In the Shadow of Enlightenment: A Parable of Human Progress

“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that indeed

‘While seeing they may see, and not perceive,
and while hearing they may hear, and not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”

Mark 4:11-12

There was once a family that lived together on a lush garden island. They ate dates and pomegranates and sweet potato french fries and drank much wine. They wrote music during the day and sang and danced around the fire every evening. Across the sea existed only a barren wilderness populated with men who had resorted to a diet of other men and also of women but only after they have produced for them other men. There was no music in the desert.

Tribes formed in the desert, however, but only to go to war with other men to feed themselves and to resource their building of towers, where they could compete for the highest place to see who owns the spoils. 

As it happened, after many years of war all but one tribe remained. Recognizing their threat of extinction they built a ship and sailed across the sea in search for meat.

One evening on the island, as the children were playing fiddles and their parents were dancing along, the air cracked with the harsh ring of hammers on the edges of steel and bellowing grunts and the creaking of tired wood. A ship was approaching. The parents knew what it was and what populated it. It was not human—not for any immediately apparent reason but because towers aren’t shaped like family and because the men that live on them don’t believe in music, and because they only know how to speak in the first- and third-person.

But the family was compassionate and impossibly generous. So they made a great fire and stretched out their arms and waved happy silhouettes of welcome in front of the fire and laughed as they sang their special family song. When the ship arrived the men crawled out and walked toward the warm light looking down and shifting their eyes. It was their first experience of fear, but it didn’t feel like fear. They just felt shy. They felt like folding their arms but then felt ashamed for folding their arms. The openness of the island was overwhelming.

The family ran to them covering them with blankets and throwing their arms around them to welcome them into their home. They set the table and filled it with the bounty of the garden and gave them gifts of stringed instruments and lyrics to all the songs they had ever written.

Within weeks all the men had been transformed by the image of family. Soon they were joining in song and dance and running around the beach together with arms spread wide open like a bird finding rest on the wind. They even gave each other names, and the family made each of them a green card with their name on it. They were finally home.

All but one, the one who remained nameless. It was not that he wasn’t given a name but that he couldn’t hear it for his thoughts. He couldn’t stop thinking about the desert, which made it impossible not only to hear but also to trust. He couldn’t get over the fact that for all those years the other men had seen him eat. And as for the family, it wasn’t that he suspected something about them that he feared but that they might discover something about him they would fear. He felt like a stain on a wedding dress and at first it made him sad but then it just made him angry. His eyes were opened and he knew that they knew him.

One night when the moon was a high hanging globe he set out to visit each room in the house. He quietly murdered all the men of his tribe with a cold metal knife and at last the entire family. He had thus triumphed over all the earth. 

He ate sumptuously the entire next day and sat down on the beach the following evening. He waited for the moon to accompany him, but that night it was cloudy.

“The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
‘What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?'”

From “The Wind, One Brilliant Day” by Antonio Machado

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