Staring into the sun and stars, at the moon and comets, into straw and paper, through glass and sky, at shadows on sundials and sands upon scales, from towers and from burning ships, the man of law pronounced that light is not heavy.
Only one shadow of ink splashed into the radiance of the white adobe walls. It was the priest beyond the gate, awaiting the seeker, an insomniac and physicist who wanted to cure his migraines and questions. The priest wore black and his whole head was clean shaven. The physicist thought he looked more like an assassin than a priest. The walls burned the eyes. What would you like? the priest asked kindly, coiling a dark rope. I want my headaches to stop, said the physicist. And I want to know how and what to think. Textbooks, monographs, journals, newspapers, whole libraries and even radio shows contradict themselves and each other. I don’t know what to think anymore. A dark flash and loud crack startled him. The priest slowly rewound the whip that had left a dark stroke on the wall. You are wasting your own time. You will have thoughts whether you want them or not. The world never asked your permission to exist, why do you asks its permission to exist and think? The whip cracked again and another dark stroke appeared on the wall. That helps, the physicist said, but I still do not know what kind of thoughts to follow, or where they will lead me. There are only a handful that really matter, said the priest, and only one that means anything. What is it? the physicist asked. The wind, the explosive sound, and then the dark matter of the third stroke on the wall. Sacrifice, said the priest. The mystery of the stone. Once upon a time, a stone was a word, then an obstacle, then it could spark and make fire, then it was a tool, then a sacred item, then something to study, then industrial material, and then it was garbage. The stone gives itself to the world. The world gives itself to you. The world and the universe was made by sacrifice. You should give yourself. To yourself and to others. Then you will think. The physicist stared at the dark matter on the adobe wall. It looks like a wound, he said, and it also looks like the ancient character for the heart. Possibly, the other murmured. Once more the priest whipped the wall, adding the last stroke. Why do you have a whip? the physicist asked. To buffet the wind, the priest sighed, to scourge my thoughts.
A physicist was punished for various intrigues and thrown down the interminable shaft of a modern day oubliette. An oubliette was originally a type of medieval dungeon, dug into the lowest depths below a castle and only accessed by a one-way entrance—a hatch through the ceiling above without a ladder or stairs leading back up to it. In other words, it was a cellar for permanently disposing of human garbage and forgetting about it. It was oblivion. The shaft the physicist entered was so deep, they gave him a second hand parachute. After an eternity of falling through darkness, the blue parachute blossomed just as the floor of the oubliette opened up and darkly glimmered below him. Slowly, he drifted down and landed on dark sand and stone. To his surprise, the ceiling was still very high and vast, and the floor appeared to be a plain of scatteted dead trees and adobe huts. The light came from gaping holes in the ground that revealed a deep sea of stars and planets. Curious, the physicist whispered as he knelt by the edge of one hole and looked down. Clouds drifted by now and then, but the golden and silver stars continued to blaze into an infinity below. The silence was magical, and the physicist relaxed as he entered an adobe hut. Through the entrance and windows, he could still see stars. And lying down on the dry, warm earth in that great quiet, the physicist decided to make his home within his punishment.
The formula having been written on the blackboard, the distinguished professor wiped the chalk from his hands and said that you must never press the button to hold the elevator door open if you hear footsteps in the corridor. This not only adds unnecessary wear to the console, but it also interrupts the intentionality of the machinery and the rhythmic flow of destiny.
In their travels, the wanderers encountered a sunlit, dry planet of scattered clouds, snowy mountains of stone and rolling plains of golden grass and scattered trees. There were soft seas that washed the semi-arid deserts and steppes. It looked like a good planet to cultivate. One day, as they walked through a plain, explosions of dirt and smoke fatally dismembered several comrades. The rest of the crossing continued uneventfully until they came to the coastal mountains where it began to rain what could only be described as bombs coming out of both clouds and blue sky. After a deluge of phosphorus fire, naptha, and other deafening fireworks burning the ground and leaving black, smoking craters, the land had rest for another thousand days. The wanderers came to discover that these unpredictable mines and bombs were organic, though inanimate, and really no different than weather. The silence was not friendly, though sometimes preferable. It is difficult to safely study an explosion one cannot define or test. In time, there was only one wanderer left intact, a lone shadow walking slowly and thoughtfully over the strange landscape.
There was a corrie of stone and ice where the travelers would gather by the light of certain stars, ambiguous solstices and unthought eclipses to pass through time and space and harvest the good light, the good water, the good wind and the good fire, for with these the sons and daughters of men and women were healed and built into great giant cities of stone and strength. One opened the gate through speaking the old language. One traveler loved the language; he loved and spoke all languages and remembered the times, but the old language was best and was like a fountain within his body and soul. They called him the bear, for bears have big jaws and love rivers. As time went by, the bear noticed that fewer and fewer travelers could speak or revere the old language, and took no precautions as they traveled. They brought illness into the corrie and spoke deplorable words. The gate of stars would often not open. Pilgrims who came to the travelers for guidance and healing became increasingly lost and sick. At times it seemed as if the very stones of the corrie were shifting and crumbling. The travelers still came in the seasons of traveling, but instead of speaking the old language, they forbid others to speak it, and sat around discussing the beauty of their sickness as if it were a gift from heaven. They were dying from their deplorable words and killing others as well. One day, the bear fell sick from an ordinary disease, and wandered into the high peaks to cough and sleep in solitude. While convalescing in the high land, he spoke the old language to himself and found himself traveling high roads through stars and black holes he had not thought possible. In those heights and depths he found great worms of stone, oarfish of mists, and krakens of water. There were silver trees of lightning and golden whirlpools of fire. The earth drew light and strength from the heavens, through his body, and he felt well again. On rising, he surveyed the sad earth from which the old words were vanishing, and knew now that every broken stone and dried up river is a forgotten word, an irreverant grammar, a deplorable sentence, a blasphemy. When he went back down to the corrie, he found that more than half of it had crumbled into a glacier, and the other travelers sat oblivious on a shifting precipice, reading their sores and scabs as if practicing divination, and cursing everything above and below heaven. It was then that the bear realized that he had been transformed into a real bear.
One scientist ran into another. The first one said, I have worked tirelessly and have found 10,000 different light bulbs that do not work. Not to worry, said the other scientist; you have actually found 10,000 parallel universes where they do work, and they are shining their bright lights right now. Who will handle my patents in those other universes? the first scientist joked. Who said you were the inventor in those 10,000 other universes? the other replied.