"There's not much doubt in any of our minds that no complete idea springs fully formed from our brow,
needing only a handshake and a signature on the contract to send it off into the world to make twenty-five billion dollars.
The germ of the idea grows slowly..." - Walt Kelly

Friday, May 3, 2013

The greatest lie

Painting by Joe Rea

In the language of the ancient Greeks he was the bringer of the dawn, the bright morning star that separated the heavens from the earth. For a long time, he was nameless, and that was the way he preferred it. He kept the headlines in front of him, and when he needed to speak, he spoke well, his syllables floating effortlessly as though they were filled with helium.

"Speak plain," he would ask of his constituents. "The road is paved with honesty and with simplicity. Any bumps we feel are as warnings that one among us has laid down a lie."

Skeptics fell before him as grass in an unending wind. He would dazzle them with tricks and illusions. He would cover the ugliness of the world as one would bandage a wound. It was something to behold, this chicanery.

I witnessed it once. We were out among the highest steps, a vantage for the ages, when he beckoned us to the edge and gestured our gazes out into the distance.

"Here," he spoke. One word, nothing more.

We were silent, waiting for something to appear or occur. He stood, his back to the horizon, cloudless and clean, and said nothing. His expression suggested that he was waiting for us to realize something. None of us did, and moments passed. Then, one of us, a troubled soul, stepped forward.

"It's a trick," the troubled one said. Confident, but not loud. "There was something there, but you've taken it. Haven't you? It's somewhere far from here, hiding where only you can find it."

The morning star smiled and shook his head, enjoying the confusion he had sown among us.

"No, my friend. It is here. It is always here. There is nothing up here you can take away - it is all permanent, parts of the scenery, so to speak. The only thing that changes here is what you see." He turned and spread his arms. "So, what do you see?"

The troubled soul gave him a doubting glance and stepped forward, focusing intently on the airy landscape before him. He spent several minutes that way, adjusting his stance, his vantage point, going from standing to crouching and back again. Murmurs spread through the crowd behind him, tiny whispers ("Do you see it?") and silent denials.

The bringer of the dawn stepped up beside the troubled soul and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"There is no shame in this," he said. "None at all. Do you think any of these beasts behind you would have better luck?"

"I don't know," the troubled soul said. Subdued now. Uncertainty tainting the tone of his voice. "It's just - it's just not there."

"You're right," the morning star said. His grip tightened. "In a sense."

He stepped away from the troubled soul and turned his back to the scenery once more.

"There is nothing here, friends." He placed his hands inside his pockets, feigning sheepishness. "I've lied to you. Perception is an untruth, a bump in the road. There is only what is and what is not. What gray do you see here, up in this world? What middle ground have we found? None. None, because have not built it."

He removed his hands from his pockets and gave a flourish, a magician standing before awestruck children. He wheeled around, his shoes grinding two half-moon shapes into the terrain beneath him. His back to us, he raised his hands high and out to the sides.

"My hopeful allies," he yelled, "I have built our middle ground."

His arms flashed to the side and he gripped something invisible. With a single motion, he tore the bandage from the wound and an enormous, cloak-like sheet came tumbling down from the background. Pale blue as the sky, it blanched as it fell to the ground, a pallid shroud.When we could tear our eyes from it, we looked up and saw, appearing in the sky, a single, tumultuous cloud. Its folds fell over one another, a mirror of the cloth that lay crumpled at our feet.

"So you see?" he said, triumphant. "What was not here now is. But what is it, really, besides a conjurer's trick?"

The troubled soul fell to his knees, choking sounds back into his throat.

"Enough," he cried. "There is nothing to this but madness!"

The morning star knelt beside him, stroking his shoulders.

"Fear not, my brother. There is no madness here. I said you were right, in a sense, and I meant it. It is a conjurer's trick, and I am only a conjurer."

He gave the troubled soul one last touch, then stood and walked to his creation.

"The truth is, this cloud does not exist," he said. "And neither do I."

He shook his head and laughed - a deep, horrible sound.

"So many bumps in the road."

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
St. Vincent, Just the Same But Brand New

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