Nathan


from The Song of Everything by Tracy Leddy

   Nathan had no idea what force or power had drawn him to this out-of-the-way spot, but here he was, walking slowly up a nameless dirt road in a far corner of the country, admiring deep woods radiant with October foliage on either side of him and feeling more wonderfully excited than he had ever felt in his life. At the turn in the road, he made his way rather shyly past the throngs of people near the old farmhouse and turned his steps toward the lane at one side of the house which ran down a small slope to an open space and a little pond. His inexplicable excitement mounted stilI higher when he saw the wooden house by the edge of the water; it looked so simple and comfortable, like a cottage built for a king. He joined some others who were sitting quietly on the grassy bank and his feeling of eager expectancy grew. He had spoken to no one, he had recognized no one, yet he felt completely at home in this peaceful place.

   Eventually the door of the house opened and a man came out to greet the people waiting for him. Nathan studied him as he did most people he met and quickly decided he had never seen such a warm, compassionate face in all his many wanderings. The man was so natural and at the same time so dignified. Nathan became aware of how hushed his surroundings had become. No wind stirred the dry leaves in the cold, bright air; the clouds seemed to have stopped moving altogether. The very sky seemed to have come closer to the earth to listen to the man's soft words. He was saying,

   "Once we all lived in the lap of God and now we are here on earth, imprisoned in the human form and unable to find our way back to our true home. What we need is someone who has freed himself from this earthly prison, someone who can also free us and guide us back to the lap of God Who is all bliss, all light and all joy."

   With the man's first sentence, a wrenching pain entered Nathan's heart and remained there. He listened and listened, afraid to move, afraid to breathe for fear of missing one precious syllable of the words he had been so inexorably drawn to hear. And his heart grew sore within him.

   When the man's eyes, which roamed ceaselessly over all the faces upturned before him, alighted on Nathan, it seemed to him that a rainbow grew out of them and attached itself to his own eyes, immediately establishing a bond far stronger than the cord which had once bound him to his mother. And in that moment, Nathan's heart was lost forever to that power manifest in the man. "I am yours; do with me what you will," he said in his heart to the man. "Whatever you ask of me, no matter how difficult, I will obey. There is no other way for me to live, now." The man gazed long into Nathan's eyes and then continued speaking, "God says, I am the secret treasure within you. Why don't you come and find me out?" Nathan said again in his heart, "Whatever you say, that shall be my work."

   As he sat staring up at the man, it seemed to Nathan that the man sat in front of an open door, a huge door which opened onto the only real world behind him. Some old, old words were spoken deep inside him: "I am the way, the truth and the light. No man cometh unto the Father but by me." Nathan bowed his head to the ground, his face wet with tears. The next morning the man showed Nathan a glimpse of that treasure of which he had spoken, so that Nathan would be sure of what he was seeking. And it was as if a great stone had been rolled away from the center of a mountain and the splendor of many suns could be seen. Nathan's breath was quite taken away. When the vision had passed, Nathan's heart was wrung again inside him and he vowed, "I will seek that light, all my life if I have to, but I will dig it out." He took leave of the man after thanking him for his gift and went back into the world to begin his work.

   Nathan's life changed dramatically. Not that he had ever been strongly attached to the pleasures of this world, but now he would eat only the simplest food; he would read only the lives of other treasure-seekers. He didn't care what he did for work in the world to make his living; he kept to himself as much as possible, his attention on the wonderful light within him and on the man who had helped him to see it. When he had to be among people, he did his best to be friendly and helpful and loving, like the man who had helped him.

   But it was a long, slow process. Most of the time there was no light, just a memory of it; there seemed to be a lithic density and heaviness to the darkness within him. He felt like a miner confronting an enormous mountain with only an ice pick and his bare hands . . . a mountain of desire, of seemingly endless self-deception, the mountain of himself. The digging was discouraging work. At times the mountain seemed impenetrable and he would cry out in anguish to the man for guidance. Each time he did so, some words would come singing into his heart to soothe him, "Be patient, Rome was not built in a day. You know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Don't despair. Take heart and dig deeper. Seek and ye shall find." And there would be a feeble ray, a glimmering of light through all the heavy rock and stone and he would remember the glorious light he had once seen and would continue with greater fervor than before. At one point, Nathan did discover that he had one other tool at his disposal, his attention. He found that the more keenly he bent his attention toward the work before him, the more deeply he penetrated into the mountain. It was like a laser beam in its effect.

   For years Nathan dug and dug. His tunnel into the mountain of himself began to widen. He began to find the strength to lift obstructing boulders more and more easily. He also found that the more help he asked from the man the easier his task became. But even as he worked, even as the way opened slowly before him, Nathan felt no closer to the light. Something was wrong, somewhere. Some immovable barrier seemed to block his way and his awareness of this situation distressed him greatly and kept him from any lasting peace.

   Once, it happened that he revisited a place and some people he had left under unhappy circumstances some years before. He found himself reacting to the situation as he would have before he met the man. He found himself filled with selfishness, with anger, resentment and pain. An old friend told him, "You see, Nathan, your present life may have changed but these things are very deep-seated. You must examine them, discover their causes and then, with all your heart, forgive anyone who may have offended you in the past." Nathan wept and told his companion, "These things are so deep-seated I do not understand them. They must be rooted near the very heart of the mountain. How can I ever hope to chisel them out?" In his misery, his thoughts turned to the man and some of the words he remembered, "You must be true to your own self, to the God within you, Who sees all and knows all. How long will you carry this pain around inside you, thinking no one sees?" And some other words also came to him at this time, "God resides in every heart. If you know this, really know this in your heart of hearts, how can you hurt the feelings of anyone?"

   Sometime later that night, when Nathan returned in very low spirits to his own home, he had a strange dream. He dreamed he was a small child who stood with his father outside the shimmering gate of a vast, golden palace. The child was weeping inconsolably. The father was loving, but firm. "But I don't want to go," pleaded the child miserably, "I love it here and I see you quite often." "There is no choice, my son," the father replied, "Even this palace is not your true home. I want you to come all the way back to stay with me forever and this is the only way you can do that." "How long must I be gone?" sobbed the child, ''I'm afraid I won't be able to live away from here and you." "I will grant you two boons, child. Illusion will quickly wear thin for you down there and a striving heart will hasten the journey." Abject, but obedient, he clung to his father's hands and took one last look at the radiant splendor he had called home for so long. "Go," He told him, gently releasing his hands, "The stars are fixed, the family chosen, the pattern laid down. At the end of the pattern you will begin your return. Do not tarry, my son, I will be waiting for you." And as the child looked, his father's face outshone all the glory around them. He took one last breath of that fragrant, ringing air, tore his eyes from his father's face, hurled himself into the dark well which lay at their feet and was born into the physical world.

   Nathan awoke in a paroxysm of pain. Great cries of rage rent the air. "I didn't want to be born, oh, God! I did not want to be born!" Beside himself with all this never-released emotion, Nathan threw on some clothes and flung himself out of the house and into the woods which surrounded it. He ran through the bushes, not caring if his sleeves were torn or his boots became muddy. His head was in a frenzy; so much insight was coming to him at once. Frequently he stopped and screamed at the top of his lungs. The pain and anger seemed to come all the way up from his toes. He saw clearly for the very first time the buried feelings of hatred and resentment toward God and man that he had carried around in his heart and had tried to conceal from himself, from God and from others for so long. He felt sick. He recognized the feelings, he acknowledged how he had used them to withdraw from the world and his fellow men in a most unnatural way. And he realized with mounting horror that any such feelings were always against God, not man, and he trembled to see the depths of his willful separation.

   With another great cry Nathan threw himself on the ground and lay there, sobbing his heart out. He understood he must now joyfully embrace the whole creation, for God's sake, just as he had willfully rejected it in the past for his own. With his face against the earth, he begged the man to intercede for him, to forgive him his folly and grant him the gift of forgiveness for others. And soon his whole being was bathed, yes, one might even say baptized with the waters of total forgiveness and love.

   And in the mountain of himself, the last great stone was rolled away forever with a sound like thunder and Nathan beheld the light of many suns once more. The walls which had confined it seemed to vanish into nothingness and all was light, all around him. With great relief and joy Nathan entered into the light and embraced it and became one with it thereafter.