Sunday, May 06, 2007

the adversary.

Far in the south, along the eastern shores of the Ireb, is a little known land. It lies in a narrow strip running east. Inotih it is named.
It is not mountainous as Coricia is, yet neither is it flat as the lands of the Hansa delta to the north are. It is a land of forest and wild woods. Of trees silver barked and dark leaved. Of valleys and plains and quick running rivers.
In the warm season the sun falls fierce over the hilltops and in the cold season the winds blow off the sea bringing soft rain and baring the branches of the forests and woods and keeping the small fishing boats tied to their harbour moorings.
It is a land, its people say, where one is born to learn of one's secret self, where dreamers wander and can dream their dreams how they will.

In Inotih the wooded hillsides fall gently to the sea. They are ochre-earthed and granite covered in places. There are the small villages one finds all along the Ireb. Harbours and inlets and beaten pathways that wind around the coast.
It was in one of those villages I passed a summer. To the north of the great city of that land. In a villa perched upon a rocky hillside.

The people of Inotih are great lovers of music and dance; a benefit for a wandering musician.
As evening approaches often they congregate about a village square to sing and dance. They abandon themselves freely to rhythm, to melody, as naturally as the breeze that moves the leaves of the trees or the tide that breaks the waves upon the sandy shore.
It is the fate of the wanderer to leave to chance much that those who are settled take for granted. The wanderer wonders often where a might will be passed. There is the open road, there are the homes of others. There is arriving and the question that hangs over every arrival. What will a city, a village, a land bring.
If the people of Inotih are lovers of music they are also a people that freely open their homes to those who pass through their country. Though little known this country is a reward to those who are persistent enough in their wanderings. It is spoken of with affection by any whose home is the open road.
It was there, in a village with a tree-shaded square, I met a man who offered me the hospitality of his home. For upon my arrival I had begun to play my lute for those who had gathered to listen. Its strings sang clear beneath the trees, its notes rose and fell as the first stars appeared over the hills.
He came to me. From his place among the onlookers. He was older than I in years. A man with close silvery hair and a handsome face. A face both serious and joyful.

I walked beneath the light of a new moon and came to his villa. It was set upon a hillside and hidden from the roadside by a grove of cypress. That night the sea was still. The moonlight reflected from its surface and threw long shadows on the silent earth.

Often we sat at evening, watching the sun set over the turquoise sea. It became pleasant to me so that I anticipated it with eagerness as the day drew to a close. For my host was eloquent and spoke freely of his life, his experiences. Being an official he had travelled widely. In the course of his service he had spent many years in the north. Finding in the colder climate, in the austerity of their beliefs an unease, a strange contracting of life.
I remember one evening in particular he spoke. And told me something of his beliefs. A subtlety of mind that has stayed with me since.
'Here, in Inotih,' he said, his eyes growing warm. 'we do not make of our gods one god. In Inotih the gods are in everything.'
I asked him to explain.
He told me of how the people of Inotih believe their gods are everywhere and in everything. There are gods of the forests and woods, gods of the sea, gods of music and dance, gods of the rocks and stones, of the running rivers. There are the gods of love, of death, of birth and of transition.
'We also make a distinction' he said, 'between the great gods and the lesser gods. And even the great greater gods are not one. If you travel through our country you will see their altars, their temples everywhere and in simplicity. You will see too the altars and temples of the lesser gods. For they are no less loved by the people of this land.
And he added.
'What are the gods then? But our dreams of ourselves. The gods are the dreams from which we spring and the dreams we become. If there is but one god there is but one dream. And perhaps there is but one dream and yet that dream is the dream of the many gods.'
He smiled and explained.
'I will give you an example.
'When I was in the north I had much opportunity to study the works of their thinkers. The thinkers of the north attribute great power to one they call the adversary. This adversary they claim has the legs of an animal and the torso of a man. And lurks everywhere. He is always ready to waylay the seeker of truth. This belief has gathered such weight with them that their lives are circumscribed by fear. To the adversary they attribute all the works of our lesser gods. So that in the abandon of music, or the joy of dance they see not the work of gods but a darkness that would keep them from truth. And they mediate upon this grave fact until their hearts are heavy and sorrowful. Until the world about them appears not to be a world of beauty and joy but a world that opposes them. One that opposes their search for truth. And then they come to fear it. They come to hate it. The world is not the playground of the gods but a place of darkness. It is the domain of the adversary.'
The corners of his eyes wrinkled and he laughed softly.
'I am not a philosopher. But I see that if there is an adversary in this world it is hate, it is fear. So the adversary these thinkers resist so greatly becomes a reality.
'And the people of Inotih,' I asked.
I looked to the setting sun. Long shadows fell upon the hillside from which we looked. The sea broke darkly below us.
'Ah,' he sighed dreamily. 'In Inotih we favour a more subtle understanding. We do not take a blunt instrument to make a thing of fineness. Beauty is everywhere, or so we believe.'
'You do not have this one those of the north name the adversary?'
He leaned back.
'No. But we do have one we represent as half animal, half man. Only we do not name him the adversary. We do not assign to him powers of obstruction and evil intent. To us he is one of the lesser gods. He is the god of nature in its wildness; nature in its joyful profusion. Nature in the purity of its untouched places. He is also the god of the sexual embrace; the god of our physical self. He is the god that takes pleasure in the body and in the joy of giving pleasure to another.
Here, in Inotih we do not distinguish between body and soul as the thinkers of the north do. For here we see the body as part of our dream of ourselves. It is the instrument through which we express our hidden self.'
He stood that evening. Then he turned to me. In the last warm fingers of the sun his face was soft.
'It is for this reason we dance,' he said. 'This is the reason we love music and the visions of poets. For like the animals we must seek shelter and warmth and that too is part of our dream. Like the animals we are possessed of our instincts and it is through them we bring the longing of our spirits to fruition. Yet unlike the animals we are guided by our spirit, by reason. It is only when the spirit, when reason is clouded with anger, with fear that our instincts drive us and not we them. For when the spirit is clouded so our instincts are burdens that dull our being. The world about us contains the darkness of the blind self. The blind self, the clouded spirit is the true adversary.
'In Inotih we dance, we embrace to forsake our fears. To discover the joy that softens all anger, all hatred. The joy that opens the eyes of the self.'

I spent some time there, waiting for the heat of summer to give way to autumn. Waiting for the trees to begin to turn. Then I took a boat that sailed south, crossing from the Ireb and into the Cirpassian sea. Seeking the warmth of its islands. Hearing the whisper of the desert said to lie on the Cirpassian's distant shore. Remembering the words of the man of Inotih. Remembering the wisdom of those who acknowledge the lesser gods. And in that acknowledgment the wisdom of the world about us.
To step straight from darkness into light would be to obliterate the self. To destroy the self that carries our dreams.
The people of Inotih, lovers of music, of dance know this truth. And their affections are free and their hearts open. Their gods are everywhere and their dreams accompany them through life.

When I sailed south that autumn I too understood this wisdom.

Copyright (C) Peter Millington 2004