What do humans dream of? Desire? Food? Hunger? Pain? Ecstasy — right around the corner there are a few newer temptations doting on us. And basically each human tries and lives differently than the other. But even this difference creates a sort of alliance. The symmetrical if found on difference. And that is what the monk saw? — No, that is definitely what he was thinking about. I am not God but I believe strongly that he was thinking about that. The way the life he lived was very different. From the two children he saw. They could live a life that was counter to his life. Yet, it was life. Oddly, it was life. He saw that the two children were happy. It is hard isn't it thinking about happiness? We all think that happiness drifts around and like some poltergeistic-nomadic force it touches others and we get to know it.
What the monk saw that day was envy. Envy not of the children. Envy was about himself. There two children were not detained by celibacy. There they did not feel sharing was away from the belief of purity. So, he was angered by the envy he experienced. You could see it with the twitching of his face from minute moments. His back was still calm. His posture still the foundation which humbleness and discipline had mastered. But what of the intelligible heart? Can anyone master that? Few. Only a few. In religion, they are the Gifted. Be the religion Abrahamic or not. And we mortals can only see that mastery as Narcissi saw the perfection of water and crash down unknowingly to it instead of seeing beyond the surface to the dynamics of that purification. The monk was envious.
In their world — let's say for the sake of argument that it is a different world than ours — they are telepathic to a certain degree. They believe lost souls are the ones who cannot communicate in "bubbles" or "balloons"; they are those round orb like spheres that help you travel even. The ones without such spheres are illiterate; left to their own devices they are the poor. They cannot communicate and of course they possibly could not get higher earning professions. The monk reminded himself that he was not poor even in the sense of "balloons" because he had left that world of only earning "balloons" and decided to find a deeper connection. The first time in his life while finding this order has he felt envy and it was of children! Children are innocence inborn that is understandable. But he was a child once too so there was no need for envy. But what was he missing?
There ahead of him his comrade was flying (literally) as an eagle and his sphere was somewhat sealed; it was golden encrusted. This meant he was in deeper meditation. And he was being secretive about it. That wasn't a good sign for the order. Secrets meant usually darkness and that creates suspicion for their company. But the eagle comrade flew ahead leaving behind envy and discord it seems and he was trapped in the state of non-meditation. And being left behind was also a cause of discord and envy. Now the children laughed and that caused him more envy and envy was a bitter thing.
"I am losing myself today," the monk was ashamed, "I must return to the home of embers to be able to concentrate in the shielded garden."
What was the shielded garden? Isn't that counterproductive to a garden? Well, upon entering the monk saw a great number of birds and he knew that a special hummingbird was his friend:
"Hey, come here, I want to talk to you!"
The hummingbird became a man once more and approached him smoking weed; "What is it? Didn't you like the park today? I thought you and another would try to reach and become animals that you can do an exercise of understanding...what, didn't go well?"
"I was gravely distracted and decided to come back here."
"That is not good; you should have tried."
"I did, I did try." the monk was annoyed that his weed smoking hummingbird friend criticized him so — his "balloons" came more easily than his and in a few months he had transformed into a beautiful hummingbird and that was more than he can say for himself.
"Hey, I am not criticizing you," that was not true by the way, "I am just criticizing you." see what I mean, "Because I see what potential you have." that was true.
"Potential is nothing without effort." The monk sighed, "Adequate effort." and he sighed even more.
"Flying around like a eagle." and out of feeling envy wanted to talk about golden seal around his "balloons" but then reason dictated otherwise and he decided not to tell.
"Well, it's good he's not distracted." the smoking monk with his weed winked.
"Stop trying to make me feel bad."
"Well, what was the distraction? Some fine legs? A man? A woman?"
The smoking monk looked astonished, "Are you a criminal?"
"It wasn't sexual; it was an exercise in thinking beyond the assigned lesson."
"You were daydreaming about children?" the smoking monk took another puff and offered the weed to his friend, "Have some of this and at least think about sex."
"I have had many moments thinking about sex." the monk shrugged as though he was having a grotesque sensation, "I was thinking something related to the children."
"Are you frigid?"
"So? Kids don't beat sex."
" Maybe, but at the moment sex is not my fancy."
"You know this order may be secularly spiritual but it's account on celibacy is a bitch."
"I guess if we have too much sex it's wrong."
"We live together in an order; too much expression might make it a brothel."
"If you say so; but I saw a pretty turtle that I wish I can share a smoke with."
"A smoking colourful hummingbird with a turtle; that is a nice equation of sorts." the monk laughed, "But celibacy is in the contract when you sign up so you better enjoy your smoke alone. Unless, you want to go back to the old job."
"Nah, not gonna risk that. Here I get clarity and I can experiment with the drugs I want to and become animals. It's a great party. Comparatively, the old 'balloons' were getting rusty."
"Well, I think I need think now."
"About the children?"
"I am going to the elder and asking him about this."
"Have a good time with that old guy."
The man became a hummingbird and flew off once more and the monk looked sadly and thought how carefree his friend was with his weed and wings — and here he was thinking about children! And it was envy of children! But then he decided to go into the inner house with its grand space. It was only one room but it looked like a flat shed. And the whole room was like a rectangular boat. Here the order's chief did his meditations. But he did not like meeting people or talking to them much. He liked meditations and only his select group. When he was younger he had been slightly agoraphobic because he had gone to political rallies where people's "balloons" scared him — the uncontrollable violence and the deep misery made him think of thoughts that were neater and understood more about nature around him. So he decided to try adopt a monkish sort of lifestyle.
When he entered the room he could hear the humming voices of variously spheres; the elder chief, who was in his sixties, was able to partition his thoughts and at times bring out many "balloons" at the same time. Which obviously meant a lot of concentration. In our world do we not marvel at multitasking? Well, then take this as a form of multitasking. But so many spheres made clear to the monk that the elder chief was busy and probably in a very deep fold of meditation. But the monk's urgency was deep too. And such an urgency has been troubling him to the distraction that did not allow him to exercise what he was meant to so he needed a clarification. Though he looked normal — I think so that he looked normal — while talking with his hummingbird friend he had been deeply disturbed. Especially, that his friend was right about something. He had forgotten about sex. To people detained in celibacy after so many years of the rounds of that drink it's hard to stop thinking of it automatically. Even light flickers when it goes out. Now, here he was in the sanctum of the chief and no matter what he was going to be heard — in our world we call this heroic and I think they call it the same in their world of "balloons" and animal transformations — so, he cleared his throat and called out: "Uh, elder, I need to speak to you. It is urgent. I'm sorry but this is important as it even distracted my transformations today."
The elder came out from the deep pool at the centre of the room. There was a deep pool there for his many aquatic transformations. At times they even saw him as an orca eating fish and swimming around in a rapid space of free momentum. So, this time the monk thought that he was an orca too but instead a beach ball darted towards his direction and soon a "Ork!Ork!" sound brought out a nice looking seal. The seal seemed happy and clapped its feet in joy and as he transformed into a man he chirped: "Do you know those 'balloons' that were up in the air a few moments ago; my seal self kicked them up — I was happily thinking of so many thoughts. Now, tell me monk what ails you?"
"That is very normal." the elder chief looked disappointed as though he was expecting something of a more calamitous nature, "You know going to the shielded garden can help. You can talk to your fellows or have whatever they are having."
"I did go there and talking did not soothe me." the monk looked determined, "In fact, it made me more restless to talk to you because my worry is quite strange."
"Well, what is your worry?"
But before the monk could say something the aforementioned eagle came bursting through the doors with the golden "balloon" and shrieked as she became human again: "My human self interferes with my bird self; it's quite irksome!"
"There, there...what is wrong with you...?" the elder chief scratched his head as he saw two troublesome monks in his chambers.
"I became an eagle...I went out with him," she indicated to our monkish protagonist, "And then I had to seal my 'balloon' in a golden crust."
"Why? You think your thoughts as an eagle would not be valued?" the elder chief scratched his head even more.
"No, I was having thoughts of anger and vengeance in my eagle form sometimes that made me seal my 'balloon' up."
"What did you want to do?"
"Claw out the eyes of those who have hurt me. I wanted them to know I had succeeded in life and that they were wrong about me."
"We all fear power but use it justly and you can get good rewards for all those that are around you and even for yourself."
"Yes, but I was afraid that my human anger was amplified in my eagle transformations."
"We never do leave our human selves just exercise other methods of self. You must not be afraid to understand that you are not perfect and neither is your transformation."
"But I was happy as an eagle; I flew around a kite with two children and soon they marveled at how I can travel and I heard them talking about God and Her wonders and I felt pleased that I was able to make them think positively about the world."
"Interaction with them is not really necessary as in talking to them. We are far away from their world now. They can share 'balloons' irrationally and not without the exercises that we favour for. We must remember that our order is meant for harmonizing thoughts and that we have already passed that age."
"But is it really a bad thing all the time? The children seemed happy and they seemed content in sharing their 'balloons' and though their individualism remained intact their interaction seemed quite enjoyable too. I was quite impressed by the children."
"They are children and need that sort of mingling. They are growing up." the chief looked a bit stern, "But our order stresses on celibacy. We cannot be like the others outside. We only talk with others when we need to nor else we will be indolent and not do our exercises."
"I suppose so." The female monk seemed uncertain as to what the chief said. The monk had thought his comrade-eagle had been a man ( there were many of the others in the park) but it had been this woman. And she had also seen the children too and was impressed with them. But the chief was not impressed. This meant his urgency would be dismissed as it was dismissed now at the wonder of the female monk. But the female monk had spoken nevertheless even though she knew the chief might not commend her thoughts — because let's face it they are monkish people and from what we are seeing they are meant to do thought-exercises and not be like the general populace so there is a big chance that commending the general populace is a no-no — so, she gave him encouragement to voice out his own. "But I still liked the children very much."
"Yes, children are nice." the chief sighed because he was wearied by her incorrigible fascination reminding himself to be patient and that the monks are people like himself who were liable to be distracted and hypnotized by petty things — well, to him it was petty and if you asked me about it I'd said that was rather crude of him and very nonsensical indeed because if you look at our world we humans are very social but though this is not our world and they have those "balloons" I feel that despite argument's sake they are a lot like us wouldn't you agree? I know I do but that is me and you might be thinking the same thing that I might be thinking or not oh well, let's continue — and the chief turned to the monk, "Is your query something like this?"
"It's a personal one." The monk was embarrassed to reveal such a thing in front of the female monk.
"I'll leave and go to the shielded garden," she smiled, "I want to see if a certain turtle wants to hear about children."
As she left the chief sighed, "She's a woman; they are bound to like children especially because of the celibacy rule that we have."
"But you cannot say males don't like children." the monk hesitantly uttered, "Don't you have children too."
"They despise me." the chief looked very sad all of a sudden, "They believe I am senile. You cannot trust youth these days."
"But you still love them." The monk saw a certain longing in the eyes of the chief.
"Love can't change their minds it seems." the chief then smiled, "I believe they want what's best for me."
"Do they want to put you in an institution or something?"
"Even if they did I rather not discuss about it."
"I understand." The monk thought — and I think rightfully don't you? — that his children did not like the idea of an order or its ministrations. They were like a cult in this society and though they adorned monkish behaviours and dress and even referred to themselves as monks they were not part of any religious subdivision or new religious enthusiasts. They were outcasts in many ways who could be some bohemian mix of dadaism and hippieism in our world (can't forget that this is some other world which ironically has our disciplines and heroes; it could be some parallel version at best). And as they were outcasts the budding children of the chief obviously did not see much use of them. And their own father the leader of such a precarious "balloon" tribe was an offense to the thriving economics of professionalism. Best to keep away from such a father right (I'm not saying anything but that's how they think).
"What is it you wanted to talk about?" the chief eyed him now very seriously.
"About the children that she saw, I saw them too and I wanted to talk about them as well."
"Oh dear..." the chief was in a peril, "All of a sudden all of you want to procreate! This is hazardous to your contracts! And your time here! How will you manage your exercises if you think about bedding each other for children?"
"I do not want children."
"Oh...." the chief looked surprised, "Then did you interact with them too? Did something go wrong?" the chief stressed on that.
"No, I didn't interact with them. But I was troubled by them. I became envious of them."
"Envious of children?"
"But why so?"
" Because they live so well."
"And you don't?" the chief looked startled.
"Well, maybe not."
"You are not doing your animal exercises are you?"
"Maybe I don't want to. I like myself as a man."
"Well, you will never permanently turn into an animal. You are just learning to see in various angles. You want to live in other forms to get a better understanding of the world."
"But I want to see the world clearly as a man too."
"Well, aren't the exercises for that?"
"Well, maybe —"
"Maybe: it is the core foundation of the order." the chief seemed displeased at the monk's confusion but the monk didn't lose heart.
"Well, I want what the children had. I want to share things very much. A celibate lifestyle devoid of 'balloon' sharing and sex and even intimacy is causing me to be envious of children!"
"You were once a child and you have had all the benefits of being a child then." the chief stressed, "You can leave the order if you want but I am afraid I do not understand your envy."
"No, you don't." now the monk was pretty annoyed startling the chief, "Of all these transformations into different things can't we transform back into children again?"
"No, time has moved and that time is gone. You cannot go back there. It's the way life moves. Your transformations are in the now. That is very important."
"I am not saying that they are not important but I want you to understand that time has different dimensions and thoughts as well. I want to experience as those children because I have a child in me and that also needs tending; it's as human as this present form of me. It is not violating any conduct or code it just wants to breathe."
"Dear friend, you may leave this order if you wish to be like them. You can recant your statements in the contract. Yet I'm afraid to say you lack maturity; you want to be like them but I don't think that is wise."
"No chief you lack maturity."
"What?..." the chief saw the challenge and seemed startled that the monk would say such things to him. Wasn't he the head of the order? — we all know patriarchs and matriarchs have that sort of thing in them.
"You do not understand me; or want to understand me. You are making a crime out of a simple human need of interaction. You do not see things as clearly as you claim. Whether I leave or not is my decision and if you want me to go I will leave but it will not change this feeling I have I know that much."
"You can not talk to me like this..." the chief was more nervous than angry, "You do not know what you are saying."
"I think I do."
"Well, if that is all."
"Who knows — it could be the beginning."
The monk left the confused chief in his chambers and upon going out he saw the female monk smiling at him: "I heard everything!"
The monk did not like this. But the female monk did not look guilty, "And were you supposed to?"
"No, but I wanted to."
"Why? Why this intrusion of my privacy?"
"Well, I was leaving until I heard you mention the children."
"And the chief gave you an unsatisfactory answer too."
"Yes." the monk admitted that the female's given answer too was unsatisfactory.
"So, what now?" she thought he had something — naturally he rejected their chief with such purpose — he must have something right?
"No, I don't know what to do."
"Ok, well let's then share a 'balloon'."
"What?" the monk blushed; it has been a long time since we went on such an interesting boat ride with a person. After all 'balloons' are like bus rides with friends.
"Yes, let's go out to the park and share our 'balloons' like those children did. We can then transform too if we want but it'll be nice to come out of our strict cerebral diets don't you think?"
And I can see them doing that; people were wondering what two such secular monks doing. Was the order changing?
So what do humans desire? It varies always. How we see the sky, the moon, the sun and stars — how we see the water and bundles of fruit — the sea, the foam, blood and earth — in the end our minds and bodies are all architectural pieces floating on a gravity-bound and gravity-less cosmos. Only God knows what we want...our "balloons" fly on...
Author's Note: I had written this originally for Week Nine for the Storyteller's Storytime Contest but I couldn't submit it unfortunately. But I decided to put it up anyway :) The picture prompt came from them.