"You have said; but whether wisely or no, let the forest judge."
(Touchstone - "As You Like It" Act 3, scene 2. W. Shakespeare.)
I Sing of the Time before the Building of the Temple.
Imagine if you will one broad, free sweep of landscape dipping seaward, rising to the sky, peopled as in 'The Vision Concerning Piers Plowman' by William Langland:
'A fair field full of folk...
Of all manner of men the rich and the poor,
Working and wandering as the world asketh.'
At one with the elements they live and love in the natural cathedral of earth and sea and sky, with a homely profundity and the fearless curiosity of life on the wing.
And there were among them some who carried much knowledge in their minds and wisdom in their hearts who, all knew, understood the child better than most, for they were as children themselves before the ancientness of things. Such were the good companions.
To these were entrusted the growing of the children. In fields folk tended to their crops while, close by, in sundry modest chapels, a different seed-time grew to standing corn.
Of the teachings therein none were quite alike, being as the species of the flowers in a field. Neither did they know the tyranny of the one.
This was the way of things from time immemorial.
I Speak of the Temple.
It came to pass that the deciders convinced themselves and the people that it would be a good idea to replace the old patchwork of chapels with just one majestic temple.
"Everyone deserves the best," they said. "Our temple shall be the envy of the World."
And the people acquiesced, in the name of equality, having no reason to mistrust those who had stepped forward for election.
Wondrous was the busyness of it all.
The deciders sent forth for the thinkers from distant lands.
The thinkers thought and were rewarded.
Then scribes scribbled and were rewarded.
Printers pressed and were rewarded.
The great decider looked upon The Common Teachings and saw that it was good, ordering that it be placed upon the altar of the Temple.
How irresistible seems collective man when harnessed to the one creation! How suddenly, sometimes, night masks the day with no twilight between.
At one gesture from the great decider acre upon acre transformed to Temple pavement overnight. Just before what would have been dawn, the great new doors swung open, enormous bells clanged hour upon hour until all, ALL, had passed the empty chapels and were gathered in.
No one noticed the closing of the doors. There was so much to be done - so, at least, the showers said.
The showers were as much a part of the architecture as the stained glass images and wall paintings they had been trained to show. Some had been good companions; most were not. The great decider had no faith in chapel ways.
There had, amongst the deciders, been some brief discussion on Temple working hours and, having concluded there was nothing of value to know or to be done beyond its precincts, they set the great clock to perpetual day. Adults, henceforth, would work in and for the Temple; and the showers would instruct the young, so they too, in time, would be ready to take an allotted place beneath the beneficent dome.
All the paths were marked upon the Temple floor. Daily, for years, the children trod, listless, past the familiar stucco pictures and coloured glass depicting The Common Teachings. Sometimes a child vaguely wondered what made the stained glass glow. This made the showers unhappy. It was not a relevant question.
The observers were everywhere. They were the eyes and ears of the deciders, and as fearful of losing status as the testers who reported directly to the great decider with favourable statistics concerning the efficacy of The Common Teachings.
It was understood that, with favourable reports, one might attend one of the side chapels for a more varied diet of instruction. But even here the eye of the observer scrutinised by right.
It was rumoured in dark corners that, unlike everyone else, the deciders and their trusted allies did not live in the Temple; that there were still a few of the oldest chapels outside, attended by chosen children.
Outside? How could there be? There was no 'outside' in The Common Teachings.
This was how it was in the time of the Temple.
I Sing of the Fall of the Temple.
It began with a slight crazing of the stained glass high above the walls; with the crumbling of plastered images from the touch of too many hands; from the subsidence of stones without foundations beneath the trudge of far too many feet.
"What's that?" cried a child, taken with the tendril of a plant growing through the Temple floor.
"That picture in the glass!" exclaimed another, bathing in a narrow shaft of sunlight. "It's gone! Oh! Stand here with me! It's so warm!"
Then: through the dome above, from the earth below, through wall and window crashed strange things of living green and warm, pulsating, radiating light. Hands young and old clawed at the crumbling stones, tore gaping holes. Scenting the invading vegetation, gulping in an air purer than the rank Temple incense, families of folk stumbled through the breaches into a waiting world.
Weeping, in their thousands they threw themselves upon the forest floor, smelling the pines of freedom, totally lost but incontinently blithe.
When they came to their senses, helping hands lifted them up. And the good companions, patient as nature, lead them, each by each, to the upland clearings through ancient, knowing, sunlit forest glades.
A Personal Note.
This post is...what it is. All I can say is that I began teaching in the year of Woodstock, 1969, and I never dreamed it would be so necessary to recall Joni Mitchell's words:
"We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, And we got to get ourselves back to the garden."
© Ray Wilcockson (2014) All rights Reserved.