and they walked in silence for a while.
"Perhaps the inherent beauty is not as apparent," – he said after a while in an almost apologetic tone – "perhaps you are right, we do need someone, who is senior, who - I can't belive, but I agree - has been trained by nature itself, through negative and positive reinforcement, to see the beauty of certain patterns and repeat them as needed, to tell us what's right and what's wrong. However, I believe, the concept of right and wrong is ingrained in each and every one of us, regardless of our nurture"
"That I shall give you, brother - indeed it is not a trivial task to discern the right approach from the wrong one, and indeed, some things are universal for all beings, human or not. We all avoid suffering and seek pleasure; anything else is just a facade of these two simple drives" – Aleksey nodded – "Of course there are those who choose to partake in destruction and chaos instead of creation and harmony, following the principles of Thanatos; but, I believe, if we look closely enough, they just tap into their own, strange, perhaps, source of pleasure - or perhaps that what we perceive as harmony and creation hurts them in the ways we are unable to understand..."
Their nameless companion raised his hands to the air; his expression was that of the person about to attain enlightenment, mouth agape and almost speaking a relieved "Eureka!", but the expression suddenly changed as if he was plunged back into the depths of dark abyss; his arms fell down limply, he hunched down. If you would listen very closely, you would hear him whisper something akin to "that's not it, that's still not it". But brothers saint did not listen, as they were lost in discussion. They only noticed it has grown dark when one of them stumbled upon a root and went tumbling down the precipice on the side of the road.
"Aleksey!" – Andrey cried out.
"I am all right, don't shout," – his brother replied from below – "I seem to have hit my head something awful, though: I think it's too dark to continue today. Let's find shelter, build a fire and stay for the night. By the way, what we were talking about?"
"Oh, you know, mostly about why evil and ugliness exist in the world and whether they are entities by their own accord, or they simply are the absence of beauty and good" – Andrey told him helping him back up on the road – "and how certain virtues of knowledge and experience might help one reach perfection."
"Ah, yes," – Aleksey dusted himself off – "and how that path to perfection is a choice by the individual who simply wishes to avoid suffering, and perhaps, suffering of the others..."
Indeed, it was becoming clear that the brothers were finally on a clear path in their mind. They barely slept that night: talking, talking, talking; giving no notice to their companion nodding off after drawing a few flowcharts.
By the morning they had discussed everything: Andrey was to travel northwest and Aleksey northeast, so what if they did not find Opta, Opta would come to them instead, if they set out to listen, experience and grow. With time, grey hair, their disciples (and teachers) they would become true Masters of Opta and their teachings would become known and renowned in the world.
This was all true and meant to be as they thought. The last day of the journey right to the steps of some eastern mountain ashram went without any adventure - the brothers walked with silent determination. They then bowed to each other, their companion, and left in opposite directions.
Master Bodhisattva did not care much - he stood on the familiar path to his ashram, some insignificant part of him noted - he had been previously given a problem to tackle, back at the beginning of the journey home, and just before his foot touched the first step leading to the entry, he sighed with relief, lifted his head and smiled - the whole solution, full design of the system has finally come to him: monks will do the coding, the client will be pleased and there surely will be enough firewood and food to last through the coming cold winter months.