The King's Stone

Once there was an old storyteller who became one of the most powerful people in the kingdom.  He had found a way to tell stories so that anyone who listened could accept them as the absolute truth.  Except those who the stories were intended to harm, of course.

The old man never forgot anything. That is partially why he was such a convincing storyteller. But it was also why he was so spiteful about any offense he suffered, like a village he visited once. In his eye, the people were not polite enough to him by the way they served him food and put him up for the night in an uncomfortable bed. All of which he thought was done on purpose. So he told a story many decades later and the king increased their taxes, and when they rebelled, their village was burned to the ground.

One day, the king’s spy overheard the storyteller boasting about his power. He found it amazing that people took his words as if they were written in stone and were so willing to act upon something as fleeting as a hot wind. But his real mistake was when he boasted that if he wished, he could spill into the king’s ear at the perfect moment the right combination of words about a hidden betrayal of his trust that would send the queen to her doom.

That night, the old storyteller awoke from a frantic nightmare – running from village to village with no clothes on while people hurled rocks and mud at him – to a wet bed.  He got mad at himself for pissing in his bed again until he heard the voice of the king sitting in a chair across the room.

As the king told him why his wife would never betray him for she had sacrificed her own traitorous brother, the storyteller realized that it was not his urine that soiled the sheets; he was bleeding from a mortal neck wound. When he tried to utter a word, liquid sounds sputtered out.

The old storyteller’s mind wandered in his last fleeting moments.

He remembered a fountain from his youth where the folk used to throw stones into it for good luck. And it was there that his storytelling began at a single question: what was the story of each stone? And he pulled them out one by one. Followed their stories wherever they led him. Afterward, the heft of each stone seemed to increase in weight with its story.

At that time, he used to say that everybody had a heavy stone in their heart. A stone so heavy that it settled in the fountain of their chest. But he had forgotten that sentiment. And lost himself in the power of stories to influence others. He had taken all the stones out and learned how to rearrange them to convince by spectacle instead of seeing their worth and unlocking their heft.

And so the king’s heaviest stone, the story of his wife’s sacrifice for his sake, sank deeply in the king’s chest. Something never to be pulled out. Sacred to him.

Simulation of Sacrifice

In Death Valley, forms appear to mimic the hands that sculpted them. As Jean Baudrillard noted in America, “Death Valley is as big and mysterious as ever. Fire, heat, light: all the elements of sacrifice are here. You always have to bring something into the desert to sacrifice, and offer it to the desert as a victim.”

In this strange mirror, a mirage produces a liquid permanence. And this ancient landscape becomes a future landscape as well as a launching point to terrains on other planets, other realities, and other existences, in addition to the seemingly inevitable sacrifice of human existence which as yet does not have the capacity to transcend this landscape. In that way, whenever I go to Death Valley, it’s immensity presses on me and makes me feel like eternity is under the feet of that which it feeds and consciousness appears as some strange simulated virginal sacrifice.

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.