The Treatise

Posted on September 16, 2010


Everything is a story. The first crying breath I took when I was born, that is a story. I cannot remember it, but those who saw it told me of it when I could understand. And everything that has happened in my life since merely adds to the story.

My life began as a story told to me by others, interpreted by others to mold me to the accepted mythology. They gave me examples, other stories which I should emulate. In this way I could take the mythology as my own and carry it forward, pass it on. My reward would be a productive, respectable life. I would be one of them.

The mythology was bigger than me, bigger than any of us who were born into it. It was the Grand Design. We were all expected to give our lives to it so that it might live on after us.

So I molded my life to the mythology of the Design. I did not question it for many years. I was sent to university. Here, I was told, I would learn to interpret my own stories so that I could blend them into the Design. My own life, my story, would prove the Design for others.

But it was there in university that I began to question the unquestionable Grand Design.

There were other Designs from other places, other times. We were told of them– indeed, encouraged to study them– in order to interpret them to show the superiority of our Design. Each was beautiful, each was as worthy as the Design to which I was expected to belong.

Everything is a story. All stories are worthy in the telling. The stories, the mythologies themselves, have lives of their own.

When I discovered that, my questions began, and my adherence to the Grand Design into which I was born was no longer certain.

At first I voiced those questions: Why is our Design better than all the others? Why do we, and others, go to war to preserve our Designs? How do we know that our Grand Design is the only one that matters? Is there nothing we can learn from other Designs? Is it not possible that our Grand Design, at its core, has more in common with the others than we care to see? Would it not be worthy to celebrate the differences between the Designs rather than condemn them?

My questions were heresy, treason, betrayal. They were interpreted as criminal by my peers, my family, the university authorities. I learned only too late to keep my questions to myself, to keep silent.

I earned my university degree, but my questions followed me. I found work, shelter and food, but only at the edge of the Grand Design’s promise. Because of my questions, I was not worthy to carry our mythology into the future, but only to watch it unfold beyond me, in the hands of those who accepted it without question.

So I kept my questions. I asked them, silently, of myself. I continued studying other Grand Designs, looking for the common story from which they all sprang.

Everything is a story, and every story has ever-deepening layers of meaning for those who tell it and those who hear it. The meaning is not constant. It changes according to the point of view from which it is observed.

Years of study deepened my questions; every answer became yet another question. I was not the only questioner, but we were few and scattered. I heard stories of questioners who tried to escape the Grand Design of their birth by affiliating themselves with other Designs. But nowhere were they trusted, nowhere accepted, because they challenged the interpretations of the mythologies.

My silence was as threatening as my questions. My neighbors, my peers, the keepers of our mythology, interpreted my silence as madness. And one day the authorities came to remove me, for my own good and the safety of those around me. They brought me here to the Asylum, where they hoped to cure me of my madness, my questions. They hope, even now, to mold my interpretations to favor the Grand Design, so that I may finally realize its abundant promise. But I am old now, and I have asked too many questions.

Every story has a life of its own. A story is a symbol which signals toward something beyond it. It is an interpretation of events or concepts made elusive by time or the limits of understanding. It can be taken simply as it is told, or contemplated for its symbolic nature.

I am old. I am sequestered away from the world because my thoughts, my questions are dangerous to the fabric of the Great Design. My story is almost done; perhaps it will be forgotten when I am gone. But I am leaving this treatise, hidden in this tiny space outside all the Grand Designs, for whoever will inevitably take my place.

Everything is a story, and every story is a living thing. A story is not the source of good or evil, bounty or violence. It is our own interpretations and the immovable belief which we assign to them, which transforms a story from a living symbol into a ravenous beast that feeds on our lives, on our blood, on the deaths of those who never question.

I am dangerous, even in my silence. For even now, at the end of my story, I pass on my treasonous heresy, my own mythology, to others. All I have to give is a question. I leave it in hope that the stories we tell will point us toward a mystery beyond answers.

Everything is a story, and a story lives because it is a question.