I knew a man who carried with him everywhere he went a huge, heavy, smelly, dirty mudball. Why, it must have weighed almost as much as he did and was, in some ways, quite awesome to behold.
Asked why he bore this loathsome burden, he was unable to answer to a certainty but would say, “That’s the way I am.”
Te be sure that clod (the inanimate one, of course) slowed and otherwise impeded his progress wherever he went and made some things completely impossible, for you see, most of the time he carried it in FRONT of him and was very nearly invisible as a result. In order to see him at all, one had to approach either from the side or the rear, and the view one got was strange and distorted indeed!
As we walked along together on a journey of considerable length and indeterminate destination we began to talk, he and I, about the burden he (seemingly) so willingly bore for no apparent purpose.
Again and again he spoke his litany, “That’s the way I am.”
As we continued on our way we encountered many beautiful and wondrous sights, and were given opportunities to partake of some of the rarest and most precious of things. My delight was great at each of these instances and I partook with all the gusto I would, learning from each how, all the more, to enjoy the next. My friend, on the other hand, with his burden weighing all the more heavily for the time it was borne, took virtually none of these opportunities, his only reason being,
“That’s the way I am.”
Along and around we traveled, through the fine green and glory,, and, though I don’t recall at what point it actually began, his litany slowly transformed and metamorphosed before my eyes and ears and soon I heard him say,
“That’s WHAT I am.”
At this point I must apprise you of the fact that my companion was near to reaching his limit in bearing his burden. His knees were weak, his shoulders stooped, his feet flattened by the enormous constant strain. Even his brow was creased and his eyes held the look of permanent and intense pain. Yet again and again I heard him recite,
“That’s what I am.”
As we were negotiating a particularly arduous and demanding stretch of our journey, passing along a rocky coast with the salt spray stinging and the rocks huge and difficult to traverse, to my utter amazement a lone seagull hurtled out of the sun at what must have been very nearly supersonic speed and, after executing a perfect, delicate little loop, alit upon my companion’s “companion” … flaps up!
Ohhh, he was a gull of singular beauty and grace! Symmetrical in every detail, his markings drawn fine by the hand of some Greater Power, no doubt the same One creating the dazzling white of his feathers.
“My GOD, man!” I cried, “LOOK at that magNIFicent creature!”
“My name is Jonathan,” he pronounced, to no one in particular, though clearly ignoring MY outburst, “What are you carrying?”
“That’s what I am!” my friend replied, his voice quavering and tears welling up in his eyes. The burden of the bird was just one more than he could bear, and, so saying, he began to weep, quietly at first, then building to a soul-rending cry of pain. The tears flowed and flowed, rivers loosed by dams broken swiftly. As they flowed they began to drench and soak that mongerous clod (again, PLEASE, the inANimate one!) and it softened and began to break apart, cracking softly and crumbling.
My companion was HORRORstruck!
“That’s what I AM!!” he cried over and over again, seeing his life and his being crumbling before the rush of his tears. He fought and clawed to hang on to each piece as it fell away at first, but then,
… a strange and wonderful thing began to happen.
The tears stopped and he began to laugh, the first I’d heard of his laughter, and as the load became lighter and smaller and he could get first one and then the other hand free, he set down the ball and began to purposefully remove layer after layer of mud and dirt and dark, fearsome things.
“You know,” he said, “I’ve often wondered what was at my center.”
… and we began to catch glimpses, at first very fleeting and all too short, of a fiery and beautiful gem there, buried deep in the center of that loathsome and foul mass. As he approached the center, at times the layers became harder and required immense struggle and pain to remove, but he persisted and eventually, after incredible struggle and effort, the true center of the thing became apparent.
When at last the task was nearly done, there before us, basking in the sun, was a jewel of unsurpassed magnitude, Flawless in its every detail, emanating an aura of purity and purpose so powerful as to be nearly painful to look upon … and … ever so slowly …
… growing …
“… and THAT,” said Jonathan, rising effortlessly into a cloudless sky …
” … is what YOU ARE!!”