Pigeons, Anonymity, and other stories
That part of our mind that nobody can see, that is ours and ours alone, where we keep our goals and wishes and dreams of happiness, is the higher mind, and it is ruled by the planet Jupiter.
The part of our mind that drives us to carry out tasks, fulfill duties and responsibilities, is the lower mind, and it is ruled by the planet Mercury. It is the part that is visible to others and that unites us with others. Here, we are all like Mercury’s birds, the noisiest birds of all: pigeons. They don’t merely flap their wings; they clap them, and they share information to survive – like we do.
“Some yogi in the Himalayas said that if the walnut looks like the brain, it must be good for the brain.”
“Really? I’ll take it to the lab and check it for properties.”
“Hey, this is pretty rich in antioxidants and omega 3s.”
“We should write an article.”
“Let’s have a conference.”
“Notify the press.”
With the busyness of our lives, the tangents we go off on, and the u-turns we take to get back on track, we aren’t always able to work on the dreams we hold in our higher mind.
Until those rare moments, usually once a year, when Jupiter and Mercury cross paths in the sky and our higher and lower minds unite. These rare moments help us make tangible plans to make a dream come true, fulfill a wish.
For every wish fulfilled, though, the universe asks us to let go of another. It’s how it keeps our egos in check. We fulfill a wish and we release one that the universe says is not meant for us.
And we mourn the loss.
But if we psychoanalyze ourselves, we’ll realize that we aren’t really mourning the loss of that wish. It was just an illusion to begin with, and having it come true could have been a disaster.
What we really mourn is the loss of that layer of ego that dissolved when we let the wish go.
Dreams and wishes are bittersweet.
(Epic of OP, part 2)
Not far from the Kingdom of OP was the Valley of Eye. It was really meant to be the Valley of I as in I for ice cream, but it was mistakenly registered as the Valley of Eye as in (touch your forehead) Yin Yang Eyes.
The Valley of Eye grew around a giant footprint found on its rocky terrain. The people of Eye believed that one of the gods had walked through their valley and left them a footprint. They built shrines to thank the gods for this privilege, and in no time, the Valley of Eye had become a pilgrimage site that rivaled the city of Embrun in sacredness.
Worship of the holy footprint was the economic base of the people who lived there. Everyone earned money from religious rituals and the sweet simplicity of spirituality, but not everyone was happy.
“Yuck,” thought the young people of the valley. “There must be more than this in life.” They’d go to the footprint at night and chisel the edges away under cover of darkness. They wanted the footprint to disappear, but it just sunk deeper into the ground and affirmed its presence.
“We’re doomed,” said one of them.
“The last thing I want is to spend the rest of my life selling incense,” said another.
“Or taking pilgrims ’round the footprint, chanting mantras-“
“Or decorating shrines-“
“Or making garlands-“
“We should ask the god Op-Pollo to deliver us from our fate-“
“We could ask the Oracle to help us – they say Op-Pollo speaks through him-“
“The Oracle at the Temple of Op-Pollo. In Embrun, remember?”
“That’s right! I’d forgotten all about the Oracle!”
“We should go there.”
“What about our tools?”
“Hide them behind those rocks.”
So the young people of Eye set out to the sacred city of Embrun.
When they arrived at the city gates, they saw a beggar sleeping on the ground. A boy among them called Samuel gently shook the beggar’s shoulder and asked him to move to one side; he was blocking the entrance.
The beggar opened one eye and said, “Samuel.”
“How do you know my name?” Samuel asked him.
The beggar opened his other eye and named the rest of them.
The young people of Eye were surprised. They watched the beggar move slowly to one side and waited for him to explain. Instead, the beggar showed them a rock of iron pyrite and asked, “Do you know that all that glitters is not gold?”
“Yeah?” they all replied.
“Good,” said the beggar, putting the pyrite away. He then handed Samuel a rock that was dull and grey and said, “Then remember that all that is dull and grey is not ordinary.”
Samuel held the rock on the palm of his hand and everyone saw it turn into a ruby, then a sapphire, then back to a rock that was dull and grey.
“Magic!” they all cried.
“Magic in the rock,” said the beggar, and he vanished into thin air.
The young people stood frozen in disbelief, until Samuel dropped the rock. He picked it up and said, “We better go to the temple for some answers.”
When they got there, the temple attendant told them that the Oracle wasn’t seeing anyone that day.
“But we came all this way-“
“We need to talk to him-“
The Oracle was indisposed.
They sat on the ground silent and morose, and passed the beggar’s rock around. It crumbled bit by bit going from hand to hand until one of them noticed a glassy shimmer on its surface.
“Looks like this rock has a gem trapped inside.”
“The beggar said there was magic in the rock.”
“That guy wasn’t a beggar. He must have been-“
Right then, a pair of giant hands scooped them off the ground. “Ahhhh!!!” they screamed in terror, holding on to fleshy fingers wearing rings made of fool’s gold.
When they dared look up, they saw that the giant hands belonged to the mighty Op-Shiva, god of transformation. They looked at the god in awe and wonder, and bowed in reverence.
They looked up again when they heard a thundering sound in the sky.
What’s that?” someone asked.
“Looks like a giant pileated woodpecker coming our way!”
“That’s not a bird! That’s another giant god!”
“Can anyone remember which god paints his face red and black?”
“Oh no! It’s Op-Maul, god of war!”
“What does he have in his hand?”
“Looks like a net! I think he’s asking Op-Shiva to launch us in the air so he can catch us with his net.”
“Oh almighty Op-Shiva!” someone begged. “You wouldn’t do that to us, would you?”
Up in the air they went.
Op-Maul danced in the air, catching them with his net in twos and threes and bouncing them around. He was having the time of his life until the crows arrived. Then the air turned a bit serious. Op-Maul flew down to Shiv and gave him the net. Shiv put the net on the ground and waited for all the young people to clamber out of it. He then picked it up and flew to the heavens with Op-Maul.
Everyone collapsed on the ground speechless, but they found their voice when they saw the crows forming a circle around them.
“Look at the crows; they’re circling in.”
“Maybe they’re waiting for us to die so they can eat us.”
“Are we going to die?”
“No you’re not,” cawed one of the crows.
If the youth hadn’t had such a draining day, they would have run back to the Valley of Eye and away from this place that was definitely bewitched. They would have run back to all the religious rituals and to all the sweet and simple spirituality of their valley, and never looked back. Good thing they couldn’t move a muscle because they would have missed something important.
“We’re Op-Pollo’s birds,” cawed another crow. “Here to make sure Op-Maul doesn’t come back and play with you.”
“Go to sleep,” the crows cawed. “You’ll see the Oracle tomorrow.”
Samuel woke up at daybreak. He was relieved to see that he still had the rock that the mighty Op-Shiva had given him. He had not let go of it even when he was airborne. He had an inkling that in this rock were the answers they were all looking for.
He got up, and like the rest of his group, went to wash in the river. They were all bruised from being scooped up by Op-Shiva and bounced around in Op-Maul’s net. The marks on their bodies were the only proof they had of their encounter with the gods, an experience that would unite them long after the bruises had healed.
Back at the temple, there was bread and coffee for all those waiting to see the Oracle. When Samuel sat down to eat, one of the crows perched on his shoulder, and he shared his bread with the bird.
“What’s your name, crow?”
“Caw!” answered the crow.
The temple attendant opened the temple doors and invited the young people of Eye to be the first ones to see the Oracle. Excited, the group crowded around the attendant and went inside.
The crow perched on Samuel’s shoulder flew to the Oracle. Samuel raised his eyes and saw that the Oracle was a beautiful woman.
“I thought the Oracle was a man,” he said.
“I had to replace him,” said the attendant. “He couldn’t hear Op-Pollo’s words anymore and was speaking gibberish. Now tell me, will you be the one to tell the Oracle why you’re here?”
“Yes,” said Samuel, and he stepped forward and addressed her. “Oracle of Embrun, she who speaks the words of Op-Pollo; we come from the Valley of Eye.”
The Priestess of Delphi by John Collier, 1891
“Continue,” said the Oracle.
“The lives of the people in our valley are tied to the worship of a holy footprint. We want something different for ourselves.”
“You seek what is there but hidden from you,” said the Oracle.
“Where exactly?” asked Samuel.
“There, ” said the Oracle.
“What about this rock that the god Op-Shiva gave us?” Samuel asked her, showing her the rock.
“It is what is hidden,” she said.
“What about the footprint?”
“Op-Pollo, god of gods, set foot in the Valley of Eye to put magic in the rocks,” she answered.
Before Samuel could ask another question, Jane, a girl among the young people of Eye, spoke.
“I’ve seen rocks like the one Op-Shiva gave us on the banks of the Eye River. I think what the Oracle is saying is that the rocks where we live have hidden gems. Op-Pollo came to our valley to put magic in the rocks. The gemstones are his magic.”
Everyone started speaking at once.
“We’re going to mine for gemstones!”
“We’ll learn to polish them-“
“We better go get our tools!”
After thanking the Oracle and the temple attendant, Jane and Samuel led a very animated group of young people back to the Valley of Eye.
“I’m not going to become a miner, ” Samuel told Jane.
“No? After all this-“
“No,” he shook his head. “I realize now that what I was looking for was meaning in my life. It was hidden from me, but I found it during this extraordinary…” He couldn’t find the right word.
“Pilgrimage,” said Jane, finding the right word for him.
“Does that mean you’re going to light incense and walk around the footprint chanting mantras?” she teased him.
He smiled and nodded, “Possibly.” He took a more serious tone and said, “I’d like to replace Op-Pollo’s simple shrine with a temple. Op-Pollo should have a proper temple in our valley,” he said.
She turned to look at him, and she could see him envision the temple in his mind’s eye: an elevated structure with Doric columns made of limestone, very much like the one in Embrun. She interrupted his vision and said, “You’ll have to get a permit, and I have a feeling the neighbouring valleys will contest it.”
“Maybe you’re right,” he said. “I guess it will only happen if Op-Pollo allows it.” He then looked at her and asked her, ” What about you, Jane? What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to make jewellery with the sacred gemstones we’re about to discover,” she told him. “They say that every gemstone has a particular energy that may or may not suit you. If you wear the wrong one, it will break or you will lose it. I’d like to learn to match people with the right gemstone.” She paused, took a deep breath, and added, “I’m also going to marry you, Samuel.”
They held hands and continued walking.
When Samuel’s wish to build a temple in the Valley of Eye became public, the temple attendant from the sacred city of Embrun requested a private audience with the King of OP. He packed his sack and set off to the Kingdom of OP on foot. Along the way, a pair of strong ebony hands lifted him off the ground and he found himself sitting behind a rider on a stallion.
“If it isn’t El Cristo Negro!” he exclaimed. “Where are you headed dear old friend?”
“On my way to succor a damsel in distress,” El Cristo laughed. “Where are you headed?”
“To see the King of OP. A young lad by the name of Samuel of Eye wants to build a second Temple of Op-Pollo. I need the king’s help to stop him.”
“I see,” said El Cristo.
“Will you join me?”
“No, but I will take you there.”
After ridding his kingdom of Op-Maul, the King of OP had taken up the reins of government with seriousness and dedication. He began by repairing all that needed immediate attention – starting with the roads. He worked hard alongside his people, and El Cristo Negro came to pay him a visit from time to time. How the king cherished his visits for this was the man who had changed his life.
If ever the king slacked off in his duties, El Cristo would not enter the palace; he would simply leave his salutations to the king with the palace guards. With time, the king saw the connection: El Cristo honours me with his presence when I’m a good king, and deprives me of it when I’m bad.
“Does this mean the king has been slacking off lately?” asked the temple attendant.
“Aye,” said El Cristo. They had reached the palace gates and the guards sounded the trumpets. The king had ordered the guards to announce El Cristo with trumpets no matter the hour. El Cristo helped the attendant dismount and wished him luck. “Give my salutations to your king,” he told the guards and rode off.
The king was luxuriating in a perfumed bubble bath when he heard the trumpets play the notes that announced El Cristo. He didn’t rush to get ready because he knew he had been pretty bad lately. He just couldn’t live up to El Cristo’s expectations on a daily basis. All this hard labour made his muscles sore and he needed to relax from time to time.
His twin Royal and Loyal scribes knocked gently on the door and peeked in.
“El Cristo sends his salutations, sire,” said Royal. “He gave the temple attendant a ride. Should I have him wait for you in your study?”
“Good idea; and give him some hot soup to warm up.”
“Will do, sire.”
“I’ll get your bath towel and jojoba oil, Your Majesty,” said Loyal, and he helped the king get ready.
In the study, the temple attendant expressed his concern about Samuel’s petition to build a Temple of Op-Pollo in the Valley of Eye.
“They already have a holy footprint, Your Highness. If they build a temple, nobody will journey to the sacred city of Embrun. Why would they, when they can all flock to Eye and kill two birds with one stone.”
“I see your point,” said the king. “Any suggestions, Royal and Loyal?”
“Have you sought the counsel of the Oracle?” Royal asked the attendant.
“Yes, I have,” said the attendant. “She said, ‘Some time is sometimes the time that is timely and time that is timely is sometimes the sum of time.’ “
“Not that garbled talk again!” cried the king.
“I know what she meant to say, You Highness, but I don’t like the meaning of it,” said the attendant in a forlorn voice.
“Not very nice when someone tells you it’s time to retire,” said Loyal.
“Is that what she meant?” asked the king and Royal in unison, surprised at Loyal’s insight.
“Yes, Your Highness,” said the attendant. “But the thought of retiring and spending 24/7 with the wife scares me.”
Royal whispered a few words to the king and the king told the attendant that they were in need of a gardener. “My suggestion is that you train a new temple attendant, and join the team of gardeners at the palace.”
“You should train Samuel as the new temple attendant,” said Loyal.
“Brilliant idea,” said the king.
“He’s not qualified!” cried the temple attendant with indignation.
“He will be once you train him,” said Royal, understanding that it is human nature to feel irreplaceable.
“We’ve settled the matter,” said the king, rising. “My Royal and Loyal scribes, please see that the temple attendant has a bed to rest for the night. You will go to the Valley of Eye tomorrow and bring Samuel back with you.”
The twin scribes started their journey early in the morning. Half way there, they saw a traveller approach in the opposite direction. The traveller’s cape billowed around him as he marched down the road, swinging his arms back and forth, back and forth, like a soldier. Each time an arm swung forward, the rays of the sun bounced off the rings he wore like scintillating flashes of golden light.
The traveller stopped when he reached Royal and Loyal to bid them good day.
“Good day to you too,” said the twins.
“From a distance, sir, you appear to be a magician with hands that spit fire,” said Loyal.
“My rings must sparkle in the light,” laughed the traveller, showing off his rings.
“You shouldn’t wear such expensive jewellery on the road, sir,” advised Royal.
“Nonsense! These are not expensive rings; they’re made of fool’s gold,” said the traveller. “I meant to give them to my nephew Samuel, but it slipped my mind,” said the traveller.
“What a coincidence,” said Loyal. “We’re headed to see a Samuel…”
“He lives in the Valley of Eye,” added Royal.
“A coincidence indeed!” exclaimed the traveller. ” He took off his rings and gave half to Royal and half to Loyal. Please wear them so you don’t forget to give them to Sam. Tell him they’re from his Uncle Shiv!” he said as he carried off marching down the road.
“Have you noticed that we meet strange people when we travel?” Royal asked his brother.
“Yes I have,” said Loyal.
When they reached the Valley of Eye, they were told that Samuel would be leading a walking meditation tour around the holy footprint in about 15 minutes. Would they like to join?
“Yes,” said Royal, and he bought 2 tickets.
“Please don’t tell any of the fellows at the palace about this,” Loyal whispered to his brother.
“Trust me, I won’t,” said Royal.
They loved it. Walking on the rocky terrain chanting mantras felt like being on a different planet. They would never admit it, but the twins found it enchanting. Before the tour group headed back, Samuel pointed to higher ground and said they could all sit on the rocks over there to watch the sunset. Did everyone have a flashlight? Everybody did except the twins.
“Stay by my side,” Samuel told the twins. “My flashlight is bright enough for the three of us.” He then sat down, opened a thermos and busied himself pouring cocoa into clay cups for everyone. Royal took this opportunity to talk to him.
“Samuel, my brother and I have come here to ask you to accompany us to the Kingdom of OP. Our king would like to speak with you.”
“What about?” asked Samuel, still in a meditative state.
“The King of OP will not allow you to build a temple to Op-Pollo here. Right now, your valley and the sacred city of Embrun offer pilgrims something different but of equal importance. If you were to build a temple to Op-Pollo here, the sacred city would suffer.
“My girlfriend pointed that out to me,” said Samuel looking at the sunset.
“The king would like to offer you an alternative. The temple attendant in Embrun is about to retire. Would you like to take his place?”
Before Samuel could register the question, a glimmer of light caught the corner of his eye. He turned and saw the twin scribes wearing rings that played with the rays of the setting sun. “Where did you get those?” he asked, awakening from his meditative state.
“We ran into your Uncle Shiv on our way here. He said to give them to you.”
“Oh my god,” said Samuel, sinking his head into his hands. “Oh-my-god.”
“You okay, Sam?” Loyal gently inquired.
Samuel nodded and looked at the disappearing sun, tears running down his cheeks. He felt the warmth of being loved. He felt the warmth of… what was the word he was looking for? It came to him. Innocence. You know what I mean; the time before the apple. He knew that Op-Shiva was telling him to pay attention to this moment, to this offer of taking the place of the old temple attendant, and he said yes, I will take it.
When the old temple attendant came into the king’s study and saw Samuel standing there, he realized that Samuel was the right person to replace him. He knew he would be able to trust this young man with the Temple of Op-Pollo and its secrets. He would begin his training immediately.
Jane was debating whether to move to the sacred city with Samuel or to stay in the Valley of Eye. She was working in a mine, thinking, “Should I, shouldn’t I,” when a chunk of rock came loose and fell into her hand. She turned it around and couldn’t believe what she saw. She took it to her workshop and chiseled all that was dull and grey away, and found herself looking at the biggest blue sapphire she had ever seen. She polished it smooth, and when she held it under the light, the light illuminated a six-rayed star on its surface. With tears running down her cheeks, she understood what Samuel had felt when he saw the twin scribes wearing Op-Shiva’s rings. She felt that warmth of being loved, that warmth of innocence he had talked about.
She brought the gemstone close to her mouth and whispered, “The Star of Op-Pollo.”
She set the star sapphire in a ring for Samuel, and she gave it to him on the day he was officially named Attendant to the Temple of Op-Pollo.
She found that she could not leave her valley, could not stay away for too long, and she asked Samuel if he was okay with them spending time together on weekends. She could see his disappointment, and she loved him more when he said, “I’m okay with that.”