The following story is inspired by a 'parable' from the book.
I opened my eyes, remembering that I need not close them in the first place. I had learned that rule in Sunday School and now I knew that it was just a rule to stop us from giggling. It's just a formality and, these many years later, has the opposite effect as I find that there are more distractions with them closed.
Now I'm praying for a sick friend. "Why is she sick?" I ask, lost in a mind of unanswered questions. These days I live in the continuous wonder of 'why'. The only way I can snap myself out of the wonder is to ask it.
Asking for keys to doors.
Praying for miracles to be normal.
My view of you to be something as beautiful as you seem to be.
My daily bread.
Suddenly, a noise shot out of the wall like a cannonball.
The door bell!
I remembered that I was to have a guest that morning. I moved my feet and crept to the door. I lifted the phone, clicked the 'open' button and listened. Someone was there, down below at the front door. He was humming. I heard the door open and close. He would be up to our floor shortly. Our building has super fast elevators.
Sure enough, there he was, knocking on the door like a pelican pecking on an annoyed turtle. I opened the door and smiled. He bowed, removed his hat, and greeted me with a beam. I reached out to shake his withered hand and he received mine as an old friend's. I took his hat, it's felt brim stuck to my fingers like sandpaper. I placed it on the hook and it sat there as master of the house.
His jacket drooped a little in the shoulders but it clung on faithfully. He slipped his shoes off and nestled them next to each other in the corner.
He took a seat at the table. His scent and his charm filled the room. I sat across from him and we sat in silence for what seemed like 3 weeks. Finally, I offered him some tea. Upon hearing these words, he spoke:
"The morning, soft and scandalous, aroused by the sun and the sound of the kettle's whisper.
It's curly lips, parched like a drunk, begging for one more taste."
I moved to the kitchen and moments later returned with 2 mugs of tea.
We sat, and sipped on the heat. It was strange. We sat there and stared at each other. At first I felt like I was imposing on his space, staring at him like a pillar of salt. But after a while, it was just normal; him looking into my eyes and mine having no other choice but to return the favor. From his watery blue, he looked at me like he was looking through me, only he wasn't looking through me at all because I felt his compassion resting on me. My breath left me for a moment and I lost his gaze. He smiled, sipped again and spoke:
"It's strange, the places that the mind can take you. It's almost as if it has a mind of it's own. You spend a lot of time lost in the mind. You're in there, like a moth, fluttering your wings on the walls. The mind is no place for the heart to dwell. The hurt and pain can't be reasoned with."
I froze. I understood what he saw when he looked into me.
"It burdens and haunts you. When you are of old age, it picks on you. It threatens to steal your loved ones and to set your house on fire; to strip you of your security. It tries to shame you like a holy one."
"Security; that's a noble idea. In order to find Truth you must first seek it. And it is only when you continue to seek it, that you will find it. If you ever stop seeking you will never find it, even if you think you've found it."
His words flashed in front of me like a mirror and all I could see was me. That uneasy feeling of faith. Is faith really faith at all without doubt, without the very thing that forces you to call it faith and not truth or certainty? I'd wrestled with this all for so long, trying to find certainty and then testing the idea of life being okay without it.
"You're there right now. Lost, looking for the answer." he told me.
For a moment, I forgot where I was. Is there an answer for all of this mess? Is there really a reason for death and disease?
I returned to the moment and let go of my cup; it sitting there like a dead dog. My feet were flush with heat and my heart was hurting the way that it hurts.
This one who could creep into my soul stepped out for a moment to acknowledge the tears on my face.
"What I know," he continued, "is that there is a reason for it all. There is a reason why people die, and suffer through it. It all makes sense, when you look at it from where I'm sitting. I understand your desire to know."
My eyes perked up.
"There is a reason for the suffering and pain."
I knew it! I've seen his shadow on the locked doors. The veil. The hem of his garment. The faith. Why all the mystery, the sneaking around? Why the disease? Why the pain?!
"Why?" I asked.
I hadn't noticed until now, but his patience had grown over time. I could feel it like a blanket.
He moved his cup to the side and leaned in like he was going to tell me the secret. I looked around slowly and then leaned in as well, my chair creaking in anticipation.
There we were, sitting in silence, alone as any two people could be, telling secrets. Nose to nose. I could hear his breath forming at the back of his throat. For the moment his eyes were turned down, as though he was trying to translate his thought from a foreign language. He was trying to find a way to put it.
Finally, he looked up at me, his eyes reaching in. I flinched for a moment, but I held my ground and stared into the eclipse.
And then he spoke.