Saturday, November 30, 2013

Getting Down to the Very Last Feather

In the center of a small, bright room, there is a bed. It is heaping with overstuffed pillows. They burst at the seams with delicate, white feathers. This is the room I am born into, and this is where I learn to play.

I have an extraordinary time. I jump on the bed, hurling the pillows above my head, until the feathers break free and fly into the air. Around me, I conjure brilliant hurricanes and tornados, and I am the creator of my Universe. I sculpt feather clouds and then lay back on the bed and write their legacies. I envision sparkling cities, and pristine forests. I witness valiant men on horseback who are galloping towards noble deeds.

One day, the door opens to my little room and I realize that there is a world outside. I become self conscious of what I am doing. I peer outside, but it makes no sense when compared with the beauty that I experience in my sacred haven. Some of the feathers fly out in gusts of wind, and then suddenly, someone is in the doorway. A dark figure casts the first shadow to ever enter that space of light.

The shadow begins to yell, "What are you doing? Don't you know that pillows are for sleeping, and not for dreaming? Go to sleep or I will take away all your pillows, and then you will not have anything. You will be stuck in this room with no possessions, and nothing to do, and you will be powerless. When you've put all these feathers away, then I will set you free from this room. Out there is the real world. Out there is real freedom."

Confused and suddenly aware of my myself as something painfully different than this shadow, I become frantic. I look at the at the feathers that have settled on the ground, and they are no longer full of magic and possibility. I am ashamed of them.

They have transformed into a senseless mess.

I spend hours, days, years, painstakingly putting the millions of feathers back into their pillow cases. I become obsessed with this task. I equate the absence of feathers with stability and happiness. The dark figure starts coming to the door at all hours of the day and night, offering me encouragement for my diligence. I am constantly looking at the door, waiting for him to arrive. I begin to look forward to his praise, but soon the encouragement turns into reprimands. And so, I work harder. The feathers that once formed moss-covered mountains and filled the oceans with electric jellyfish become symbols of my oppression.

I continue working furiously, but the supply of feathers seems inexhaustible. There are just too many. I work my fingers to the bone pushing the feathers into piles, stuffing them into bags, and picking them out of the mattress, but they never completely disappear. The shadowy, dark figure is now always hovering in the corner of the room, mumbling under his breath. Eventually I am unable to tell the difference between his voice and my own thoughts. He tells me that I'll never leave the room, that it's pointless, that I might as well give up. I persevere, and I work harder. I want to be happy, and I want security. I want the security that is out there, in the real world.

I understand what it means to be tired. I become so tired that for the first time in my life, my eyelids grow heavy. When I fall sleep, I dream of feathers. I remember where I've been, the worlds that I've created, the love that I've known. I dream of a swirling white reality where ballerinas dance on cliff edges, suspended in time. I start to look forward to sleep. But slowly, as the years go by, the feathers that were once my whole existence start to disappear even from my dreams. I start to only dream of the world that I have seen the shadowy figure emerge from. I tell myself that once I finally succeed, he will disappear and I will be safe and comfortable.

Then one day, I get down to the very last feather.

The moment of my success has arrived! I am overjoyed. I grip the end of the feather between my calloused fingertips while the dark figure encourages me to put it in it's place. I hold it for a very long time, and I stare at it unwaveringly. I place it in front of my lips and blow, watching each tiny hair tremble against my exhalations.

In that feather, I see infinite Universes. Silver elephants are ladened with the unbearable lightness of woven bags that erupt and spill over with magnolias and lotuses. They stampede through steamy jungles and jut their gleaming ivory through blankets of fog, leaving trails of blossoming white in their wake. A slender woman in a tattered linen dress pulls back her wild hair and walks crookedly up a windy beach. The sand is sugar and the choppy water is a thousand shattered chards of mirror reflecting the face of the sun.

The dark figure opens the door a crack, and beckons me to see my future. He allows me to glimpse the skyline of a towering city that shivers in the opal light of the moon. In this terribly soft storm, I think of the room, the door, the shadowy figure, and the world beyond. I think of all that I have seen, and of what lays ahead.

I look back down at the feather, and I know what I will do.



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