Brightness Springs

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Brightness Springs (c) 2000 Mark Butterworth

My name is Pete Smith. I'm a botanist.
I'm one of four on the space ark, Noah.
We are two thousand people from the Earth
exploring all the nearest solar systems.
Our ship is an asteroid, hollowed out.
Relatively, it takes two weeks for us
to go a light year. That is, here we age
a mere two weeks in time compared to those
we left on Earth when traveling at peak speed.

We are an Ark, and carry plants by tens
of thousands; and insects and animals
of Earth. It's simply stored as DNA.
We carry all the knowledge of the world
and history in data banks. We are
two thousand chosen specialists in fields
pertaining to our mission: find a world
we can inhabit; then try to do so.

Thus far, we've been to seven suns and not
found one of promise. Until now. Indeed,
we've found a place we think is Earth-like now.
It's blue oceaned, white clouded, brown and green
in continents: the size of Earth; rotates
the same in nearly twenty-four hours;
a year is close to a year.

No one wants
to say out loud all that we hope within:
after all, what chance is it that this could be
another home to Man? I think we know
we'll never find another Earth. We're meant
to seek and learn, increase what's known of Space;
but really, find a world where we can live?
We'd need a thousand lifetimes, possibly.
Yet, from afar, this world we're nearing looks
enticing; lending hope young, foolish wings.

I didn't know what to call the new people.
Strangers is a very odd word to me.
My father and the other adults said
that Sleepers fit them best; and so that's what
we say when speaking of them. They've not yet
arrived at Brightness but they will come soon.
They travel slowly in the oddest way.
I'm looking forward to them. Everyone is.
My father said we need to name ourselves
like them in their own language. I chose Bill.
Bill Maple. My father chose, Michael Pine;
and my mother picked, Sarah Plum. Father said
our language and names are too difficult
for Sleepers to learn or speak. It's gracious
to make them welcome and at peace as home.

We've been here at this world we call Earth Two
for two months. I don't know how to describe
our utter disbelief, incredulous hope,
and stunned amazement. Thus far we have found
a world not merely Earth-like but exactly
Earth-like: atmosphere, water, animals
and plants. Our telescopes, for example,
on one major continent reveal flora
and fauna the same as North America.
Passenger pigeons, extinct on Earth, appear
on that land. Bison by the millions, cranes
by the hundreds of thousands; great forests, bayous,
rivers, and mountains, plains and lakes appear.
We've mapped the globe entirely and found
no people (that we would recognize, at least).
The thought of finding people, humans, would make
us think we're all insane, I'm sure. We've not
gone mad thus far because we've had two months
of getting used to what's impossible.

This week we're sending crews down to Earth Two
to test the microbes of this world. That is,
to see if we may safe and freely walk
upon the ground, to breathe and drink and eat.
My bet is on the unbelievable.
If I (or anyone) had thought that life
was strange, the universe has proven stranger.

I'm not on any crew that's set to land,
but everyone is eager for the chance.
It's hard to stay calm when each discovery
reveals what I have said - a world like Earth!
Do we feel lucky? Oh, yes, very lucky!

The Sleepers live the oddest way inside
a hollow ball of rock. Devices, machines,
and engines of all kinds surround them. They
are not like us. "Emotional," my father said.
"Excitable like mice," my friend Tim Grass said.
They've hung in space for two months now and send
all sorts of things to land on earth and water.
But now they're going to visit themselves. We
make guesses where but my father said it
will be near by. I wonder what they'll think
of us? We look the same but aren't the same.

We've landed a quarantine habitat
on the continent I described before.
It's near the coast on the west among hills.
From what I've seen, it's lovely country: wooded
with many streams, meadows, fertile valleys.
I'm reminded of western Massachusetts
or western Pennsylvania - gentle country.
The crew is testing all they find of plants
and insects, water, soil, and animals.
The DNA of all the living things
we've checked is near identical to Earth's.
By all the laws of probability,
this isn't possible except it is.

In a way, for me, it is a letdown.
Did I come so far, exchange all these years
out of sync with those I love on Earth
to study botany I already know?
Yet, in these three weeks of testing, we've found
no evidence of disease of any kind
in plants, insects, fish, birds or mammals.
Rather than our fear of catching disease
we've never seen nor can defend against,
we worry we might cause disease instead.

The Sleepers landed a large vehicle
that's many houses big not far from town.
Fifteen men and women live in that home
of theirs. When they come out of it, they're dressed
in suits that cover them all up. They look
for all sorts of things, plants and animals,
and put them in devices. They kill animals
just to do this. I know why they do it.
They are afraid something might hurt them.
I could tell them that nothing will hurt them
except it isn't time to speak with them yet.
It's interesting to watch them, though. One day
I heard two speaking in the strangest tones.
My father said it was an argument
I'd heard when I described it to him.
I'd never heard an argument before.
The Sleepers speak, act, talk, look, and think
differently from us. I don't understand it.
How can we be similar yet totally
different? I am curious about this.

Dan Peterson, a biologist, went
a little crazy yesterday. He was
one of the landing crew. After six weeks
of testing, he got cabin fever. Since
we'd say the season was late Spring, he found
inclosure more than he could bear. While at
a lake collecting samples, he undressed
and took a swim. He caught a fish, a trout,
made a fire and ate it. The crew chief cursed
him out, of course, when he found him, but what
is there to do? Our protocols are ruined.
Dan's quarantined from the habitat
but free as he pleases to do as he likes.
All we can hope is that nothing infects him
nor he infect anything. He only did
what all of us would like: to taste this world;
to feel the sun, and walk in the wind; to smell
the earth and trees. The nearness of such peace,
such lovely, earthly life and beauty - well,
who doesn't want what Dan wanted? We have
one protocol remaining - that those landed
on Earth Two can't return to Noah. Who
will stay aboard ship to return to Earth One, though?
Perhaps the Captain and his officers,
for I've no wish to miss exploring here.

One man went on his own and threw away
his special suit. He swam in Golden Lake
and ate a fish he caught. He seemed happy
until another came, making ugly noise
at him. They spoke loudly at each other.
I hope Dan (his name is Dan) will be glad
again. The weather is warm. It's good to be
outside. Perhaps the others will join Dan, too.

After Dan, other members of the crew
became as reckless and threw off their suits.
Patty Meyers was second, then Tom Wright,
then Sam Wiseman, then Alberta Desmond
and so on until the only one left
was crew chief Dave Bingle. Then he gave in
when he realized he was marooned there since
no one is allowed back to the Noah.

Over the course of those two weeks or so,
we had a lot of meetings up here. What
to do? Send more people? Collect more data?
Return to Earth? It was decided that
we send more people down to stay there; those
who won't mind remaining there despite
the fact they can't return to Noah nor
to Earth.

I volunteered. Three hundred others
did, too. We began to ferry us down.
It took a week to land us all, but here
we are - a village of our own on Earth Two.
After so much time, captivity really,
aboard that sterile asteroid, well, who
can say how glad we are to walk this world?
It is sweet to breathe this air, scented as
it is with pine and wildflowers. Bees buzz
in the meadows; spiders cast webs in tall grass;
and chipmunks chatter in the woods. Birds sing.
It is miraculous. I have the oddest
feeling that this world is sacred because
it's pure, unspoiled like paradise. Do we
belong or are we trespassing in Eden,
I wonder? All that we brought, our equipment
and gear looks out of place - noisy, ugly,
and stupid. And we look like that, too.
We're loud, too busy, too talkative.
The peace that surrounds us should shame us into -
I don't know - something peaceful, too, it seems
to me.

On my cot alone at night, sometimes
I sadly wonder if we're going to turn
Earth Two into Earth One. See how stupid
we are! Earth Two? What kind of name is that?
Only idiots like us would name it so.
Who else will come here if it proves as safe
as it now seems? Will they send thousands more
or millions if they can colonize
this place? The thought makes me shudder. And yet,
how sweet it is to be here. It's perfect.

My father said we'll go visit the Sleepers
tomorrow. We'll invite them to stay
in our homes and talk to them if they wish.
We'll show them how we live. They'll be surprised,
I think, to meet us, but very happy, too.

Early this morning, many of us gathered
near the Sleepers' camp. Twenty were chosen
to approach. My father said a small group
would make them more at ease. He, my mother,
and I were of the party. My friends, Tim Grass,
Joe Lilac and their parents were also picked.
As we walked toward the Sleepers' camp, I felt
the same delight as opening a gift,
a gift unknown but sure to be amazing.

Approaching quietly, we saw a few
awake who didn't notice us until
we were already in their midst. "Hello,"
my father said, and "good morning."

The man
he spoke to stared at us. Others saw us,
came over and stared, looked at each other,
and shook their heads. A few ran off and woke
up others who came groggily upon us
until they saw us and became alert.
Soon they all stood around us talking, pointing,
or waiting.

All of us continued smiling
at everyone. "Hello," my father said

"You speak our language?" someone asked.
"Who are you?" someone else said. "Are they human?"
another asked a neighbor.

"Yes, we speak
your language, and we are human beings
made by God just as you, " my father said.

The crowd seemed awed then burst in discussion
among themselves. Questions were quickly asked
like - "where'd you come from?" "How'd you get here?"
"What are you doing here?" "How do you know
our speech?" "What is this place?" "Do you know us?"
We had no time to answer anything
until the noise diminished a little.

"Welcome to Brightness," my father told them.
"The name of this world is Brightness. We came
to invite you to stay with us during
your visit. Our town is not far, a walk
that takes about two hours. Please, come eat
with us and stay and ask your questions."

They weren't afraid of us. Why should they be?
We can't hurt anyone or anything.
After much hesitation and discussion,
they decided to go to Brightness Springs,
our town, with us. We met up with our friends
and every family paired up with a guest
to walk to town with and invite home.
Our guest's name is Pete Smith, a botanist.

The various writers and journalists
among us have chronicled that first day
better than I could ever describe
the weirdness of it all. I was in a daze
for, well, a number of days like a dream;
a very, weird dream.

How can I relate
the insensibility of it all?
Was I even rational at the time?
I walked, talked, ate, slept, observed, and wondered;
and yet, it was all in a daze, a dream,
a mindless drift of impressions, of doubts,
and inner confusion.

Perhaps, the problem
is the people of Brightness. The Bright people,
I call them. They are unlike any people
I've ever known. The shock of having people
turn up on this strange world is made stranger
because the Bright people aren't normal people.
They look like us but they are all beautiful -
luminously beautiful - perfect, young,
flawless, and lovely. Our best looking look
coarse beside them. Their voices are delightful
as their very speech is always gracious.
They always smile, never frown, never fear,
nor ever conflict. To hear them sing
is to feel the back of your head tingle
with the sensation of awe, wonder, and thrill.

I hardly remember what we talked about
in those first few days. Their presence alone
unnerved me, making me witless and dumb,
like a child suddenly alone with strangers.
Yet, I never felt as welcome, at peace,
and at home. Michael, Sarah, and Billy
made me feel like a member of their family.
It's only when I get away and talk
with others from the Noah that I start
to question what is going on.

For instance,
why hadn't our mapping telescoped seen
their town, their homesteads and farms? They use no
machines or electricity and yet,
have goods, materials, tools, and items
that speak of civilization and industry;
but there aren't more than five thousand people
who live here they say.

They hardly work at all.
Michael has a small farm, and apart from
some chores - milking a cow, collecting eggs,
and some other work, he doesn't do much else.
They live the easiest, most carefree lives
yet want for nothing of delicacies
or luxury. Who makes their jewelry,
their gorgeous textiles, their art, furniture,
and tools? Nothing is apparently made
by them except some food and buildings, perhaps.
That first day when we walked to Brightness Springs,
their little town, I asked Michael where
they came from or how they came here or how
'here' and they ever came to be?

"It's God,"
Michael said. "God has done all this for us."
And at the moment, I believed him. It
made sense to me at the time. Now, I wonder,
what does he mean by God? God who? I ask.
Or rather, what God?

To be in their presence
is to be changed into something childlike;
but to be away from them is to be
more rational and skeptical again.

That day we first walked to town with Pete Smith,
I asked him how he liked Brightness thus far.
He said he liked it fine, but he did not
seem fine. My father said that Pete and all
the rest were confused, but how am I
to understand confusion? I don't know
what that means. I do not perceive it in
myself or others except at times when
I cannot find the words I need to speak
exactly as I mean; and so confusion
is hesitation, I think.

we led Pete and the rest to town. We walked
and sang some songs in our language which soothed
the Sleepers. They enjoyed it, too, when birds,
pretty and colorful, flew up to us
and perched on shoulders, arms, or hands, and joined
their notes to ours. That's always fun to me.

Our path led through lovely glades and deep woods,
past shining, silver pools, and mossy streams;
then nearer town we passed through fields of grain,
fresh sown and newly rising, and orchards
of fruit. We came upon our horses, dogs,
sheep, cattle, ducks, and chickens. Finally,
we came to Brightness Springs, our lovely town.
It is divided by Willow Creek which
has many small bridges over it.

The creek
starts from large springs not far from town which pour
out of the base of a rocky hill.

the bridges of our town are wonderfully made.
My friends and I have often sat and dangled
our feet in the water while studying
designs and patterns carved, inlaid, painted,
or wrought on the materials.

Pete got
to see our town Green, the outdoor theater,
the taverns, inns, cafes, the shops, and markets.
I love our town. There is no end of things
to contemplate in it - the architecture,
the art, the colors and wonders, the trifles
and delights, the goods and foods that draw the nose,
the friends we have, and all the wares they've made.

We brought Pete and the rest to the town Green
where tables were set up under the oaks.
We had all sorts of food and served our guests
a lunch. Some sang, danced, played music to please
the visitors which impressed them, I thought.
They looked delighted, smiled, and commented
to each other. Some said they'd never seen
or heard anything quite like it.

we walked Pete to our home, gave him a room,
and showed him 'round our farm. We have a stream
that runs not far behind our house, and there's
a hot spring that flows from the bank. Pete met
our animals - the dogs and cats, the horses
and cattle, but said little. In the evening,
we played music for him that he enjoyed.
He seems very content with us - at ease
and full of wonder. It is pleasing that
he's here. I like him very much. I'm glad
he came with us. I'm glad they came to Brightness.

Michael told me that there are five thousand
who live on Brightness in and around town.
I believe it but that's not possible.
The town and shops are filled with goods of great
abundance, variety, workmanship,
and fruitfulness. And everything is free.
Free to take and freely given.

One day
I saw an objet d'art in Michael's house.
It was an egg of jade, eggshell thin,
and filigreed with tiny lines of gold
that made a marvelous pattern. Inside
that egg, another egg of malachite,
again as thin and filigreed in silver.
Within that egg were two more eggs -
one of amethyst and platinum, the next
of rose alabaster and electrum.
Inside of that was an egg shaped diamond
as big as a large knuckle or so.

saw that I enjoyed and admired it.
He said it was a gift to him when he
was small, and then he said I must have it.
I started to object. It's worth I saw
was great, enormous really, but I saw
his face and smile and knew he wanted me
to have it: that he valued it a gift
worth giving, not keeping. So I took it
and felt glad to have it, not guilty.

These people, Michael, Sarah, and Billy,
are the most extraordinary I've met
in life. They are calm, gracious, genial,
and tender hearted - to each other and
to all others. Everything is peace
with them. Nothing alters their character
and poise. Their affection as a family
for each other is omnipresent yet
never cloying or forced.

To be with them,
in their presence, is to be in love with them.
Sarah is the most beautiful woman
I ever saw and unlike any woman
I ever saw. Yet, she's the fulfillment
of every woman I ever saw. She
epitomizes youth, yet has a weight
behind her smile and looks, her words and thoughts -
a weight of wisdom without strain. She is
compliant like a loving servant, yet
entirely herself. She is all softness,
warmth, and grace - perfect in every way.
Her selflessness astonishes me. I
could study her motions and expressions
a thousand years and never tire of
her goodness - her perfect goodness.

She blends
within herself ideal femininity
I can't define but surely recognize.

The first night after dinner at their house,
they made music for me. Michael played cello,
Sarah - viola, and Billy - violin.
Their instruments did not resemble ours
exactly but were nearly similar
in tone. Except I never heard such tones.
It filled the air and made me strange by how
enchanting it was. They might have played
an hour or more but time stood still
except for the rhythm of the notes.
Only later did I realize they played
exceptionally intricate music
and never made an error nor used a score.

I said it was enchanting, yes, but more,
much more than that. I swear I was transported
from where I sat. The music played on my
imagination more vividly than
I'd ever known. I found myself upon
a promontory of another world -
a sky of lavender and orange clouds;
of two full moons so close they seemed but armlengths
away from me, and apart from each other.
I saw a purple and pacific sea.
And then I was upon a beach, barefoot
on pebbly sand. The water lapped my feet.
I looked into the clear shallows and saw
a multitude of small creatures in colors
luminous, electric, and bright. They swam
in patterns marvelous and riddling.

I stood upon a moon and saw the world
and the other moon. I saw effects of light
and shadows, clouds and colors too immense
to name or illustrate. Wonderful sights
deluged my thoughts and senses. Not a dream
and yet as real. And when it ended,
I knew myself to be where I sat.
It seemed as if I heard music that night
that more than pleased but also informed.
I mean that word intensely - informed to mean
a forming within of something as real
as life.

I remember talking later
to Patty Meyers about the music,
and she said watching them dance together
affected her as being indrawn into
an image or images of seasons
processing in which she also was moving.

It was around the time (I guess) after
the first four or five days when all our people
from Noah transported down to Brightness.
They too stayed as guests of the Bright people.
The strange thing is they don't recall using
the shuttles or when they decided to come.

Pete doesn't ask as many questions as
I thought he would. On the third day with us,
I took him horseback riding through the country.
He said he never rode a horse before
and that their size had scared him as a child.
But once on Redbeard's back, he had no fear.

I asked him questions while we rode. He said
his home was called Earth, a planet like this
except it had many people: "Billions,"
he told me; and guessed I couldn't imagine
so many. He told me about cities, roads,
trains, planes, cars, houses, buildings, and countries.
He spoke of science, laws and government,
religion and morality, history
and wars, physics and ecology.

I told him that I knew about roads
and buildings but nothing of the rest.
"A city must be a big town, " I said.
He spoke of biology, botany,
medicine, and genetics. I didn't know
at all about those things.

I asked about
music, art, dance, and architecture.
He knew little about those things, he said.
He told me why he had come to Brightness -
exploring worlds to find another place
for people to live.

"They are welcome here,"
I said.

He laughed gently and shook his head.
"No, you wouldn't want that," he said.

"Why not?"
I asked.

"We'd spoil it here. We aren't good people."
"You're a good man, Pete. I know it, " I said.
He laughed a little and said, "You're too kind.
You hardly know me or any of us.
We rarely get along with each other
as well as you seem to here."

"Why is that?"
I asked.

"That's hard to say. We don't, I guess,
because we rarely have the same beliefs,
desires, or understanding. What makes
your people good, Billy?"

"God," I answered.

"God? What do you mean?"

"Mean? God is God.
I can't mean more or less than that. Because
He is, I am."

"He? As in male opposed
to female?"

"Not opposed but Father of
us all and all things. Do you not know Him?"
"No, not at all."

"Then you are here to learn
and know him, I'm sure," I told Pete.

He smiled
and said, "Who knows? You may be right."

One night after having ridden a horse
with Billy around the countryside,
I lay in bed and thought about the things
we'd talked of that day. I'd spoken of Earth
and what it's like. He asked me why I thought
that we weren't good people very often.
What could I say to him, a boy, about
my people, how we live like strangers there.

I fell asleep but awoke suddenly
when thunder cracked neared the house. Billy came
into the room. "Pete, wake up! It's a storm!"
I put on pants and shirt and he led me
into his parent's room. Michael and Sarah
lie in their bed awake. Above the bed
a large skylight was built into the ceiling,
and across from the foot of the bed
were doors of glass, opened to the night.
Billy pulled me down next to him to lie
on the bed and watch the lightning storm.
We all watched the brilliant, jagged strokes of light
and stood the thunder's shock upon the house.
Wind blew into the room and rain pelted
the skylight and balcony.

of course, the storm moved on. As it faded
I drowsed then fell asleep.

When I awoke
it was the morning. I marveled to see
us all together in bed with Billy
against me with his arm thrown on my chest.
It's hard for me to recall a moment
as sweet to me as then in that warm bed.
I must remember times like that when with
my mother or with a girlfriend, and yet
they do not come to mind as wonderfully
as with these people - these friends.

Can I say
such word as that- friends? I had no right, then,
to call these people friends. I felt it, though,
and felt it more strongly than possible
for me, I thought.

Love is romantic - so
I thought before; friends are people who have
the same ideas or interests; but this place
has changed the rules somehow. It's subtle but -
sublime. Yes, I must use that word. I know
it makes it seem a joke - words like profound
or sublime, but that's what I'm reduced to.
It must be possible to live like this
since people, these people live lovely lives.
I wonder what the others think of this,
my real, so called friends from our Noah's ark?

Pete told me that he likes our animals.
They seem more peaceful and obedient
to him than cats, dogs, cows, horses, or birds
of Earth. I suggested it is because
we love the same God of grace and light.
Our animals and we are content with
each other. They serve us with joy, and we
enjoy their trust and delight.

But I can't
explain to Pete how they can also be
our food as well as our friends. He says
he couldn't eat a friend. Our animals
are glad to die for us, though. They go back
to God in grace and joy with their good deaths.
It is no loss to them to die but sweetness.
They love to live for us and die for us.
And in the wilderness, they're killed and kill
but that is still God's plan for them. It's only
the old ones that die or are killed. I guess
if Pete can't see it through God's eyes, he won't
be able to perceive how it is perfect.

Michael disappears for a few hours
each day. I don't see him leave or return.
He says he goes elsewhere to work. He is
a joiner, a woodworker. All the house
and furniture were made by him. It is
superb, of course, as everything they do
or have is marvelous and lovely. Sarah
is a weaver. All their rugs are hers,
and she makes tapestries, blankets, towels,
and cloth of all kinds. She gives almost all
that she creates to friends; same as Michael.

I asked if this was bartering instead
of money. She looked at me quizzically.
I said - trading her stuff for their stuff
like food or tools or, well, anything needed?
She smiled brightly and said, no, they don't trade;
but rather they enjoy giving. She does
take work to market, though, that others may
see much of what there is to choose from her
and others of her craft.

The boy, Billy,
says that he will become a musician
and composer. He plays five instruments now,
and he, too, disappears sometimes for hours
to study with a teacher, he says. I
have never heard him make a mistake
on any instrument I've seen him play.

Their music is such that I think I'd hear
it if he did something in error or
an accident. I asked him how it is
he makes no mistakes. He said he didn't
understand the question. I showed him what
I meant. He smiled. "My teacher shows me how
to play correctly. Once I know the way,
how can I not recall it when I need to?"
"Doesn't your attention wander?" I asked.
"Never," he said.

That amazed me, but when
I met a group of my people in town
the next day at a tavern ( with a beer
that was the best I ever tasted), well,
it struck me then that what Billy said was odd
and uncanny.

"That's nothin'," Sam Wiseman
chipped in. "Any of you been back to see
the habitat lately?"

We all said - no.
"Well, don't bother because it's gone."


"Oh, yes it is. Gone like it never was.
Just try to find the same spot where it was.
It's not easy 'cause there's no trace of it."

We didn't take his word for it but left
to see ourselves. Sam was right. It's all gone.

Sam said he asked his host, Robert Cedar,
Wendy Apple, and Joe Lilac, their boy.
"Robert said our stuff didn't belong there
and so they put it back on board the Noah
for us. 'How?' I said. 'The power of prayer,'
he told me. 'How's that? What prayer?' I asked him.
'Don't worry, Sam. You'll see.' That's what he said.
What's crazy, though, is that I believe him.
I trust him better than a brother. Does that
make any sense to you?"

I had to laugh.
All the sense in the world. This world, at least.

There are so many things I want to show, Pete,
on Brightness: places of the rarest beauty
or spectacles of mountains, canyons, lakes
and coastlines; islands, volcanoes, and ice.
Except I can't. It takes too long to travel
the way we'd have to. Soon, my father says,
he'll let me take Pete on a tour. But I
still take him 'round this area and show
him all our favorite places close to town.

Michael took me on a brief camping trip.
We went on horseback to the coast. He brought
me to a river canyon with a warm stream
we followed to an ocean beach. We camped
out of the wind and had a fire. The night
was clear and it felt good to see the stars
this way. The sound of surf and wind was soothing.

I asked Michael to tell me about his language.
Why did he say it was too difficult
for us to speak or learn?

By way of reply,
he spoke to me briefly in it. I can't
describe the sound of it - only the feeling
it made which was dreamy and delicious.
The feeling hung on me quite awhile before
I remembered to ask him what he said.
"I said, approximately, 'you're God's child,
his delightful beloved, and our friend.'
In your language," he continued, "you have
a vast multitude of negative words
but few superlatives and positives.
With us, it is reversed. We have, I guess,
some thousands of words relating to things like:
wonder, joy, delight, amazement, peace, and awe.
Grace alone has dozens of degrees of its
effect. But what is more is that our speech
evokes in sound what it means in symbol.
That's hard to explain in your tongue except
I gave you an example which had effect
on you. You were silent about an hour
or so before you spoke again."

"That long?"
I asked. I'd thought it was a quarter of that.
I wanted to ask him about Brightness
and his people - the how and why of here
and them - but the thought departed and so
I asked instead, "Tell me about love."
"It is the most beautiful thing of all -
the reason we exist. It is what God
is in himself: absolute love and being."
"Perhaps," I said, "but I mean what makes you
and your family, well, so lovely? Why
are you content? Aren't you ever upset,
afraid, uncertain?"


"How can that be?"
"We know God. We are awake to his glory.
God is real, Pete. More real than the air
you breathe, closer to you than the thoughts in
your mind, and more tender than an infant.
If you will know God, you will know everything."

"We don't believe in God like that, " I said.
"I know," he smiled, "but you will."

I left it
at that. We returned to his place the next day.

My father said that I can tour with Pete
tomorrow. What a delight that will be!

The morning after our trip to the coast,
Michael, Sarah, and Billy came to me.
We sat in the living room and Michael spoke,
"It's time to answer questions you have had
since coming here. Your patience has been graceful."
"Thank you," I said and was touched by his words
except I didn't think such patience had
been all my own somehow, but the strange air
of Brightness and these people.

"Things aren't what
they seem, " he said continuing. "We've not
revealed so much of how we live and who
we are. It's time to show you more of what
it means to be a child of God and rich
in prayer. If you don't mind, Bill will guide you
on a tour to many places which explain
more than our words can do. Are you ready?"

"That's fine. What will I need to take with me?"
I asked.

"Nothing. Bill will begin this moment."

I wondered what he meant, but then I found
myself within a kind of rainbow canyon
of colored rock walls. A place amazing
in shapes eroded, colors bleeding
and sights majestic. Billy stood by me.
"Is this a dream," I asked. "How did we get here?"
"Prayer has no limit," he said. "God moved us
from there to here."

"No, that's crazy," I said.
"Is it really? It's natural to me.
This is a favorite place of mine. It's on
a southern continent of Brightness.
Isn't it beautiful?"

"It's amazing,"
I said, "but unbelievable."

"Let's walk
awhile, then," he suggested.

We explored
the canyon floor sometime before I stood
on the top of a canyon wall. I felt
nothing whatever of being moved from
one place to another. No dizziness
or anything. I was a little frightened, though,
to find myself, my life, at the mercy
of a boy. Yet, I know now grace had hold
of me and kept me calm despite the things
I feared.

We moved from place to place around
the canyon lands. I became used to how
we traveled and more trusting in my guide.

Then suddenly, we were standing amongst
a ring of weird volcanoes which erupted,
spat lava, and rumbled all around us.
It must have been fiercely hot where we were.
I never felt the least discomfort, though.
Billy said we were still on Brightness.
That word 'still' gave me pause.

He took
me on a tour, indeed, to spectacles
of ice, of waterfalls, of mountains, and plains.

And then we stood on a promontory
and I gazed upon a lavender sky
with orange clouds before a purple sea.
Two huge full moons filled the sky.

"I know this!"
I cried out.

Billy nodded and said, "Yes,
I knew you would."

"This is another world,"
I said. "How is it possible?" I started
to say but shook my head instead.

"Look back,"
Billy told me.

I turned around and saw
a lush valley below us. There I saw
a city. A wondrous city of glass,
of red colored glass; no - tiles, I realized
once we were there inside it. And people
of many colors and shades, all beautiful.
We wandered until Billy took me to
his father's shop. Michael was there already
working on a table. He greeted me
and Sarah came in with a tray of tea
and pleasant snacks.

I could think of nothing
to say. I did not feel senseless or stunned
exactly, but rather tired and sad.
Yes, sad because I knew that this was all
beyond me. It was a dream 'though I knew
that it was real. Indeed, too real for pleasure.
Something more real than I had ever known
took hold of me that day; and all my life,
or what I thought of as real life was shattered.
These people of Brightness were truly alien -
not human at all, I now knew certainly.
I might have feared that case before, but now
I knew. We knew, for all of us received
a tour that day.

The tea and food refreshed
me, though; and Sarah's presence gave me comfort.
Her warmth and tenderness, concern and grace
restored my spirits gradually.

"My son
has more for you to see if you would like.
Not too much more. Enough to explain much
that you want answered, though," Michael told me.

I nodded and then stood with Billy on
a nearly molten, barren planet. I
saw figures near hot pools. Hot pools of metal,
I learned. They came to work the metals, forge
and fabricate all sorts of things on this world
of searing heat and toxic atmosphere.

We went to planets of methane ice or
of giants of gas. I stood on satellites
of rock in vacuum, and world upon world
of earthlike or unearthlike nature
and beauty. I saw people everywhere
throughout this universe engaged in tasks
or leisure, in unique cities, towns, and homes.
Billions of people, I guessed. Trillions,
Billy said. All human like Earth or rather
like Brightness. Worlds with names like Brilliant,
Gorgeous, Lovely, Lucent - or at least, that's
the way they translate to our language.

saw endless agriculture, foods and fruits,
animals and species beyond measure
unique and alien to Earth.

diversity - Earth a hundred times over,
a hundred times different. All I saw was
a fraction of what there was yet to know.
A universe peopled with endless life
and living things. Trillions of human beings,
all like the Bright people, completely free
to move from star to star by simple prayer -
a thought, a wish. Protected from elements
of heat, cold, vacuum, water, or poison:
invulnerable to any suffering
of mortal flesh.

And then we were returned
to Billy's living room at Brightness Springs.
And mercifully, sleep stole over me.

Pete was amazed to find the universe
was populated by so many people.
People like us who pray with power.
He thought that prayer was something weak, a wish
that went nowhere, but soothed a troubled mind.
I had to smile. I've never known such things
as trouble in my mind. With God, all things
unfold in joy, surprise, and freshness. What
I could not do yesterday, I do today.
It goes on and on like that, my father says;
or rather, God delights to give us more
of him. And he is our greatest pleasure.
I hope that Pete will understand the way
that God makes all things one, and yet we all
are free and different and singular, too.

After I woke up, I had some breakfast
with Sarah and Billy, which made me angry
in a stupid way. "Why do you even eat?"
I asked. "You're not like me. You don't need food
to live. Why bother with it at all?"

Sarah smiled.
"Sharing food, eating together - what could be
more human?" she said. "Our differences
are not of kind but quality," she added.

"All right," I said. "This prayer you do, can I
learn it?"

"Yes," she said.

"How?" I asked.

"God will
instruct you. He is the teacher."

I don't know God, " I said.

"Then that is where
you'll have to start. Pray to know God," she told me.
"Just like that?" I said.

"Just like that," she replied.
I spent the day in thought. I walked about,
went into town and saw some others, too;
but we had little to say to each other.
They were as pre-occupied as I was
in thought.

What I thought about was God. Who
is God? I wondered. What kind of God is God?
He never seemed as real to me as plants
or rocks, creatures or people; yet I see
that plants, rocks, animals, people, time, space,
and worlds are hardly real themselves. They can
be made to fall away from sense, and people can
do anything at all with thoughts - or prayer,
they say.

Who are these people? Why is there
an 'us' and a 'them'? Why aren't we like them?
They say they are like us, but is that true?
Are they some form of us evolved through time?
Are we but monkeys to their sapience,
their thinking? I feel that stupid, in fact.

Frankly, I think I resent them all. Well,
when I'm not with them, I do. I can't dislike
them the least when present with any one
of them. They give me peace and joy, otherwise.
But when alone, I want what they have,
their power. Except I want it from greed.
I was happy enough before. My life
had purpose, a great mission - now, it's all
absurd and irrelevant. Explore?
Explore what, now? What's left to do or know?
At last, there's only God to consider.
These Bright people, they own the universe.
Me and the others, we're mortal specks of dust.

I know they haven't said they are immortal,
but it's obvious they are. And I have
many questions still, but I can see now
that answers are apparent with some thought.
Their existence and lives make perfect sense.
It's my being and our lives that don't, I think.

If Pete could only understand; if all
the Sleepers could stand under the love
that God rains on us silently all hours,
all days we live which is forever. If
they knew they would not be troubled in mind,
but seeing is believing. Let them see.

When I returned to the house, it was time
to eat; and for my part, I became hungry
when I smelled the rich aroma of food
and spices soaking the air as they cooked.
Billy was making music on a keyboard
while Michael and Sarah prepared the meal.
I sat and let the notes seduce my thoughts
as I wandered imaginatively
through the same warm fields and woods that I'd walked
that day. This time I saw things vividly
in contrast to my duller view of things
when I ignored surroundings in my passing.

Instead, I noticed how sunlight fell on
a single leaf in a deep shade. How bright
the lime green shone out of the darkness;
how ripe the color burst upon my sense
proclaiming something vital and alive,
pure and simple, naive and true.

And then
a red ladybug alit and crawled on
the leaf and something further unfolded
in me about life. An oriole flew
across the shaft of light and orange pulsed
bright a second leaving sparkling dust motes
sifting in air as specks of gold. How rich
is life! I wanted to cry out. How beautiful!
I wanted to proclaim, and my heart, my soul
rose up in gratitude and happiness.

The music ended because the meal was ready.
We gathered in our places at the table
in pleasant silence. I still felt a sense
of awe and peace in me while sitting there.
Then Michael broke bread and passed some to me.
In glancing at his hand, it seemed different.
I looked up to his face and that seemed not
the same, either. He smiled warmly at me.
He was the same and yet, I felt ashamed
of who I was. I wanted to shrink back
as if the bread he offered was too much,
too kind, too generous to one like me -
a man unworthy to be called a man -
a selfish man unlike this tender man
who pressed the bread upon me even though
I could hardly accept it as I was.
And then Sarah poured me a glass of wine.
She seemed to shimmer in a way as odd
as Michael had, as if I saw a face
beneath her face - a face of human light
that shone in splendid empathy and love.

I meant to stop her by saying - "no, this is
too good for me. I don't deserve it."

then came and served broiled fish on my plate.
His face seemed transformed, too. I thought I knew
of a sudden who stood in his place there -
a man, a definite man I'd thought was dead;
but no - I saw he was more alive than life,
more real than rocks or water, earth or flesh.
I knew him and I felt like a single leaf
in deep darkness with a beam of light thrown
at once upon it. I turned towards him.
It was Billy and it was not and he smiled.
I melted in knowing I was not alone.
No more alone than Michael was from Sarah
and Billy or they from him. No more alone
from them either, for all I knew was welcome
and homecoming in their presence.

I swear,
as stupid as it sounds, I saw the face
of God in each of them. Truly, I say.
How else could I know as I then knew? Feel
as I then felt? And see as I then saw?
I'd wondered who God was and here he was!

I ate, I tasted, I looked, and all I saw
and knew was vibrant and richer in texture.
All things seemed utterly new, vividly
infused with light as if risen from sleep!

I knew where I was and it was all real.
More real than anything else; and yet I
was just as real, a complete person through
each atom, cell, muscle, heart, soul, and mind
of me.

I don't know how to explain how
a man can feel one with another, yet lose
nothing of his own being but losing
everything of his selfishness and dread.

At the table, I felt as though cast back
two thousand years or more as we shared food
in pure enjoyment. I felt a bond
with anyone who'd ever felt such pure
delight and richness in such presence of joy.

In a thousand years, I don't think I could
explain in perfect detail how I felt
that evening since so much of what I'd call
my Self seemed arrested or put aside.
I was purely there and yet all that I
dislike in myself and others was absent.

Anyway, the evening gradually ebbed
and I went to bed. Still, I could not sleep
for a long time. I listened to the night
and heard the breeze shake branches and bushes,
and watched them dance against starlight. At last,
I fell asleep in deep and dreamless ease.

When I awoke, I found myself misplaced.
I was in bed aboard the Ark, Noah.
Instead of golden morning in Michael's home,
I was encased in sterile quarters on
a ball of rock.

My heart sank in despair.
All of us had been returned to Noah.
All were upset and despondent since all
had shared and seen what I had the night before.

As startling, when we came to our senses,
was that we were moving and were a week
away from Earth. Also, every sample
and all data we'd collected from Brightness
was gone as if it never was. All we
retained was personal - our memories
and gifts they'd given us. I had my egg
of jade with the other ones within it.
Some had textiles, a painting or drawing,
a small sculpture or musical instrument,
a tool or work of leathercraft. All sorts
of things but nothing that proved anything
except a certain quality of art.

Stranger still was that we found that time
had not been passed in years by us but only
the relative months of our travel. We
rejoined our world, our friends and families
without a gulf of years or separate aging.

Despite the record of our travels to
seven solar systems before Brightness,
few people believed us.

Some thought we faked
it all. Soon enough, though, the world dismissed
the episode. The Noah was restocked,
another crew selected and sent out

The star of Brightness, though, was gone.
It was no longer in the sky where the maps
and star charts showed it previously.

I knew, we knew, that it would never be seen
again; nor any of the other places
people inhabit that we saw.

I don't
know why we saw it and no one else will
except to say that God does not repeat
himself, it seems. His surprises are just so,
I think. Every encounter is unique.

Our crew went every which way, although none
went back to space. Some returned to professions,
some to religions, some to cults, and some
to simpler lives like me. I gave up botany
but took a simple job in a simple town.
I lived slowly and thoughtfully. I read
and learned to pray. That's all I try
to do - that is, live kind and quietly
with others, with myself, and God, someone
I'm starting to get to know and follow.


Pete, Jane Robin, and their baby, Lily,
came to visit. How we rejoiced to see them.
He said he wanted to wait until their child
was born. She is beautiful. My family
was introduced - Maggie Redwing and our boy,
three year old Matthew. Michael and Sarah
and my sister, Lena, were all here. What
a feast and celebration we had! Later,
Pete took me on a tour of some places
he favors which we will visit again
for a longer stay. Afterwards, we joined
in making music for our children. They
never cease to delight me. My heart surges
with love for children and all they are.
It never ends, this vast enjoyment and
making of love, in love, through love of all.

Poems & Parables

1 On Heaven and Resurrection

God made me flesh. I shall feel many things.
God gave me eyes to see, a tongue to taste,
a nose to smell, and ears to hear. I have
a mouth for speech. Shall I not speak? Shall I
never embrace a woman again nor
make children from this form God made for me?
I shall indeed have life again; and taste,
smell, see, hear, touch, and know to sing a song
of love and joy. I shall know perfect grace,
and live again as I do now, but pure
in every way.

Shall I not know a breeze
and if it's warm or cool? Shall I not know
a bowl of stew with salt and pepper? Will
I not hear music? If I dance, my feet
must touch the ground and press the earth. Have I
not muscles which must know of work?

I'm not
a ghost, a spirit that may ever float
through life. I have a form and senses that
will feast on something. Someone? Yes, God
and all that God will give his children. Dream.
Yes, endless dream. Real dream. True dream. Glad dream
where flesh fits our souls without demands,
but only One commands and all is well.
Forever as a Day. We'll be astonished!

2 After Resurrection

And I stood on Steens Mountain. There I looked
out over the Alvord Desert to the east.
Then I looked out upon Little Wildhorse Canyon
and Lake. Then I looked upon Big Indian
Creek Gorge and the Little Blitzen Gorge.
And then I looked at the great Kiger Gorge.
Everyday I stood on Steens Mountain. First here,
then there, from above and below. I walked
each inch, covered every foot of it from the east
and west: in all weather - rain, snow, sleet,
fog, heat, and wind. In summer, winter, fall, and spring.
Everyday, all day, for years. At night, I would
return to a home and make music with
many friends for many friends, and enjoy a meal
together with all of us who are here.
After many years, I don't know how many,
at last I returned one day to my house.
I poured out the music of Steens Mountain
upon paper and then instruments. Music which
God had been teaching me for years. Unique music.
Perfect music for Steens Mountain. And when
people heard this music anywhere in the Universe,
they saw, felt, tasted the beauty of Steens Mountain
without ever having come to it. They knew it
as intimately as I.

And then my work was done,
I wandered west to Hart Mountain and began
a new song of God's bounty and beauty.
O how rich and vast is the Earth. I
shall make a music of every land, sea, plant,
person, and place on it. And then
I'll go to another world and start again.
The Universe is a big place, and I have
forever to explore it and sing of its joy,
its beauty, its bliss and perfection.
And all my friends, vast billions, shall hear
and play this music God has given me,
just as I hear and play the music from all
my friends and see the Worlds through their eyes;
and taste the strangest, most wonderful sights;
and drink the most delightful sensations.
O, how joyful and pleasant it is to live
in my inheritance from God, and have my friend,
His Son, forever at my side, and live
in the splendid Holy Spirit's peace and knowing.
This is what I was born to be and know,
to have, and to live in all gentleness of love.
Blessed is God forever and blest am I!

The Lord says:
"I am Man who is a man. All of flesh,
all things of flesh are holy, made from God.
From my hair to my toenails, all is holy.
With my senses, experience is holy.
The organs of my body, they are holy,
for I have made them so with my being.
The Son is a man today, as I was
yesterday, and will be tomorrow. In
eternity, the Son is Man and a man.

But God the Father is spirit and must
be loved in spirit, known in spirit, seen
in spirit. His will is spiritual. Let
his will be done, for Love is of the spirit.

Because I am a man, I make all things
I touch holy: the water that baptizes me,
the blood that flows in my veins, the air
I breath, the dust I walk on. Even flies
are holy in my sight. I came into flesh
and made what I created my own form.
I became man that man might become God.

Have I not wept? Then tears savor of God.
Have I not laughed? Then delight is holy.
Have I not eaten and voided what is waste?
Then food is holy and dung is a blessing.
Is the world perfect? The world was perfect
for me. Shall all things change? All things will be
transformed, yet familiar as if they were
always the same; for when the Real comes,
it is seen to have always been present.

Little children, do not hate life or flesh.
There is a way in it, a way of it
which sanctifies, blesses, and transcends.
When your spirit is made perfect, so shall
your flesh at last enjoy creation as
your souls were meant to have their purpose,
being, fruitfulness, and humanity."

"I will tell you something about Love. Love
is the Rock. Those who abide in Love, learn
that they are free and certain. They stand firm.
Their faith is based on One who is living.
Yet Love is strange. How is it taught? Where does
it grow? Who seeks to know Love's depths?

The Book
instructs. Parents, friends, a spouse must teach
or else something dark occurs. A child can guide
a father and a mother's heart into kindness
or else something dreadful happens. A group
may serve to bolster or destroy. Choose good.
The ways of learning love are many and great.

Love is not learned by hatred, violence, pride,
or scorn. Arrogance, vice, meanness do not
teach love. Self-righteousness, rigidity,
and dogmas do not teach Love. Codes, canons,
commandments do not teach Love.

Love teaches love.
God is Love. Humility teaches love.
Peace teaches Love. Enduring faith knows Love.
Love blesses, Love kisses. Love touches. Love
delights in love. Tenderness, poignancy,
graciousness, and gentility evince Love.
Patience, kindness, generosity proves
the infinite power of weakness.

People of Love are ignorant and stupid -
they don't claim the certainties most people worship.
Their certainty is Love. They reflect on Him.
They attach themselves to Jesus Christ.
They listen to what Love requests of them.

Love does not coerce, nor shame, nor point fingers.
Love welcomes. Love listens. Love doesn't beg.
Love doesn't lecture. Love doesn't threaten.
Love accepts the worst while hoping for the best.
Love sees good in all people. Love knows
the infinite beauty in all creatures.
Love sees that beauty, regards it and celebrates it.
That beauty is Light which Love has made, and it
is beautiful beyond all present light.
The Sun is dim compared to the Light
that Love burned into every human soul.

Love is sweet. Not like honey. Like ambrosia.
Love is not like wine. Love is sober and yet,
the subtlest thrill, the pleasantest joy.
Love is quiet and companionable.
Love does not brag or swagger, nor argue.
Love does not protest. Love does not complain.
Love is. Love abides. Love does not wander.
Love is never lost. Love is home everywhere.
Love forgives everything. Love gives good gifts.
Love feeds the hungry and nurses the sick.
Love clothes the naked and employs the restless.
Love is spirit and acts spiritually
in time and space, in matter and death.

Love is little and small. Not grandiose.
Love is obscure and hidden except to friends
of Love. Love gets crucified unto death,
and then arises transformed into joy.

Love is not loud. Love is not jealous.
Love is merciful. Love has a tender face,
a gentle smile. Love is not wrathful.
Love accepts injustice, evil, and cruelty
because, of all things, Love is strangest.

Who can fix their eye on every facet
of Love? No one can, yet everyone will.
Everyone will encounter Love and swoon
in His embrace. Everyone will know Him
and sing infinite joy. Who shall judge?
Love shall not judge. Souls shall judge themselves
and beg release from selfishness. Love is
the Light which reveals what soul is not;
and proves what's false by being all that's Real.

Love is not sarcastic, sardonic, or coy.
Love does not laugh at pains. Love laughs at folly.
People of Love are dull, quiet, and bland.
Love is so great that lovers must be plain
and simple to carry such immensity.
The treasure of Love is trash in the world's eyes.
The people of Love are fools and idiots.
Love is delicately indestructible.

And so I tell you a little about Love.
Love is good; best of all to know and have."

5 The Parable of the Selfless Father

A man and woman loved each other. They came together
in marriage to make their joy more fruitful. The woman became
pregnant, and they were delighted. Although it was possible
for things to go wrong they hoped and prayed for the best.

Alas, things did go wrong. A child, a boy, was born to them,
and he was crippled. The man and woman rejoiced anyway,
for to them a son was born and they loved him.

The child loved them in return, but as he grew he saw
that he was different from other people. He couldn't do many of the
things that he saw others do. This caused him to feel sad
and then to grow angry.

He said to his father, "It is all your fault that I am crippled.
If you hadn't been selfish and greedy for children, I would not
have been born to suffer this misery. Look at what you've done
to me."

The father looked at his son and agreed with him. If he had
not been greedy for the joy of marriage and fruitfulness, he
would not have produced a child who suffered as few others
suffer in life.

He said to his child, "Son, I cannot undo your life nor heal
you of your affliction, but here is my back. Relieve your anger
on me who am to blame for your misery."

And so the son beat his father and released his rage and fury
on him. The boy soon tired and dropped his arms. Looking up,
he saw his father's back, bruised and bloodied, and he was

'What have I done?" he cried out. "Father! My dear, father!
What have I done to you?! I love you, father. Daddy, I'm sorry.
Forgive me, please, I beg of you. I'll never do this again. I promise.
Oh, daddy, forgive me!"

The father turned to his child and said, " I forgive you, son.
I'm glad you don't want to hurt me anymore. I can't fix you,
but I dearly love you. Love can be enough for both of us
if you want, my blessed child."

The Lord says:
"Children, the way of your atonement
is through the door of the Cross. You must
take on the life of Jesus, and thus die
much more than once. Baptism I give.
A baptism of fire: this begins new life,
the start after long preparation and suffering.
This start leads to the Cross: the final death.
Not death of flesh but death of self. Once dead
to self the change of flesh from live to dead
is almost nothing: a mere walk from here
to there. Not even felt or hardly so."

"I will come to you and guide you through all.
I will present myself and absent myself.
I will appear and disappear to you.
I will console and desolate you.
I will teach you everything by myself.
Like the beautiful breeze, I'll come and go.
I will teach you how to love what you hate.
Your enemies will become precious to you.
You shall learn to love all that opposes you,
for you will be destroyed: your Self
shall die. You shall become still and quiet.
You shall become perfect as I am perfect.
You shall be led through a dark desert.
You shall not know where I am until you know
I am in you. Jesus is the vine,
and the vine and its branches are one plant.
You shall be him and he shall be you;
and you may say to all, 'if you see me,
you've seen the Father;' for you will be
all that is good and All that is Love."

"Read the new Book. You'll not find a man
but a mirror. Jesus is risen. He is you.
Or would be if you'd let him. Let him.
He stands at the door and knocks. Let him in.
His flesh shall become your flesh; his spirit,
your spirit; his face, your face; his light, your light.
Do not imitate Jesus. Become him."

7 The Parable of the True Lover

At one time there was a young man who was a plain
and average seeming person. His trade was as a musician
and tunemaker who made his living performing in his country
at weddings, dances, and funerals.

The time came when he decided that he wanted to marry
and raise a family. He had it in his mind that he wished
his wife to be a very beautiful woman. This fancy was fixed
in his mind and he could not alter it. It went to the point that
he rejected a number of women who would have made him
an excellent wife and mother to his children.

Nevertheless, he persisted in his desire to marry a very beautiful

One day, he and other musicians were hired to play at a dance
for the richest man in that country. They arrived at the great man's
estate and were shown where they were to perform.

As they readied to perform in a magnificent room, a fair number of
people appeared and began to occupy tables and chairs. They were
all handsome and fair to look at and were beautifully dressed for the
occasion. But of all the fine and delightful looking people that appeared,
there was none to compare to a young woman in a brilliant white gown.

The young man was stunned by her appearance and could not take
his eyes off her. Even so, the group began to play for the dance
and he performed as hired. The woman's table was near the stage
so that during breaks for the band, he could look on and eavesdrop
on the woman and her companions.

Doing so, he discovered that she was the daughter of the great man
who was throwing the party for her and her friends. He also discovered
that not only was she the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, she was
was kind to the servants and her friends, she was merry ,
and tender hearted in conversation. She was noble
in spirit, it seemed to the young man, and yet humble
in manner.

He fell completely in love with her and knew
that he had found the woman he desired to marry.

When the party was over, though, he despaired, for he knew
that he could never marry her. She was too far above him,
and too good for him also, he felt. She seemed to be goodness
and beauty itself, while he knew himself to be nothing of the kind.

Having seen her, though, he realized that he could marry any
woman now, because it didn't matter. Any other woman he chose
would always be the lesser of his greatest desire.

And so he did marry a good woman and together they raised
a family. Thirty years later, after all the children were grown, his wife
died. The music of his youth had passed and he only worked at
funerals for the most part because of the manner and soothing style
of his art.

It then came about that he was hired to provide music
at that great, rich man's estate again. He went and performed his
quiet music for a small gathering of people. There he learned that
the woman he loved, had always loved since he'd first seen her, had
never married and she seemed more lovely to him now than he
remembered, and he felt even greater love towards her if that
were possible.

After the small party when all the guests had gone, she spoke to him.

"Your music is very soothing to me and I enjoy it very much," she told him.

"Thank you," he replied.

"Would it be possible for me to hear this music every day?" she asked.

"I don't know," he said. "I live at some distance from here and a daily
journey would be difficult to manage," he said.

"Is there anything to prevent you from living here, on my estate," she asked.

"Well, my wife is dead and my children are grown, so there is no
reason I couldn't live here," he said.

"Good. You will stay here, then. You may play for me as much
or as little you like and enjoy all the benefits of this estate. Is that
satisfactory with you?" she asked him.

He was amazed and overjoyed. To live on this estate and to see her
as often as he wished was an unexpected blessing and dream come

And so he lived there and made music for the Lady, as he called her.
The more time he spent in her company, the more he loved her until
one day in the anguish of love he put down his instrument and told
her he loved her, and how long and why he loved her. He felt certain
that his confession would exile him now, though, because he had
spoken out of place and must appear a nuisance to her.

But the Lady did not rebuke him. She simply told him that she
would not marry him although she knew he loved her. She asked
him to continue living there and making music though, and he happily

In time, his hands could no longer perform the music but the Lady
did not send him away and he saw her often. Gradually, his body failed,
too, and he could no longer enjoy the use of the estate and all its
parks and gardens, art and treasures, but he could sit in the house
and the Lady would attend on him from time to time, or he would watch
her in the near garden as she liked to work there herself.

Then he became blind and could no longer leave his bed.

One day the Lady visited him and he wept in her presence
for he could no longer see her.

"I am old, blind, poor, and useless," he cried. "I am nothing.
I have nothing, and I am good for nothing," he told her.

"Yet, you, Lady, are still kind to me and take an interest
in the most worthless of all your servants."

She took his hand and her touch thrilled his soul.

"Listen," she told him. "I will marry you now."

"Why, Lady? Why? I am good for nothing, now. I am nothing
at all now."

"All my life I have had everything," she said. "All that I have
ever lacked is a man who has nothing. That is the man I have always
been looking for," she said.

And so they were married, and the man died shortly thereafter.

8The journey to God is a return:
a spiral. The death of the old man
and all his thoughts is a retrogression:
to the womb and back before even that.
Life goes from the innocence of ignorance
to the misery of experience
to wise innocence and purity:
the Self united to God, one in Christ.
And then we die. Even that goodness dies,
and we become as God as he became as we -
and we are lost - the All is all.
We enter eternity and live
as infants of light and cosmos.
To live forever, you must die forever.
Eternal life means your eternal death.
The Self will be annihilated.
How can we live without crying out,
"Oh, self, myself!" It is unimaginable,
but it is the reality we seek and will know.
What seems impossible to us, is not to God.

In the mind of man is a voice of self.
It is loud and clamoring - full of talk,
full of wrangling and debate, full of me,
more me, and hey! what about me?

That voice,
when God awakens us to his life
and being, begins to be tamed. In time
that voice will fade, grow quiet, and vanish.
When done, when that old voice is stilled - and more -
that voice is dead never to be heard, then
we truly start to live our lives - God's life.
Our life? Spontaneous, unaffected,
serene, and dear. Emotion? We know how
to smile and sympathize. We only know
how to be generous and kind. Anger?
It can never be found again.

Of all beings, God is the most mundane.
Nothing human disturbs him. He is flesh
and dust, ashes and bone, leaves, grass, and dung;
he is our coughs, colds, sores, and diseases;
he is our ordinary actions:
washing dishes, making dinner, falling asleep.

It is not that God hates evil. God hates
nothing. But evil is darkness, the shadow
of eclipse, and how can a shadow
approach the sun? And if each planet
receives the light and radiates it, how
can there be any shade at all?

God is
mundane because he is the world. He is
procession: elements to elephants,
from clay to porcelain, from insects to apes.
He is in a baby's smile, a mother's tear,
a father's arms. God is dullness, boredom,
lassitude, and aridity because,
of all, God is supremely patient.
He is patient and draws us into patience.
He puts our mind, emotions, and heart to rest,
and teaches us the subtleties of peace.

The path to peace leads through a seeming hell;
the hell of ourselves and our worst instincts.
Hell is a place of burning. God is fire.
All our falseness goes up in flames before him.

The way to him is rough, hard, and heart breaking.
That joy might increase, hate must decrease: all
that ever seeks revenge for wounds must die.
This dying is an agony between
two wills, our own and his. And his can't fail
to triumph. Thus let us surrender. Let
us be his prisoner of war and wait
for our hostility to die. For we
shall not escape his camp in any way,
and once captured, we've lost ourselves forever.

Before God made the mountains or the Moon, he made man.
Before God made spiders or fish, antelopes or apricots, he made man.
Before all wonders great and small, God made man and woman.
All that he made, he made for man because he made man like himself.

God is pleased to give the Heaven of himself to all.
In God, there is no wrath; only joyous mystery, eternal merriment.
In God, there is no anger, only the glorious fire of intensest love.
In God, there is no judgment, only the peacefullest acceptance.
Because God is free, in his love is the greatest freedom, too, for man.

There are disasters and catastrophes.
There are disorders and diseases.
There are deaths and tribulations.
There are sins and selfishness.
And there is God whose mind
cannot be captured whole in any human brain.
Man is not God. Death is not death. Jesus is Risen.
Now God shines forth in an invisible light.
Soon God shall walk among us again as a visible man.
Whoever seeks to know and follow Jesus
will be taught to die as Jesus died: empty and ready to be Full.
Then man will rise again and live as One.
Are there still men and women who do not know this,
who doubt not only of Jesus but of God?
Are there still people who seek after pleasure and not for God?
There are no babies born who do not love God.
Who alters their hearts and makes them crazed by self?
Who is it that corrupts children and makes them fail?

Mercy makes fools of all men. Mercy is the first cause of sin.
Let men be mad with schemes and murders. It does not matter.
Let men be thick with scorn and bitterness. It does not matter.
Let men be drunk with lust and slovenliness. It will all die out.

Without God's peace, man is a shadow of life,
a puppet show of selfish illusions,
a ludicrous imitation of deity.
God's peace is faith that grows every day in trust
until there is no faith or trust to be willed:
for only peace remains where God does not will but breathes
in human lungs - being the body, the lungs, and the air.

Where is the mind of man? It is in the brain.
Where is the brain? It is in the body.
Where is the body? It is in the world.
Where is the world? It is in the universe.
Where is the universe? It is in God.
Where is God? He is in himself. He is all.
Where is man? He is in God.

Man's body is dust. Man's self is but a dream.
Man's soul is eternity. It hides and reveals God.
There is a desert where man's body goes
to rest, and where his self goes to die.
The desert burns with invisible light.
God is at the heart of the dark, unknown fire.
God is not a destroyer. He ravishes with peace;
and peace murders the sleep of the dead.

12In time to come the lies of men will face
the light of Truth. No more shall anyone
believe the falsehoods they held dear.

In time,
all human thoughts of God erupt and die;
all human devotions, images, and prayers
must wither like branches cut off the vine.
Practices, preachings, and exhortations;
scoldings and scourgings of God's little ones,
all this must cease as children learn to hear
the infinite silence of God, his song
within each soul that lives; see his glow within
all things that are; know his breath of quiet being
like a living flame of love.

It burns, yet
hardly warms. It shines but hardly stirs.
It is a small, dark, blue flame: cobalt blue
like the sky before dawn. It is the flame
for a night about to die; the long exile
about to end; the captive about to be freed.
It is the porch of Heaven where time plays
as if it only lived in suns and moons,
in wind swept grass and the passing seasons;
where reverie in God is passing by
and shuts up all the blinking eyes of time.

In time to come the lies in every mind
must pass away before the Truth, the One.

God doesn't know that he is holy.
He is as common and low as a fly;
as ordinary as a grain of sand.
He is one ray of light that lights a leaf,
and one snowflake that lands in the ocean.
Does God know why he exists? I don't know.
What God knows, who can say? But I know this -
God doesn't know that he is holy.

There shall be smiles in Heaven, and fresh thoughts
on God. Thoughts and feelings indeed, in rich
eternity; for there is certain knowing -
a way of life spontaneous and instant -
a pure impulsiveness of the present.
There is a way of life to come that's all
of ripeness, fullness, and abundance. Yet,
the way is so far distant from this world's.
Only the purest love of Truth leads to
the Source. Only the pure of heart see God,
know God, and breathe God; for the Cross destroys
creatures of selfhood, the shallow of soul.
There shall be smiles in Heaven, and fresh joys.

15 The Parable of Purgation

There was a man who lived a fairly long life on Earth, who then died. Not knowing God nor having any purity of heart, he did not know what to expect from death; and so, he passed from life to death and found himself sitting in a chair in a very beautiful place. Around him were tempting foods and places of view which promised vistas of awesome beauty and wondrous life. In the distance he saw people passing by or engaged in interesting tasks. They were exceedingly lovely to look at, and seeing them made him yearn to go and speak with them.

So he arose from the pleasant peace of his chair and stepped forward. Just as he did so, a hundred hideous faces appeared like great evil insects attacking him and stinging fiercely so that he cried out and fell back into the peace and safety of his chair where he was left alone. But his flesh stung from the attack and each wound seemed to open a memory of past evil he had done in his former life on Earth.

Time passed for him, days and nights, and the nights were as splendid as the days in that he saw in the distance marvelous things which tempted him to leave his chair and dash out to them.

Though perfect and beautiful the world around him seemed, every time he rose and left his chair he suffered awful attacks again and again. He cried out in anguish to God. He was frustrated beyond endurance. Was he to sit and suffer this forever?

God made no answer to him, though.

Time passed. How long? Years, maybe centuries, for time went on the same. He cursed but could not die. He swore he hated all the beautiful and wondrous things around him but he still desired them greatly, and from time to time could not keep himself from jumping up and going toward them only to be stung again and again.

Gradually, though, the man learned to be still and meditate on God and his past sins. Eventually, he gained confidence in prayer; enough to venture at leaving his chair and to take some steps without being attacked. He was rewarded by sights, sounds, and tastes of ravishing delight. But the attacks of evil would come and send him back to his throne of safety.

More years passed. The man became proficient in prayer. He began to understand himself, his life, and God. The demons arrayed against him diminished greatly in number, and their stings diminished in intensity, too. For longer and longer periods, the man could wander the paths of paradise without fear or exhaustion until one day there was nothing - no paradise, no past - only God. And he arose and was in company with others and all people and things were in, through, and with God; and his new, true life began.

I have thoughts of heaven which are strange to most,
I think, which make me wonder why this world
must be endured.

I see our future:
plain and simple, rich and varied, friendly and quiet.
This world perverts the heavenly through ignorance,
impatience, lack of love, and woundedness.
The world rolls on its ugly way, cycles tolling
birth and death because we marry rather
than burn; and love, even imperfect love,
begets children, too.

We are born social,
gifted, matrimonial, and useful.
There is begetting in heaven - not marriage
because there are no rites or ceremonies,
no oaths or vows in Paradise where love
acts perfectly always.

What is pride -
fallen, human pride - except perversion
of joy in being? What is lust except
delight contorted? What is sloth except
false copy of peace, stillness, and patience?
What is greed except abundant hope gone bad?

Example this: the world and what it promotes
in pictures everywhere - perfectly youthful,
healthy, flawlessly lovely and handsome
women and men - is vision drawn from heaven.
Pictures that show these models consuming
all goods with gusto - utter delight. Pictures
that show bodies erupting in play, actions
athletic, gymnastic, and free - unbound
by gravity, age, or fear. Pictures that promise
ecstasy in flesh - sensual exaltation,
exhilaration, and apotheosis.
A grandeur of self-propelled vitality.
Buy this vehicle! A paradox of God
resolved - that is, how man may move while still
at rest; how peace, comfortable peace, may glide
through dazzling landscapes - thrilling sights
at thrilling speeds: a womb of warmth and ease,
cocoon of prayer that slips through time and worlds
timelessly and carelessly in soft repose.
Pictures of food - the mouth made pleased
by bounty, spice, and infinite tastes.
Buy this home (or goods) - all will be well
for you and children. Safety is yours.
Contentment forever.

Everywhere, pictures
promise to remedy every fear,
eliminate every guilt, heal every wound.
Is this not heaven? Is this not stolen
like fire from Zeus, perverted to promise
what can't be owned as yet in earthly life?
(And yet, prayer make humans whole and good.)

Heaven is as physical as spiritual.
All are beautiful and youthful in heaven.
Children are painlessly born, perfectly raised.
Men and women, first made one in God -
each soul a married soul of God -
are free in friendly bliss of hearts and flesh;
eternally mated, forever in love;
devotion born of eternally delight.
And work, each one a servant freely giving,
freely taking, freely sharing all - talents,
knowledge, goods, and help - to build, to feed,
to grow and make, to sing, dance, play, travel,
talk, befriend, and teach.

Free from death,
free in God - not worshipful or pious -
but free as gods without restraint or fear;
free from orders or commands, decrees or laws;
for love is free and all its choices lovely;
all its actions willing and delightful.
Love of God cries out and sings in every cell;
every pore a chamber flowing rich in light;
and every atom buzzing thankful joy.
To know the universe, to fill the universe,
to have the universe, and be the universe:
that is man's estate and playful pleasure.
There is no loss on earth, nothing ever lost,
for heaven requites perfectly. Here
is imperfection, prison, and toil.
There is contemplation, freedom, and play.
The satisfactions that we crave on earth
aren't false but inept and brief,
misguided or mistaken. Life is good,
but slavery and ignorance makes fools
of all, corrupting good and staining hope.
How wounded our souls, ruptured our hearts.
In heaven, children aren't born as we -
impatient, needy, starving, frustrated
and meant to age, decay, and die.

So why are we? What did we do that made
us born unhappy, sentenced to death?
No one can tell but God who's quiet.
Throw out your arms, cry out in joy -
"I don't care why, my work is love and peace!
My work is grace and heaven now! My work
is wisdom, truth, and tenderness made real.
Let God explain himself in other ways.
My work is contentment now; to be
my God who is truth and serves all wisely."

How strange it is for me to roam the world.
I am a stranger who inhabits earth
and hardly human in my thoughts and joy,
yet never alien anymore because
I find it ever easier to like and love
all whom I meet, all whom I see; for all
I see are souls of God; his soul made small,
enwrapped in flesh and persons, suffering
their time of trials, hope, and wonder.

I marvel at the world and have no fear.
Evil is being banished, purged from earth
until the only thing I see is light;
the play of light and colors, eyes and being.
Shadows are disappearing. No dark corners
remain. The universe is flooded with joy,
and peace is everywhere. This I start to see.
Is this not odd and wonderful? Who can
believe it? None but the perceiver.

Is this what Jesus saw? It's now what Jesus sees.
Who lives in light and purity,
see only light and purity.
This is the Way, his Way, the strange Cross
which murders false humanity - that pure
humanity may be revealed; that pain
and suffering may be made ghosts, odd ghouls
that blanch and fade to nothing.

I sing heaven
because I see heaven and I marvel
that every dream of happy brightness finds
its home in man, woman, and child at love
in God's eternal embrace of being.

The future, present, past, and ever come
in focus now, and it is very strange
an earthling even glimpse at such and live.
What joy that I begin to see God's face
wherever I look. It is not bliss, it is
not full of feeling (which is stranger). It
is plain being and simple seeing. It's
beneath ordinary or mundane. It's
like God - nothing much yet everything;
hidden and disguised while present and obvious.
He's in plain sight yet hard to see so long
as men are false, devious, and themselves.
Let them decide they will be Jesus, then
eternity again takes footsteps on earth.

There comes a day when love between a man
and woman learns new knowing - yet is old,
was always present, and was meant to be.

Let me explain: on earth, love 's not unmixed
though God is present and urges to join
his children, male and female, in fruitful joy.

Love 's not unmixed on earth. Selves creep in,
erupt, or never leave the scene of love;
but dampen peace, stain delight, or tamper hopes.

Love 's not unmixed on earth, but heaven - oh!
the making of all children brims boundless
in happiest delight, eros superb
because perfection makes all unselfish:
pure in pleasure, pure in scaling the heights
of awesome sense and senselessness. We drink
in heaven both water and wine; we eat
both bread and meat, both plain salt and sharp spice.
Not every moment is the same, but some
more plangent, more delirious in flight.
All times are perfect but not exact.
I shall not lust, yearn, anguish, or burn
but I shall love, embrace, and burst golden
in sun-like, godlike splendor in giving joy
as given light. It is God who creates,
and God who embraces; God who exalts
and God who grants union for souls in time.
There is time in heaven but never clocks
except morning and evening, day and night.

We are not bodiless, we have a pulse;
we take in air and breathe it out. We speak
with tongues and touch with hands. We blend our lives
like choral voices even if we walk alone
across a field, a glade, a beach, a ridge.
We learn singing, for love is singing,
and making children wondrous song of all
that man and woman, God and child become
momentous - all one and miraculous.

Heaven calls me and I long to go
unless I serve. Then I am content
and yet, 'til heaven, not perfectly pleased.

God entrusts us with his mighty power:
we make other beings - our children.
What power then will he not entrust to us?
Will he put limit to our scope, restrain
our freedom to imagine and act?

There is
one barrier - that we must die to live,
die - exchanged in Jesus - full and complete.
His child. And then all heaven, eternity,
being, and action is ours without limit.
He has made us creative. Not only fertile
in flesh but also in prayer - imagination
which joins to Spirit and finds what's best
to do anywhere and time - relating and making.
To be a poet is to be a maker. With God,
we shall be Makers, indeed. Oh, sweetness and light!

When a man or woman has seen the power
that waits for them, the necessity of the Cross
becomes apparent; for none but the pure
of heart, the clean of soul, the perfect of being
may handle the reins and ride the back
of the flying horse of God, the winged dragon
of heaven. None but the pure may enter
the many mansions of Eden and behold
the visions of eternity and products of time.
Only absolute love can embrace infinite being.
Any wonder then why man must cast off sin,
cloaks of self, and countless thoughts of want
and more - the endless desires of things?

It is no easy thing to die nor bear the Cross
that murders selfhood and false identity.
It is no easy thing to suffer death of dreams,
humiliations, and indignities.
It is no easy thing to bear injustices,
cruelties, and rejections: to be made mute,
a voiceless goat, an object ridiculed
and beaten; helpless as an infant pierced
and broken. It is no easy thing to gaze
upon a mirror and cry out to God -
"Destroy that fool I see and bring me misery!
Give me what you gave Jesus. Empty
my soul of shadows and stain. Make me real!"
It is no easy thing to reap the Cross,
years of agony and abandonment.
But anything less could not give us All.

Why do we live? Why were we made?
What purpose to our lives? Except we serve.
Except we must serve for joy. For man
to love a woman, a woman - man, and bear
a treasure house of children. To serve
and know our neighbor - our brother or sister -
to have a home, a society without laws
because love walks in every human, Jesus sings
from every throat. We live to first love,
and to explore the infinite wisdom of God,
who manifests a never-ending vision.

We live to be made love, and when made love,
we live for the pure joy of life and love -
each day fresh as spring, rich as summer,
golden as autumn - to sleep like winter.
Each day infatuation for God reborn,
admiration of beauty renewed, respect
for creatures recalled, absolute delight
remembered in all our loves we encounter.
Daily life as daily love at daily play.
We were made to serve: God's slaves, God's toys,
God's pleasure to be our slave, our toy, our delight.

What of angels? I know nothing of such or want to.
What of devils? I know nothing anymore of satans.
God is the angel. God is the devil, too.
God is All in all, and that is what we want.

When food tastes good, we take a second bite.
Why? Because we did not taste it all the first time.
In Paradise, we taste all the first time
and are satisfied. We do not remember pleasure.
Every bite is the first no matter how many
are taken to eat an apple. Every kiss
is new and astonishes; every touch
a fresh cascade of the marvelous.
Yet we are wise, intelligent, experienced
to raise our children - to know life and new life.

19 The Parable of Patience

The kingdom of heaven is like a tender, loving father who takes his young child to a beautiful place and leaves him there after telling the child to wait for him to soon return.

Blessed is that child who discovers while waiting that his dear father never left him at all. Only that he could not see him with his eyes anymore.

Woe to that child who leaves that beautiful place and goes in search of his father and becomes lost. He is like a man riding a horse who goes in search of a horse to ride.