A group of prisoners shuffle forward. Their prison pyjamas are dirty and worn-out. Some have stripes and some have arrows. Yet others are festooned with slogans about freedom and rebellion. They have come from the right and from the left, and from all colours inbetween. There is a guard who stands over them like a piece of stone. Rigid from his goose pimply skin to his very bones. Stiff down to the cells, atoms and plasma, and the miasma in his heart - set solid amongst these unfortunate circumstances. Amid this grey scene, there is a prisoner who can still manage a smile. It might not make the situation much less horrid, but might make his experience of it less horrible, and so too the experience of those around him. Turning to make the most of what this moment of life has to offer.
Passing through the field of form it sticks to all and makes gravity pull at them and hold them tight. They trudge along for miles and the field trudges along with them. Wherever they stop it remains the same. It makes them become stiff and solid and a bit stupid. Even if given a magic key to softness and ease, will anyone use it without being told to use it. Being told every second minute, every second breath, yet needing every second to be told again. The key, the adepts way, the living moment, the intimate taste of life without heeding interpretation or filtering. The key, the path away from suffering the past and the future. But strangely enough there are very few who have the time and inclination for it. Even to understand what it is and try it if only once. Even to let themselves hear of it and think that it might be of any value.
Instead they find themselves in a hole. A hole in the ground in a field of mud. They dedicate themselves to exploring that hole. Exploring it without asking too many questions. Once it has been explored they might make it comfortable and decorate it to make it a nicer hole. It might seem like a simple thing, to decorate their hole, but it is not, because they seem to have become blind. They might not actually be blind, but it certainly seems as though they are. If it isn't already a well known fact then it should be, that both exploration and decoration are much more difficult when blind. Unlikely to realise a good outcome. Perhaps they had been blind from the beginning, sleepwalking a path that is already well known. Following a groove, a well worn furrow, a rut. Led along that path by denizens of the past. Searching and seeking from every lumpy, solid and graspable thing that comes their way. All do that except the guard who is quite beyond that sort of behaviour. He will tell us so himself. He has some social standing in life and will strive to maintain it, and increase it if he can. He appears as though he has been cut-out from cardboard, and smells a bit strange too. The prisoners, however, have little or no standing or rank, and may bear themselves as they please. They merge into the scenery of life whenever they so desire. Melt into the mist or mud or dark or disappear into whatever passageway is found. But they always find themselves being pulled back to this scene.
There finding themselves in the field of form, and the form is that of mud. They grope around in the mud and it sticks to their pyjamas and all begin to take on a homogenised colour. As the mud splashes about, the guard too takes on that particular colour and appearance.
Finding their hole lacking, they might decorate its edge, plant a hedge of barberry, blackberry and gorse. They have noticed that there could be fearsome things living beyond the boundaries of their little compound, their estate, their hole in the ground. Worst of all, the fearsome things live in their imagination too, where they have free range to roam about. Where they might do their worst and are completely unstoppable.
The prisoners and the guard watch with the passing days as the thorny brutes of plants grow and crowd around them. They hardly notice as their shadows encroach on the day. It happens so slowly that the branches and thorns grow nearer and nearer to each other until they can no longer see through them. Eventually it becomes apparent that there are even more shadowy things out beyond, where the eye can no longer reach. The prisoners and guard share the same view, and have become almost indistinguishable, but somehow the guard manages to maintain his vestige of authority.
When the time comes to lead them away it cannot be done, as the brambles surrounding their hole have become a forest and no path can be found through it. A group of mud figurines, they look to the one amongst them who can still smile – the navigator, the pioneer, the alchemist who will turn this moment into pure gold. This moment and any other.
There he is, an old fool for sure - what would he know ? Faced with offence, grave threat and diminution, his answer to all of them is “that's fine by me”. When any normal hot-blooded mud wearing personality would go red in the face and spit flames, he would repeat his phrase - “that's fine by me”.
There is a way, he says, but who has the patience to endure it, for it takes all of life to negotiate the path. There is a way, he says, but it requires acquiescing to the thorny painful barbs that will be encountered. There is a way, he says, but who can relinquish solidity and pass through where there is no gap to be found. There is a way, he says, but who will take apart the words and ideas, and let all of the structural members weaken and have it all collapse into one big smouldering pile. There is a way, he says, but who will accelerate their way to utter standstill, and watch as life grinds to a halt around them. There is a way, he says, but who would stop for a moment to consider that indeed there might be a way, but that there might also be another and another and another.
They dither as the midday sun reaches its peak. They might take their rest in the shadow of their prickly trees. For why should today not be their day. Perhaps they have had enough of waiting for the perfect day to come. They might just choose to let it happen now. Whatever it is that they want to have happen.
They whisper and confide amongst themselves. The guard, they will lead along the way too, for he is as lost as any other, and needs help just as much. As they move, the prickly shrubs seem to move too. The only ways to counteract their solidity and prickliness is to become less inflexible and less solid. Throwing away everything that is inflexible and solid. Bundle it together with everything that is unnecessary and throw it all far away. Banishing anything that might create density or add to it. Ideas, identities and beliefs – they must be disposed-of too, as they will most definitely become snagged in the brambles. Expunging all forms of protection and distraction. They will bring the greatest of pain and an unpleasant prolonging of the whole drama.
Letting the mud and the prisoner costumes all fall off, and heading naked into the brambles. Naked, unguarded, unprotected. Heading naked into the spaces between the atoms, and the spaces between the bits of atoms. The spaces between the spaces. Heading naked and untrammeled into the spaces between the sounds and thoughts too. Cutting away at the goo that holds the whole picture together. Heading naked into the stormy sea of emotions. Riding the waves and watching closely them take their course, finishing as a gentle wave lapping at the shores of paradise.
When they have had enough, they might stop and wait and watch. Time really will overcome all difficulties. They have all become mud-coloured, and all of their effort has improved their condition not a bit. Amongst the prisoners the guard too has lost his shine, and become equally mud-like. Now they might sit together and let the waves of time wash the mud off.
Retiring somewhat from the affront of activity and becoming still. Assessing the handiwork of time. Not just the passing of a cloud from one end of the sky to the other. Instead watching whole weather systems, the seasons and climatic cycles. If that is not enough, then watching astrological cycles, and the procession of the equinoxes, the turning of the galaxy, the beginning of the universe. Watching it through to the end, and then the beginning again. That must surely be enough time for the concern for the particulars to have decayed, and for a happy balance to have long since taken root.
The forest of thorns will not last forever. An aberration, a temporary annoyance, a figment of the imagination. Back to the formless we will go. Back to the cosmic shadow drama. The brambles all growing amongst this scenery. Then following it back to where it came from. Brambles, form, the formless, somebodies bright idea.
None of the prisoners can remember why it is that they are there, or how they happened to end-up in this situation. Whether they are guilty of any crime, or even whether any crime was committed. Perhaps the story is true that they might have put up their hand and volunteered for that particular role. I'll wear this uniform and stand here, and you stand over there and shake.
It is in this manner that the planet bumbles along through space, reliving history again and again. Seemingly the same grey day happening again and again. They take their moments as they happen, and will set themselves free when the desire to do so has become adequately strong.
At the end of an eventless day in an eventless life, the prisoners shuffle back to where they were when it all began. They insist that the guard come with them and stand over them. Their wish is that he might fulfill his darkest desires, and his wish is that they might fulfill theirs. This curse will go on and on until they have had enough of it. The stripes and arrows and uniforms will all fall off and they don't need to be distinguishable from each other. Instead they are all free, and there is no longer anywhere to go other than this lifes moment here.