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David Swan tells a story of cosmic significance.
The two brothers liked to argue a lot. For instance, Alan was convinced that the sole reason for people going on spiritual journeys was to add meaning to an otherwise meaningless world; or to put it another way, because people were bored – but Lawrence wasn’t having any of it. As far as he was concerned life was teeming with meaning and purpose. His argument was that a sperm doesn’t casually swim towards the egg, stopping off for hash browns and coffee along the way. It doesn’t stop before it reaches the egg and think about returning. The sperm moves with purpose towards the egg. It knows its mission and ensures that its purpose is fulfilled. Lawrence would suggest that humans too have a purpose, and the potential to fulfil it, even if we’re not fully conscious of what that purpose is.
So Lawrence decided to go on his spiritual journey. He had felt the calling luring him out of his everyday ordinariness into a voyage of self-discovery that would challenge his deepest and darkest fears, knowing that he would return home a better man, and pass on that knowledge to other eager seekers.
Alan instead chose to stay at home munching pretzels and watching the Nature Channel. ‘Why carry coal to Newcastle?’ was his motto. He would rather study esoteric literature from the safety of his living room. He was convinced that Lawrence’s literal journey was a waste of time, and that ‘the journey’ was a psychological transformation that one could obtain without moving an inch. So while Lawrence sought solace in chanting mantras with the Sadhus of India, or in whirling with the Sufis of Arabia, Alan went to the library and dug out dusty old volumes on metaphysics and alchemy, then returned to his couch to pop a few mini pretzels in his mouth, while attempting to wrap his skull around Madame Ishrubb Utter, a German philosopher who believed that reality was a three-dimensional continuum that, when transcended, could reveal the profound truths of dual-emptiness. Alan hadn’t a clue what he was reading, but the language appeared so exotic and profound that he was completely hooked. And so it went on, until one day Lawrence was due to return, and bestow his ‘boon’ upon society. Alan was having none of it.
The door swung open and Lawrence sauntered in. His smile overlapped his face. His shoulders were pulled back with more purpose than Alan could ever have mustered. Alan remained smugly stuck to the couch, hands and arms folded behind his head – a defiant pretzel himself. He had quickly hidden his snacks under the couch, and scattered a few of his profound expositions across the living room floor for Lawrence to see. Master Eggarse’s Meaningless Book on the Dual-Existence of Relative Emptiness looked towards the doorway alongside Tit Not Than’s All Mysteries Resolved In A Single Afternoon.
“I have returned, Brother! And I hope you agree with me when I say, a little wiser.” Lawrence winked and smiled at Alan, who just lay back on the sofa, his hands still folded behind his head. “Come in Lawrence. Don’t forget to wipe your feet on my mat,” he said.
Lawrence looked down to find that Alan had actually gone to the effort to pay a firm good money to create a straw mat with the word GOD stitched into it. This made Lawrence very uneasy. While hardly a devout Christian, much of his drive was derived from his belief that the sole purpose for fulfilling our human potential was that it would bring us closer to God, and ultimately, into Heaven. Not that he would call it ‘Heaven’. He would use the word ‘Nirvana’, or when feeling vague, would call it ‘Some… thing’, as if it was a mysterious form of gas that ooeed and aahhed around the room just before you went to bed at night.
“So what great knowledge is it that you have brought back with you? Please, bestow your boon upon me.”
Lawrence came into the living room and surveyed it disdainfully. Alan’s walls were covered with posters of topless girls from the 70s, or famous pop groups from the 80s. Clearly Alan was living in the past. Lawrence felt sorry for his brother, and worried for his future. Here was a man begging to be saved. He went down on his knees and started to say the ‘Bright White Light of Love’ mantra that had been given to him by a small tribe in Bhutan. He mumbled his incoherent chant while Alan watched with amusement.
“Your mantra sounds great Lawrence, but with science advancing at an incredible speed and physicists on the precipice of understanding the dark matter that holds everything together, do you really think that your quaint words contain any meaning other than what you and the people of Bhutan place on them?”
Lawrence hid his aggression behind his highly arched left eyebrow as he looked back at Alan: “The very facts that I place meaning in the words, and that the people of Bhutan have placed meaning in them for a thousand years, give them their power, and create a world of power around them.”
“Of course we did manage to get by before language was created,” said Alan, secretly reaching under the sofa for a pretzel.
Lawrence spun round on this: “Yes, and it was a world of God and beauty.”
“Or a world of pain and suffering, as cavemen and cavewomen roamed the hills all day looking for food, killing things, and trying to kill each other.”
“Ah, but as we learned to talk with our divinely-created consciousness, we created a better world for ourselves. Built homes, made clothes, created stories around the fire; bettered ourselves and the world we lived in, because to do so is an innate purpose hidden within us.”
“Or we created the wheel just so we could run away from the tribespeople that wanted to eat us. Or we created fire so that we could make better weapons to hunt and kill, and ultimately we built castles to protect ourselves from extinction. What you see as advancement is just man protecting himself.”
Lawrence gave Alan one of those smiles Oprah would have given to a small child that had overcome an apparently insurmountable challenge. Then he continued unabated with his tales of his times in India and Tibet and the great teachings he had received there. Just as Alan was getting bored of the whole Lawrence journey thing, a great roar was heard from outside: Roar!
Alan and Lawrence looked towards the window, unsure what the noise was. Maybe it was a military fly-past. But again a violent roar was heard: Roar! Then people started to scream.
Lawrence and Alan rushed to the window to see what was going on. Hundreds of people were running away from something. Then they heard a loud thudding sound, as if some ginormous beast had escaped from the zoo. Then came a loud booming voice that terrified the life out of Lawrence and Alan: “Tribble, fibble, fumble, trunt, this is the voice of the Irelefunt!”
Lawrence looked at Alan quizzically. He had travelled widely and had seen many an exotic creature, but he had never heard of an Irelefunt. Alan, although not as knowledgeable in exotic creatures, had watched National Geographic three years straight, yet he too had never heard of the Irelefunt. They went back to being terrified, yet bravely stuck their heads further out of the window.
“Siffle, jiggle, bibble, phunt, here I come, the Irelefunt!”
Lawrence and Alan’s eyes were wide with terror as the first foot came clumping around the corner. It was shaped like a duck’s foot, but covered in hair. As the rest of its body came round, its legs were lizard-like and chubby. Apart from the legs, it looked like an elephant, but it had a red trunk and a yellow body. Its eyes were very large and crossed, and its ears ludicrously disproportionate to the rest of its body.
Lawrence and Alan ran away from the window in a state of panic. Lawrence fell to his knees and pulled out his prayer beads, chanting as many mantras as possible. Alan briefly thought about God, but considered it a bit of a cheek asking for assistance at the last minute, which he was not about to do anyway: as a rationalist, it was far better to call in the army and blow the hell out of this absurd object. He snatched Lawrence’s worry beads almost as a knee-jerk reaction from not knowing what to do.
They both trembled pathetically on the living room floor.
“We’re all doomed. The gods have abandoned us. God has abandoned us!”
“The only thing that can save us now is the good old US of A!”
The thudding came closer and closer until a giant eye was measured against the window frame. Lawrence and Alan held onto each other tightly.
“Irelefunt want to play,” said the comic monstrosity, and it put its paw through the window and grabbed Alan and Lawrence in a single swoop. It pulled them through the window and outside. They both screamed with more terror than before as it placed them both in its pouch. Then the Irelefunt made a massive cosmic leap off planet Earth towards an unknown destination.
For what seemed like aeons, but was actually only twenty-five minutes, Alan and Lawrence tumbled and fell through the darkest reaches of outer space, leaving their world and their arguments behind them. Lawrence and Alan had fallen into a semi-trance-like state, but were now waking up! Then they noticed a planet appearing in the distance, looking not too dissimilar to Earth. Lawrence looked up at the Irelefunt’s big trunk and pulled on it hard.
“Trinkle, tinkle, sipple –”
“Oh never mind the bloody nursery rhyme,” said Alan, who was suffering from de-pretzelisation, “where the hell are we going?”
The Irelefunt suddenly spoke with great clarity and certainty: “I am taking you to a world where there is no religion, no spirituality, no esoteric teachings, no past, and no future. It is not that these things have been banned. It is just that as you pass into this brave new world’s atmosphere, your essence will naturally harmonize with the laws of the planet, and all defilements will cease to exist. At last you will be at one with yourselves.”
Alan and Lawrence jumped down onto the ground of this tranquil and blissful world. Their minds were stunned by its radiant beauty. It was as if they had landed in the middle canopy of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. No religion, no war, no arguments; and no more uncertainty. Alan and Lawrence looked at each other, and for once they were thinking the same thing: Utter Rubbish. If the vacuous sincerity doesn’t kill you, the lack of a decent shopping mall and good television, and no music, would.
They both hopped back into the pouch of the Irelefunt and demanded to be taken back to Earth.
It has been rumoured that Alan is now on the run in Brazil. He had offended a small tribe of warriors that had hidden in the Amazon for thousands of years. Alan knew that the god they prayed too was in fact one of the first Aga cookers ever built, and just to prove it to them, he tried to whip up a quick Spanish omelette; but the tribespeople were furious.
Lawrence was last seen wondering the streets of Croydon, South London, mumbling his incoherent mantras. Everybody who saw him thought he was mad.
The deities didn’t. He was one of their own; an urban light house, shining the Bright White Light of Love mantra into the souls of those less fortunate than himself. Offering hope in a hopeless world.
© David Swan 2014
David Swan has just completed a BA Hons in Creative Writing at Bangor University as a mature student. His philosophical outlook is derived from his long term love of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. He is due to start the MA in Philosophy with Stafford University.