‘The Men With Glass Skulls’ & ‘Love, Hope, Joy, and Sorrow’ by Zoë Chamberlain

sc june 18

The Men With Glass Skulls

Once there was a race of men with glass skulls…. men whose thoughts, seen through the windows of their foreheads, were illuminated by the colours of their emotions and emphasized by rhythmic clicks and chirps, low melodious humming, whistles, or primitive shouts and gestures. Laughter made images bubble, sobbing made them writhe or quiver. Mothers, for example, cuddled their children in tender greens and joyous yellows or scolded in thumping greys and browns. Lovers merged in seas of fire reaching, at times, to peaks of golden ecstasy that faded gradually into pale yellow waves or disappeared among blue shadows of separation.

Men without deceit, without the possibility of lying or cheating. Without the means of stealing or committing premeditated crimes…. but passions and emotions shifted often like sand dunes in a wind storm, blurring reason and distorting harmony. Envy clouded the mind like a dark green shadow, while frustration created static pictures of jagged red on blue. Pride was projected like a swollen balloon glowing in reds and yellows; resentment, like a sinister whirlpool flashing in greens and purples. At times colour, form, and rhythm jammed in futile combat, then mental functions dissolved in a frantic spray of fireworks.

Music was their only form of art. They played unsophisticated melodies on primitive instruments, while colourful mental patterns pulsated and whirled in response to their wild rhythms. Painting and sculpture, literature and poetry were nonexistent, and architectural structures were unimpressive glass boxes. Perhaps it was the total lack of intimacy, stifling the growth of individuality, which inhibited any creative impulse among them. There were no dark corridors to explore, no secret dreams or yearnings to probe. No shadowy butterflies rising from watery depths. The men with the glass skulls were not given to introspection and had always been quite satisfied to cope with the material necessities of life, while their thoughts paraded forth in naked abandonment.

Afterwards no one could remember exactly when he had arrived among them, but it was thought that he had appeared, dressed in long white robes and decked with garlands of ivy, when the almond trees were in bloom and the first swallows pierced the clouds like tiny arrows. O-nlu, the luminous one, so called because of the special radiance of his forehead. He taught the control of the mind through concentration on image and colour, passing through various stages, each one a step to¬wards perfection.

O-nlu led his pupils into the immensity of the universe filled with spiralling galaxies carved out of darkness, or into the intimacy of a flower opening slowly to the morning light. He urged them to touch the rich reds and browns of the earth, the different greens of pine needles, ferns, and tiny blades of grass. He took them on mental excursions to towering, snow capped mountains and hidden valleys shuddering with the spray of waterfalls. They followed a silver stream rippling over pebbles bright as agates and a wide red river that led to the shores of the sea. The sea….turquoise, azure, cobalt, grey….whispering, caressing, roaring, and pounding….always changing but ever-constant….the sea, where life and death become one.

When his pupils had mastered the control of images, O-nlu submerged them in the world of absolute colour. They saturated themselves with the colours of the rainbow, advancing step by step through yellow, orange, and red; green, violet, and finally blue—the threshold to whiteness, and fulfillment. White was the colour of purity and innocence, of infant minds before they began to mirror blurred images of their surroun¬dings. White was the concentration of all colours and, therefore the realm of wholeness and completion.

Mental discipline and creative thinking were the means to self-discovery, and eventually O-nlu’s disciples began to develop a certain sense of freedom entirely new to them, somewhat like doves finding their way out of a jungle. Many had achieved whiteness, but only O-nlu could radiate that special luminosity like sunlight filtering through drifting clouds or ocean spray in moonlight.

But O-nlu was not revered by all, and for some—those who dominated by means of aggressive images—he was a threat. Since his arrival their thoughts had been darkened by green shadows and flooded by black pools of hatred, so when the appeal and success of O-nlu’s teaching became evident, they signalled warnings among their own. They accused him of at¬tempting to enslave the glass-skulled men. Control of the mind would erode that most essential of all rights, complete freedom of thought. But above all, they charged O-nlu and his disciples with subversion, with wanting to veil their though¬ts and thus destroy the basic structure of communication. Next they would invent helmets for their heads and build their houses of wood or stone. Their practices were an affront to honesty and decency. But reasons like cold steel could not hide the lust for power that oozed in purple stains and rattled like wolves’ teeth….

Men with glass skulls…. advancing like lava…. picking up stones and clubs along the way. O-nlu and his disciples, contemplating irises and lilies of the valley, never drea¬ming that nightmares like iridescent rams would over run their peaceful meditations.

But there were some who rallied to their defence—those who had never favoured the dominating faction, those who had often shown a flickering contempt from depths of grey submission. Now united in purposeful rebellion, they, too, collected large sticks and stones.

Then strife rang out like thousands of glass gongs and hundreds of innocents were slaughtered like lambs. O-nlu and a few of his disciples were thought to have vanished—melted away like snowflakes in a tropical storm—perhaps someday to become white butterflies beneath a summer sky…. Neverthe¬less, hatred and vengeance continued to burn and desolation spread…. until the men with the transparent skulls were reduced to slivers of colourless glass.

Love, Hope, Joy, and Sorrow

When the sun became a red giant,
and the earth a dark dwarf,
Love, Hope, Joy, and Sorrow
were wayfarers
wandering the universe.
They had no map,
no compass, no destination,
only a small silver boat.

As they idled along the Milky Way, Sorrow spoke.
“Where will we go, what will we do
now that man is gone?”

Answered Hope, “Why do you worry, Sorrow?
There are other beings and other worlds to find.”

“I can’t imagine a world without Beauty,” said So­rrow.
“When Beauty fled the ruins of earth,
man lost his will to live. Do you remember?”

“Yes, we remember,” said Joy, “But we would like
to forget.”

“I’m sure Beauty is waiting for us to arrive
in some new-born world near-by,” said Hope.

“But nothing can ever be the same as earth once was,
so blue and green….”

Said Joy, “I’ve seen planets I liked just as much,
from a distance, that is. Take….take Neptune,
for instance. You can’t deny it’s also blue.”

“A world of nitrogen and methane, of hurrican winds
and freezing cold, even its moon is made of ice.
It has no seas, no animals, birds, nor trees,
no life.”

“What a terrible fate is mine,” said Joy,
“To be chained to this pessimist, this dour slime.”

“Dour slime?” said Love, Hope, and Sorrow together.

“Yes. Always so forlorn, so unappealing.”


Love smiled and said, “You are nothing the one
without the other. You are as inseparable as
light and shade, rain and rainbows, wind and waves.”

“Bah,” said Joy, “I’m fine on my own, no matter
where I am.”

“Try the frozen deserts of Mars, try those twin worlds
of terror, Poebus and Demos….try a black hole,”
said Sorrow.

“Well, look who’s talking!”

“Perhaps we can find something
to keep these two busy,” said Hope.

“You needn’t worry about me,” said Joy.
“I’m enjoying this trip. I love the wild dark spaces
of the Universe, the excitement of comets
and meteorites, the thrill of infinity.
But what can we do about Sorrow’s obsessive nostalgia?
It irritates me so!”

“I miss man,” said Sorrow. “I miss his loneliness,
his vulnerability, his desire for greatness,
his need for love, his love of Beauty.”

“We all do,” said Love. “We miss him and we need him.”
I, especially, am in need of man.”

“You?” said Hope. “You are the light that guides us.”

“Dear Hope, you are the kindest of companions,
but what is the purpose of my light
if man cannot behold it. Despite his failings,
in man I found my truest and fondest manifes­ta­tion.”

“Perhaps,” said Hope, “He has become a free spirit
wandering, like us, across the Universe.
Man was never nothingness….
empty at times, but never nothing.”

“That’s right,” said Joy. “He was always so intent
on being, so clever. Even in his destructiveness,
he was there….or here….or whatever.”

“Man had such a need for all of us, including me,”
said Sorrow. “I gave him a kind of maturity,
a depth of understanding….”

“A depression,” muttered Joy.

“If we could just find Beauty,” said Hope,
“That would be a beginning.”

“And there is nothing more wonderful
than the search for Beauty,” said Joy.
“Don’t you agree, Love?”

“I do indeed. Shall we be off?”

So Love, Hope, Joy, and Sorrow
journeyed across the Universe
searching for Beauty,
longing for man.

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