With his halo and staff and trailed by his deathly hound, The Messiah came to the village. The peasants, armed with stones and waste, gathered in the square. They surrounded The Messiah who proclaimed again, “All is illusion.”
“This again?” Erasmus The Drunk asked.
From atop the village square stump, The Messiah announced, “I’ve told you of Plato, the cave, the fire and the shadows. I’ve told you how The Self and life itself are all mere illusions.”
“Yes. Many times,” the drunken peasant replied. “But, have you brought anything new this time? I doubt it, for even your shabby robe and that poor, mangy dog are still in such utter states of distress.”
The Messiah continued, “I’m here to tell you today how the dog and fish and ant, with their different senses for making their ways through the world, how their senses present them with a reality no better than yours. Hence, all is illusion. Your perceptions of the world are just as illusory as theirs.”
“So?” Erasmus asked.
“So, destroy your illusions and destroy your suffering,” The Messiah proclaimed. “Illusion merely obscures enlightenment. And without enlightenment, life is just suffering.”
“Destroy our illusions? How?”
“Go blind. I can offer you all the potion.”
The crowd murmured.
“You’re talking wood alcohol?” Erasmus asked.
Erasmus was familiar with all forms of spirits.
“Yes,” The Messiah answered. “Wood spirits.”
“But I fear going blind,” one of the peasants cried.
“Of course,” The Messiah said. “But under the influence of the wood spirits – just like the spirits of grain – your fears will be eased.”
“All of us? All of us go blind?”
“Yes,” The Messiah said. “There’s no other way to live without the illusions and all the accompanying suffering. Damn you illusions. Damn your dirty illusions as you damn your dirty lusts. Destroy them and with their destruction, step into the light.”
One unscrubbed peasant turned to another, asking, “Now what exactly are my sufferings?”
“Not quite sure,” the other one said. “We need The Messiah to tell us that.”
Another peasant murmured, “There isn’t any light to step into if we’re blind, is there?”
“Idiot,” The Messiah replied. “I’m speaking in metaphors and allegories.”
“Then speak straight for once,” came from the crowd. “Do not treat us as children.”
The Messiah knew that in many ways the peasants wanted to be treated as children. The difficulty was in treating them as such, without them being too aware of it.
“The light will still be present,” The Messiah said. “But it will no longer have sway over your suffering. You will have transcended the need for it. It will no longer be there to illuminate all of your illusions.”
“Do you fancy yourself God?” Erasmus asked.
“No. I’m far too humble for that. I only preach the ways of God and enlightenment. Ways you are too distracted to comprehend.”
“But you still know these things about the spirit far better than us. In this way, you are above us. And, in that way, more like God than us in spirit?”
The Messiah knew how such an affirmation would reek of arrogance, so he said, “I am merely flesh and bone like all of you – humble flesh and bone.”
“So how will we farm, blindly?” Erasmus asked. “I feel our suffering in famine will greatly outweigh our suffering in our illusions.”
“I’ll sacrifice my blindness for all of you,” The Messiah proclaimed. “And then guide you, for I am the truest seer. Even with sight, I see through the illusions. Not all, of course, because I am a humble, mere mortal just like you. But I see more. That is how I can come to you now, speaking with such enlightenment about the illusions which enrapture you while causing you so much suffering.”
“You can’t even take care of that poor dog. Or a garden,” Erasmus said. “But you have a plan for shepherding us? All of us, as the vulnerable blind? Are you up for the task when I can’t believe you’ve ever even laid with a woman? Or successfully hunted a hare or deer? You are going to tell us the ways of God and enlightenment when you know so little of life yourself?”
“I can’t be plagued by such trivialities as dogs or gardening or women,” The Messiah defended. “My mind and body are too weary from the task of casting away illusion and the pursuit of truth.”
“Shepherding us sounds like a monumental task,” Erasmus said. “I’m not sure any single man is up for it – let alone a man who can’t grow or catch his own supper. And, as you’ve said, you’re already too weary for gardening or women. Why should we believe you won’t be too weary to shepherd us?”
“If the task is too great I’ll appoint someone Minister of Farming and Hunting. Perhaps even you, Erasmus.”
“Me? Minister of Farming? As a blind man?” Erasmus asked. “Won’t I be too busy learning how to survive as a blind man to be able to administer anything else?”
“I have confidence in you,” The Messiah said. “I believe you’re up to the task.”
“Even I’m fool enough to know the foolish in all this,” Erasmus said. “And what about firewood? Who’s going be a woodsman when we’re all blind? We sure don’t need blind men swinging axes. But, without blind men swinging axes, aren’t we left freezing to death cause there’s no firewood? And who’s going to doctor all our injuries? It all sounds a lot worse than our suffering from illusion. And I don’t think freezing to death in the dead of winter’s all that much of an illusion. Imagine that, freezing to death, blind and starving in the dead of winter. I’m sure not taking that chance.”
“Again, Erasmus, maybe you could be our Chief Woodsman. Wouldn’t that be an honor?”
Erasmus shook his head no.
“And keep in mind, these fears of starvation and such are mere projections,” The Messiah announced. “Mere dreams or illusions, if you will, set there to plague you. These phantoms appear merely to cause you fear and suffering. So cast them off.”
The drunken Erasmus laughed.
“I’ve heard of the blind leading the blind but never anything like this. And how are we even supposed to tell time if we’re all blind? How will we even know night from day?”
“Time is an illusion,” The Messiah said.
The Messiah had tried schooling the peasants on the nature of time – how it’s necessarily dependent on the separation of things, the identifications of which are necessarily tied to our crude and deceptive perceptions. But the foolish peasants were always too dumb or distracted to care.
“Why do you care so much about time? Have you ever wondered that?” The Messiah asked.
The rest of the peasants looked to Erasmus, who removed his cap to scratch his bald head. He looked down at The Messiah’s frail mongrel, wandering among the crowd, sniffing the ground for any morsels that may have been discarded.
Finally, he replied, “There’s been no need to ask myself that because there’s harvest time, you fool. And without harvest time, there isn’t any harvest. And without a harvest, we starve in the wintertime. Winter-time. Spring-time. Night-time. Day-time. Harvest- time. You understand? Life revolves around time, necessarily.”
The crowd murmured.
The Messiah replied, “You’ll know summer versus winter, day versus night from the heat or cold. You’ll know day versus night by the warmth from the sun on your skin. You’ll know summer by the length of the warmth.”
“Length of the warmth,” Erasmus repeated. “Doesn’t following the length of the warmth of the sun depend on time?”
“Yeah,” the crowd shouted.
“And isn’t warmth measured by a sense of the body?” Erasmus asked. “And you already said these senses aren’t any good. They’re not reliable enough to accept as anything but illusion. Remember all your senseless talk about wax and how it feels and tastes and smells one way today but tomorrow it’ll seem like something else? And how all the fish has got is its senses and all we got is our senses and how ours have to be different from the fish and how we’re both trying to interpret the same reality with different tools? So do we accept these senses or not? That’s the question, our Holy Messiah. Do we accept them as good enough or not?”
The crowd grumbled again.
“Does the fish suffer or not too?” came from the crowd.
“Yes,” The Messiah said. “The salmon suffers when its senses lead it upstream to be devoured by the bear.”
“But those senses also guide it to spawn,” Erasmus added. “The fish must spawn, just as we must, in order for our existence to continue. So maybe this suffering is something necessary to our continued existence. Something to be accepted as a necessary condition rather than cast off? We suffer necessarily so our offspring can flourish, while suffering as well. Without these illusions and our sufferings, we no longer exist today nor into the future. “
“Future? Future? Why this obsession with time?” The Messiah screeched.
The crowd was growing more and more boisterous and restless.
“Calm yourselves,” The Messiah ordered. “Calm yourselves and listen.”
A plump, rotten turnip struck The Messiah in the face.
“No. You listen,” one of the peasants cried. “You are the one already blind. Blind to your own arrogance in believing you are more enlightened than we. And the proof of your profound stupidity is in not seeing that. So leave us to our suffering, which is at least better than any of the suffering you offer.”
Another peasant claimed The Messiah was already intoxicated on the wood spirits and maybe that’s why he glowed and needed a staff for walking.
“As you like,” The Messiah said. “I am only offering to carry the burden of your illusions. And not only the burden, but all of the sufferings that come with them.”
The Messiah stepped off his stump and was rightly pelted with stones as he left the village once again, trailed by his mangy, emaciated mongrel.
“Be careful,” Erasmus told the crowd. “Careful not to hit the dog. He hasn’t done anything wrong and the poor thing’s already got misfortunes enough.”
Then a large stone struck The Messiah in the head. He fell to a knee, bleeding.
“You violent, abusive, filthy creatures,” The Messiah called out to the mob.
“Now don’t go upsetting yourself,” Erasmus returned. “Cause none of this is real. Making yourself upset just wouldn’t make any sense.”
The mob agreed and began casting more stones.
“I beg of you,” The Messiah cried. “I beg of you to abandon everything. Abandon everything, including your suffering. Abandon your Self. For your own sake, please.”
“What you mean is, ‘Abandon all but my teachings’,” the crowd roared as the stones descended upon The Messiah. “Abandon all but your glorious teachings. Abandon all but your glorious metaphors and allegories and instruction.”
As more stones fell upon him like hail, The Messiah picked himself up and scampered away, trialed by his poor starved and mangy dog.