This happened on the day of the Sun below the temple of the great radiant one, among the throng of pilgrims here to pay homage to him on his eternal throne high and mighty. From all over this earth the pilgrims had come to the temple. Here they are, their faces flush with the fervor of reverence, damp from the heat of the Sun on this glorious day in this season of Cancer. Some of them had come to the temple after visiting the nearby altar of the god of Love, the lamb of History, sacrificed on the Stage of History so this world might be inspired to love. Their faces tilted upward as they stand gazing lovingly at his colossal murti, at his hope infused, devoted eyes, the beloved god of Love.
Among the pilgrims here below the temple is one who had earlier visited the altar of the god of Love. He is walking about taking photographs, stopping here and there, his eye one with the eye of his camera. “Ah, yes,” he says as he clicks away at his camera, taking pictures of people and things he finds interesting and significant, memorializing his journey to the temple in images.
“That is interesting,” he now says to himself, looking away from the eye of his camera, “same day as today forty-nine years ago.” He is standing in front of a night and day photograph of a panoramic sea of people. In the foreground of the photograph is the long and wide flight of steps leading to the temple. About halfway up the steps stands at a podium the god of Love when he lived as a mortal among men. He stands addressing the multitude of people in the background of the photograph who had come to hear his divine message of Love. They are congregated all over the steps and all round the enormous basin of liquid lady at the foot of the steps dedicated to nurturing the great one and his majestic temple, their eyes focused on the podium.
A man standing next to the one with the camera and who had also been looking at the photograph shifts his gaze. He sees beside him a handsome man, the strap holding his camera slung round his shoulder, the camera resting on his chest. “You are right. Incredible to be here on this particular day in time,” he says to the one with the camera, an unexpected comment, on his face a timid smile. “And you just picked it up like that,” he snaps his thumb and middle-finger, “amazing.” He now turns to face a boy standing beside him. “How ‘bout that, buddy. This here picture took place outside forty-nine years ago today,” he says to him. The boy turns to look at the one with the camera, who had made the comment about this day being the same day long ago when a momentous congregation for Freedom, for Love in the world had assembled here, led by the god of Love when he lived as a mortal among men, to appeal to the world to let Love be its guiding light.
Here he is, this boy, his big and bright eyes motionless in wonder witnessing the scene unfolding in front of him between this composed stranger and his fidgety father. He had never seen his father interact with anyone like this stranger this way before. He notices the shifty eyes of his father unable to hold the steady eyes of the stranger. He now gazes at the stranger, his big eyes so soft and tender, shining with pure intelligence. The stranger feels his energy, meets his gaze; a soul gazing upon his other self. The boy averts his eyes, looks down at his knees, his toes. Now raises his head, looks up again at the stranger and sees his eyes are still there waiting for him, notices the gentle smile rounding the high cheekbones of this stranger with such kind eyes and calm spirit. He too smiles.
“Fascinating to be here on this particular day … who knows, maybe we too were here back then as other people,” the stranger says in response to the father of the boy. “You never know. Things are never what they seem in this world.”
“Definitely not,” says the father of the boy, nodding in agreement.
Here they are in this sanctified, awe inducing place, this glorious temple of the radiant one. Cranial fire in a flash goes off in the head of the father of the boy, its edifying heat overwhelming his ego, energizing his thoughts. This is the latest in a series of epiphanies he has been having. A vivification process giving him food for thought, demanding he examine his rooted belief and culture induced prejudice, the propagated lies of history. A belief and prejudice ingrained in him, inherited from his progenitors, who called themselves Christians, and rife in his extended family. Inculcated in him by the society in which he was born and raised and which he had begun to question more and more and broach in conversations with his coworkers, friends and family members, the whole bigoted and presumptuous lot of them.
Here he is, the father of the boy, rubbing his chin, pushing up his eyeglasses, thinking and speaking with himself, within himself. How wrong we all are. How unfair. How devilish, in fact. May God help us. May Christ save us. I used to hide behind my belief that they are an inferior race, that they deserve it … all the injustices. What was one to think of a race that allowed its peoples to be taken away from their homes, worked like mules, toiled in bondage and abused for centuries? What sympathy was one to have for a race as easily manipulated and dominated as that? But, once again, here we are with one of them, this stranger. Good looking, well dressed, well mannered … clearly a tourist out with his camera. What intelligence he just displayed. Such a quick mind, like he has a crystal skull or something. No one who can think this quick, make a connection this fast, deduce meaning … and spiritual too … no one like that can be deemed inferior to anyone else. Quite the contrary … superior, if you ask me. I definitely did not make the connection until he said it out loud.”
“Dad,” the boy now says, “you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, I am fine, buddy.” He pushes up his glasses.
Here he is, this boy, witnessing the scene unfolding in front of him between his sweaty and fidgety father and the calm stranger, stealing looks at the stranger, a smile twitching his lips, the corners of his mouth. Pure of heart, he had always felt something was wrong in the attitude and comments of his grandparents, uncles and aunts, in the attitude and comments of his neighbors, friends of his father, like Mr. Dick, Reverend Pauly, Dr. Nuts and all the rest of them. He had always felt there was something wrong with how they conducted themselves with people like the stranger or when around people like him. Wrong with their comments that no one was as good as them, that they were the best and deserved the best, deserved to be at the head of society, that their people created everything, anyways. There he would be in his living room doing his homework, with the television turned low, but still audible, and right there on the screen would be images of people like the stranger being talked about or shown in bad ways, as lazy, as stupid, as criminals. He would be doing his homework but still allow himself to hear and think about what was being said on TV until the sudden voice of his mother from the kitchen would tell him to shut that thing off and finish his homework. He knew in his young heart that what was being shown on TV, what they were teaching them in school and what the society was encouraging them to think about the stranger and people like him was not true. This stranger is the closest he had ever stood to anyone like him. So close he could touch his hand, feel his smooth skin. He recalls his grandma and grandpa, his mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and cousins, friends and neighbors had said something bad about people like this stranger many times and told him to keep away from them.
The boy and the stranger: souls now again gazing at each other, united by their discreet, knowing smile.
“Buddy, you wanna go up now?”
Upstairs in the temple the pilgrims are circling the great radiant one. Young and old, male and female, big and small, some of them are nearer to him, others farther from him. Round and round him they all go, time and again, doing on earth as it is in heaven done, paying homage to him, the lord of lords, the king of kings. Paying homage to him, the savior, he who set men free, united heaven and earth, gods and men, north and south, up and down. As too the moon, low above the temple, luminous, full of his radiant glory, paying homage to him, her lord and master, her joy and sadness, her day and night, her life and death, her light and darkness. Paying homage to him, his majesty most high, the great radiant one, on his eternal throne seated high and mighty, immaculate, celestial his gaze.
“Goodbye, sir,” the boy says to the stranger, his smile warm.
“Goodbye,” the stranger says, smiling back at the boy. “It is nice upstairs. The statue is pretty cool. Check-out the ceiling and the wall paintings, too.”
The boy nods, his smile warm still, his bright eyes gazing at the stranger, marveling at how smooth his dark skin is, like the black crayon he draws cartoons with, how shiny his wooly hair, thinking how comfortable he is around him.
© 2023 Ségun Ògúntólá