Maps of the Spirit

Once there was a king who had become bewildered.  A mysterious ailment made all his bones ache and his blood boil so that all he could do was groan in his bed.  And this condition made him more passionate than ever about spreading his kingdom to new territories. So the mapmaker became his most favored servant and he found a success he had never known.  As long as the king’s knights kept discovering new lands.  

But one day the knights came to the mapmaker and told him that they could no longer find any new territory.  They told him that they sailed to the end of the sea and found nothing but sea. The mapmaker knew that such news might kill the king by killing his spirit.  And so the knights agreed with the mapmaker to keep their beloved king alive with whatever maps he created and the tales they would tell about it.

The mapmaker made maps of new places that didn’t exist except in his mind.  And the knights told the king tales of these lands. And the king listened more intently and become more passionate than ever about his growing kingdom.  And the king’s pleasure drove them to invent more elaborate maps and more epic tales. And it strengthened the king’s spirit so much that one day he got out of bed and walked into the garden to tell the mapmaker and his knights who were busy conspiring over their new batch of tales and the king told them to ready the ship because they were going to tour their newly acquired lands.  In shock and horror, the mapmaker and the knights did as the king said.

They sailed out to sea and kept sailing where they had found nothing before.  The mapmaker and the knights caught themselves even hoping that the lands they created would just magically appear.  They tried to blame it on the tides and the winds. And after sailing in the nothingness for months and with supplies running low, the king demanded that they return home.  

On the return trip, the king did not leave his cabin and did not ask to see anyone except those serving him food and drink.  It seemed like the longest trip the knights had ever taken for not a soul uttered a word. They looked at the mapmaker with evil eyes because it was his fault for getting them into this mess.  And the mapmaker looked at them with disdain for not having somehow taken them somewhere that might’ve resembled the amazingly accurate maps he created, even though the accuracy was all in his head.

Back at the castle, the king invited them all to a lavish feast.  When they saw how lavish it was, it worried them that the king had something evil in mind for them.  And he raised his chalice and they theirs. And the king told of their new conquests. And his men chimed in.  And never did they have such a night of revelry.

The Laughing Woods

Once there was a king who locked himself out of his own castle.  The castle was built with only one entrance, a single door. No windows could be reached from the ground.  Surrounded by a moat and a rocky shore, there was only enough space to side step around its perimeter.

Some of the king’s subjects walked in and out of the castle but the king was too embarrassed to follow them in because he feared that they would learn the truth about his mistake and they had already laughed at him quite enough.  As soon as he decided to forget the whole thing and resigned himself to hiding in the woods for the rest of his life, he was disrobing to go for a swim in the lake when the key dropped right out of his pocket, but he did not see it fall on the shore.

Naked, he went for the best swim of his life. Never did he feel so free. He floated and swam as time flowed without a care until he got to shore and saw the key there.  His heart sank as he picked it up. He put his robe back on and the royal cloth felt heavier than ever. More like a suit of armor than a robe. He thought of returning to the castle but it appeared to him now as a dungeon built out of fear. He didn’t want to live in a house with only one door and one key anymore.

His imagination could hear his subjects laughing at him already but that laughter turned into a fit of laughter that overcame him.  It was in fact his laughter now! He tossed the key into the lake and disappeared into the woods without his robe.

Eventually, some other fool found the king’s key at the bottom of the lake and put the king’s robe on and went to the castle to rule the kingdom. Not even the queen recognized that the king was someone else, but everyone heard a strange laughter coming from the woods, as if it were laughing at them.

Twin Trees

somewhere in Yellowstone

In Difference and Repetition (1968), Gilles Deleuze writes about the doubleness of consciousness: “It is not enough to say that consciousness is consciousness of something: it is the double of this something, and everything is consciousness because it possesses a double, even if it is far off and very foreign. Repetition is everywhere, as much in what is actualised as in its actualisation.” And even the word “double” suggests a copy whereas it isn’t an exact copy by any means. It’s a strange world of “doubles” in our consciousness. A world of metaphors that are not the thing nor can be said to resemble the thing. Any replication has differences. The so-called copy is something else already “far off and foreign.” A tree is replicated in the woods and replicated in my mind and then both trees replicated into an image and then replicated in any mind that sees this image. But not quite replications. The twin trees are not trees at all, but rather slippery multiplicities.

The King’s Finger

Once upon a time a king had a brilliant idea.  He had inherited a kingdom with many problems that he cared not to solve nor did he think could be solved anyways by any other king.  And with some bad luck the problems got so bad that the king knew there were subjects plotting to usurp him, not to mention the peasants had already marched to his castle with pitchforks and torches and demanded solutions he could not come up with.  

The king divided his power amongst his court as widely as he could.  He spread his actual responsibilities as thin as possible while keeping enough power to enjoy his wealthy habits like hunting and fireside concerts and lavish banquets and playing hide the finger with various subjects in his court or even by himself while taking a hot bath overlooking his vast countryside.  After all, he thought to himself, who doesn’t enjoy the pleasures of this world over the pains? And who would think it even possible to eliminate the pains altogether?

His brilliant idea for any problem was that he would put somebody else in charge of it so that when the people and the others in the court were fed up with that problem, they demanded that he cut off the head of the one in charge.  And he did so with ease because he knew that it was in exchange for his own. But he played reluctant and pretended to hold the burden of executing someone. And he shrugged as he pointed his finger. What else could he do? He had succumbed to the burden of leadership.

Anytime someone came to the king with a problem, all he had to do was point his finger at whoever he placed in charge of that problem.  The executions satisfied the kingdom’s anger and a new person in charge of that problem gave the kingdom hope again until the next execution. Before anyone could figure it out or do anything about this cycle that satisfied their feelings but solved none of their problems, the king passed away from natural causes after a long life of more pleasure than pain.