Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Man Who Sees (Fragment)

Source: Wikimedia Commons
I

No one in the crowd knows the colour of the sky. From his position at the top of the sky-scraper, the man watches the crowd which passes beneath his feet. The wind flutters his trench-coat around his legs, fluttering the frayed hem. If one wanted to talk to them of the sky, he thinks, every person in the crowd would have trouble even understanding the concept of the sky, never mind its colour. Every citizen of the world only wants to look at the ground on which he walks, in case he perceives something extraordinary up above; in case he sees something of a true beauty.

The man has trouble understanding the voluntary ignorance of every human to whom is offered, from his birth, an incredible land filled with fascinating creatures and stupefying flowers, but who ignore this phenomenon.  “Why, he asks,  do they spend all their lives in a cage?”  The eternal, dazzling beauty of our near-infinite universe passes over the lowered heads of his lost brothers and sisters.

Worse than that, most of these people do not even know, or choose not to know, that they live in a cage. Every bar of the constrictive perimeter of this cage, conceived of by their  minds to protect them from the overwhelming force of mysterious nature, becomes for them a source of comfort; even of reassurance. Life outside of the cage frightens them so much that they never come out of the comforting structure of their lives. The man  pities these people who travel through life with their eyes open-shut but finds it impossible to hate them: how to hate a man who doesn’t understand that his eyes see nothing but what they want to see?


A huge sigh tortures that tired body of our man. Of average height, with blue-grey eyes and blonde hair, this man has nothing remarkable about him; in fact, it would be impossible to spot him in a crowd. Apart from his eyes. Let us stop here for a few moments to look at his eyes again  –  we are not speaking about colour here: we must look beyond the colour and reach the depth of his being. In the reflection of the glint of his eyes, swirling about his irises, there is to be seen a terrible thing: a thing which shocks us to the very essence of our being. This man Sees.


The man looks once again at the animated crowd which hurries towards their unimportant destinations.  “Is it possible that they see nothing?”  he wonders. Once the secret is discovered, it is impossible to forget it. For the man, it is almost effortless for him to look towards the sky to absorb the beauty of the scattered clouds which look like majestic Oriental dragons; it is almost without effort that he opens his ears to the mating call of the nearby birds; it is almost without effort that he breathes deeply, filling his lungs with the air which permits us to live; it is almost without effort that he loses himself in the feeling of the wind which tousles his hair.

Lost in the overwhelming beauty which surrounds him, even at the top of a skyscraper  –  that most unlikely of places –  the man tries to forget his troubles. For him, the gift of sight is not a gift, it is a scourge: with whom can he share all that he sees? With whom can he discuss the significance of his experiences? No one understands him,  they are afraid of exploring the surroundings of their cages: if they allow something new to enter, they don’t know if it will be possible to expel it. A huge sigh tortures him again and his soul trembles. His blond hair dances in the strong wind, reflecting the warming light of the sun. His skin pants for the sun, it badly needs the healing energy of the orb which humans of ancient civilisations used to worship (which orb can no longer be venerated because of accusations of “barbarism”).

Those ancient civilisations, says the man, were right to love the sun: the worship of nature recognises the fact that humans could not survive without the generosity of nature. This “modern” god, on the other hand, demands that humans love  him  for their existence: an idea which seems to suggest that nature only constitutes an insignificant part of human survival. God may also be present in nature (and so our dependence on him is equal to a dependence on nature) but the worship of God as an omnipotent and omniscient being suggests that, should he wish it, it would be possible for him to intervene in nature in favour of humans. This demand contradicts the thoughts of our man and he therefore rejects the notion of the modern god. This does not mean that he accepts that god of ancient civilisations, just that he finds them more harmonious with the respect that humans should have for nature.


The man wakes up, his eyes open suddenly. He sometimes dives into thoughts like this – even in his thoughts he finds marvel and joy. He turns  around on the roof of the skyscraper to go back to the others; it is time to lose himself again in normal life once again. The sound of horns comes to him and he moves towards that little door on the roof which allowed him to access this meditational place. The door slams behind him and he begins to descend to banality.


**************

The storm rages around the man, a sort of impotent rage which expresses itself noisily without really saying anything. The wind blows in gusts, like an aged grandfather which  no longer wishes to adapt himself to a world that changes incessantly around him. The wind no longer has a place in civilised society: the permanent buildings of ill-fitting concrete and steel that we have built seem to say to nature,  “you are no longer welcome here. Every attempt to hurt us humans reveals you as a spent force”.
 
The man trembles with cold, but he almost doesn’t notice the wind: here in the street, he is protected from most of the wind. His thoughts turn inwards and he starts thinking about the rest of his day. He has several options… He can stay outside and wander the streets of the city; he can go home; he can work late into the night. None of these options appeal to him. A thought hits him: he can drive forever, with no worries, with no responsibilities. This idea pleases him, the road is a nice metaphor for a life without interruption, one without difficulty, with no backward glances.


The man has made his decision. It’s decided, he’s going to have an adventure! He directs himself to the multi-storey parking lot where his car is; as soon as he arrives, he is greeted by rows and rows of sparkling cars of every imaginable brand. Every car is different, every car is the same  – a symbol of the useless goods which humans consume in order that they might be reassured that they are important, that they won’t be forgotten. A vain gesture: all is forgotten, everything on earth must die one day. 


He gets into his banged-up car (an ordinary grey Renault, just a car among a sea of cars) and ignites the engine. A spark of joy floods his heart and spreads through his body; he feels lit up from the inside and an irresistible smile spreads across his face. He drives towards the exit, the rays of sun bathe him, and his adventure starts. He drives towards the suburbs of the city in order to escape the stifling embrace of the city.


The suburbs are eventually replaced by cows, sheep, undulating fields and the feeling of a limitless life. The man turns on cruise control and relaxes a bit; his thoughts turn towards other things and he forgets, for the moment, the problems which surround him. He understands that this day will not last forever; he understands that his life awaits his return; he understands that his wife and family depend on him and that the cruelty of renouncing on his family is not part of who he is. But, for the moment, he is as free as the birds which fly in the red sky above. Night is falling and signifies a new chapter in the life of our man. The energetic, life -giving red of the sky gives energy to  our man as he moves in a new direction: his life is moving in the direction he wants, and not the opposite. His soul sings; his soul explodes towards the infinity of the sky; his soul thanks him for this unexpected gift which permits him a heretofore unknown happiness.


The road spreads out before the man and a single thought comes to him: he is free, even if only for the moment. This thought pleases him, he is the master of his own destiny, even if just for a small while. The man smiles.

II

The man gets out at a service station. The heat of the early morning hits him like an oven and he immediately starts sweating and the collar of his shirt sticks to his neck. The man has been driving all night, and yet feels more refreshed than when he started. The smell of petrol fills his nose –  an odour which he has liked since he was a child  –  and the song of the birds around him echoes in his ear. Filling his car, he absorbs his surroundings: he doesn’t know where he is, but it seems to him that he is on the periphery of a small charming village. There are cottages in the hills around him: in the winter, these protectors of a lost way of life would puff out columns of smoke rising toward the sky but, for the moment, these protectors are silent. They wordlessly watch this new intruder.

The man gets back into the car after paying and leaves the station; he looks at his phone and there is a text from his wife,  “where are you, James?”. James shuts off the phone without even answering: he will deal with it later. He drives  towards the village, which is postcard-perfect. There is an ancient red telephone box at the corner of the street and a little old bird inside speaks animatedly into the receiver. Seeing James, she lifts her hand to salute; she seems delighted to have seen him. James continues driving with the image of the woman waving to him stuck in his 
mind.
“Who was that woman? Does she know me?” he wonders.
He shrugs his shoulders: he’ll probably never see her again, so there’s no point worrying about it. James stops at the traffic lights, and  jumps out of his skin: on the other side of the street, two guys are saluting him. They also seem delighted to see him. A bit on edge (without being sure why—everyone here seems very friendly), he stops at a café called  Welcome  to have a cup of coffee. As soon as he enters the café and sits at a free table, the owner greets him.

“Hey James,” he says, “all’s going well, I hope?”

“I’m… Fine, thanks” James stammers.

“You’re sure? You look a bit troubled.”

“Oh no, I’m fine,” continues James (a bit mystified), “everything’s fine.”

“Ah, that’s good so. What will you have?”

“Jus… Just a coffee, thanks.”

The owner goes to get the cup of coffee for him, and James looks around the café.

“How do they know me?” he asks himself.
On the wall in front of him, there is a photo of an ethereal, ghostly woman (we can see the wall behind her). The woman smiles divinely and the aura around her head shines: a shiver runs down his spine. The café is fairly packed and animated voices surround him: the two old ladies to his left chat about a mutual acquaintance, and they chuckle at regular intervals. One of the women smiles and salutes him, as if she knew him. An odour of rich coffee floats from the kitchen in his direction; he can almost taste the coffee. Undoubtedly, the café is bizarre, but it has a quaint charm anyway.

While James takes in his surroundings, an old man sits beside him.  With a coffee moustache around his lips and bits of food on his dirty shirt, it seems that he is out of place in this bizarre and charming café.

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