Thursday, June 28, 2012

Flash Fiction #12: The God of Small Things

Hello readers, I was gone last week at my brother's wedding in Wisconsin and I was busy yesterday. But I want to get back writing since it is enjoyable and good for me. Hope you like this one. I haven't done much in the parable or fable genre, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

There once was a man of great stature and wealth who was well-liked and successful in his village from his youth to middle age. Being a trader of purple cloth, his business was lucrative and easy for him. He had a beautiful wife and a dozen happy children running and playing in his vast courtyard. The man had many business and political connections, and, since he was such a likable fellow, grew to have significant influence with the powers that be. The King himself gave him an extensive audience when His Majesty was visiting his province, asking him at length what policies would best fit the Kingdom, which, by all regards, was currently experiencing a booming economy and good trade from its neighbors.

By all accounts, the man should have been happy. But he was not. So he set out to find the source of his most perplexing and persistent malaise.

At first, the man went to the village priest who listened intently to the man: "I have success, a beautiful family, a wonderful life, and all the money I could want. But, something seems to be missing. I do not know what it is. Every day I wake and do what is right. I follow all the laws and feel the blessing of my success. However, when I lay down, I feel sad and purposeless. Please help me." The priest came to the conclusion that the gods were telling him to give more to the temple. He said that he should purchase one-hundred, flawless lambs and have them sacrificed at the temple. In addition to that, he told the man that he must give half his wealth to the village, that others may share from his success.

The man did as he was told. He had his servants scour the countryside for the finest, whitest, most blemish-free lambs he could find. After gathering one hundred of them he gave them to the priest who sacrificed them at the temple for the man's behalf. Then, the man made it known that he would divide half his wealth and give an equal share to every family in the village. The day came and all the people lined at the man's door as his scribes divided his wealth equally. The villagers thanked him profusely and spoke of the greatness of the man at all he had done.

Yet, the man still felt sorrow and emptiness.

So, the man sought counsel with the King. The King, who naturally knew well of the man, and, after having heard of his great generosity in his village, was more than happy to grant him another audience. After receiving word that the King welcomed the opportunity to speak with him, the man gathered his servants, and, at much expense, traveled to the royal city to meet the King.

The King was delighted to receive the man and his family and put them up in the best of the castle's quarters for a month. Every night the King and Queen celebrated with the man and his family and dined over the finest tables set with rich wines and sumptuous food. Yet, every evening the man wept.

At long last, the King broached the subject with the man: "My friend, you have done much for your village. Indeed, you have done much for my Kingdom as your purple cloths are known throughout the land. You are loved by your family and village; indeed, by everyone. Why is it you seem so sad, so lonely?"

"My Sovereign, this is my problem. I have success and pleasure, yet I am not happy. I have done as the village priest suggested to purge myself and appease the gods. Thus far, it seems my efforts have been fruitless. So I seek your counsel, my Lord: what shall I do to find happiness?"

The King listened to the man and thought for a long time. Then, he told the man that he knew the solution. The man had not expanded his business to the furthest reaches of the world. The King had the political and trade connections to make this happen. So the King gathered his caravans and commanded them to deliver ten-thousand yards of purple cloth to every corner of the known-world. The caravans gathered yard upon yard of the man's produce and after months of travel, returned to the royal city. There, the King gathered the man and his family to himself to make the high announcement. Hoards of people thronged the courtyards to hear the King's pronouncement.

"It is on this glorious day, on the first of July, that I, the Sovereign Ruler of our great nation, decree that this man's fine purple cloth is known to all the world and that new trade routes have been established to provide wealth not only to my fine subject standing here, but to all who reside in our great country."

The crowds erupted with cheers. Women cried and children laughed with joy at the King's announcement. The King placed a golden, diamond-studded ring on the man's finger and invited him and his family to reside at the Royal village where a new factory was erected in his honor to distribute his cloth to all the corners of the world.

Yet, the man still felt sorrow and emptiness.

One evening, while the man sat alone, weeping in his great palace in the royal city, the man's wife heard him. "What troubles you so, my dear? I do not understand after the gods have so blessed you why you weep?"

"I do not understand it either. I have gone to priests and kings, yet none can give me the answer."

The woman thought for a moment and suggested the man go into far-off desert across several seas and seek the hermit who lives on a tiny island in the center of a salt lake. She had heard that this hermit had great wisdom and could give him the answer he sought.

The man hugged his wife, thanking her, and set to find the hermit the next day.

After months of travel and braving the sea, the man finally came to the salt lake in the desert. In the center of the lake, he saw a tiny island. So the man found a boat and crossed the salt lake and stepped on the sandy shore of the island. In the middle of the island, the man saw a disheveled, tanned creature that was the hermit.

"Hark! Hermit! I have traveled a great distance to seek your wisdom. I have success, a beautiful family, a wonderful life, and all the money I could want. Indeed, my fame has spread to every corner of the world because of my fine, purple cloth. All love me and I have no problems. But, something seems to be missing. I do not know what it is. Every night when I lay down, I feel sad and purposeless. I have sought council from wise priests and even my King, yet none have solved my problem. What will make me happy?"

The hermit, who the man could now see was blind, sat in a lotus position, staring at the sun. He sat this way for several hours. The man, patiently waited. When the sun finally set and the day's heat vanished, the man finally gave up and turned to his boat. But before the man could leave, the Hermit spoke. The man could not hear him, so he ran to him, desperately.

"What? What was that you said? What is the answer to my problem? What will make me happy!?"

The hermit spoke again: "I do not have the answer to your problem."

The man's shoulders slumped.

"But...I do have the answer to your condition. You see, you have been cursed. A demon beset you at birth giving you the worst curse a human can receive. You have everything you desire: wealth, family, fame, and success. But you have these things without struggle, without pain. That, my friend, is what makes you un-human, because to be human you must fail; you must hurt; you must be rejected."

The man stood, in shock. He asked, "What can I do to become human?"

The hermit replied, "How do you feel now?"

The man said, "Like a failure, a reject."

"Then you have begun your journey to void your curse."


Kari said...

This story reminds me of several recent posts about the 'Millenials'--the You're Not Special speech, responses to that speech, talking about the attitudes of that generation, etc. It also reminds me of some parenting things I've read--which I have no reason to read--people learn by failing, basically. The fear of failure is an overwhelming, paralyzing fear. Parents, and other adults, naturally want to fix things or prevent disaster--sometimes that's not the best response.

Kari said...

oh--it also reminds me of the desert mothers & fathers who were seeking union with God--the words of the wise man are different, though--protestant (shakes head) :)