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Walls

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The Man sat alone at his hearth, safe within the refuge of his Walls.

Outside the Storm trembled with scarce concealed anger and shook the very foundations of all that dared stand in its path.

The Man smiled, for the Storm was without and he was within; and his Walls were strong. Just how strong he alone knew; and he knew it well. For he had built his Walls with his own hands, stone upon stone, mortar upon mortar, beam upon beam. He had built with a single and ferocious purpose; to keep the raging Storm outside and himself safe and warm within.

There had been a time when the Man had walked in the Storm Outside, when he had felt the winds of enmity pluck at his garments and had known the stinging rain of intolerance drive against his face and in his eyes. He could still recall the murderous hatred in the lightning bolt, and in the thunderclap the baying for blood of the frenzied mob.

He remembered too the aftermath of the Storm Outside; the broken forms which littered its path, the shattered limbs, the empty eyes, the pleading voices. He could still recall the gentle weeping for that which was lost and destroyed. He could still hear the bitter questions; questions seeking answers to what had been and what was yet to come; questions seeking answers where answers there were none; only darkness and despair.

So the Man had come to hate the Storm Outside and had built his Walls about him to hold himself safe and warm within. Nothing, least of all the loneliness of his hearth, would ever again make him venture forth into the Storm Outside nor persuade him to open his door for the Storm Outside to venture in. In defiance of the poet, he was indeed an island entire unto himself; his hearth, his home, his world, his Walls.



All of a sudden on the door in the windward wall there came a knock. Not the harsh knock of authority in the night, far less the unctuous knock of the salesman on his rounds. This was a scarcely noticeable knock, almost lost in the sounds of the Storm Outside, more like the brush of an errant branch against the lintel.

The Man at his hearth shook his head in irritation, praying this was but a trick of his imagination. Then again came the knock, this time accompanied by a gentle moan. The Man's eyes blazed at this unwarranted invasion of the silence of his sanctuary.

"Be gone" he cried.

"I beg you Sir, I am cold and wet and hungry and I have nowhere else to go. Of your mercy give me shelter from this fearful storm, else I must perish."

"You are no concern of mine” cried the Man. "If you could not take steps to protect yourself from the Storm Outside, as I have done, then you must carry the consequences. Within my Walls there is only room for one. So find your own salvation. I care nothing but that you should be gone."

There followed no reply, only muffled sobs. The Man listened curiously as the sobbing faded into the Storm Outside leaving him once again alone and safe within the refuge of his Walls. And so it should be, he thought, as he turned once more towards the warmth of his hearth and allowed his eyes to close.



Outside the Storm grew ever stronger. Harder and faster beat the fists of the wind upon the structures that man had built in the storm's path. Deeper and with ever greater penetration drove the rain's shrapnel into the cladding which was placed there to keep it out.

Through it all the Man slept safe within the refuge of his Walls.

Then it began.

It begins slowly but inexorably. One sharp raindrop finds a tiny crevice in the windward wall to enter in and to begin to unbind the mortar between two stones. One gust of wind shakes the same two loosened stones and opens a slightly wider crevice for yet more raindrops to penetrate and in turn further to unbind the mortar which holds together other stones. Outwardly there is no noticeable sign of change. Inwardly however the strength of the Walls is draining just as surely as the incoming tide erodes the castle made of sand.

Through it all the Man sleeps safe within the refuge of his Walls.

It happens slowly; but when it comes, it comes with terrifying speed.

One moment the windward wall with its door was there. Then a great blast of wind and the wall that had withstood the Storm Outside was gone, tumbled as if it had never been.

With the joyous bound of released frustration, the Storm Outside leapt in and set about the Man asleep beside his hearth. Brutally awakened, the Man curled up in terror as the winds of enmity plucked at his garments and the rain of intolerance drove against his face. He placed his hands about his ears and shut fast his eyes, for they were the last windows on his mind; and with his Walls breached his mind was his final refuge. Yet even so through his eyelids he could see the flickering hatred of the lightning bolts and through his hands could hear within the thunderclaps the baying for blood of the frenzied mob.

And suddenly all was darkness and despair.



Storms by their nature are cyclonic and at the middle - in the eye - is calm. Whether it was this natural phenomenon or owing to some greater force can never be ascertained, but all of a sudden the winds around the Man died and the rains ceased. While the fury of the Storm Outside could still be heard nearby and all about, the place where lay the Man was calm.

The Man opened his eyes.

Before him stood a tall figure dressed in a long golden robe. The face was hidden by a deep hood. The voice was gentle.

"I have come to help you" it said. "I saw your wall tumble and I watched the Storm Outside invade your hearth. I thought you might need me."

"I have no need for you," replied the Man arrogantly, "I still have three strong walls standing and I will soon rebuild the one that has come down."

"Ah well" said the figure, "it is clear then that you do not need me. I will leave you to the storm."

"No, please" cried the Man, his bravado rapidly evaporating in the darkness and despair once more before his eyes, “I pray you stay. I meant no offence. I am not accustomed to company and am used to fending for myself.” He paused, and then with sudden suspicion enquired “How come you were so near at hand when my windward wall was tumbled?”

"It was I who knocked on your door a while ago and in poverty sought entry. When you turned me away I moved a few yards off to witness what I could have prevented. I watched the storm invade your Walls. It was no less than just reward for the way in which you had treated me".

"Who are you" whispered the Man "that you could turn away the Storm Outside? What strengths claim you that my Walls have not?"

"I" said the figure in the golden robe, "I am Love."

"I am Love and I am in all, and above all and around all."

"What is love?" cried the Man contemptuously. “I have sought love all my life and have found only betrayal and deception masquerading in love's clothing.”

"My friend," said Love gently, "your failure to find me lies not with me but within yourself. You have sought me as the prospector seeks gold, an ore to be acquired, a treasure to be collected. Love however lies not in seams to be mined, far less among the gravels of Life’s streams. I am not a gilded trinket to be picked up and bartered for pleasure. I am not a passing whim nor some transient sexual urge. I live in people's hearts - or I live not. I am not found. I am formed. I am not a taking but a giving, an exhalation rather than an indrawn breath. It is little wonder therefore that, if all you did was seek me, you did not find me."

"How then" asked the Man "do I create love?"

"I," said Love " I am your good will towards others. I am your desire for their happiness and their well-being. I am your joy in their existence. If they pay that same return to you, if your love for them is requited, then grasp it tight as the gift which it is and not some right which it is not. The truth is this, that those who simply seek me rarely find me, but those who form and nurture me in their hearts will find me ever by their side."

"To whom then shall I offer this love?" inquired the Man, "for the world is full of people who are unworthy of such love, whom I could never love and who certainly would not love me."

"If we are created in the image of that greater Good which made us" said Love, "then in every one of us however small or deeply hidden must be some nugget which is good; else that image is untrue. I am like a radio signal transmitted into the human ether, seeking out those areas of the soul within which resides that potential for goodness, and striving to generate within them a signal in return. You, my friend, are the beacon, I am the signal, those people are the transponders."

"But what" asked the Man "is the point of such response? The love of a man for a woman is focused love which can lead to procreation and the continuation of the species. Such love has a role to play. But wider love of the sort which you expound, where is its return?"

Love reached out a hand and pulled the Man to his feet.

"Such Love" said the figure in the golden robe "is if anything greater still. For Love which reaches ever outwards sows the seeds of trust; and trust is the key to replacing division with harmony, conflict with co-operation and rhetoric with understanding. These together are the pillars of a more settled world. Of course all love requires hard perseverance and it can never be taken for granted. That Love which reaches outwards is the hardest of all, for it aims into the unknown. Yet the rewards from it are potentially the greatest."

"Alas," sighed the Man, "for all your golden words I cannot love. I live alone and I venture not beyond my Walls, walls that your signal cannot penetrate. I thank you for your kind concern but your wavelength is not compatible with my lifestyle."

"So you may think" said Love "yet I for my part have no no-go areas. Your failure to love is because you have not allowed yourself to let me in. Can you not see that your failure to let me in has already brought one of your walls tumbling to the ground and let in much more than me. If you will only welcome me to your hearth so that you can radiate me outward again then you can begin once more to keep the Storm Outside at bay."

"Are you saying" asked the Man "that, if only I can learn to love, my Walls and my hearth will be restored to me to keep me from the fury of the Storm Outside?"

"I can help" answered the figure in the golden robe, "but you will need more than me alone."

"Like what?" asked the Man.

"Like me" replied a voice resonant with age and experience.

At that, the calm was riven by another great fist of wind that shook the very earth upon which the Man and the figure of Love stood and brought the leeward wall crashing to the ground. Once again instinctively the Man closed his eyes to keep the Storm Outside without. Once again the wind passed and the calm returned although the fury of the Storm Outside could still be heard nearby and all about. The Man looked up.

Alongside the figure in the golden robe there now stood another figure of similar stature and similarly garbed and hooded so that the face was hidden. This time the robe was of the deepest brown.

"Who are you?" asked the Man.

"I" said the figure in the brown robe, "I am Patience".



"I am Patience and I am always just outside the door".

"What need have I of patience?" snapped the Man, angry at the fall of yet another of his walls. "I live on my own and do not have to tolerate anyone or anything. I take my own decisions for myself in my own time and wait not upon the decisions of others. What has patience to do with me?"

"Your very tone is impatient" said Patience patiently. "You of all people need me if you are to keep the Storm Outside without. For my very essence is the understanding that there are forces outside you and your Walls that are more powerful than your will and your want. If you fight all those forces at once, they will together destroy you. If you learn to recognise those which cannot be resisted then you can turn them to advantage."

"But surely" said the Man, "Patience is about waiting and not becoming frustrated. To be patient one must live in expectation of something. Yet I expect nothing except to live safe from the Storm Outside secure within the refuge of my Walls. What therefore can Patience offer me?"

"I am not about waiting" replied Patience. "I am about acceptance. I neither complain about nor fear that which I cannot change nor influence. I accept that there is a greater Will than mine, a more cosmic pattern to events than that which I can plan for myself. I can accept that this greater Will rather than my own must prevail; indeed I can find solace in that. Sometimes there is powerful merit in simply placing one’s trust in a greater Will than one's own and giving oneself over to it - like a boat turning off its engines and consigning itself to the drifts and currents of the ocean."

"How then if I am drifting" asked the Man "can I know my destination?"

"With me you can never know for certain your destination" Patience replied. "Yet that uncertainty is not a weakness to be feared, but rather a strength to be treasured; for it is shaped by a faith which transcends that which as humans we can see or touch or calculate. Like my colleague Love, it is a giving oneself to another in trust and confidence."

"Is not that humiliation and submission?" said the Man.

"No" said Patience "because it is voluntary and not coerced, it is positive rather than begrudging. Thus it is humility rather than humiliation, loving submitting rather than bitter surrender. It is glorious and brave and challenging. Can you not see from my demeanour that I fly constantly in the face of the Storm Outside? That is why I am with you now."

"Are you saying then " asked the Man "that, if only I can learn to love and to exercise patience, once again my Walls and my hearth will be restored to me to keep me from the fury of the Storm Outside?"

"We can help" answered the figures in the golden and brown robes, "but you will need more than just us two."

"Like whom?" asked the Man.

"Like me" replied a voice vibrant and strong.

Once again there drove through the calm another great blast of wind that shifted the very soil upon which the Man and the figures of Love and Patience stood, and brought the third wall crashing to the ground. Once again the Man closed his eyes to keep the storm without, and once again the wind passed and calm returned although the fury of the Storm Outside could still be heard nearby and all about. The Man looked up.

Alongside the figures in the golden and brown robes there now stood yet another figure of slightly taller build but similarly garbed and hooded so that again the face was hidden. This time the robe was of crimson red.

"Who are you?" asked the Man.

"I" said the figure in the crimson robe, "I am Courage".



"I am Courage and I ride on the back of the Storm Outside".

"Courage surely is for those who seek to fight" said the Man. "I have no wish to fight or to find myself in any circumstances where courage is required. Some thrive on the thrill of risk, ever ready to take the offered dare. Some only really come alive with the kick of adrenaline in their heart muscle. In the days when I walked in the Storm outside I saw those men of courage, strutting the stage and challenging the world to take them on. They were a part of the Storm Outside, part of what I left behind forever when I built my Walls. What need therefore have I for such courage now?"

"I do not recognise myself in what you say" said the figure in the crimson robe. "What you describe is not courage. It is bravado, even braggadocio, and neither of those are courage. And when its feet are placed against the flame of danger it may not even pass the starting gate. Of course there are those for whom it is more, who fight fights fearlessly and never flinch even in the hottest fire. Yet I am not with them either. For I cannot be where there is no fear or, worse still, no imagination. Those who are without fear or imagination may have many virtues but I am not among them. I live with those who are afraid but overcome their fear, who freeze with terror at the prospect of danger and yet drag themselves forward to face it. I stand beside those who can see the full horrors of what is to come and yet do what must be done. They are with me and I with them."

"But not with me" said the Man "for I do not live in the world you talk about. Within my Walls there is no danger, nor prospect of it, for I am secure within my refuge. There is no need for fear. And because there is nothing to come except what is now, there are no horrors to imagine nor duties to perform. I have only my hearth, and my hearth asks nothing of me. That is what I designed my world to be; and that is how it should be".

"What price your walls now" cried Courage "for I see only one wall still standing and your hearth has fallen cold. Can you not see what the Storm Outside has already done to you? Do you still not understand why I and my companions are here?"

"I understand" replied the Man in chastened tone "that you are here to help me build my Walls again. Forgive me if I have sounded rude or ungrateful but I am striving to see how you can provide that help when courage is not something which I can see that I need."

"You need me now more than ever" said the figure in the crimson robe. “The Storm Outside which is all around threatens with all its force once again, with the winds of enmity and the rains of intolerance in its van, to invade and destroy for ever what is left of your Walls and of your hearth. You will need me with you now, just as you will need me while you rebuild your life and as you will continue to need me with you once you have done so."

"Perhaps I will need you while I rebuild my Walls" said the Man, "but once that is done why should I need you then?"

"Because nothing in life is ever finally done" said Courage. "There will always be decisions still to be taken. There will come the Time of Choice when you must choose. Choice by her nature offers options - some easier than others, some more comfortable, some less strenuous. Some will be more popular than others. Very few will be right; indeed most will be wrong. You will need me when Choice sets her options before you. You will need me to direct your hand towards the option that is right rather than that which is expedient, towards the option that is true rather than that which is comfortable, towards the option that is real rather than that which is easier. The Time of Choice is a lonely and fearful time when the siren voices which sing for the Storm Outside draw the chooser inexorably towards those options which will give new wings to the Storm Outside and fresh energy to those who ride within it. I, who ride on its back, I know the Time of Choice well and I alone can combat the siren voices. That, my friend, is why you will need me. That is why I am here."

"Are you saying then " asked the Man "that if only I can learn to love and to exercise patience and to show courage, my Walls and my hearth will be restored to me to keep me once more from the fury of the Storm outside?"

"We can help" answered the figures in the golden, the brown and the crimson robes, "but you will need someone more than just us three."

"Like whom?" asked the Man.

"Like me" replied a voice redolent with harmony. At that the calm was split by a lightning bolt which struck the very ground upon which the Man and the figures of Love, of Patience and of Courage stood and buried itself in the last wall, breaking it into many pieces. And the accompanying thunderclap resounded with the baying of the frenzied mob for blood. The Man closed his eyes and blocked his ears to keep the Storm without, and once again the Storm passed and calm returned although still the fury of the Storm Outside could still be heard nearby and all about. The Man looked up.

Alongside the figures in the golden, the brown and the crimson robes there now stood yet another figure of slightly smaller build but garbed and hooded in the same way so that once more the face was hidden. This time the robe was of dazzling white.

"Who are you?" asked the Man.

"I" said the figure in the white robe, "I am Peace".



"I am Peace who springs from Courage and Patience by the power of Love. I am the eternal eye of the eternal storm".

"I once had peace" said the Man sadly. "Within my Walls there was peace, for I kept the Storm Outside without. By my hearth there was peace for I allowed nothing in which could disturb it. Peace is what I need again now, not these others. Why, Peace, could you not come first?"

"What you had was not Peace" said the figure in the robe of dazzling white. "What you had was a void, an escape, a vacuum. I am not emptiness, nor just the absence of something worse, nor even some neutral element. I am real, I am tangible and I am here. Touch me."

With that Peace held out its hands and grasped the Man’s shaking fingers within its own, kneading and stroking them until the trembling stopped.

"You see" said Peace, "I am real. I do not blame you for believing that you had me within your Walls, for my name is more misused and traduced than any other. The Storm Outside is full of the abuse of my name. When men stop murdering each other for a while they call that ‘while’ by my name. And if such murder was perpetrated in the pursuit of some proclaimed cause, they use my name for its waging - even where its victims are innocent bystanders. They point to my existence as the reason to retain the means of my antithesis, namely the weapons of War. I inspire conferences, processions, marches and protests. They christen so-called Processes after me. I am the vehicle for the aggrandisement of individuals who seek to pin their colours to my back. I tell you, my friend, none of this is me. Some of it may fall within my shadow, but most of it insults my very essence. So I do not blame you for getting me wrong too."

The figure in the robe of dazzling white laughed and hugged the Man.

"Hold the whole of me" said Peace. "Feel the heart of me beating within me."

"Ah" said the Man "but if you are not - as you say you are not - that which I thought you were but now can feel that you are not, then what are you?"

"I am the Peace which was promised. I come in many guises. I am the Peace which is found within the glorious kaleidoscope of creation, within the tumbling relationships of the clouds and the sky, within the shape and solidness of the rolling landscape, within the sureness of the changing seasons, within the spectrum of the rainbow and the deep reds of the setting sun. I am there in the vastness of the stars as I am in the minute perfection of the smallest snowflake. I am there in the awesome majesty of the mountains and in the eerie mystery of the misted marsh. I am in the bustling progress of the day. I am in the shimmering silence of the night. I am as much the mathematical certainty of the universe as I am the uncertain calm after the ocean's storm. I can make my bed in the running stream and my home in the lazy summer meadow. I am the infant's sleep and the dying’s coma. I am the harmony of the world about you. If you look for me there, you will find me in almost everything that is. And when you find me you can take me to your heart. But you will not find me within your Walls."

"I understand" whispered the Man, "but how can I find you without my Walls when the Storm Outside with its winds of enmity and its rains of intolerance stands between you and me and will not let us come together?"

"There is another thing" said the figure in the white robe "which I have yet to explain. To find me where I have told you I will be requires a key. That key is the spark of me which you must carry within your heart before you set out to look for me."

"And how do I light that spark?" asked the Man.

"You will remember" said Peace "that I spring from Courage and Patience by the power of Love. Between them they generate me and between them can generate the spark of me within your heart. Love which looks outward is my root for it undermines the bitterness, the mistrust and the enmity which otherwise destroy me. Patience is the environment within which I can grow because it defies intolerance and enhances faith. Courage is my defender and my shield because it faces down wrong with right and corruption with justice and thereby cuts off the oxygen of grievance which can feed my enemies within the Storm Outside. Carry these three in your heart and you carry me. Carry them and me and you will walk through the Storm Outside without it touching you until you come to the Harmony of Creation where I wait for you.

And when you find me there, you will find that you can bring others there too, touched by your love, inspired by your patience and your faith, and encouraged by your courage. They too must carry the spark of me in their hearts. Then each spark will create a tiny sound which coming together will make first a simple harmony, and then a chord, and then an air. And finally when all those troubled souls throughout the world who look for me are with us, each carrying the spark of Peace within their hearts, then will unfold the most glorious and powerful symphony that has ever been heard. Its four movements will be Love, Patience, Courage and Peace; and in its natural harmony it will finally destroy the Storm Outside. That is my dream" said Peace "and you, my friend, can be its beginning."

"But what of my Walls?" asked the Man.

The four figures in their robes of gold, brown, crimson and white came together around the Man and spoke as one.

"Your Walls of stone and mortar could never stand for long against the power of the Storm Outside. Nor should they, for they were wrongly intended, without adequate foundation, empty of real purpose and in any event are now gone. But we together have the measure of the Storm Outside. We are your four Walls now, and we will never be brought down."



They stretched out their arms to the Man and embraced him. For a moment the Man stood stiff and seemingly embarrassed by this physical contact. Then slowly, like a taut spring slowly unwinding, the Man began to respond until he was embracing them as they embraced him. And as he did so the distant sounds of the Storm Outside diminished and then died completely. All was suddenly quiet and warm and benign.

And the Man sat down and wept, for a great weight had finally been lifted from his shoulders; and he that had withdrawn had returned.



And the hearth and the Walls were no more.

1991

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