The Mirror and the Candle
Once upon 2.5 million years ago, the climate began once more to change.
Life became drier, less fluid, more difficult. The rain forests began to withdraw; in their place, grassy savannas manifested themselves. The great, green canopy upon which so much life had depended gave way to vast expanses of coverless sky and uncamouflaged territory.
For the living beings that had prospered among the trees, there was little place left to hide. Safety became a premium. Those who would prey upon others found their lives exponentially easier. Those who wished only to live in the shade and bother no one were suddenly grounded. And at risk.
This was especially true for one particular troop of nearly hairless monkeys. When the trees upon which they’d depended became sparse and separated, they discovered themselves at the mercy of the open skies and scattered about the dry plain. They did not have sharp claws with which to defend themselves, or great speed to outrun their attackers, or venomous fangs, or quills, or shells, or any other type of natural defense. Whatever would happen to them?
Now, each species in the universe has a pair of divine beings, entrusted by The All with its well being and growth. Aleph and Tav, also known as Alph and Avi, were the guardians of this particular troop of nearly hairless monkeys. As they watched their charges panicking around the savanna like pre-chickens with their stone-age heads cut off, they consulted with each other.
“They have great potential,” Avi observed, “if they survive.”
“Then survive they shall,” said Alph. “When all else fails, use what you’ve got.”
And what the troop had was . . . organization. The capacity to put everything, including themselves, into an established order, and maintain it no matter what! So, with a bit of inner whispering from Alph and Avi, the monkey troop began to, quite literally, organize the hell out of their situation.
Every member of the troop was given a job, one about which they had no choice, and from which they could not waver, if the group was to survive. A troop is only as strong as its least distracted primate! Some members were gatherers; their job was to find fruit and nuts and berries, nothing more. Some members were lookouts, stationing themselves around the perimeter, watching solely for anything that lurked, or stalked, or slithered in the tall grass. Still others were warriors, meant exclusively to fight as best they could any who threatened the troop. Mothers could be only mothers; only the strongest males could be fathers, and children were expected to be seen and not chatter! And the leader was unquestioned as the leader.
No one was asked what he or she wanted to be. No one was allowed to leave their established place in the organization — ever! And if anyone, deep in the recesses of their own heart, ever asked themselves, “Am I really happy with this? Am I fulfilled?” they never let on or allowed it to compromise their position in the group. The survival of the troop simply took precedence over the meaning of any individual.
And it worked! The troop of nearly hairless monkeys not only survived, it thrived. It went forth and multiplied, filling the earth and subduing it.
Alph and Avi were happy — almost. “But what will we do with these?” one asked the other. In their hands they held two divine objects of great power: a Candle and a Mirror. And as they were divine beings, they hovered over and apart from Time, from the collective future of the world, including that of the troop. It stretched out beneath them like a long pathway, the beginning and end of which they could always see.
“Walk with me,” said Alph who, along with Avi, then set off along the trail. Invisibly (most of the time) they passed by nations and empires, rises and falls, triumphs and abominations. In due Time, they came to a dark but comforting recess, into which they walked. Deeper and deeper they went, until they came to a place smack in the Center of It All. Here, they placed the Candle and the Mirror. “When they are ready,” each of them said. And disappeared.
Time passed — and sometimes fumbled, was sometimes intercepted, a nd often penalized back to the spot of the original foul. But forward progress did eventually reach the point where the race of nearly hairless monkeys was no longer threatened by everything around them. There were no more lions crouched in the grass — which indeed they now had to mow and treat with Chemlawn to keep growing at all. The night no longer threatened, but was lit with the light of a million environmentally- friendly LED’s. Much disease had been eradicated, and people lived longer than ever before.
But still, the old, ingrained paradigm remained unchanged. People stayed in their place, rarely asking themselves if it made them happy, and oftentimes pushing away the answer if they did. Their survival had long ago stopped depending on the tight, unbending organization, but yet gatherers and lookouts, warriors and mothers, men and women, leaders and followers all still acted as if individual happiness and deep fulfillment would mean the death of them all!
Finally, from their timeless perch above everything, the guardians of the nearly hairless monkeys looked at each other and said, “It’s time.”
And so they sent into the troop the greatest tool in the arsenal of the angelic: Inspiration. Soon, books and poems, films and songs, reforms and new ideas began to flood the minds and hearts of the nearly hairless monkeys. They began to become Inspired with Questions that were more Important than Answers, with Acceptances that were more Important than Difference, with Callings that were much, much more Important than Mere Security, individual or communal.
Finally, on one Blessed Night near the beginning of another year, the divine beings entered into the Collective Consciousness of the entire troop, in a dream as everyone safely slept. They led that Consciousness gently down the long path of its history, and deep into the dark, comforting recesses of the Center of It All. There, Alph handed Consciousness the Candle, while Avi stood before it, holding the Mirror.
The divine beings spoke, “Hin-nay-nee” – “Here I Am.” And the Candle lit to life in the hands of Consciousness.
“This is your own Light,” Alph said. “You have been taught that your Light is to be ignored, that the Good of All depends on your pushing your Light aside, that if you were to Become your truest self, the Entirety would be weaker and the Community divided. But look . . .”
And all around, the Light of Self illumined the deep recesses, for the Darker it is, the more Illuminating a single Light can be. Shapes that had seemed dangerous and threatening now were revealed to be just outcroppings and dips along the path, as natural as the Light itself. Monstrous, alien faces and clawed fingers that seemed ready to reach out and devour, in the Light of Self could now be seen as simply gnarled old roots and withered branches, hardly worthy of notice, let alone fear and its reaction. “How odd,” the Collective Consciousness thought to itself, “that the more I am my own Light, publically and unreservedly, the less foreign and fearful the world is seen to be.”
“Now,” said Alph, “think of the things, the good and beautiful things that you have the most difficulty hearing about yourself – the compliments that make you wince inside. For, over countless generations you’ve been taught that to Love yourself, to give First Cause to your own Infinite Light would lead only to pride and selfishness, and to the abandoning of your post in your troop’s fight for survival. But could you even know whose survival concerned you so?”
Avi held the Mirror a little higher. In it, Consciousness could see its own Light, reflected back upon Itself.
“Who is that?” it asked. “What am I?”
“You are a divine being,” Avi answered. “You are One of Us. And only another divine being has the depth, the capacity to Mirror you back to Yourself. Yes, we do need each other. Desperately. But not for Protection. For Illumination. Not for Safety. For Selfhood. And watch!”
Alph bent near and blew out the Candle! Consciousness gasped!
“But look,” Alph gestured. And in the Mirror, the Light still shone, Radiant as ever.
“The Mirror of the Other retains your Light, whether or not you yourself recognize it. This is called ‘Love.’ This is why you have a troop in the first place.”
“And watch this!” Avi exclaimed. And he turned the Mirror away. It took Consciousness a moment or two to realize that its own Light was once more shining in its hand, as it has always been.
“The Other shows you your Light. But he or she can never put it out. Even if they turn away from you. This is called ‘Freedom.’ Your own Light is dependent on no one.”
And in that Infinite Instant, the Collective opened itself, revealing each Individual Consciousness that it contained. Each and every Life the troop had ever held from the moment it had descended from the trees manifested him or herself right there in the very Center of It All. Each held a Candle, and each held a Mirror. Each showed its Light of divine being to the other, and each reflected that divine Light back to the other, until the collective future of the world shone and vibrated and hummed beyond all Limitation, bathed in Fearlessness.
Then, with a soundless blink, with not a Bang but a Blossoming, a new Cosmos was born.
Hin-nay-nee. Here I am.
Wayne-Daniel Berard, PhD, teaches Humanities at Nichols College, Dudley, MA. He publishes broadly in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His novella, Everything We Want, was published in 2018 by Bloodstone Press. A poetry collection, The Realm of Blessing, will be published in 2020 by Unsolicited Press.