Mr. Foibles woke on Monday morning to find his life quickly rushing like blood to his head. But it was a funny new head, his whirling habits newly crowned with a mess of white hair unwashed and uncombed in the faint dawn light. Under the sway of habit his body prepared itself to stand up and go to the bathroom. He was literally getting carried away. I will get ready in my own good time, he thought. He triumphantly messed his hair up a little more.
He walked his body outside. The sun was rising above the forested mountains. The air was crisp and clear. This was a brand new day in the world, never seen before. He felt so alive, so real. Breathing the cool air he felt it right down into his lungs, breathing out he returned the air to the sky. His feet, still in his tatty old woolly slippers, were as if rooted to the earth. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was full of love.
Turning back indoors, through a gentle application of restraint, his mind offered patience to his morning habits. He washed and modestly covered the body in the usual attire fitting to his role and purpose. The socks looked a bit pointless without his shoes, he laughed as his head hung down. Looking at his hairy old legs they appeared to be upside down as if the floor were suddenly the ceiling, he giggled. Life seemed so absurd. He stood in front of the mirror and tried to feel important about his smooth grey suit to make up for the fact that he no longer felt important in it. As his finishing touch he chose a light blue silk tie as cool and crisp as the morning light. Its sheen was a reminder of the inner light, the truth of the body that shone through, cool and bright. Both literally and metaphorically the time was now right. He left the cabin for the city.
As he travelled his usual route to work he saw everything in a new light.
He drove a little slower than usual to take in the scene. The car was like an extension to his body, one vehicle inside another. As he paused at the traffic lights the sun shone through the windscreen and warmed his hands that were beginning to look their age. His heart beat quickened a little and he gazed back at the sky as though waiting for heaven to come in cool blue pyjamas. The green light came, he would go on.
The farmland around gave way to suburbs swarming with children on their way to school. The little ones bounced their bodies along the street like rubber balls. The teenagers found a strength that as yet tensed under the gaze of others. The adults walked responsibly. The morning world whirled on, driven by the invisible assumptions that formed the day ahead. His heart was an open question.
Through the outskirts there were the highs and lows of the bridges and tunnels. Underground life was dark and driven, he thought.
There was an order and cleanliness to it all that aspired to style and meaning. In awkward spaces a sculpture would be thoughtfully added to bring the scene together and make it look as though it was all meant to be just the way that it was.
But today, in his playful mind, the office blocks looked like massive fridges or kitchen units making everything else look tiny, of no consequence. He was happy to be a nobody.
Then another underpass and this time, without thought or judgement, his mind was calmed by the simple grey concrete and the lights reminded him of Christmas.
Approaching the city centre he drove over the brow of the hill and drew breath as a brand new city was laid out before him. It looked like a toy. In the bright morning sun it looked like plastic.
Holding the steering wheel he played with his new toy as if he held this precious human world right there in the dexterous warmth of his hairy old hands. He held on but not too tight and the touch of his mind was lucid and bright. Seeing fellow bodies abroad in the brilliant morning light his heart softened and he took every care. He slowed and gestured elegantly for pedestrians to pass before him. I some there was pride in their wealthy clothes and groomed hair. He gently mocked their vanity with his gestures.
But these were genuinely good people. It was not just that they paid their taxes and loved their families. The children were happy for their life was full of promise, like gifts wrapped with ribbons in the sky. They held the innocence and the hope of the adults. It was true, there was hope.
I wonder if the sky likes being blue, he thought.
It was harder to see past the glittering act or the hard fact to the bodies that walked and talked, sold and bought, but the bodies were there as a purpose as soft as putty. As crude and rude as on the farm they were a deeper perspective entering on the scene as real as the feel of it all. Yet all the body's needs were displayed in anonymous ways and everything duly taken for granted. The shop was around the corner, the health centre was down the street and nobody needed anybody in particular. People could get the impression they were self-reliant and in control.
On the smartphones and in the shop windows the halogen lights outshone the light of the spirit, god of the day and protector of the night when nature failed to shine the way. And dreams ran in the nerves and the wires the same until the sinews of man jerked and this was life in the false and their false life and death. It was life to the banks and the advertising, the insurance companies and the meaningless sport. And security lay only in facts, in numbers half remembered by a mind divorced from the body that was as tired as it was wired and somehow wired into the city. The city of a billion buttons. Hearts would howl at night, he thought, as the numbers slipped out of view, dreams of the future becoming just a dream.
Tears came to his eyes.
Yet the gypsy beggar by contrast was as real as his hunger. He sat in the doorway on a sheet of cardboard. Most passers-by were modest in their offerings, proper citizens knew how to deal with this situation and thought there was no need to be touched or to touch that reality. Knowing not that such a reality could remain, beyond the facts, to guard our sleep.
But time would tell.
He arrived a little late at the office. Miss Springles at reception was flustered and jabbering in rapid lists. He took her hand, warm and damp, squeezed it with a gentle gesture of reassurance and smiled. For a moment time stood still as their eyes met. She paused.
“See, there is time,” he said.
And there was time. Measured in the new posture and composure of Mr. Foibles there was a time beyond time. His eyes sat in their sockets like a child's prize marbles. Here was the insistently real in the land of numbers. His real work was done. Now, with true love, he could play with the world.
He went to the toilet down the corridor. The faint smell of urine somehow tickled him. He entered an empty cubicle and locked the door. The man in the next cubicle was whistling some old song. It echoed strongly in the humid air. Mr. Foibles was trying to recognise the tune but for a moment he imagined that he was whistling through his penis. He shook uncontrollably as he tried not to laugh out load. If he could do such a thing he could be famous but how, in all decency, would he present himself, he thought? The toilet became a circus of feats and freaks and danced in his blissful mind. The light of his heart flashed free and white, mirrored in gleaming porcelain.
He returned to his office, trotting under a shower of giggles. He sat at this desk and as he settled again into his chair the worry that was his office habit dragged at his heart. He felt a little heavy and his mood sank with his frail old body. His body was disappearing into the plush upholstery. He felt a little helpless. He wanted so much to share the joy and sense of freedom of the last few days but who would listen. Would people just think he was crazy? He stared at the computer on his desk. The light from the screen shone into his face. The light felt so false, like the neon lights of the subway it seemed to emerge from darkness like a lie. The darker truth of the city was beginning to sink in as he sank even further into his leather chair. He put his old hands together and prayed...
Please help me Lord.
Oh, how sleep has stolen the light, the sleep of thought. Yet how I am driven to that thought to deal with the desires of others.
For it seems that the spirit is becoming lost to modern man. The senses it seems cannot help but believe the bright screen - brighter than the heart of modern man and as clean as heaven the bright screen sells the pleasures of the world so that lost in feeling and the hope of feeling is the spirit. And lost am I without the light of the heart in the eyes of my brothers.
Please help me Lord.
There on the ground shines the light of the spirit. There on the ground of the body where no man’s eyes find their rest. There where the heart is first composed.
And furthermore when the heart sees the suffering of the world it can be free and yet caught in the light of the bright screen that suffering seems as dark as eternal night and as death to the life of desire. Only when what was dark becomes light does true life, the life of the spirit, truly enter the heart of man and yet it seems that even the light of being and of space will be as the light of the bright screen in the dreams of the modern man.
And heaven will be but a movie in the heart of man.
Before the bright screen the heavy breath churns the world around and the storm of dreams is never still, the world of the mind dances to its tune and is a slave to its tides and reality is its deadliest foe. Are the spasms of passion to be the only life they shall know?
Please help me Lord.
Then Mr. Foibles came to his senses. No, I shall not grieve for the world, he thought. But should I hide among the beetles and the dragonflies and appease the reflex man with little white lies?
For all alone is there is only danger and would I best remain a stranger to the reflex man?
There was a knock on the door he knew very well. His secretary, Mrs. Tweedsome, popped her head around the door. “Can I get you anything?” She asked. She knew him well. She had seen him many times in reflective mood and knew not to disturb. Mr. Foibles smiled and shook his head and she disappeared. He was a little relieved. It seemed she hadn't noticed anything different about him. Despite his experiences he must have seemed normal enough. She was so kind and had been so loyal to him over the years. He would take her children to the ice cream parlour around the corner next time they turned up a little early from school, he thought.
He stood and gazed out of the window at the city below. The summer breeze gently caressed his wrinkly old face. No, I am not alone. We are all together, one body, one life, he thought.
He remembered William Blake:
“God appears and God is light to those who dwell in realms of night but does a human form display to those who dwell in realms of day.”
He sat looking at the pictures of his family on his desk. We can all be happy together whatever our reason and time shall tell. Let time be the teacher. I must be patient thought Mr. Foibles. I will say nothing about my weekend unless I am asked, he thought.
The sun blazed through the window of his office, he could feel its warmth on the back of his head. The light in his eyes was so bright it seemed for a moment as though it shone right through. The taste of freedom was so sweet. As a gesture and a reminder he would buy cakes for everyone in the office and offer them himself every day from now on. It was just the beginning of a new life of giving. Mr. Foibles was full of joy.
With his mind clear and happy he got down to his work. He played with numbers and words with his head and his hands, abiding in his new life, inside.
TO BE CONTINUED...
The Mr. Foibles Trilogy