Sleet

There in the mud he fell, his grey three piece suit, his shoes of black leather. The man from the city had rushed too greedily through the muck, seeking to escape the sleet characteristic of the slave village. The sleet: apparently the staple climate of those mountains into which we slaves delved to mine the mineral. Not rain, nor snow: a dull compromise. A compromise not unlike the one between hope and fear that kept us motivated as we extracted that commodity from the bowels of the earth – a commodity that I still do not comprehend the value of. Not in terms other than the men of the city’s desire.

This man of the city’s rush was plunged into the mire with a horrific twist of the leg and a dull crack. The pained tenor of his cry was not unfamiliar to me. Unaccompanied by his peers and not nearly at his destination, this man of the city was stranded and at our mercy – and this he knew. In fact he knew it more than he knew the pain in his leg. He did not writhe, and after his initial shriek he did not cry out. He looked around nervously. I was content to leave him be. His peers (whom I perceived were not really his friends) would notice his absence and find him eventually. Or not.

As he continued with the anxious scan of his surroundings, he clutched vaguely at the broken leg. His instinct was that some attempt at repair was necessary but what feeble effort his fumbling hands could muster was a mockery. All the while, an onslaught of sleet.

Soon, four shirtless men came with a freshly designed makeshift stretcher. Here I sat up from my slouch to watch in disbelief. Gently and without expression four slaves eased this man of the city onto their stretcher of tattered shirts, favouring his broken leg with great tenderness. He was in disbelief, and so was I. But the four men – they were without fuss.

The wistful freedom I dreamt of without ceasing, the vague desire for vengeance that was numbed by the hope of better days. The asceticism imposed upon me, and my descent into resignation. My lowly spirit within me, stubbornly holding on despite its barren coffers – holding onto what? I watched them trudge through the muck into the distance, the sleet obscuring them further with every step. I perceived here that these men had reconciled all of it.

There stirred within me some transcendental joy, some reaching up to One who reaches down – His genial countenance beaming despite the humiliation of descent. The patience of the intellectual giant as he affords the layman every courtesy of his superiority without any trace of condescension. The generosity of the charitable celebrity whose money is no object but a providential means to things that are truly good. The infinite pride a doting Father takes in his child’s fighting to grow upwards – a pride no onlooker can ever perceive the depth of. The child himself cannot even begin to comprehend it.

This moment of joy went almost as quickly as it had come, but I perceived that within that moment there was a Something worth having. I even perceived that it was not the moment itself that was worth believing in, though I imagined a revolution centred on that emotion. No, the moment was a glimpse, and what I had glimpsed was what I’d been missing.

And now, a choice: hold onto that Something, or, allow the vestiges of that moment and its Something to be engulfed by sleet.

   –   Josiah Hallett

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