We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the Secret sits in the middle and knows. ~ Robert Frost Click To Tweet
The stone cutter was a small but stout man, with strong, weathered skin and slow hands. Nearing retirement, he had spent his life cutting into, re-shaping and creating structure out some of nature’s densest materials. Though he had thought little about his position and place in life during his younger years, he had grown wary and questioning over the course of their passing, and found himself now forlorn more often than not.
Yet just as his masonry techniques had solidified over the decades, so had his ways. His lifestyle seemed so carved into set pathways now he felt there was little to nothing he could do to change, despite the strong and growing stirrings inside of him.
Every morning on his way to work he walked by the estate of a wealthy merchant, and where originally he had pondered little more than the architecture and landscaping, casting an appreciative eye towards the care and craftsmanship that had gone into it, lately he had found his mind probing deeper. Who was this man, exactly, and how had life afforded him such luxuries? Surely he led a far more exotic existence than such a lowly stone cutter as he… Surely he was possessed of many skills and abilities, and experienced far more adventure and mystery than the predictable, daily doldrums the stone cutter spent his days passing in and out of…
Then, on one such morning, this normally quiet and unassuming man found himself doing something entirely unpredictable. Overcome with a curiosity too powerful to resist, he left his tools on the ground and climbed over the small fence separating the merchant’s backyard from the road. Creeping up to the window, he peered beyond the crack in the curtains to spy the interior of this large and luxurious home.
Sure enough, sitting around a dining table of the finest cured oak, fresh tea steaming and pastries affront them, the merchant and some of his associates were working excitedly on what appeared to be a new business idea. They were attended by a beautiful and humble chambermaid and surrounded by some of the finest fixings and furnishings the stone cutter had ever seen; from their gestures and expressions, he felt an almost intoxicating mix of focused ease, anticipation and appreciation.
Standing there at the window, in his worn trousers and dusty boots, his weathered hands resting on the sill, the stone cutter’s eyes narrowed, and a great jealousy began brewing in him. Suddenly his life seemed so pale, so worthless, so pointless in all its long years of monotony and repetition. Rage began to rise in him then. There was no getting any of it back. He was locked into a cell of choices made in his past, beholden to a prior self who no longer existed, yet had dictated, in all the stupid ignorance of youth, the very dimensions of the prison he found himself in now.
As this longing and lamentation and bitterness overcame him — emotions more powerful than any he had known in his life — the stone cutter felt something open, a dark and deep nothingness wider than all the universe, yet so strangely familiar he found himself suddenly swooning with déjà vu. Closing his eyes, he gripped the windowsill firmly lest he fall and make a commotion. He took a few long, shuddering breaths, composed himself, and opened his eyes.
To his astonishment, he found he had BECOME the merchant — yet the transition was so oddly natural, so seemingly sensical that it was somehow also beyond questioning. Here he was, sitting at the head of the table, gesturing in the air and conducting business in an even tone, feeling the mix of mirth and high-seriousness he had only a moment ago picked up on from outside–as an entirely different person.
Now, however, he was personally privy to the merchant’s innermost thoughts and feelings, memories and experiences. He understood himself and his position with a clarity that was overwhelming in its intimacy — the many triumphs and failings he’d encountered over the years; the abundant satisfaction of having earned the many luxuries that now surrounded him; the pride and humility that had grown as a corollary to his responsibilities in the community… Most of all, however, he felt the base levels of fear and excitement that had informed this man’s character from the time he was a child — the adventuring spirit that relished the risk of it all above everything else. It was exotic and delicious indeed!
In the midst of this inner revelry, however, his ears were overtaken by the sound of a procession in the street. All at the table paused and turned to peer out the large window affront the room. Approaching in the distance, unannounced and unexpected, was a parade for one of the country’s high officials.
Shocked and confused, everyone clambered from the table and gathered about the window to get a better look. Mouths agape, they watched in silent awe as the cavalcade approached, carrying a sultan in a sedan chair accompanied on all sides by attendants, soldiers and servants beating gongs.
Unable to help himself, the stone cutter — now the merchant — was overcome with the same powerful eruption of emotions he had experienced only moments ago, rising like a tempest upon his soul — such unknowable power! Such prestige! Every glorious thing it was possible to imagine! Oh to know such an existence!
Then, before being afforded a moment longer, the swooning overtook him again and he lost his balance, stumbling into the man nearest him and clutching his body for support. He slumped, squeezing his eyes tightly and spiralling inward.
When he opened them again, he found that he had shifted bodies once more, and was now experiencing the present existence of the exulted official, lounging in the nest of his large palanquin as it rested on the shoulders of his marching servants.
While no less astonishing, the embodiment arrived with the same dichotomous sense of perfect knowing as it had the previous time — he simply WAS this empowered nobleman, sitting high and mighty and fat and feared on embroidered pillows in the air, as attendants fanned him and kept him refreshed at request; he could feel the litter shifting as it creaked and groaned on the bodies of its bearers, see the countryside easing slowly past his peripheral vision, sense the heaviness of the midday humidity on his body.
So too had his mind and emotions merged into full possession of the nobleman’s. He knew now the feeling of being both exalted and detested — not only by the community, but by all in the kingdom — along with the pomp and privilege of conducting business with some of the most important monarchs and noblemen from distant lands. He knew the taste of the finest wine and culinary pleasures, and the secret passions shared with some of the country’s most coveted concubines. And he knew, as well, the unfathomable responsibility that came with it all — how it felt to hold the power to end a man’s life or grant his every desire; all of the political machinations and labyrinthine plans he was deeply enmeshed in; the pressure of temptation and subterfuge at every turn — all of this, he knew in an instant.
Before he had been granted the time to begin properly assimilating this new information, however, he found his consciousness drawn annoyingly to certain base matters of the body, in a manner that could be described as far from comfortable. It was a hot summer day, and despite the close care of his attendants, the air was devoid of any breeze and he was dangerously overweight — a film of sweat coated his entire body, trickling down his shirtless torso and staining the pillows he rested upon; his joints ached from years of pressure under his ample flesh, and his breathing was laboured and tiring.
Fatigued, the stone cutter — now the nobleman — began to lose his sense of focus, his mind drifting off. He turned his eyes to the sky, peering into the sun and squinting under its intense light.
Pondering, he was struck by how completely unaffected by his presence it was, beating down on him in all its furious glory, indifferent to anything but its own place in the larger scheme of things. Indeed, he thought, The Great God of the Sky recognized no master, yet none were below him either — not ant or tree, surf or sultan — all were equal and un-judged, even someone holding such a high position as himself.
As he stared up into the celestial majesty of the Great Sky God, feeling the radiating energy that unlocked the earth and drew all life into being, he felt a shift between them slowly occurring. He began to realize then that the sun was also staring into him, and that while they were indeed separate, they were also somehow united.
And so it passed that he came into a space outside of time and forever, embodying the existence of the Great God itself — a majesty and force beyond words, a fire sparked in the heart of the void, illuminating the very caverns of space and filling the corridors of time itself with light, and it was then that he knew power.
Steadily, he beat his energy down into every leaf, every blade of grass, every crop and body of water that required his nourishment; with unfailing resilience he poured over all in his kingdom, setting creatures large and small to sweating and seeking relief under the same shade he created.
He was indeed a heavenly body, and he relished it, languishing in the heart of creation itself, embodying the glorious function and purpose of his existence with an ease and precision it was impossible to describe. It was, without doubt, a perfect state of being, and he believed he could’ve remained that way into eternity, until he slowly began to sense a strange feeling of diminishment, realizing that the reach and strength of his light was somehow beginning to fade.
And then he spotted it: a massive storm front pouring across the sky from the north, spilling out along the landscape like an ink well dumped into water. It was moving with such force and fury that he could feel his power wearing thinner by the moment, and he watched, impotent, as it burst out upon the land, draping a veil of darkness over the countryside so deep it seemed to nearly rival the night itself.
Watching it, he began to sense the purity of its cleansing powers, the catalyzing effect of its rage and fury as it cut through the countryside, breaking into a driving and vicious rain; listening to it, to the howl and shriek of its movement as it ripped into all that stood in its way, he began to lose himself. It was an epic and ancient display of the power achieved in the unification of polarity, and he found himself seduced by the motion of its beastly form as it burgeoned across the terra, consuming everything in its path; felt the pull of clarity transcendent in the terrorizing cleansing it was performing, as natural and needed as any of the phenomena it impacted.
Indeed, the great storm held itself accountable to no thing, least of all he, the sun, and with this realization the stone merchant BECAME it, an unmatched force of nature, a machine of destructive creativity, ripping through the landscape and disembowelling trees and brush, tearing the tops of houses clean off and lifting wagons and carts up into the folds of his black belly.
The revelry inherent was unlike any of his prior incarnations, unlike anything he had known until now, and he surrendered to it fully, giving himself over to the ecstasy of its awesome power, adjusting to the rhythms of its existence and relaxing into it, embodying it ever more fully.
For a time he continued like this, requiring nothing more, yet as he passed across the land he came eventually into some trouble. There was a pocket of resistance, somehow, in one particular spot — a type of eddy that felt markedly different from those of his natural currents, not unlike a knot in a muscle that required kneading, but one unwilling to give nonetheless.
Moving his consciousness there directly, he found that it was a rock — a massive stone jutting obtrusively from the earth, unyielding in its insistence on existence. It was a huge, towering testament to immutability, this thing, a stone so dense and so massive it gave the impression that it must have formed during the same cooling that hardened the original bone of the earth into place, so many eons ago.
At first he was enraged, pouring yet more vengeance out onto this annoying intrusion, pummelling the interloper with the strongest winds he could conjure, pushing against it with all the forces he could raise, but to no avail — the stone remained unmoved, unperturbed in a silent display of stoic wisdom in the face of the worst temperament.
Growing weary, the body of the hurricane began to break up around it then, its previously deafening roar fading slowly as the wind and rain dissipated; the sun began to push through once more, and the trees and foliage lessened in their agitation, beginning to settle back into place.
Yet of course, by this point, the consciousness of the stone-cutter had become enamoured enough of the rock to begin transitioning into it, and when he finally became it, occupying it fully, it was with a knowing sigh so potent it reverberated into every crack and crevice he was connected to.
And it was now that he knew, with utter certainty, that he had finally found his proper place — the end of all his yearning and restless searching; indeed, he had found the very heart of it, sitting pleasantly with more purpose and fulfillment than any state of being he had known prior. This was it. He had moved into the very marrow of material existence, embodying it as he had none of the others.
And so he rested, content, closing his eyes for the first time since all of this had begun, offering not a single thought to anything but the profound authority of being he now possessed, falling into a rhythm that pulsed in time with that of the earth itself. He had arrived.
Eventually, however, in a space outside of time, a sound began to become apparent. It was a small, seemingly insignificant noise, wafting up on the wind to greet him with an almost eerie peacefulness, yet agitating enough to force his consciousness from the womb of its welcome slumber.
“…chink, chink, chink…”
“…chink, chink, chink…”
He felt himself being changed – cut into, re-formed – and he looked down. Far below him, hammer and chisel in hand, was the figure of a stone cutter.