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Vivian DeSoto

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The Sadness of the Sage
By Vivian DeSoto
Friday, September 07, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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A man's struggle within of his life's (lives) meaning.

This is a work in process.


His sorrow comes not from witnessing the passing of the life before him, but from the burden of compassion. The soul before him did not acquire the knowledge it had born to discover. It must once again pass through the cycle of learning and carry this life’s burden and the millstone of previous lives forward into an even more brutal and arduous existence. The spiral continues as the soul is smelted into purity.

His heart ached. If only they could remember. If they could recall that the journey begins by asking the chosen question then seeking its answer. As all beginnings: ‘what is my lesson?’ First they must brazen out life’s purification process, removing the burdens and baggage, the flotsam and jetsam, of previous incarnations. This first step develops insight into the contamination from which they must husk away to the core; peel away the detritus to expose the light. A phoenix risen, only then to begin the journey of the lesson. Ah, but for the interference of hubris.

Hard, thickly-calloused naked feet trod along a course he knew well from memory but had never ventured upon in his sixty-three years. It’s an obscure memory of a trail well traveled, and he ambles along absorbed in meditation. The dusty path puffs with each step, a soft powdering of dirt covering his toes and causing his feet to meld with the color of the surrounding soil. Throughout his travels and owing to deep contemplation, he has shed the onion-skin of life’s distractions. Every person born to this world comes to continue a lesson learned and move closer to the Light.

But he is failing! It torments his heart that he is unable to communicate his wisdom to the individuals he encounters. How absorbed they had become in the tangle and mish-mash of human life. He had met none who felt inclined to chip away at the detractors and remember their calling. Emotion and flesh had become too enticing. The ‘will’, not strong enough to overcome the joy and thrill one experiences with the gift of touch, smell, taste, hear, and see. His mission, quest if you will, is to mentor. But to whom?

Born a thousand years old; people often remarked the infant appeared ‘wizened’. He was. Flashes of déjà vu periodically brought insights to current queries. He could not recall his previous lives in detail, only knew they existed. Now, some seventeen hundred sixty-five full moons later, he felt only as wizened as that new-born infant.

There is power in belief, and nothing is more enticing to man than power. He left the cannibalism of the soul to charlatans and swindlers who profited on the naïve and gullible. People too lazy or fearful to explore the belief they were born with, only to entitle another human being to serve as their personal liaison to God. He did know each life was meant to be a lesson – or several lessons, if you were on a return trip – learned. And each individual must trek that path alone.

He preached not with ferocity nor uncompromising insistence. The light filled his heart with the simplicity of joy, the humbleness of patience and the compassion of exculpation. Yet his radiance had enraptured no disciples; there were no followers of his teachings, as had been for the prophets before him. He wondered if he had reached anyone in his past, and possibly that individual had begun the journey to only recently reach the end of one road and begin the path of another. He had heard of no one, but then again, who had heard of him? Yet, even the prophets had teachers.

A gnawing in his gut: doubt. And this doubt perpetrated fear. And fear gave birth to questions. And as such, he began to question himself. Had he missed a sign? Contemplating on the many forks along the road, had he selected unwisely? Had prayer and meditation failed him? Had he been so focused on his own journey that he’d missed an out-reached hand? His thoughts troubled him. What was his lesson?

He stopped to rest at a hostel along the way. He’d not been here before but he remembered it. He lightly knocked on the door and was beckoned to enter. Weary, he stepped through the portal into the humble abode.

He was so tired. Haggard and drawn, he pulled the coins from his pocket to pay for night’s stay.

“No Father.” The child spoke. “You are not to pay. My father has instructed me to see you to your room, and pour you a hot bath. While you soak I am to wash your clothing. Papa says you are to have a fresh start tomorrow.” The child spoke to the floor, not willing to meet the old man’s eyes.

The weary sage sighed. “Your father is kind, child, and I accept his hospitality, but only on the condition he join me for my supper. Will you pass along my message?”

“Yes, Father.” The young one answered. Too young for the man to know whether this was but a lad or lass. He reached out and gently touched the child’s cheek.

“And dear child. I am not a Saintly Man, only an aged and tired man.”

At that moment the child looked quickly into the man’s eyes. “Oh no, Sir! I know and I told my father you were approaching. Seanmháthair announced that the prophet would be upon us soon!”

This gave the philosopher pause, his heaviness lifting.

“We shall speak more, child, but since you spoke of a hot bath, it is the only thought on my mind.”

“I shall tend to it right now, Father, as soon as I pass your request to my papa.”

The child led the man to his room then scampered to a back part of the house, giving the traveler an opportunity to remove his travel-weary garments and lie for a moment while his bath was being prepared. He felt guilty at the luxury of the small cot, yet his bones ached to the marrow. Possibly, he dozed briefly, as the light tap on the door gave him a start.

“Yes?” He replied to the knock.

“Your bath is ready, Sir. If you will leave your robe behind, I shall fetch it and have it cleaned for you. Papa left clothing in the bathhouse for you to wear until yours has dried.”

“Thank you, my child. I am more than grateful.” He wrapped himself in a small blanket as he traversed from his room to the bathhouse.

Oh, how good the hot water felt, as it scalded his cracked feet and heat-rashed hide. He scrubbed the miles from his crooks and crevices, soaking and immersing himself until his skin had pruned. He stood and poured a pail of cold water over his head to rinse away the fouled bath water.

The tunic left out for him to wear felt soft and delicate against his skin. Comfortable, it would never do for traveling. The insubstantial material would disenegrate within a very short period of time. No, his heavy hemp robe was best suited for his travels, but it certainly felt pleasant to don something light and cool for a change.

A large plate of stew consisting of simmered carrots, potatoes, and lamb awaited his return. He was led to a small dining area off the main cooking room. An aroma of spices had tickled his appetite since his arrival; coriander, rosemary, and basil he could identify. What was that other? Sharp, similar to pine but maybe a bit like bay leaf.

“Sage.” The old woman answered.

He smiled. Of course.

She poured him a cup of hearty red wine, her knarled fingers tremored slightly as she held the heavy carafe.

He ate heartily, and didn’t refuse seconds when offered. Generally he left himself a little hungry as penance for all the children in the land who went to bed hungry every night. Tonight, he felt blessed and thankful for this family who had anticipated his arrival, who treated him kindly, reverently.

The child’s father joined him part way through the meal. They chatted amicably, discussing local politics and news. His heart was lifted, distracted from his burdens by this idle gossip and he smiled more than he had in a long time. It did his heart good. Pleasurable conversation and congenial company were good for the soul.

The father bid the old man a good night, leaving the sage to ponder the day. Sitting deep in meditation, the old woman who served his dinner and poured his wine, spoke softly to him.

“You have not failed, my son. You have not failed. You knew of your quest and you’ve taken your journey. All have been witness to the Light through you who wished to see. Those searching found it through you. Not all prophets have followers at their heels. Most prophets never know of their fruits, the seeds scattered grow long after the teacher has passed. Take your sojourn now, weary traveler. Lay your head down, the time has come to rest.” She rested her hand on his arm; compassionate eyes eased his weary mind.

“Yes,” he replied. “Yes, I am ready to sleep.”

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Reviewed by Charlie 9/18/2007
I like your play with sage and sage, but like Karen, I thought at first this was going to be about a place with lots of sage brush.
There's a word in spanish--anceano--it means "the old one" but so much more than that. You've go a great character here.
Keep writing
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 9/8/2007
Great story, Diana, but I thought it was about Sage Sweetwater! LOL Still, I am not disappointed; I enjoyed this! Very well done; brava!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by Elizabeth Parsons 9/8/2007
Well, Diana, this is quite different from what I've come to expect, but no less excellent. I love the literary style. I also found myself early in the story thinking how beautifully poetic the words are. You truly are a very gifted writer.

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