Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Feast

I see a broad, huge, richly decorated feasting hall; I hear beautiful music, and I see countless people, men, women, children, all wandering about, laughing, talking, eating, and drinking. I've always been here; how I experience the hall has changed, of course- from the time of what I imagine are my "first memories" to now, much has changed in how I view things. But the hall has always been the hall, and its noble company has remained, in peace, for all time. It's a good place to be.

Strangely, however, there are a group of people who have turned their backs on the hall, and stand with their noses in the wall. They are in the shadows, in the corners, and they refuse to turn around, because they don't think they can; to exist, for these people, means to face one way only. They've actually forgotten that their bodies work in other ways beyond the ability to stand rigid, facing a wall. People at the table make jokes about them from time to time, but most just ignore them. They ignore them because (as they know from experience) trying to reach these people is like trying to befriend the wall.

These strange men and women stare at the wall, their eyes focused on a few inches of wood-grain, shouting over and over again that the grain right in front of them is "all there is". A beautiful hall? A company of people too large to imagine? Neverending sustenance? It's just a few yards from the backs of their heads, but it might as well be ten thousand leagues away.

When one of the serving girls tries to tap them on the shoulder and get their attention, they believe that the sensation is meaningless, just a flutter in their veins or a madness in the mind. The music doesn't reach them either; it's all around them, but they can only experience it as meaningless combinations of sound that they imagine simply occurred spontaneously one day, long ago, and which has no source in any sort of intelligence or creativity. The music would soothe them; it would remind them of their true home- but to these people, those sounds are a cacophony of confusion.

The food in the hall will never run out, and the music won't stop; the drink flows forever, too. I don't know where it all came from, but I know I'm glad to be there. I don't know why it should be this way, but I'm glad it is. I'm partly sorry for the people whose noses are in the wall, turned in bitter shadow, and I'm partly mystified by them. What has great Fate woven for them?

If you ask me what I think now, before I'm drunk on the sweet mead that the serving girl just brought me, I'd say "fear". Fear keeps them in their corners. Fear of being mocked by others, fear of being "wrong" about things, fear of having to admit that there is a majestic reality that can't be explained in terms of a few inches of woodgrain. Fear of a majestic reality which they have no choice but to participate in, and not always on their terms.

Later, after I'm heated by the drink and sliding under the table, I'll say "foolishness". No fear could be strong enough to keep me from this feast.

An Old One-Eyed man always sits up at the head of the table. That single eye of his has a way of drilling right through you, but his jokes are the best I've ever heard. His advice is great, too.

One day, as I was stuffing myself on the roasted pork at the table, (which goes great with the seasoned apples) he told me something I'll never forget. He said: "Beliefs about the world are fine, but not nearly as fine as letting them go when they get too small- or when you see how vast and mysterious the world really is. It's wisdom to leave open the possibility that the world is more amazing than you think. The biggest fools I know are the people who refuse to accept a drink from the inexhaustible cup of possibility. Life is a feast for the wise, but a wall for most others."