A Tale of Telling

 A Tale of Telling

 

Ian and Bertrand were best friends. They liked to tell people to do what they were already doing. When they saw someone eating a pie, either Bertrand or Ian would approach them and say “hey, you should eat a pie.” Likewise when a man at the train station was smoking, Ian advised him he should smoke. Together they told the teacher to teach, the butcher to carve meat, the farmer to farm, the musician to play music, and so on. Usually people would respond with a smile or a thankyou. The worst that happened was when Ian told the bank teller to tell banks, Ian was given five dollars and ordered to go and get a job.  

But not all of Ian and Bert’s fun was so simple. One time they mounted blue and red lights on top of their Volkswagen. That night they drove through the suburbs. Ian had a megaphone, and with an authoritative voice he would scream out the window: “Stay in your houses and go to sleep so you have enough energy to work tomorrow.” With inner quietude, Ian and Bertrand were convinced that they were doing the entire community a favour. They had found their niche. 

One night on their rounds, Ian and Berty were pulled over by the police. The policeman informed the two that driving around with flashing lights on top of their car and screaming into peoples houses was disturbing the peace and therefore illegal. Startled, but with collected composure Ian told the policeman that he was doing a good job…that he should keep doing what he does. This pleased the policeman who let them off with a warning. 

So Ian and Bertrand went about their lives as usual. One day, they decided to go for a walk. They walked through town to the main square and toward the valley to the orchard. Ian thought that if he told the fruit pickers to pick fruit they might give them a free apple or orange or peach. As they came to the corner of the orchard, something was different, even strange. “That’s funny” said Ian.“Yes, yes it is.”“My sturdy-wordy-lordy”In front of them stood a flying saucer that had landed in the middle of the orchard. They were both standing there staring when a door on the craft opened. Out came a martian. The martian walked straight up to Ian who said:“Hello Mr Martian, pleased to meet you. You just keep on being a martian, I like it.” Warmed, the martian walked back into his craft and the door closed. Ian turned to Bert and they happily walked home. They had made a new friend.  

That night they were awoken by the policeman who had told them off earlier. The policeman was driving around with his lights flashing, screaming into a megaphone:“Stay in your houses and go to sleep so you have enough energy to work tomorrow.” “That’s funny” Ian said to Bert, “I thought that was illegal.” “I wonder what it’s about” Bert said to Ian. “I don’t know, but we better do what they say.”  

The next morning on the way to get milk the next door neighbour informed Ian and Bertrand that the police had caught the martian and locked her in jail.  

*** 

The above parable came to me in the middle of the night when I was trying to sleep. It was as if the words literally ripped me out of bed and forced themselves onto a page. The content of the story isn’t really my main concern in this postscript. You can take anything you want from it. Perhaps nothing. What I want to discuss is its ending and endings in general. To the people I have shown this story their main criticism is that the ending is too abrupt and anti-climatic. Their insinuation is that I got lazy and have taken the easy path. Thus I have returned to it on many occasions in an attempt to make appropriate changes. But alas, no stronger alternatives have presented themselves. May be it is my lack of ability or imagination. It’s as if whatever was written in a fury that night was done in a frame of mind never to be rediscovered.  

In the movie Big Fish there is an old witch. If you look into her eyes you witness the way that you kick your own bucket. For the main character in the story it enables him to live the fullest life possible. He knows that he isn’t going to die today so he throws himself on the neck of the proverbial dragon. There is an ambiguity throughout the film between what is real and what is fantasy, fact/fiction, life/art. The merging of these opposites is represented by the notion that the people in the story have the power to choose what occurs throughout their lives.   

The wonderful American moralist/comedian Bill Hicks said: “The world is an amusement park and when you choose to go on it you think it is real because that is how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down and round and round, it has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud. And it’s fun for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a very long time and they begin to question: is this real or is it just a ride? And other people have remembered and they come back to us and they say don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because it’s just a ride.” 

I’m really attracted to these kinds of sentiments, and I’m always looking for new ‘useful fictions’ to keep this notion fresh. In short, they all seem to say: the longing that you observe within you, which can never be satiated causes you great suffering. Fearing and fleeing from suffering is futile. Suffering is nothing, suffering is illusion. Love your suffering.  

 

Who knows what will happen in the end of my story?          

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