The Tale of the Fading Flame

I read a book recently: The Guide for the Perplexed” by Moses Maimonides. A phrase jumped out at me: “there is no real unity without incorporeity.”

“That’s it!” my knowing self said to my inquiring self. “That’s it!”

I had been struggling to explain how unity in a family is maintained. Unity is not maintained by activities as family members can wander in and out of those interests and skills. It is not through the forced traditions which have lost their meaning. No, and here is where Moses answered my inquiry: unity is found through the shared values we have. It is through these shared values that we can uniquely and passionately talk about our own lives. It is here where “incorporeity” lives.

There was a man in a long ago village who was the keeper of the flame.  He was very proud of his responsibilities which included providing warmth for the villagers, heat for the cooking and sterilized medical tools.

A neighboring village did not have a keeper of the flame. Instead, whoever needed the flame used it and either fed it, left it spent, or without care until the next person who needed it came and used what remained of an unattended flame. As you can imagine, this flame was not in great shape. In fact, this flame was beginning to flicker. It could go out.  The leaders finally convened when they were rationing their heat, their cooking and the proper sterilizing of medical tools.

These leaders decided to send out the Village Guardsman to go to out in search of new flame. The Guardsman realized his task was an important one. He had to increase his courage when he found out that he would not be allowed to carry any flame as his village desperately needed it.  Off he and his horse went, through the dark and thick forest with tangling thorns and low firm branches, risking their lives in search of a new flame. This Guardsman understood the gravity of the task. He had to find a new flame or his village would not survive. He had already witnessed their turning on each other as they unknowingly drifted from governance to self- protection, from order to chaos. This village thought their flame, once the envy of the kingdom, was enough. They did not think they needed more to keep them together. Now, without a unifying basis the light was growing dim, the wood was wet, the wick was almost out of oil. 

Off the village Guardsman rode, through the black thicket of the forest.  He was on a mission with no guarantee of success.  He could only hope for the best.

In four treacherous days he and his horse reached a village. Clothes tattered from the forest thorns, spent from lack of sleep, disoriented from lack of food and terrorizing fear, this Guardsman could barely speak. He and his horse were segregated from the villagers, watched and fed. He was interrogated as to his business with them.  He merely asked the elders for oil and a new flame to take back to his own village. The elders listened to the Guardsman’s plea for a dying village. How could this be the elders asked? This neighboring village was known to have a strong and enduring flame. 

The elders sat in silence listening. They nodded to the leader when each was complete with converting their listening to their own thoughts.  When the leader received a nod from all the elders, the leader stood and asked the Guardsman one question: “What have you done to keep your flame lit?”

We will hear from the Guardsman next time.

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