Book 6. The Family Book (2002)
In which temple should God dwell
(Anastasia’s first parable)
In one of the many populated settlements on the Earth people went happily about their daily life. In this particular community lived ninety-nine families. Each family lived in a splendid house decorated with fanciful woodcarvings. The garden around the house brought forth fruit every year in abundance. Vegetables and berries grew all by themselves. Every year people met the spring with joyful greeting and delighted in the summer. A series of cheerful friendship celebrations brought forth songs and khorovods In the
wintertime people rested from their daily exhilarations. And they looked up to the heavens and tried to decide whether they might be able to weave the Moon and the stars into even better patterns.
Once every three years in July those people gathered in a glade at the edge of their community Once in every three years God would respond to their questions in an ordinary voice. Even though He remained invisible to ordinary eyes, each one could feel Him. And He, together with all the residents of the community, decided how best to build their life in the days to come. The people’s conversation with God might be philosophical, but sometimes quite simple and even fanny
So, for example, one middle-aged man stood up and addressed God this way:
“C’mon, now, God, for our celebration this summer, when we all gathered together with the dawn, You decided to drench us all with a monsoon? The rain poured down like a waterfall from heaven, and the Sun began to shine only around noon. What, did You sleep in till noon?”
“I was not asleep,” God replied. ‘At this morning’s dawn I thought about how to make your celebration truly glorified. I saw how some of you on their way to the celebration were too lazy to wash themselves with clean water. How so? Such reprobates would spoil the show with their appearance. And so I decided to first wash everyone, and then have the clouds sweep in and allow the rays of the Sun to caress the water- washed bodies with tenderness.”
“Well, okay, if that is how...” the man agreed, brushing off food crumbs from his moustache and wiping the blackberry stains around his son’s mouth.
“Tell me, God,” asked an elderly and pensive philosopher, “there are many stars shining in the sky overhead. What does their fanciful alignment mean? If I should select a star that is pleasing to my soul, and then when I get bored with my earthly life, could I remove there with my family?”
“The alignment of the heavenly bodies twinkling in the dark tells about the life of the whole Universe. An alertness in your soul, but without tension, allows you to read the Book of the Heavens. This Book will not open for idleness or curiosity, but only for pure and meaningful thoughts. And yes, you can settle on a star. And each of you can choose for yourself a planet in the heavens. There is only one condition that you must observe. You must become capable of producing on your selected star creations more perfected than those produced on the Earth.”
A very young girl jumped up from the ground and tossed her light-brown braid of hair over her shoulder. Raising her little face with its turned-up nose heavenward, she placed her hands saucily on her hips and suddenly declared to God:
“I have a complaint to make to you, God. For two years now I’ve waited patiently to tell you about it. Now I shall tell you. Some kind of disorder or abnormality is taking place on the Earth. All the people are living as people — falling in love, marrying and being happy. But am I to blame for something? Every year, just as soon as spring arrives, my cheeks break out into freckles. There is nothing that’ll wash them off, and I can’t paint them over. Did you think this up as some kind of a joke, God? I demand that as of next spring not a single freckle ever appears on my face again!”
“Oh, My daughter! Those are not frecldes, but spring speckles that appear on your beautiful little face each spring. But I shall call them as you wish. If you find your freckles to be such an annoyance, I shall remove them come next spring,” God answered the spunky girl.
But then a handsome young lad got up at the other end of the glade, and meekly addressed God, though not in a loud voice:
“We have a lot of work ahead of us in the springtime. You, God, try to take part in everything we do. Why would you waste your time on removing her freckles? Besides, they are so beautiful that I cannot picture a more beautiful image than a young maiden with freckles in the spring!”
“So what am I to do?” God thoughtfully responded. “The maiden asked, and I promised her...”
“What’s this about ‘what to do?” the girl once more broke into the conversation. “You heard the people say it’s not freckles, but other more important things, that we should be concerned about... But while we’re on the subject of speckles, I’d like to ask for two more — right here, on my right cheek, so that it’s all symmetrical.”
God smiled — this was evident from the fact that all the people were smiling. Everybody knew that it would not be long before a new splendid family would be lovingly born into their community
So the people lived with God in that remarkable community And then one day a hundred wise-men came to see them. The hospitable residents always greeted guests with all kinds of good things to eat. The wise-men tasted their splendid fruit and were amazed at its extraordinary flavour. Then one of them said:
“Oh, people, what a splendid, orderly life you lead! You have abundance and coziness in every home. But your communication with God lacks sophistication. There is no glorification or adulation of Deity.”
“But why?” the residents tried to protest in alarm. “We talk with God the way we talk with each other. We talk and reason with Him every three years. But every day He rises with the Sun. As a bee He busies Himself around the gardens beginning in every spring. Every winter He covers the ground with snow. His tasks are clear to us, and we are glad for all the seasons.”
“You are doing things the wrong way,” said the wise-men. “We have come to teach you how to talk with God. All over the Earth an array of temples and palaces has been built in His honour, where people can talk with God every day And we shall teach you to do the same.”
For three years the residents of the settlement heeded the words of the wise-men. Each of the hundred insisted on his own theory about how to best construct a temple to God, and what should be done in the temple each day Each of the wise-men had his own theory The residents of the community had no idea which of the hundred wise theories they should choose. Besides, how could they choose without offending the wise-men? And so they decided to heed them all and build all the temples proposed. One for each family But there were only ninety-nine families in the village, and there were a hundred wise-men. When they heard the decision of all the residents, the wise-men became very concerned. It meant one of them would not get his temple built, and would not receive the anticipated offerings. And they began arguing among themselves as to whose theory of worshipping God was the most effective. And they began dragging the residents into the dispute. The dispute heated up, and for the first time in many years the villagers forgot about their time of communication with God. They did not gather as before in the glade on the appointed day.
Another three years went by. Ninety-nine magnificent temples were scattered about the settlement, and it was only the villagers’ huts that had lost their lustre. Some of the vegetables lay uncollected on the ground. And the fruit of the garden began to become infested with worms.
“This is all because,” the wise-men preached in the various temples, “you do not have fall faith. Bring more and more gifts to the temple, try harder and bow down to God more often.”
But there was one wise-man — the one who had been left without a temple — who whispered first to one, then to another:
“You have been going about everything the wrong way, people. All the temples you have built are of the wrong construction. And you do not worship the right way in your temples, you are not saying the right words as you pray I am the only one who can teach you how you can communicate with God every day”
Just as soon as he managed to bring someone over to his side, a new temple would be erected, and one of the existing ones would fall into disrepair. And again one of the wise-men, the one newly deprived of the people’s offerings, tried to surreptitiously slander the others in front of the villagers.
A number of years passed. Then one day the people remembered about the gatherings they used to have in the glade where they heard God’s voice. Once again they gathered in the glade and began asking questions in the hope that God would hear them and give an answer as before.
‘Answer us, how did it happen that our gardens are bringing forth worm-infested fruit? And why do our vegetables no longer yield an abundant harvest every year? And why do people quarrel, fight and argue amongst themselves, but cannot possibly choose the best faith? Tell us in which of the temples we built for you do you dwell?”
For a long time God did not answer their questions. And when a voice finally sounded in space, it was not a happy voice, it sounded weary God answered those gathered:
“My sons and daughters, the reason for the desolation in your houses and the gardens around them is that I am simply not able to do everything by Myself. Everything has been designed by My dream right from the start in such a way that I can create splendour only in conjunction with you. But you have in part turned away from your homes with their
gardens. Creation is something I cannot ever manage on My own — there must be co-creation by the two of us together. Moreover I want to say to you all: you yourselves include love and freedom of choice, and I am ready to follow your aspirations with My dream. But you must tell me, My dear daughters and sons, in which of the temples I am to dwell. Before me you are all of equal worth, so where abouts should I reside so that no one feels left out? When you have decided on your own in which of the temples I should make my home, I shall be glad to follow your collective will.”
After responding to all with these words God fell silent. The people of the once beautiful village are continuing their conflict even to this day. Their houses are filled with desolation and dust. Around them the temples rise higher and higher, even as the conflict grows bitterer and bitterer.
“Well, Anastasia, that is quite an unrealistic, fairy-tale parable you told. There must have been some pretty dumb people in that settlement. Didn’t they realise that God wants to work with each one of them to care for their garden? Besides, you say that those dullards in the settlement are still arguing, even today And where is that settlement, in what country? Can you tell me?”
“Then tell me.”
“Vladimir, you along with people from different lands are living in this very settlement right now.”
“Eh? Oh, I see, precisely: we are the ones! We are still engaged in a dispute about whose faith is better. While our gardens are full of worm-infested fruit!”