Sunday, August 17, 2014

Parable of the Lantern

In the course of studying story and its component parts- character, thematic armature, bright colors- I found myself quite unexpectedly developing parables. Parables exist solely to convey a theme or moral truth- plot, setting, everything else is minimized so it doesn't distract from the point of the story. Characters exist only to the degree they're needed to dramatize the theme. Some schools of thought hold that this is the ultimate embodiment of story, it's highest and purest form. If you grant that stories exist only to convey thematic truth, then they'd be right. I tend to think otherwise, but exploring this model still proved enlightening. And productive- I wound up discovering a few parables of my own. And that's really how it felt with these- not like writing, but like finding. Once discovered, it seemed only appropriate to transcribe them- and why not, share them. So here's my first- the Parable of the Lantern.

Parable of the Lantern

There were once two men seeking wisdom under the tutelage of an ancient master.  He  brought them into a dark room.  In the center were two metal lamps, each containing a flickering flame.

"Grip your lamp by the base, endure the heat, and gaze into the flame," instructed the master.  "If your faith wavers and you look away, or your strength fails and you let go, even for an instant, you will be lost.  You will never be wise.  But gaze at the flame and, if you prevail, you will know truth."

And the master left them.

The two men gripped their lamps, and gazed into the light.   Soon the lamps grew hot from the fire within, and began to burn their hands.

One man let go and stood up.  "Aha!" cried the faithful man, as he continued to grip his lantern.  "You have shown yourself too weak to become wise."

"Who is wise, the one who holds fire, or the one who lets go?"

The faithless man's eyes adjusted to the dark, and he saw that he was in a library, filled with books.  He took his lantern by the handle, and began reading them by it's light.  "There are books here!" he said.

The kneeling man became furious.  "You have damned yourself to ignorance, don't tempt me to join you!  I hold the truth in my hands.  I find myself growing wiser already- a feeling you will never comprehend."

The standing man read all that he could, and then went into the next room.  There waited the master.

"Master, why did you tell us to be blinded by the lanterns when truth was elsewhere?"

The Master looked at his pupil.  "Because, wise as I am, I know that if I tell a man the truth, all he may do is believe it.  And truth lies not in believing, but in seeking."

"But Master, he is harming himself by gripping the lamp."

"A true believer is willing to inflict great harm- our friend, at least, will harm only himself, until he finds his common sense."

So go and seek the truth;  And do so first by releasing belief.

1 comment:

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