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Oftentimes in my mind a certain memory manifests itself, uncalled for but arresting. As a man I am generally given to much introspection, but this memory has rather more of a hold on me than any other.
I was returning from dinner one evening, May it was, I think. It was a cloudy night, and the sum effect of the ferocity of the clouds and a full stomach was to stir in me an impulse to make sweeping statements and smile wryly, as so often happens.
I was in rooms at the time, and I had not the blessed freedom to roam as I was wont to do that evening; so it was with a contented resignation that I directed my meandering towards my lodging place.
I entered the hostel, a small one, housing twelve in three rooms, to find an unobtrusive light shining in one of the rooms. In retrospect, it seems to me quite inexplicable that the place should be as tranquil as it was that night, and that the two of us should be the only ones there, but in my elevated state of mind I took no notice at the time. I walked to the room, and opened the door gently.
The scene that met my eyes remains vividly clear to me to this day. The room was in a state of complete disarray; there were clothes strewn everywhere; shoes scattered unceremoniously on the floor; four cots in a senseless arrangement; open lockers with unwashed clothes. In the corner lay a bed, and on it, and I all but missed him, lay he, wrapped in the folds of a voluminous blanket. He held at arm’s length a venerable copy of 'The Idiot', and seemed to me to be shaking uncontrollably.
I wonder often if this was indeed what happened that night; if the autumn of my life had not perhaps caused the leaves of that wizened tree that is my memory to yellow and fall, the adventurous seedlings which followed in their wake having had time enough to grow since spring. But I catch myself, for it is of no consequence the reality of that which man draws inspiration from, only that the fact of the inspiration remains real enough to him.
His face glowed at once with ecstasy and infinite empathy, and even as he read he murmured words as if in prayer. I got the impression of witnessing the projection, the shadow of a being in a higher dimension, fallen almost astray into this one. I experienced an intense rush of half-formed feelings, and had to bite my tongue so as not to yell. At that moment, and I remember this most clearly, I perceived that I was witnessing an act unfit for human eyes; in a rush of reverence and guilt, I stepped back, closing the door softly as I did so. In a trance, I traipsed to my room and collapsed on my bed.
I suppose I had an inkling of it even then, but in hindsight it is plainly clear to me that what I had observed then was nothing less than the very process of pure inspiration, and it never fails to set me a-shivering.
I don’t remember how much time passed after that, but presently my door opened and he walked in, wearing an expression I could not quite place, but which seemed to suggest some sort of higher joy and purpose.
“People,” he said simply.
“People,” I agreed. I suppose it would have made little difference if I hadn’t spoken at all, and I may as well have been a mannequin for all he cared. Indeed, I was not unduly worried by this, for he was alive enough for the both of us. It only serves to show that there is only so much water to be carried, no matter how many the vessels or how large.
He then spoke to me at length of man, his fears, his desires, his ambitions, his follies. He spoke of life, of living in harmony, and of the pain of compromise and sacrifice. Of the poverty of men all he could bring himself to say was, “Brutal, it’s simply brutal.” He smiled warmly as he described the troubles of a peasant and those of a king, and how they were all essentially the same. He spoke of society, wealth and religion; of crime and punishment; and of service. His eyes watered as he spoke of forgiveness, and of a mother’s love for her child. He lapsed into a contemplative silence every now and then, and at the end of one such he opened his mouth and roared hoarsely, “Love! Love, I say!”
I am a deeply religious person, and I cannot help but believe that the hand of God was evident in that wondrous evening, when I saw with my own eyes the flowering of a man. As it were, I do not remember much else of that evening, and it gives me to understand that our magical sojourn ended soon after.
He is a statesman now, and they say there never was a leader like him. The people love him dearly, as well they should, and our land has prospered immeasurably under his care. He is a busy man, and I don’t suppose he remembers me anymore, but it fills my heart with joy to think of all the lives he is touching even now, as he did mine that happy evening many years ago. The laughter of God is manifest in the love of man.