Thursday, November 21, 2013
Tales of Forgotten People:The Secret Travels of Those Who Were Devoted
Imagine an obscure religious woman who lives in the forest battling her voices; she has the PTSD of being a brilliant female in 12th century England. She is a woman in a town, rebuffed by church officials and enclosing herself beside the church, refusing to budge. The church walls up her room, leaving her to die, yet she outwits them via a hole in the roof through which she emerges at night to forage in the town, always returning to her chamber to sleep through the day except for the occasional pranks she plays with them by making noises and loud prayers. She gains help from two monks who shield her activities from authorities and drop food to her when she cannot get out. After several years, the church officials open the wall to find her sitting peacefully at prayer, clothed in robes and a gown. They offer her a hermitage nearby and she insists that she be in charge, will accept young women who will be guided by her, they will live by their own means through weaving and small crops, and they will only accept the ministrations of priests that she picks. Big stonewalling, so she returns to her room and starts rebuilding the wall. By now townspeople know of her and revere her, and come to her defense, essentially a demonstration at her room. Church officials never relent but they do retreat, at least for a while. She determines that she will not be free of their meddling...after all, she has done miraculous things for several years and they are still unwilling or unable to see her as a free person in her own right. so she gathers supporters, prepares an expedition ostensibly for the Holy Land, but actually for a remote place. She makes a parting speech: “I tell you, a thousand years will pass before men will be able to loosen their heartstrings. Most men are so tied to their physical being that the things of heaven are remote to them and can be found only through the strictest control and suffering, which is such a shame since heaven is, in fact, here and now if one but gives up all to it without control, without pain, without wish for gain, with the greatest passion and devotion.” She and twenty others sail west and in fact land in America on what is now Long Island. She becomes a respected Algonquin priestess/leader and her followers settle with the tribe to disappear into their now forgotten history. She teaches the tribe about England’s ways and the local malcontents sail east, landing in Majorca and eventually getting to Portugal and Spain where they join the Basques in the high county.
A man from Italy walks to Afghanistan to find his grandfather who had traveled with Marco Polo; he finds his soul. He also finds a family left behind after his grandfather died (nod to Salman Rushdie).
A woman in colonial America walks out of her village and into the forest, following trails already formed over a thousand years. To one side she sees another trail, partially hidden in the bushes. Following that, she arrives in a little clearing with small bark huts around its edges. She builds herself one and waits. Eventually, the residents emerge from their hiding places. They regard each other silently and then all set to work making dinner together.
There are lives in history, real lives, individuals who found their own way, able to ignore society’s pressures and go with devotion until finding a sane way to live. They break cultural walls. Some of them are killed. Some survive to demonstrate that some can follow “right reason” and a devoted heart through all cultural insanity.