Wishing to join their ranks, he agrees to the rules: silence is paramount, and it is forbidden to utter even a single unnecessary word.
After five years of utter silence, the man raises his hand at lunch, signaling for permission to speak. Permission is granted, and he says two words: “I’m cold.” The head monk makes a gesture, and the man is given a warm sweater to help him withstand the cold winds drafting through the stone building.
Five more years of silence pass before the man raises his hand again, this time at dinner. Again, he sounds but two words: “I’m hungry.” The head monk gestures to the kitchen staff, and the man’s bread ration is increased.
Five more silent years pass, and the man raises his hand during breakfast for permission to speak. Again, it is two words: “I’m leaving.”
“Good,” the head monk blurts out, “Since you arrived here, all you’ve done is complain!”