Modern Man

Of all the adjectives that could be used to describe the modern age, serene is not one of them.  Certainly tranquil territories and placid pockets exist among the frenetic landscapes of the 21st century.  There are oases of joy and peace waiting to be discovered.  But too often modern man behaves like a nervous nomad in a spiritual and intellectual desert, constantly groping for the next mirage…

Each mirage is tantalizing, because no one is thirstier than modern man.  With parched heart and barren mind, he begins to blend in with the desolation, occasionally refracting the same kind of light that was originally bent by the heat.  He stumbles aridly onward, disappointed by dryness, desperate to douse his thoughts in a river of truth.

The blistering sun has already scorched his scalp and the surrounding sand.  Shriveled sagebrush scratches the legs of his desire, and tumbleweeds of ambition toss in the wind.   Snakes slither, and scorpions scuttle around his feet.  Meanwhile, a dust storm looms in the distance.  Modern man, in the modern age, is anything but serene, and each passing mirage feeds his frenzy.

Reeling in a delirium of dehydration, he gazes upward to see a venue of vultures circling in the sky.  He falls to his knees, and begins to crawl, only to collapse a moment later.  There is no water, save it be the salty drops that stream down his chapped cheeks.  He squeezes his eyelids shut, and there, on the dunes of despondency, he drifts into a dream…

He dreams that he is waist-deep in a fountain of pure water.  Cataracts crash, and great drops of rain splash blissfully around him.  A crystal blue stream runs gently by, and babbling brooks trickle in every direction.  A waterfall roars in the distance, and the landscape is dotted with lakes and fresh water ponds.  His lips press up to a spout from a virgin spring, and liquid joy runs down his throat.  Where there is grass, it is more verdant than the naked eye has seen, and it is drenched in morning dew.  With a joyful shout of praise, he plunges into the fountain, and submerges himself completely.  He swims to a sparkling wet rock, and lays himself on it in a rapture.  Laughter fills his once sorrowful heart, and tears of joy mix with the droplets on his face.

After a moment of sweet repose, he feels a gentle tapping on his shoulder, as if a small water fowl were brushing him with its wing.  He turns… but nothing is there.  He closes his eyes again, and with a smile on his face, he begins to dream…

He dreams that he is standing atop a great, icy mountain.  The sky is clear above him, and he can see for miles around him.  The air is crisp and cold, but he is warmly dressed.  In his right hand he holds a blazing flare with a bright white flame.  In his left hand he carries a folded map.  He is alone, and free.  But then, in the distance, he spies a figure on top of an adjacent peak.  The figure is waving, as if to signal some distress.  After gesticulating madly for a moment, a colossal bolt of lightning flashes through the sky, followed by a terrible peal of thunder.  The earth begins to shake, and the mountains tremble beneath their feet.  Avalanches begin to roll down the sides of the mountains, and other bolts of lightning begin to strike with greater and greater frequency.  The figure in the distance topples and disappears under the waves of snow.  Now he is alone, with the map and the flare still in hand, unsure what to do.  He calls out for help, but his call echoes through the mountains and reverberates in his own ears.  He calls again.  Then there is silence.  There is a stillness and a silence heretofore unknown to the modern man.  He unfolds the map, and by the light of the flare he sees a drawing of himself, on a golden bed, on top of a mountain.  Next to the golden bed there is a poem, written in fine calligraphy, but in a foreign tongue.  The characters look familiar, but he cannot decipher the meaning.  But bringing the white flame closer to the map illuminates pieces of the letters that complete the text in a language that he can understand, and he begins to read out loud:

“Of all the adjectives that could be used to describe the modern age, serene is not one of them.”  Having read that, a heavy lightning bolt flashes, extinguishing the flame of the flare, and setting the map ablaze.  The light of the fire burns brightly, then fades into embers, until everything is dark, except for a few flickering stars in the firmament above him.

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