I have been reading, and savoring, a most amazing book, called Astonishing the Gods, by Ben Okri. It is the story of one man’s journey through worlds, in his search for truth, wisdom, and meaning. This book is highly evocative and lyrical, and can be read on many levels. Tonight I would like to share some of these pages with you, dear Readers, to inspire and nourish your souls and imagination.
What a better, more enlightened world would actually look like, one has to wonder. Ben Okri gives us his wonderful imagination’s version:
As if in a mist, he saw whole peoples rising from the depths of a great ocean, rising from forgetful waters. Then, with a fixed and mystic gaze in their eyes, he saw them walking to an island of dreams. There they began building a great city of stone, and within it mighty pyramids and universities and churches and libraries and palaces and all the new unseen wonders of the world. He saw them building a great new future in an invisible space. They built quietly for a thousand years. They built a new world of beauty and wisdom and protection and joy to compensate for their five hundred years of suffering and oblivion below the ocean.
He was filled with wonder at the great and enduring beauty of the new civilization they had built for themselves in their invisible spaces. They had built it as their sanctuary. They had built a fabulous civilization of stone and marble, of diamond and gold. They had constructed palaces of wisdom, libraries of the infinite, cathedrals of joy, courts of divine laws, streets of bliss, cupolas of nobility, pyramids of light. They had fashioned a civic society in which the highest possibilities of the inhabitants could be realized. They had invented mystery schools and rituals of illumination. They had created an educational system in which the most ordinary goal was living the fullest life, in which creativity of all spheres of endeavour was the basic alphabet, and in which the most sublime lessons possible were always learned and relearned from the unforgettable suffering which was the bedrock of their great new civilization.
He was stunned by the beauty of their eternal sculptings. Their paintings were glorious: they seemed to have reached such heights of development that the works imparted the psychic luminosity of their artistry in mysterious colours, concealed forms, and even more concealed subjects.
His guide said: “When you stop inventing reality then you see things as they really are.”
He said: “But I can’t seem to stop.” His guide said: “There is a time for inventing reality, and there is a time for being still. At the gate of every new reality you must be still, or you won’t be able to enter properly.”
“How do I learn to be still?”
“No one can teach you such things. You have to learn for yourself.”
(a bit further on in his journey, he experiences the following:)
A delighted mood blossomed in him as he passed the glittering arcades and marketplaces where the Invisibles from all over the world came to buy and sell ideas. Here they traded in philosophies, inspirations, intuitions, prophesies, paradoxes, riddles, enigmas, visions, and dreams. Enigmas were their trinkets, philosophies their jewelleries, paradoxes their silver, clarity their measure, inspiration their gold, prophecy their language, vision their play, and dreams their standard.
At this moment, I am about halfway through Okri’s mystical, dreamy world along with his main character, who narrates his own story but has no name: perhaps he is the Universal Human, or simply, in the tradition of the best storytellers, does not need to name himself since he is the one imparting the story to us. In a sense, this story is our collective human story, told in a very beautiful and deceptively simple way. This is the kind of book that stays with the reader long after the story is told.
In light of the times and what we are collectively experiencing, no matter how your personal world is unfolding from day to day, it behooves us all to take some time, daily, to dream into our future world. Envision the kind of world you would LIKE to see, to live in, to give to the world’s future children. Imagine it at the highest possible level. It is not enough to simply say that we want a better world, one cleansed of greed, violence, and fascists of every stripe. It will serve humanity well to envision this new world as vividly as possible. What will our government be like? Our educational system, health system, living quarters, worklife, family and home life, communities? How will different cultures interact with one another in our new world? What will the natural world be like? As you can see, envisioning the new is Big Work. Of course there are many fine people in the world today who are doing just this work of envisioning the future, and I for one am indebted to them for all their efforts and striving towards the new, improved, more evolved version of humanity. A thousand years, as Okri imagines in his book, is a long time to dream into. We may not be able to dream as deftly as he, but every step we take is a step towards the light. Towards a better world.
- Astonishing the Gods – Book Notes (thetaoofwealth.wordpress.com)
- poem of the day: An African Elegy by Ben Okri (ephemeralstream.wordpress.com)
- redreaming the gods by Lauren R (500px.com)
- On stories (windling.typepad.com)