The Great Nostalgia – from The Book of Mirdad
THE GREAT NOSTALGIA
MIRDAD: Like mist is the Great Nostalgia . Emitted by the heart, it shuts away the heart , as mist, effused by sea and land, obliterates both land and sea.
And also as the mist bereaves the eye of visible reality making itself the sole reality, so this Nostalgia subdues the feelings of the heart and makes itself the feeling paramount. And seemingly so formless , and aimless, and blind as the mist, yet like the mist it teems with the forms unborn, is clear of sight and very definite of purpose.
Like fever also is the Great Nostalgia. As fever, ignited in the body, saps the vitality of the body while burning up its poisons, so this Nostalgia , born of the friction in the heart, debilitates the heart, as it consume away its dross and every superfluity.
And like a thief is the Great Nostalgia . for as a sneaking thief relieves his victim of a burden,
yet leaves him sore embittered, so this Nostalgia, by stealth, lifts all the burdens of the heart, yet leaves it most disconsolate and burdened by its very lack of burdens.
Broad is the bank and green where men and women dance away, and sing away, and toil and weep away their evanescent days. But fearsome is the fire and smoke belching Bull that hobbles up their feet, and brings them to their knees, and stuffs back their songs into their vocal chords , and glues their swollen eyelids with their tears.
Broad also and deep is the stream that separates them from the other bank. And neither can
they swim it , nor can they row across it with an oar, nor sail it with a sail. Few – very few – of them venture to span it with a thought . But all – almost all – are eager to adhere to their bank where each goes on rolling his pet wheel of Time.
The man with the Great Nostalgia has no pet wheel to roll. Amid a world so tensely occupied and pressed for time he is alone without an occupation and unhurried. In humanity so decorous in dress, and speech, and manner he finds himself naked, stuttering and awkward. He cannot laugh with the laughing, nor can he with the weeping weep; Men eat and drink, and have pleasure in eating and drinking; he eats without a relish, and his drink is vapid in his mount.
Others are mated, or busy seeking mates; he walks alone, and sleeps alone, and dreams his dreams alone. Others are rich in worldly wit and wisdom; he alone is dull and unwise. Others have cozy corners which they call homes; he alone is homeless. Others have certain spots of the earth which they call native land and whose glory they sing very loud; he alone has no spot to sing and to call his native land. For his hearts eye is towards the other bank.
A sleepwalker is the man with the Great Nostalgia amid a world apparently so wide awake. He is drawn by a dream which those about him neither see nor feel. Therefore they shrug their shoulders and titter in their sleeves. But when the god of Fear – the fire and smoke belching Bull – appears on the scene, then are they made to bite the dust while the sleepwalker at those
they shrugged their shoulders and tittered in their sleeves, is lifted on the wings of Faith above them and their bull, and carried far over the other bank and to the foot of the Rugged Mountain.
Barren, and bleak, and forlorn is the land over which the somnambulist flies. But the wings of
Faith are strong; and the man flies on.
Somber , and bald, and blood-curdling the mountain at whose foot he descends. But the heart of Faith is indomitable; and the man’s heart boldly beats on.
Rocky , and slippery, and barely discernible his trail up the mountain. But silken is the hand , and steady is the foot, and keen is the eye of Faith, and the man climbs on.
He meets on the way with men and women laboring up the mountain along a broad and smooth roadbed. They are the men and women of the Small Nostalgia who crave to reach the summit, but with a lame and a sightless guide. For their guide is their belief in what the eye can see, and what the ear can hear, and what the hand can feel, and what the nose and tongue can smell and taste. Some of them rise no higher than the mountain’s ankles; some reach its knees; and
dome the hips; and very few the girdle. But all slip back with their guide and go tumbling down the mountain without so much as glimpsing the fair summit.
Can the eye see all to be seen, and the ear hear all to be heard? Can the hand feel all to be felt , and the nose smell all to be smelled? Or can the tongue taste all to be tasted? Only when Faith, born of divine Imagination, comes to their aid will the senses truly sense and thus become ladders to the summit.
Senses devoid of Faith are most undependable guides. Though their road appear to be smooth and broad, yet is it full of hidden traps and pitfalls; and those who take it to the summit of Freedom either perish on the way, or slip and tumble back to the base from which they made their start; and there they nurse many a broken bone; and there they stitch many a gapping wound.
The men with the small nostalgia are they who, having build a world with their senses, soon find it small and stuffy; and so they long for a larger and airier home. But instead of seeking new materials and a new master builder, they rummage up the old materials and call upon the same architect – the senses – to design and build for them a larger home. No sooner is the new one built than they find it so small and so stuffy as the old. And so they go on demolishing and building, and never can they build the home that gives them the comfort and the freedom they carve. For they rely upon their deceivers to save them from deceit. And like the fish that jumps from the frying pan into the fire, they run away from a small mirage only to be lured by a bigger one.
Between the men of the great and the men of the Small Nostalgia are the vast herds of rabbit- men who feel no nostalgia at all. They are content to dig their holes and live and breed and die therein; and they find their holes quite elegant, and roomy, and warm, and would not exchange them for the splendor of a kingly palace. And they snicker at all somnambulists, especially the ones who walk a solitary trail whose footprints are few and very hard to trace.
Much like an eagle hatched by a backyard hen and cooped up with t brood of that hen is the
man with the Great Nostalgia among his fellow-men. His brother-chicks and mother-hen would have the young eagle as one of them, possessed of their nature and habits, and living as they
live; and he would have them like himself – dreamers of the freer air and skies illimitable. But soon he finds him a stranger and a pariah among them; and he is pecked by all – even his mother. But the call of the summits is loud in his blood, and the stench of the coop
exasperating to his nose. Yet does he suffer it all in silence till he is fully fledged. And then he mounts the air, and casts a loving farewell look upon his erstwhile brothers and their mother who merrily cackle on as they dig in the earth for more seed and worms.
Rejoice, Micayon. Yours is a prophet’s dream. The Great Nostalgia has made your world too small, and made you a stranger in that world. It has unloosed your imagination from the grip of the despotic senses; and imagination has brought you forth your Faith.
And Faith shall lift you high above the stagnant, stifling world and carry you across the dreary emptiness and up the Rugged Mountains where every faith must needs be tried and purified of the last dregs of Doubt.
And Faith so purified and triumphant shall lead you to the boundaries of the eternally green Summit and there deliver you into the hands of Understanding. Having discharged its task, Faith shall retire, and Understanding shall guide your steps to the unutterable Freedom of the Summit which is the true, the boundless, and all-including home of God and the Overcoming Man.
Stand well to the test Micayon. Stand well, you all. To stand but for a moment on that summit is worth enduring every kind of pain. But to abide forever on that Summit is worth Eternity. Himbal: Would you not lift us now to your summit though for a glimpse, however brief?
MIRDAD: Be not in haste, Himbal, and bide your time. Where I breathe freely, there you
gasp for breath. Where I walk lightly, there you pant and stumble. Keep you hold on Faith; and
Faith shall perform the gigantic feat.
So taught I Noah.
So I teach you.