The White Robed Man
By: Peter Dominic Walls
Glenterrace is a small town close to the sea at the foot of the most beautiful mountains in the World. The people there are bright and intelligent and just like you and me they live ordinary, busy lives. The town itself is just like any other town except for one small thing. All the doorways in this town are small and all the people in this town have bruised foreheads!
They all do normal things with their lives and have normal committees and mayors and things like that. They even have pubs where they sit around all night, singing songs and telling one another stories but the funny things is, none of them has any idea how to stop the pain caused by the bruises they have in the middle of theirs foreheads.
Some of the smarter and more wise amongst them know how the bruises come about in the first place but most of them just get on with life putting up with the pain and not stopping to ask where it comes from lest it should hurt even more! They find that if they keep there mind on ordinary everyday things then the pain is bearable and one can get used to it quite quickly, even up the point where its hardly even there! Almost!
The wise men of the village who meet regularly in one of the better pubs in town know that the bruises came from people banging their heads on the low doorways but they have no idea how to tell people this, let alone how to help them to stop hurting themselves. They have dedicated their lives to helping people to cope better with how things are and to accepting their lot. All in all people they are not unhappy, just a little less free perhaps than they believe they could be and if they don't think too much, life isn't too bad and in truth is quite manageable really!
One day, unlike other days, a stranger comes to town. He is a tall man in a white robe. Their is nothing really strange about how he is dressed or even about his visit for people do come to visit Glenterrace from time to time but this man is tall, very tall! He is different in another way too; in a way that most of the town folk don't notice at first. When everybody has a bruise on their forehead you would think you might notice somebody free of such an ailment quite quickly but in fact nobody notices at all. Well, nobody except two of the wise old men of the town that is. Being practiced at looking out for others they are more aware than most and spot the anomaly immediately. Being interested in people in general they do not waste time asking the man why he has no bruise on his forehead. He tells them that he knows how to move about without banging against the low doors and this of course, intrigues the old men for although they know what is causing the pain this is the fist time they have ever heard someone claim to know how to avoid the pain arising in the first place at all! Someone who has the potential to live life without pain or indeed is already living life without pain is someone they have never met before.
The man looks very peaceful and seems lighter and brighter than other people. Naturally they enquire further on behalf of the village as to how they, the people of the village, can live life without banging against the door tops and without the subsequent painful bruises. Everyone accepts their lot but at the same time would do anything, really, to be free. Somehow they all knew even before the man in the white robes arrived that their was such a place as 'freedom from pain' but they never really dare to dwell on such a subject for if they do they invariably live fairly turbulent lives trying to find answers to questions that arise from answers to questions and on and on like that forever, apparently!
The man in the white robe smiles and tells the wise old men that their problem is very simple. All they have to do is stop and look before passing through any doorway. The wise men are amazed at the simplicity of his answer and at first, almost become angry at this display of what appears to be a kind of disrespectful arrogance. Imagine joking with them about something so important that everyone is in pain from it. But then, being wise and older they stop and think that maybe this stranger has a point.
So they resolve to try it the next day. In the morning they face the small door on the pub and stop. Lo and behold! The first wise man notices immediately that the door is lower than he is and he bends his head as he passes through the exit. He walks out to the street without banging his head.
Seems simple to you and me and to the man in the white robe but after spending all your life doing things one way it is not often easy to see how they could be done another way!
They thank the man in the white robe profusely but he just smiles and says it is nothing that they don't already know themselves in their heart of hearts. They have become aware and are no longer in pain or at least after a short time when the bruises disappear they are no longer in pain.
When they are sure they have found the way they take other wise men who are on the village council into their confidence and introduce them to the white robed man's ideas. They are all very excited and arrange a great party for the whole village to celebrate. The stranger says he has to leave soon and naturally they are all very upset but ask if he would leave them any wise words to help them to remember what they have learned after he's gone. He says just remember who you are and be aware. Then what you need to do will be clear. They sing songs, tell stories, drink a lot of wine and have a whale of a party that lasts all night.
In the morning, when they awake the stranger is gone but they have not forgotten him or what he said and after a short while all their bruises on those who believe the stranger are gone completely! In time they hang pictures in his memory and even build a special sitting place, a sort of a prayer room, for people to go just to remember the white robed man in peace and tranquillity.
Surprisingly, there are a few villagers who doubt what the white robe man said and argue that there has to be a catch and that some day there will be hell to pay for this trickery. God, they argue, did not create bruises for no reason! He meant them to be there for our own good and it was our lot to accept them as a wonderful, though difficult, part of God's great plan. These people start to live separately from the bruise free people for fear of being negatively influenced and the village is divided over time.
Those without the bruises live happily and free and have many children who learn how to be aware and how to walk through doorways un-bruised. But as time passes things become less clear and the stories of the white robed man became almost mythological and for some, unbelievable. When the blasphemous bruised speak of how unnatural all this 'awareness stuff' is some of the younger bruise-free, who weren't even born when the white robed man visited, start to listen in the hope of finding a reason for the way they are here, a reason for life! "The white robed man is only a myth" the blasphemers taunt. The elder bruise-free naturally, are fearful and become angry at how the white robed man is being mocked. They excommunicate, what they call, the 'young doubters' and strengthen the rules against even speaking of the white robed man except in the company of priests who are specially trained to speak of him in a way that will not blaspheme!
The bruised laugh and welcome the 'young doubters', helping them to become more 'unaware' and to forget all those silly religious rules and suffocating regulations. "What's a little bruise on your forehead compared to a life of total slavery in homage to the silly rules of a man your not even sure ever existed?" they remind the 'young doubters'.
In time things return almost completely to how they had been hundreds of years before the time when the man in the white robe first came. But that's ok too. The white robed man would surely come again?!