On our way to the tower of the Scholars of Deep Thought, Ducit told me all about them. She could not stop talking about the building of the tower, the collection of books, and the practices of these particular people. She explained that unlike some of the other tribes in Hashem, the Scholars of Deep Thought come from all over the Land of Hashem and join the Scholars for life.
We arrived at the lofty tower of the Scholars of Deep Thought, and it was more than what Ducit had described. The tower was made of glass. I had not seen anything in the Highlands yet made in such a way and with so many stories high. It was perfectly square. It looked like one cube on top of another all the way into the clouds. The sides of the tower were open in places as it went up showing vast rooms full of books and tables. People were milling about the books. Some reading. Some collecting them. Some returning them to the shelves.
My mouth was gaping open.
“I told you it was amazing,” Ducit said. She walked me up to the entrance of the tower all the while showing me the artistry of the place. On the walls of glass that were not open to the air were reliefs carved beautifully reflecting all sorts of water scenes. There were drops of water and lakes and fountains and waterfalls. The whole place was filled with books about the Ancient of Days!
There was another feature of the tower that I could not quite understand, yet I knew to be true. The tower, because of the way it was constructed, seemed to reflect the light that came from the Royal Falls. The light penetrated the tower and lit the inside, but the light also reflected off the surface of the walls and made the whole area outside glow. Not only that, various water scenes on the outside surface were outlined by light. The entire tower was a glowing monument to the Ancient of Days which lit the whole area with knowledge and light.
We got to the entrance, and a man named Chartus met me. Chartus was dressed head to toe in colors like the Peoples of Gentleness and Patience but had a bronze colored sash about him with the words “Chartus” stitched on it. “Greetings, I am Chartus one of the bibliothecarians here at the tower. I would love to show you around.” Chartus nodded respectfully towards Ducit and said, “Ducit you may take your leave.”
Ducit nodded, and she headed away from the tower.
I watched her go and then turned back to take in the tower of the Scholars of Deep Thought with all of its volumes and manuals and art. “May I ask a question as we begin,” I said to Chartus as we walked into the tower.
“I am exploring the Highlands, and I have just come from the fisherfolk in the Village of Fairness. A good man, his name is Natans, showed me all about reflecting and thinking. What is it that you all do here that is different? He said it was different. How is it different?”
“My dear friend,” Chartus said as we sat in a small area with chairs and tables, “they are similar and different at the same time. The People of Fairness are masters at looking into the light reflected from Lake Transcendent and seeing themselves clearly. Seeing themselves clearly pushes them to act fairly in the sight of the Ancient of Days in all that they do. We, here in this place, reflect more on the Ancient of Days than we do ourselves. We in this place give more time focused on the Ancient of Days and His nature rather than our own. Our focus is on the light Himself.”
He went on to describe how the Scholars of Deep Thought understand the nature of the world all around them and attempt to steward knowledge and the physical world because the life the Ancient of Days gives is beyond what we can see. “We seek to understand our outsides and our insides because it leads us closer to the Truth of the Ancient of Days,” Chartus said as he finally dumbed down what he was trying to explain.
“What should I do? How should I start?” I asked with such energy because I wanted to know everything that Chartus knew.
Chartus handed me a yellow card about the size of my hand. “Take this and explore the tower. You may go into any room. You may attend any lecture. You may engage any bibliothecarian in conversation. You may find Diurna in some of the upper levels and Urbana will be in the lower levels. All bibliothecarians have sashes like I have. We can help you find books or help you interpret what you are reading. May I suggest that you start on level three and work your way up. Oh! Also, there is a talk in the main hall today that you might find interesting called ‘Let’s Talk Names.’”
I nodded and headed to the main Hall thinking that the books would be there right after the talk. The last talk I attended, in the Market, was a life-changing experience. I looked forward to that again.
I entered the hall and the only seat left was a seat in the very front of the hall in the first row in the middle. I had flashbacks of my young days in school. I did not care. I was ready. I sat, and the lights dimmed only a little, and the speaker came to the front of the hall. He was a man who looked about my Uncle Kalo’s age and had dirty blond hair. It was long and was tied in a knot in the back. His eyes looked like one who had learned deep things and was excited to share. He wore a bronze-colored sash like the other bibliothecarians and had the name “Urbana” stitched on it.
He stretched his hands out in a greeting of some kind and then jumped into his lecture.
“Let’s talk about the names!”
He first spoke about “Ancient of Days” in a defining manner. He described how that name shares with us that He is the Divine Head that transcends all of His creation. His character and qualities are seen in all of creation. One of the greatest qualities seen is His love for us.
At some kind of cue that was unseen by me, he finished the first part of the talk, and everyone in the hall said softly, “So His mercy reveals.”
Next, Urbana the bibliothecarian brought up “The Host.” I remember him saying, “Let’s be clear here, He is the human image of the Invisible. He is the unique Son. By Him, we are in relationship to the Ancient of Days. It is so important that we understand He is of the Ancient of Days and His Spirit is of the Ancient of Days.”
At some kind of cue that was unseen by me, he finished the second part of the talk, and everyone in the hall said softly, “So His mercy reveals.”
The third part of his talk was about “The Name.” He said that the Ancient of Days is the Name. He said the Host is the Name. He said the Spirit in the Mist is the Name. The existence of the Name is three. He also said (and this was helpful), that is why we call His land Hashem (which means the Name) because it is His domain were the Name dwells. The Land of Hashem is full of His Presence. He is the True Vine, and from His all, ours grow.
At some kind of cue that was unseen by me, he finished the third part of the talk, and everyone in the hall said softly, “So His mercy reveals.” No, I never did figure out the cue.
Urbana asked, “Any questions?”
I, of course, had one. I had a million. I raised my hand and asked, “Why do you… why do we… say ‘the Name?’”
He answered straight away, “The Name is sacred. To be honest, I am not sure anyone really knows how to say His Name. Anyway, I will not dare speak the four letters here. They are for prayer and sacred text alone. Even in those times, it is said for special reasons. Just know this, the three are the same in nature and are ‘The Name.’”
This left me hungry for more about the Name.
I left the main hall when the talk was over and followed the signs to level three. I found a section in the tower marked “For the Beginners of the Quest.” I sure felt like a beginner in this place, and so I started there. I walked into the section, and the shelves were six high and stretched as far as I could see. Book after book lined the shelves. I ran my hands along the spines of the books as I walked. My hand came to a book that had blue binding, and it had the title of the book in gold letting. The book was called “Omni.” Actually, there were ten copies of this same book altogether.
Just then a woman walked by and saw my hand hovering over the “Omni” book on the shelf. She said, “Ooooh… good one!” and then went on about her business. I pulled it from the shelf and found an open-air balcony. I sat down at the table and opened the book. I began to read, and I was glued to each and every page. The book was dedicated to the ultimate attributes of the Ancient of Days. It was a book of collected articles and poems and stories which were in several sections. Each section, however, ended in a story illustrated by water to underscore all the preceding information.
I found a poem about the ultimate presence of the Ancient of Days. I have written it here as best as I could remember:
Where can I go from your presence O Ancient of Days?
If I fly like a bird up to the skies, You are there. If I swim to the bottom of the depths, You are there. If I walk into the wastes of the desert, You are there. If I wade into the stiffness of the marsh, You are there. In the fire and wind and rain and heat, You are there. In the good and bad and light and dark, You are there. You are there in my suffering. You are there in my joy.
Where can I go from your presence O Ancient of Days?
The ending of this section about “omnipresence” (as the book called it in technical terms) was a story about being a fish:
“Once upon a time there was a man who was changed from a man to a fish. His life moved from the land to always being in the water. Water was his whole existence. As a fish, water was all around. The water was the life of the fish. The fish breathed in water. The whole life of the fish was contained in the water. The truth is: The Ancient of Days is like the water which surrounds us, and we can go no place in our existence where we are apart from the Ancient of Days.”
I then moved into a section of the book that talked about the breadth of knowledge of the Ancient of Days. It seems, according to the rather lengthy scholarly sounding articles in the book with larger words than I have ever seen, that the Ancient of Days is the source of all knowledge for people and He knows all. There is nothing outside of His knowledge. He knows all things. He sees the beginning and ending of all things.
The book also mentioned that because of the all-knowing nature of the Ancient of Days that His will, or the way He wants things to be, is perfect. He knows what is best. He knows what paths in life are the best. He knows how all things work out, and He makes the paths of life work out in His knowledge.
The ending of this section about “omniscience” (as the book called it in technical terms) was a story about a road builder:
“Once upon a time there was a road builder who was charged with building roads through a land filled with rivers and lakes and marshes and ponds. The whole region was a land of water with very little dry land. The road builder sent out workers to different parts of the land often giving out the most basic instructions. Some were not told why they were doing what they were doing. Yet, the builder could see the master plan and new each place the water existed and how best to fashion a constructed pathway through all the water. Sometimes what the builders made fell and crashed into the water, but in so doing, created foundations for later supports for the road. The workers could not see the master plan of the builder. The truth is: The Ancient of Days is like the builder of water through the land of water because the Ancient of Days is the master planner who can see all.”
The next section in the book focused on the fact that the Ancient of Days is the only eternal being that has ever existed. He is outside of time. He has no beginning. He has no end. He has no time where He has not been. As I was reading this section, question after question just came up in my mind and based on what I was reading, I was able to answer them as I sat and just thought. I questioned. I pondered the answers.
Does that mean there was a time that the Name existed alone?
Does that mean all beings that came after the Ancient of Days are lesser?
Does that mean that the Ancient of Days can see the beginning of time and the end of time?
Does that mean that the Ancient of Days can be destroyed or will die?
Does that mean that all I heard in the Amphitheater from “Return to the Source” are false?
Does that mean that the Ancient of Days is the originator of all that exists?
The ending of this section about “omnific” (as the book called it in technical terms) was an acrostic poem about the Ancient of Days:
Ever existing in all places and at all times
Timeless and formless, but never purposeless
Embodiment of simply Is
Righteous One who made all after and supersedes all
No ending, no beginning, no way to really understand
Ageless when terms of age are given
Limitless when terms of limits are given
The next to last section of the book was about the all-powerful nature of the Ancient of Days.
The ending of this section about “omnipotence” (as the book called it in technical terms) was a story about a river:
“Once upon a time there was a river that flowed into a new land. The land was filled with high mountains of the strongest stone. The land was filled with large trees with trunks as wide as a mile. The river began to flow into the new land, and the power of the water changed the land. The mountains of the strongest stone worn down over time and wasted away. The trees with trunks as wide as a mile toppled over and were consumed by the earth and water. Soon, the land was flat and only water could be seen because of the force of the water’s flow. The truth is: The Ancient of Days is like, and nothing can stand in the way.”
I told you that I could not put the book down. The last part of the book was all about the ultimate nature of the Ancient of Days which is rooted in goodness. Never does evil or a hint of anything unfavorable come from the Ancient of Days. Never does the Ancient of Days cause illness or evil or require created beings to do bad things or have evil thoughts. As I was reading this section of the book, there was a listing of sayings, much like some of the sayings I heard from the Monks:
“Surely the goodness of the Ancient of Days will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Ancient of Days forever.”
“Be confident in this: We see the goodness of the Ancient of Days daily.”
“The goodness of the Ancient of Days is stored up for those who fear Him.”
“The goodness of the Ancient of Days is given to those who take refuge in Him.”
“The goodness of the Ancient of Days is seen in His forgiveness and mercy.”
The ending of this section about “omnibenevolence” (as the book called it in technical terms) was a story about huge lake:
“Once upon a time there was a huge lake that occupied a land. The lake was always of benefit. The lake evaporated into the sky and produced rain for the land that watered crops. The lake teemed with life for fishing for people. The bottom of the lake contained plants for all the wildlife to eat. No storm ever wrecked any boat. The currents of the lake were such that no person ever drown, but was pushed to the shore and always saved. The lake was freshwater in parts for drinking and saltwater in parts for animals. Only all good things came from the lake all the time. The truth is: The Ancient of Days is like the goodness of the lake which never runs out and does not change.”
I was deep in reading this book, perhaps for the second time, when Chartus walked up to where I was sitting and sat down beside me. He waited for me to notice him. I honestly have no idea how long he sat there with patience. I was deep in these words.
“The Ancient of Days is broader and deeper than anything or anyone that I could ever imagine,” I said to him as I looked up from the pages. He nodded and began to pray to the Ancient of Days right in my presence. He prayed that the knowledge and curiosity about the Ancient of Days would have roots in my heart that would grow. As Chartus finished, a looked up, and there stood a man very simply dressed with a walking stick curved at the end in a hook.
“Let me guess,” I said as I closed the book carefully, “Ducit?”
The man with the hooked walking stick nodded and indicated that he was to be my guide on the next part of my journey. He affirmed that he was part of the People of Ancient’s Rule and he also was named Ducit. Up until meeting this third person named Ducit, I had assumed what I was told about these people, and their names were a jest of some kind, and at some point, Brother Pede would pop out and laugh deeply over the joke.
We left the gleaming, glowing tower and Chartus behind. Now that I knew where the tower was located, I was free to return at any time and study and talk and reflect on the Ancient of Days. I found myself hungering and thirsting for righteousness. I shared with my newest Ducit companion that I now understood that he and I shared little with the Ancient of Days in terms of our nature. He was so far above us. We are only a small fraction of what He is.
Ducit listened as we walked and shared with me his recollections of his first time with the Scholars of Deep Thought. He also mentioned one person he brought there lost a book. I cannot imagine what losing a book felt like. Each one was so precious and contained reflections about the Ancient of Days.
As we walked, the reflection from the tower grew fainter. As we walked, it occurred to me that I had no idea where we were going. I had shared with Ducit. He had shared with me. I was just kind of following along.
“We are headed to the People of Inspiration. They are rare people in the Land of Hashem. It is hard to explain unless you see them. You will hear them before you see them.” He said this as we walked along. It did not take long until I heard a sound wafting on the small breeze. It was the sound of several instruments. It sounded like stringed instruments and breath-blown instruments and even a few drums.
I arrived to find that the People of Inspiration were an entire tribe of people dedicated to expressing all of the Ancient of Days through art. Ducit walked with me and let me look. On the outskirts of the village was the area for the craftsman in stone and wood. There were a dozen or so men and women working on projects in various stages. One that I saw, a stone piece, looked about completed. The figure was human shaped but had six wings on its back. The figure looked like it was in a run and had hands outstretched to the sky with a large trumpet in one hand and bells of some kind in another. The mouth was open as if shouting. Ducit interrupted the artist’s work and asked the name.
“Praise…” she said. I immediately understood that praise from me to the Ancient of Days is an action that takes all of my being.
We continued on further into the village to a section where people were painting on large canvasses. I saw scenes of water. I saw scenes of light. I saw one scene that took my breath away. The canvas was of a person underwater. They looked like they were walking around on the bottom of a vast ocean with water swirling around them. It was my dream! It was my dream from so long ago! I rushed up to the artist and the canvas and just stared. Ducit ran to catch up to me.
“What is it?” he asked. By then, the artist had turned around. The artist was a young woman, about my age, with bright blonde hair. Her face was smudged with various colors of blue. There were several half-painted canvases all around her.
“This,” I said stammering, “I have seen this in a dream.”
The artist’s head cocked to the side and looked on me with curiosity. She put down her brushes and came over to me. “I could not help but hear what you said. You had a dream of this scene… this one that I am painting?” She pointed with her blue-stained hand at the canvass.
I nodded with tears in my eyes. I could not believe it. It was my dream. In color. In this place, so far from home. My dream.
“I am so glad you have come!” she said and hugged me with much excitement. “I was praying the other day, not too long ago, and I felt like the Ancient of Days wanted me to paint something that expressed the vastness and power of Living Water. The Ancient of Days is Living Water. A relationship with Him is all-encompassing. I was praying, and this strange scene of someone walking on the bottom of an ocean of living water came to me. I did not know why. I tried to paint something else, but this picture was in my heart.” As she talked, I could see the half-painted canvases around her.
“Does the Ancient of Days bring people together like that?” I asked honestly.
Ducit placed his hand on my shoulder, “Indeed He does.”
The young blonde artist hugged me again. “If Ducit is with you, then you are journeying through Hashem. When you are done, please come back and this painting is yours. Please come get it as a gift from the Ancient of Days who is the giver of all good gifts.”
I nodded in agreement and in amazement.
As we moved closer to the village center, I noticed craftsman of all kinds making knick-knacks and bracelets and necklaces. Each one seemed to express something about the Ancient of Days in a creative way. One of the most striking and memorable pieces I saw was a long, very long, beaded necklace made from the brightest of red beads. Several villagers were wearing them, and they wrapped around the person several times. I found the artisan and stopped to talk to her. She was a woman a little younger than my mother. She explained, looking up from her work, that the beaded necklace was overly-long because it was meant to be wrapped several times around a person. They were love beads. The necklace was meant to remind the wearer that the love of the Ancient of Days is all around us, all-consuming, and covers all the spaces in our lives. His love wraps us and wraps us. Ducit liked it so much that he bought one.
We moved on and came to another skillful artist. He did not work with paints, but charcoal and other materials I could not readily identify. We saw a colorful sketch in charcoal with many shades of blue of the waters of the Royal Falls. It was beautiful of course just like everything my eye encountered among the Peoples of Inspiration. Though what drew my attention was the words creatively drawn right within the waters of the falls. I remember those words:
Ancient of Days
Your Goodness is creation’s song
Transcendence discovered in down flowing graces,
Your justice acknowledged in our gathering places.
Eternal Your way, thus, joy has its throne
All power, all knowledge, all present we sing
In the mist, we feel your reign.
Immanent, Immutable, life is your home.
In your light, we drink of your enduring love.
I understood that the artist was saying with charcoal and colors that He pours out all of Himself towards us. After I pondered the drawing a few moments, Ducit tapped my elbow, and we moved towards the middle of the village.
The center of the village was for musicians and dancers. The center of the village was where the music came from that I heard on the outskirts. It looked like one of the musicians was getting ready for something as many were gathering around the center of town. Most were sitting. Some standing. Everyone had a look of expectation about them.
Ducit indicated some seats, and we sat to wait. It did not take long. The singer rose. He was a young man about my age. He had sandy brown hair and was about as tall as me. It could have been me. We looked very similar. He rose and faced toward the center of the village among the musicians and dancers in the middle of town. The everyone grew hushed. The young man began his song with a strong voice:
“Ascribe to the Ancient of Days, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Ancient of Days glory and strength. Ascribe to the Ancient of Days the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.
His holiness. His holiness. His holiness.
The voice of the Ancient of Days is over the waters; His glory thunders over all the mighty waters. The voice of the Ancient of Days is powerful and majestic and shows His Holiness.
His holiness. His holiness. His holiness.
The power of the Ancient of Days breaks down all cedars and strikes with flashes of lightning in solitary places. The voice of the Ancient of Days shakes the sands desert. He does all this that we might see His power and holiness.
His holiness. His holiness. His holiness.
The Ancient of Days sits enthroned over the flood; the Ancient of Days is enthroned as Sovereign forever over the river. The Ancient of Days gives strength to His people; the Ancient of Days blesses His people with peace. His peace reveals His holiness.
His holiness. His holiness. His holiness.”
The young man finished and bowed slightly to let us know he had finished. We all clapped. I got the sense, as we all clapped, that none of us were clapping for the young man that had just sung, but rather, we were all clapping in praise to the Ancient of Days for His remarkable holiness. This was definitely different from the performance in the Amphitheater in Receding. There it was all for performance and agenda and self.
Ducit touched my elbow, and we got up from our seats. This whole village seemed like one attraction after another. All the groups of artisans were expressing themselves artistically with music and dance and paint and wood, and it all was meant to reflect the Ancient of Days whom we all worship.
I mentioned to Ducit that I would like to spend time with the People of Inspiration. A way was made, and I was able to stay with them for some time. I was given guest quarters near the center of town. Actually, it was a place that allowed me to experiment with art.
On the porch, I was able to work with malleable clay. I have no skill with it, but I created a pot which looked like a heart. In my mind, I created a piece that reflected the boundless love and heart of the Ancient of Days. The pot was massive, but on the bottom (once I had baked it too long), I drilled holes. Yes, I know, my big pot will hold nothing. That was kind of the point. The Ancient of Days does not keep love, but it spills out, and it flows to everyone.
I also spent time painting. I sat and sat one day with a canvas in front of me. Then it hit me. I painted a rudimentary picture using only two colors. The top of the canvas was all yellow with a sun and many lights shining down. The bottom of the canvas was all in green showing various green plants growing skyward towards the light. As I sat there painting my best in yellow and green, the word “life” just kept rolling around in my head. The Ancient of Days offers and gives life abundantly. Life apart from the Ancient of Days is not a good life, but surviving or hungrily existing, but it is not life abundant.
One day I was on the back porch trying to figure out how to use the large loom that was there when I heard a whole lot of commotion coming from the village center. Grateful for the distraction (as I was making no progress with the loom) I went around the house to the village center.
The village center was filled with tables and chairs, and the sounds of good-hearted revelry were everywhere. People from all over the village were arriving at tables set up all around the village center. People were not arriving empty-handed but brought art or cloth or something they had made with their hands. I quickly ran back to my guest quarters and grabbed my painting. I arrived back at the square, and it seemed that the whole town had come.
The call went out for everyone to take a seat. A kindly gentleman told me that it mattered not which seat I took as all the seats were equal at the table of the Ancient of Days. I sat at a table with five other people. Two were carvers. One was a singer. One a painter. One was a maker of jewelry.
A trumpet sound went out from somewhere in the tables, and someone from the crowd said, “It is time to give in thanks and share like the mercy of the Ancient of Days.”
I could not help but ask aloud, “Share like the mercy of the Ancient of Days?”
The jewelry maker smiled and said quietly, “Give freely.”
With that, the jewelry maker unfolded a cloth she had bought and unveiled a dazzling necklace she had made by weaving together two different kinds of metal and medium sized red beads. I had never seen anything quite like it. She handed it to one of the carvers.
The carver, in turn, brought forth a carved bird and said it was her finest work. It was made entirely of glass. She gave it freely to the jeweler and asked her to touch it. When the jeweler touched the glass bird, it began to glow yellow and chirped a beautiful sound. I could not believe that she had just given that away! Both of them!
The other carver and the painter exchanged their works. The carver placed his vase on the table. He had made it of some kind of stone that he had polished to perfect reflection. The painter gave him what I judged to be a painting of the Emunah Valley. Both pieces were more than exquisite. I could not believe that they had just given those things away! Both of them!
It was my turn and the painter’s turn.
“I am new at this. I don’t want to give my painting away. I poured my heart and soul into this painting and it is my first attempt at anything like this. This is mine. I don’t want to give it away.” I spoke those words from my heart not knowing how the words would be received.
The painter looked at me with understanding in his eyes and voice. “That my friend,” he said as he set his painting on the table, “Is the entire point. You see when we ‘share like the mercy of the Ancient of Days,’ we not only give freely, but we give what has cost us our hard work, our emotions, and our creative energy. It should cost us. The mercy of the Ancient of Days is both free and costly.”
The jeweler added, “Mercy cost the Host His life.”
I set there a little shocked. I placed my painting on the table as well, and the painter (the real one and not just a dabbler like me) and I exchanged paintings.
I could not help but saying, “Yours is so much better than mine. All of your works are.”
One of the carvers spoke up, “That doesn’t matter. Mercy is mercy and fairness has nothing to do with it.”
After we sat for a little while and chatted about the meaning behind our gifts, another trumpet sound came from among the crowds. Someone from the crowd said, “It is time to give thanks and remember the mercy of the Ancient of Days.” The painter got up from our table. One person got up from the other tables. He came back with a tray filled with one loaf of bread and a large pitcher of some kind of drink.
One at our table said, “We will never forget Your Mercy.”
At some point, every one of the loaves at each of the tables was broken in half after a prayer. The pitchers were emptied into our glasses. The smell that came into my nostrils was absolutely familiar. I was taken immediately back to the Encampment, and the day the Mercy Tree bloomed. The smell then and the smell now was exactly the same.
I partook of the bread, and it tasted so very plentiful.
I drank from my cup, and it tasted like nothing my imagination could think of.
I said, “The Host is the presence of the source of Living Water.”
Everyone at the table nodded in agreement and spent the rest of the meal in relative silence. We looked at our gifts. We prayed. We ate. I remember most of all the feeling that I had when I left the table.
I felt refreshed in my spirit.
I felt thankful for the mercy of the Ancient of Days.
I felt encouraged to make something great for the next feast.
I felt that I had a small understanding of mercy.
I spent more time there and experienced one more feast before Ducit came and spirited me away on the next steps of my journey.