Friday, August 14, 2009

Astonishing the Gods

----- excerpt from Astonishing the Gods by Ben Okri -----

And as he breathed deeply the changing colours of the air, he noticed that the glow that was his guide seemed to be floating.

"What is the first law of this place?" he asked his floating guide.

"The first law of our city", the guide said, with that almost ironic smile in the voice. "is that what you think is what becomes real."

He pondered this as he walked past fountains and alongside the fields of dancing colours that he had already passed before.

"Does that mean if I think I have passed the same place twice it too becomes real?"


"But what if I pass it twice before I think it?"

"That means you are not aware of it the first time. Anything you are not aware of you have to experience again."


"Because if you aren't aware of it, you didn't pass it. You didn't experience it."

"But what if I am aware of the second time?"

"Then you experienced it once. The law is simple. Every experience is repeated or suffered till you experience it properly and fully the first time."

"Why is this so?"

"It is one of the foundations of our civilisation. At the beginning of our history there was great suffering. Our sages learnt that we tend to repeat our suffering if we have not learnt fully all that can be learnt from it. And so we had to experience our suffering completely while it happened so it would be so deeply lodged in our memory and in our desire for a higher life that we would never want to experience the suffering again, in any form. Hence the law. Anyone wo sleeps through their experiences would have to undergo them for as many times as it takes to wake them up and make them feel the uniqueness or the horror of their experiences for the first time. This law is the basis of our civilisation, a permanent sense of wonder at the stillness of time."

"Is time still?"

"Does time move?"


"Where to?"

"I don't know."

"Have you seen it move?"



"On a sundial."

"That is a measurement of a motion. Time itself is invisible. It is not a river. While you are in time all time is still. As in a painting."

"But day turns into night."


"So times moves."

"No. The planet moves. Time is still."

"I don't understand."

"That's because you move your mind too much."

"What then is the second law of this place?"

"When you need to know it you will find out."

"You are a difficult guide."

"Wait till you meet the others."

With this remark the guide fell silent again.