Once a Wise Man came into town. I would tell you when all this happened but I really can’t say. I think you’ll understand when you hear the story.
This Wise Man was famous throughout the land. It was well known that he had healing powers and could perform magic. And it was rumored that he could make time stop, for an instant or an eon. Some called him a saint. To others he was a wizard, a savior, a guru, a god. But one thing was certain. He was a teacher and he had come to this town to teach.
“What would you like to learn?” the Wise Man asked the townspeople.
They were too surprised at his question to speak. Finally, a timid voice was heard. “Master, how can we, mere mortals, know what we should learn? Better for you to tell us what we should know.” And there was a murmur of agreement among the crowd.
This time it was the Wise Man who was surprised. It always surprised him when he was treated with such reverence. “I am no greater than you”, he always wanted to shout. But he never did. He realized that they just didn’t see the resemblance yet. Instead he said to them, “Some teachers will tell you what to learn, but I am sure that you know what you need. What do you want more than anything else?”
Again there was murmuring among the crowd. They were trying to agree on what they all wanted more than anything when a small child walked right up to the Wise Man and said, “I want to be magic, just like you.”
Some people gasped. “Forgive the child’s irreverence, Master. He does not understand the seriousness of such matters.”
This time the Wise Man laughed out loud. “This child understands far better than many of you. Is there anyone among you who does not share the child’s wish?” Of course there was not. Who wouldn’t want to be magic?
Finally someone spoke up. “Well, yes, Master, of course we would like to be magic like you. But how could we do that? We do not share your divine wisdom.”
The Wise Man did not answer the question, but he said, “Gather up all timekeeping devices and pile them up in the center of town. When that is done, I will answer the question you have asked.”
Because of his reputation for wisdom, they obeyed him without a thought. But everyone was curious. They all wondered what he would say and the reason for his strange request. When the Wise Man arrived at the center of town, he saw the huge pile of clocks, watches, hourglasses, and sun dials. There were timekeeping devices that even the Wise Man didn’t recognize. And around the big pile, all the townspeople were anxiously waiting to hear the precious words that the Wise Man would utter. It was so quiet that the only sound that could be heard was the ever-faithful ticking of those clocks and watches that had not yet run down.
He spoke at last. “Destroy them!” The moment was frozen with astonishment. A grandfather clock began to chime as if to bless the Wise Man’s words. He spoke again. “Destroy them. Erase the concept of time from your minds. Then you will find the magic that is within each of you.”
The townspeople looked at each other and then at the Wise Man. “We will destroy all of our timepieces as you have ordered, but how can we forget about time? We are not blessed like you.” The Wise Man knew that, in fact, they were no different from himself, but he said, “I will help you. I will put a spell on everyone to make you forget about time.”
He didn’t like telling them that because it wasn’t really true. He couldn’t make anyone do anything. But he had discovered that sometimes people seemed to feel better about doing what they really wanted to do, if they believed that someone else is making them do it. So he began to cast his “spell”. Actually, all he did was to help them imagine what life would be like without time.
“From now on, there is not past of future.” His voice made the words sound like a bedtime story and a lullaby and a royal command, all in one. “There is only now. There is no ‘later’ or ‘three o’clock’ or ‘when’. Things happen, but there is no need to measure their passing. You do not need the numbers on a clock to tell you what to do or where to be. Listen to your body. Listen to the thoughts inside the stillness of your own mind. Feel your own infinity.”
After that, the story is hard to tell, because after that, there was no more time. So I don’t know if the changes took moments or centuries, and I can’t tell you exactly when the Wise Man returned to the town, but he did.
The town was so different that he hardly recognized it. Not that the buildings or people had changed with age, because age has to do with the passing of time and time had simply ceased to be. The changes he perceived were subtle. There was a harmony in the air that he could almost hear. There was contentment, peace, and fun flowing throughout the town. And there was something else in the air. There was magic!
But the Wise Man was not surprised. Because at last the people knew that there is no past to hide in or future to worry about. They had put all their energy into the present because that was all they had left. When they began to focus their attention on what was happening right now, on what they were thinking, feeling, and doing in the moment, their magic just naturally came out.
The Wise Man was happy for them in their progress and he was pleased with how easily they were learning to use their magic. And they were pleased to see him, too. They wanted to thank him for helping them see the magic inside themselves. And they wanted to show off a little, because they were very proud of their achievements. And when they found their magic, they also realized how wonderful they were and they liked themselves and each other a lot! So they had a big party to celebrate how much everyone loved themselves and each other and living right now. There was lots of dancing and laughing and singing.
I wish I could tell you how long the party lasted. It might have been days or years, but finally it was time for the Wise Man to leave. As he was preparing to go, the people came to him. They thanked him again for helping them find their magic. “You have helped us to forget time,” they said, “and we are happier. Have you anything else to teach us before you go?”
He looked at them lovingly and said, “You have seen that time is an illusion and you have conquered it. And now I tell you that there is one more illusion you must conquer in order to be truly magic.”
The townspeople were perplexed. “What other illusion can there be?” they asked.
The Wise Man smiled at them. “Space,” he said, as he vanished into thin air.
©Patricia Rose Grigadean, 1983
[…] AND. . . For more on the subject of time, please read my short story, The Land That Forgot Time […]