Friday, August 31, 2012

Gareth the Builder (A Parable)

A young man with wide and deep eyes came out of the forest with only a pack on his back and a long stick as a walking staff. He looked with his wide, deep eyes, upon an expansive plain of grass that moved like green ocean waves. His name was Gareth.

Gareth dropped his pack and sat, looking at the open plain. He made a square with his fingers and looked through it at the plain. Whispering to himself, he took out a small book and began to write things in it. He drew furious pictures of towers and walls rising to the sky where they would, someday, scratch the bellies of the clouds.

For weeks, he thought and wrote and walked around the open plain, imagining and planning. Sometimes, he would lie for hours in the grass, watching the clouds that he dreamed one day to touch with his fingers, standing atop a great tower that he built.

Years passed. Gareth would leave for months and then return with many workers and with great machines criss-crossed by ropes and pulleys and levers. Great wagons pulled by teams of sweaty war horses would bring supplies.

Tolkien's own drawing of Minas Tirith
Gareth spoke with engineers and with artists and with those who practiced secret arts which he did not understand but that he knew were necessary if he were one day to touch the bellies of the clouds.

All the while, he worked. He hefted stones with the masons. He hauled planks with the carpenters. He moved earth with the laborers, grunting under shovels and behind plows. When nights came, he would sit with his planners and talk for hours about obstacles and set-backs and he would emerge in the morning with bigger plans.

All would begin again. And the man saw his dream begin to take shape.

After three decades, where there was once an empty plain, there was now a vast, man-made hill atop of which sat a great city, with towers and rich labyrinthine streets full of shops and rich with the smells of cooking meats and with the music of human interaction. Children ran through the legs of shoppers and salesmen. Women and men walked hand-in-hand. Harpers and drummers played. Poets chanted upon boxes and taverns overflowed with people in the throes of merriment and, sometimes, fisticuffs.

The roads in the city wound upward, for the city reached upward, layered and tapering as it rose.

On the highest tower, Gareth, now an old man, stood, looking up at the heavens, leaning upon that same old stick that was his staff since the beginning. A young man came in and called to him:

"Sir...the gatesmen are threatening to leave their posts." The young man was panting from his run.

"Why?" asked the Gareth, still looking upward.

"They say they are tired of the city gates -- that you designed them poorly. They say that when you designed them, you didn't make them open smoothly enough. They say you purposefully chose poorly-wrought and inexpensive hinges because you didn't care about their comfort."

The man sighed and smiled sadly. He reached up his hand and dropped it again to his side. He had long since learned that one can never really touch the clouds. When one gets too close, they simply disappear.

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