The Origin of Hope [A Fragment]

. . . and laughter bestrode the world, an angel of unfathomable size. Our joy unbounded swept the plains, hills, mountains and oceans. Only the woodlands remained dark and anxious, rustling with the designs of madness.

      Then, one seed blossomed into a thousand tiny lights, each a pure dollop of hope, and their gleam cast any remaining sorrow to the heavens. The stars weep for us now, tremble in the night, so that we may content ourselves with dreaming . . .

The Nihilism of Doubt

At the age of four, that unredeeming void first emerged, opened itself above me, not necessarily in the sky but nonetheless overlaying the pungent blue. Then, I was in the front yard near the Filbert tree that I never did attain the courage to climb. I don’t recall fearing it.

It was bleak, blob-like. Somehow despite the purity of its darkness, it seemed to shimmer. The void expanded in a slow bleed, and at its full breadth, I heard a faint whisper, a toneless one coming from within it. These words impressed themselves upon me:

“Everything is nothing.”

Then with startling abruptness, the void dissipated as if a nervous daydream. The spuriousness of that experience would’ve caused me to have written it off as such had that void not returned several more times, in each instance gaping at me on a non-descript day, cutting like a strobe of dark through the brightness of living.

I’m terrified of a few things, anxious at many more. However, that morbid maw of nothing has never stirred me, even in the worst of times. It ought to. Else I fear I might perish before the warmth fades from both the muscles and emotions that drive me.

The Parable of the Gem

 
In an ancient woodland that bordered a burgeoning empire, a beautiful and obviously precious gemstone could be found lodged high up a giant fir tree. Anyone who approached below could see the gem glittering in the sunlight from dawn until dusk. However, none dared climb up after it, for the locals told of a curse that befell any intrepid pursuer: “Should someone reach the high branches that held the gemstone, they would be transformed into a common songbird, and no known method could change them back.”

Some enterprising folk concocted and executed other methods aimed at freeing the gem from its perch; others attempted to knock the tree itself down; all to no avail. So, for a long duration it remained only an object of forlorn gazes.

Eventually, an animal trainer hit upon the idea of using a hawk to retrieve the gemstone on the notion that a bird could seize it without succumbing to the curse. This man captured a wild hawk, and after month upon month of trial and error, using shards of glass as a stand-in, he was satisfied that the bird of prey would pursue the gem with haste.

However, the man had been unable to keep his sessions a secret, and a few of the other locals caught wind of his efforts. Therefore, on the day he set out to dislodge the gemstone, a small throng of “curious” men and woman (who of course vowed not to interfere) came with him. Judiciously, the man with the hawk also decided to carry with him a weapon, just in case.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the hawk’s effort did not accord to plan. It did on its second pass reach the heights of the great fir and grasp the glittering prize there. However, halfway into its descent, the bird began to shimmer in a magnificent fashion and cycled through a blinding array of color. The assembled men and women awed into gaping and had to shield their eyes from the intense illumination.
When this stunning phenomenon died away and every present eye cleared of it, the throng found the hawk nowhere in sight while a very surprised looking man had appeared within their midst. He wore tattered clothing and was disheveled in many other respects as well. This new person was rightly terrified. His eyes darted around, and his body moved in fits and jerks, indecisive as to what was a threat to him or what a reasonable person in his current situation ought to do. All other mysteries aside, the men and women around him deigned to engage the one apparent ripe opportunity for inquiry: he had some large object in his mouth.

“He’s got the gem!” someone shouted, and once-restrained humanity began to collapse in towards the stranger who was still too out of sorts to mount much resistance. A flurry of arms and hands snaked over him and constricted his movements. Many fingers pried at his jaws, jarred his mouth open, and removed . . .

A simple grey stone.

The greedy hysteria broke and released its victim. The man in tattered clothing crumpled to the ground, covered his eyes tightly, and wept. His former tormentors turned their fervor toward the landscape to scour it for any sign of the gemstone which a quick glance could confirm no longer was high above the forest floor. The man who’d trained the hawk called in vain toward the trees for his avian protégé.

After a brief search, a pair of the more empathetic members of the once maddened seekers of fortune turned their attentions back toward the man who’d (from their perspective) appeared out of thin air before them. By then he’d composed himself somewhat though he remained fairly bewildered and watched the goings-on around him with cautious curiosity. The pair asked him who he was, where he’d come from, and whether he was a wizard or a warlock. He admitted not knowing. They queried him farther but his memory failed him over and over. The only question he could answer was: “What is the last thing that you remember?”

He answered: “My life before now is a total blur except for one thing. I know that as I child, I was chided for my ambition. It was then that a voice, soft but stern (perhaps my mother or my father), told me that some things belong to the earth, and some things belong to the air. Then there are some that belong to both. Those are the temptations one must ever avoid.”

The two listening to him, failed in their own words at responding. What could they say or do then? For, in the wake of these strange events, what they valued seemed to be all but forgotten.
 
 

Fragment of a Story (Exit)

He started down the road with collected visions of the city in tow. Their words still rang in his ears, so pitched with anger and frustration. I think their garden is wilting he found himself thinking. The stagnant traffic roiled silently with accusations against all the other grouped travelers walling each other in. On a deck hanging from a nearby apartment, a defeated-looking man shouted impotently at a group of loitering teenagers below. They believe only in the failure of their neighbors he almost said aloud this time.

When toward the outer edge of the city the roads finally opened up, he began to pass row upon row of well-kept houses all staring at him importantly. No one ever dared to question the manor, yet all buildings lie: with civilized facades, groomed acres, but closed doors. The most beautiful opportunities are inviting he believed though often their grounds are thorny.

He turned onto a street lined with strip malls. In one, a rundown mechanics shop boasted a twelve-foot-tall sign that read JESUS LOVES YOU. Would Christ have been a mechanic? Would the Son of God have believed in machines? One who is inscribed so majestically in books must only believe in words. Theirs is a simple power. He spoke next aloud as if he needed to hear how these last thoughts upon exiting resonated back within him: “I know what my beliefs are; however, I don’t know what to call them. I have never seen their face.”

A Venerable Strategy

He paused in the middle of his diatribe then assumed a wounded tone as if he anticipated skepticism on my part. However, the conviction in his voice never wavered. “I love my own mother. But doggone it, she doesn’t need a power chair.” His words took on a quieter intensity. “You have to keep walking. That’s what allows us our humanity.” He was more wistful than angry. “They want to put us all in machines and charge us an arm and a leg for the favor.”

Yes, the proverbial They, ever concocting pernicious plans out of our deepest fears. I didn’t share his anxiety at the technological solutions that awaited us at a ripe old age when our biology inevitably fails us. I did allow myself a nod of agreement and a joyous laugh at his concluding remark. “If that ever happened to me, I’d cover myself in honey and go on a bear hunt.”

Indeed. One man’s mercy is another man’s fatal indignity.

What is Real


 
 
I seek out – by choice – what is untrue,
For a great many fictions exist – in this world
– And few strands of verity.

. . . perhaps everything you’ve confided in me
up until now is a lie. (I refuse
to indulge that possibility.)

In my heart
You will never diminish.
 
 
 
Copyright 2015

A Love Story

There once was a Contradiction that did not get along with a single other soul. In conversation (in the rare instance someone engaged him) he would always gainsay. If asked to hurry he would slow down and vice-versa as well. When told he looked happy (a rarer occurrence) he would begin to weep. When asked why his tears did flow he would only laugh for an answer.

Well, one day the Contradiction came face to face with as beautiful a sight as he’d ever before encountered, a Compromise, and at once he found himself smitten with her. He asked her to a night of dinner and dancing, and to his great delight she said yes. To his chagrin, however, that first date went very badly for the both of them. Nevertheless, at the end of the night she agreed to see him a second time. He kissed her as much out of gratitude as anything.

Their second date as it happened did not go any better. Their third and fourth dates, the same. Yet to the surprise of all who knew them, the two became largely inseparable. Everywhere the Contradiction went, Compromise could surely be found at his side. No one upon observing the two of them could say how they managed to make their relationship work, but it did and in spades. “Perhaps fate does work in mysterious ways” was the closest to consensus that was brought to bear in opinion of them. The Contradiction offered his own explanation to puzzled inquisitors: “She stands by me. No one else does.”

And so, despite the often intense conflicts and a variety of other issues between them, he was moved to propose marriage to her, and she agreed to be his wife. For months after, the two planned the wedding (never agreeing on any detail of course.) However, he found himself doing the previously unthinkable, deferring to her preferences on nearly every aspect of the ceremony, for as he declared to anyone willing to listen: “If there is one day that should be all about the bride, it is her wedding day.” And so it was.

When that blessed day arrived, the matrimonial hall filled with family, friends and other dear acquaintances (mostly of the bride’s.) There was much conjecture amongst the guests about the couple’s future especially as to whether marriage might soften the disposition of the Contradiction. He, himself, seemed far more gregarious than ever though no less apt to gainsay.

Perhaps fate also had it that all good things should end, for soon a nervous energy began to permeate the hall along with rumors that something had gone terribly wrong. This sentiment was confirmed when the mother of the bride, a dour look upon her, whispered something into the ear of the Contradiction and both strode purposefully to the bride’s dressing room. There instead of finding his fiancé, the Contradiction was shown a note she’d left upon the dressing table. It read:

My beloved Contradiction,

I feel indescribably awful about what I must do. I have come to realize that, as much as I care for you, our love is not enough of a foundation for me to build my life upon. My heart leads me toward another path, and I must follow though I do not know where it shall take me. I believe it best for the both us even though it surely will not seem that way to you now. Know that I am convinced you will find someone whose love for you surpasses even mine. This I truly believe.

I will miss you terribly.

Compromise.

He read her goodbye letter again and again without once looking away, and afterward following a few minutes of deep contemplation, he simply crumpled up the paper it was written upon and tossed it (not at all gently) back at the dressing table. Then he walked out from the hall without a single word for anyone. He drove straight from there to his home, and upon passing through his front door, he slammed it shut and proceeded to shed the formal clothes of the groomsman he no longer was, leaving them unceremoniously strewn across the floor. When finally unclothed, he cast himself into his bed, blankets tossed haphazardly over himself, and stayed there for most of the duration of what would have been his honeymoon. During that time he got a number of phone calls, emails, and knocks at his door, all from those concerned for his mental and spiritual state. When he deigned to engage them on this or any other subject at all, he answered them the same way. “Rubbish,” he said, “Just rubbish.” And he continued to do so until people finally refrained from asking after him.
 
 
Copyright 2015