And thus the lonely Scholar delved deep into dusty tomes and sat secluded in the corners of dark libraries, seeking for something, anything to still the waters within.


He wandered up amidst the realms of thought until he found the icy regions closed off from mean men.  There he trudged through rolling dells of ice and snow, searching for that which he did not know.  

Streams of eternity he sought with deep desire and languishing soul, but elusive they remained.  

Higher still did he ascend, and always there remained new heights beyond which he thought heavenly regions would loom: still, more spread itself before him.  

The ice and snow whipped around him in cyclones of fury, roaring at him to return down the path from whence he came, but on he marched, ever seeking, ever-longing.


Often, moving light would arise from out the snow-swept wastes of the mountain peaks, and he followed it wherever it would lead for a time, till it nearly lead him off the precipitous peak and into the dark abyss below.  Yet somehow, he remained safe from such catastrophe and continued his quest.  

At Night, lights gathered around him as if the starry expanse of heaven lay just out of reach, waiting to be touched, grasped, and understood.  

The storms of cutting snow and ice would still themselves, while brilliant colors of green, golden pinpricks of light, and blue lights like fairies would move about overhead.  

Then Dawn would break over the edge of the farthest icy peak, reminding him of the endless labor ahead, dispelling the beauty of Night; storms rose from either side of the mountain like great wintry giants, raising their hammers to smash the smallness of the peaks below.


Long struggled the lonely wanderer amid the iciest peaks on the borders of human knowledge, searching, the ever-searching one.  

At times, he woke to find the ice transformed into a great waste of a desert, with complete and utter silence: deep silence, with none but the winds and pillars of stone to stand as companions.  At nightfall he sat on the warmed stone, looking out into the blue expanse of the sky, waiting to hear a voice, a voice which he had heard once before, rushing like the low murmurs of consciousness from out the winds of the snow, beckoning on further still; only silence greeted him, heart-rending silence.


Night tossed its blanket of nothingness over the hills and pillars of sand and rock, while still, the wanderer sat on the slab of stone, gazing up into the expanse of the vast beyond.  

The vast beyond gazed back into him; still he remained, waiting and watching: the vast beyond, a perfectly still lake of light with water lilies strewn across it, floating with their candles lit.  

So, did he fall on his face and bury it in the sand before the shining face of Beauty, weeping wretchedly in the silence, gripping the rocks and sand longingly, ragingly.  He would scream if anything would hear and answer, but this expanse before him was too beautiful to bother with a pathetic worm rolling in the dust below.


With a cacophonous roar, the ice and snow returned, and the wanderer awoke again, buried under a layer of snow.  He fiercely struck upwards with his hand, extricating himself from the snow that sought to engulf and devour him.  Now, barely crawling forward in the ice, he struggled further still with gritted teeth; a low kindly murmur pierced the wolfish cacophony of howling wind around him.  A warm glow like the water lilies from the lake of light beckoned him.  His feet felt lighter than once before, and he continued further still.


The warm glow remained just beyond, always slightly ahead, filling him with renewed vigor, and he continued further still.


Again, the ice and snow dispelled the nearer he drew to the warm glow, and he struggled up further still.


Now the sandy side of some desert mountain expanded before him.  His limbs screamed their displeasure at the journey; a hand seemed to grasp his withered body, pulling him upward.  Upward, upward, always upward, with sweat-streaked legs, bloody hands, and dry mouth.  The sun grew dim as it set on the western dunes, expanding out with hues of pink and orange in the distance.  The last lights of day fled into the west as he ascended the peak in the desert.  

There, on the summit of the desert peak, he beheld such sublimity and strangeness as Men had never seen, and perhaps would never see again: A wooden beam with two protrusions, stuck into the sand, tarnished by blood, standing alone in the silence of the sands.  He fell again on his face, for he knew in his heart of hearts, beyond all reason, that what he saw was Justice embodied, and perhaps something more.


Instantly, the wolfish howls of wind returned, closer this time, dogging at his heels, billowing at his back, seeking to rip him off the side of the snowy peaks and fling him into the endless abyss below.  Ahead loomed the warm glow, larger than before, perhaps closer, but dark figures rose out of the swirling maelstrom ahead, seeking to block his way.  Flames of light whipped past him in the tempestuous might of the blizzard, burning his skin.  He stumbled and fell, again and again, cutting his skin in the process, while the chill numbed his pain.  With horror, he felt the snow below him give way, like the quicksand of the desert, and he began to sink.  He cried out in pain and rage for help, for saving, anything, anyone to hear and listen, fearing that the silence of the desert would answer him yet again with heart-rending carelessness.  

The beam of light above him receded smaller and smaller as the snow engulfed him; with one last desperate rush of strength, he lifted his hand out of the hole and cried for help, scarcely believing any could hear.  At that moment, his hand felt a warmth, as if something melted the ice on either side; he was lifted from out the hole of darkness and despair, while the snows stilled their voices in an instant.
Upon a plain of perfectly still snow did he stand, while below roared the storms, but seemed as if they were far below him now and unimportant.  

Then he looked up.
All the lights of Night had gone away, replaced by a kindlier light: a face, a real human face greeted him.


The warm glow that had once remained always ahead of him now enraptured him and filled him completely, and he fell on his face once more, weeping with joy, knowing that he stood before Love itself.

__________________________________________________________

The Scholar closed the dusty tome from which he read, rose from his chair, and left the library with a murmuring soul, for the things he read filled him with doubt, disquietude, and longing.  The life which he saw in the wanderer seemed more real than his own, and always did his limbs feel heavy, as if he was shaking off sleep.  So, he returned to his abode and fell asleep, eager to rise tomorrow and ensue the search once more.

__________________________________________________________

The preacher closed the scroll from which he read, while the learned one sat lost in thought.  For truly, such things had never even entered his mind till now, and he could not tell whether what filled him was fear or desire.


After a great time of silence, the preacher asked the learned one, "What troubles you, my son?"


And the learned one answered, "The things of which the scholar read in the tome are entirely foreign to me.  Justice in a protrusion of wood?  Love in a human face?  The things you have mentioned heretofore lead me to distrust every human face, not, by any means, to ever see love in a human face."


The preacher answered with understanding: "I can understand the difficulty in these things, my son, but perhaps you have not questioned to the deepest extent possible.  Why would a protrusion of wood image justice?  Why would the human face image love?"


"Of such things I have no answers, and the images representing the high-minded ideas mean nothing to my conscience", replied the learned one.


"Very well, then let us begin with Beauty.  What is the significance of the great expanse, detailed in the book read by the Scholar?", queried the preacher.


"Namely, that it images Beauty itself, a kind of other-worldly sphere of existence."


"This is true", replied the preacher with affirmation, "but we must plumb deeper still.  Why did the lonely wanderer, studied in the narrative, feel over-awed by the great expanse of the sky?"


"Because no human hand could have ever fashioned it in such a way as to make it as beautiful and transcendent as it is", replied the learned one simply.


"Why is this the case?" inquired the preacher ever further.


"Because such things overwhelm the mind of man so much, beyond comprehension, to think that millions of stars exist, in such magnificent array.  We could never, in a million human lifetimes, fashion them so well, so numerous, and so beautifully.  They image something so above our ken, so other, that they show that truly Man is but a worm before the Beauty and goodness of higher realities."


"And does this show you the scope and nature of Truth itself?" asked the preacher with pointed finality.


And the learned one thought with furrowed brow for some time.


"Alas...I cannot say that it does, for such images, although glorious, do not communicate specific realities.  However, to say that Art is merely such and such or 'even Art is achievable' is foolishness beyond all comprehension, for only divinity can truly achieve it.  Nevertheless, Art tells me no higher dictum for my existence."


"You have spoken well, my son.  Those who look askance at Art and speak to it as if it is a lower pursuit of Men forget the essential nature of the One Himself, evidenced by the creative energy recorded in the Oracles of His Majesty.  Nevertheless, Art, although it be Artwork of the One Himself, cannot communicate Truth, or any higher reality, for the hearts of men are too clouded with darkness."


And yet again, the learned one sat, lost in the labyrinth of thought...


"Truly, Beauty is a stupendous thing...
It is a tragedy defying words that men's hearts do not and cannot comprehend truth thereby...Is this any fault or lack thereof in Beauty itself?", inquired the learned one, genuinely curious.


"With every fiber of my being, no.", responded the preacher.


"For truly, Men can see that Beauty holds depths of truth that may be extrapolated if such a thing be attempted.  The thunder in a storm, the torrential rain, and the breaking dawn all tell the power of Nature, beyond the power of any mere mortal, begging the following question: If no human hand fashioned Nature, what then could have brought it into being?  If we lack the ability, in all of our native grandeur, to create an ocean or a starry expanse, what then are we?  And what more remains out there, undiscovered?  

Man cannot help but think of the transcendence beyond the thing-in-itself.  Man comprehends the object, but always goes beyond it, often subconsciously.  Thus thought the Scholar in the tale recorded, wherein he read of the lonely wanderer.  He did not think specifically of the story and its events, nor did he ask why the wanderer found himself in the clutches of winter one minute and an arid desert the next, but rather, became aware of a certain sense of lacking within his heart, a deep longing.


If Beauty is received by Man in an unadulterated fashion, this is its highest function: begetting longing, which leads to things divine."


"Granted, such a function sounds plausible enough to not be worth debate, but what is Beauty essentially?   We have utilized the words Art and Beauty interchangeably, which I find telling: why have we said it this way?"


"And now you begin to think like a philosopher, and possibly even a preacher!

Answer me this, O learned one:
When you see a walled city, do you perceive an eternal monolith, standing forever, unmoved since time immemorial?"


"No, for this would be foolishness. Wittingly or no, my mind acknowledges that much human labor went towards the building of such a structure."


"Yea, it would be absurd to think such a thing.  Furthermore, when you behold a cathedral or temple, do you think of it as a structure established when the very foundations of the earth were set into place?"


"Yet again, to think such a thing would be absurd: a human hand had to design the cathedral, while yet more human hands had to spend nearly a century rearing its spires towards the sky."


"Aye, this is all very true, but now consider this:

Do you see an eternal monolith standing from time immemorial when you witness the Northern Mountains clawing towards heaven itself?"


"...this query is somewhat more difficult to answer, yet I know not why."


"Very well, then continue considering, while I continue asking; perhaps an answer will become evident with time.  Do you see an eternal monolith when you behold the returning comet blazing across the night, the same observed by men for centuries, possibly since first recorded history?
And do you see eternity itself when you behold the heavens, manifested like diamond-speckled garments of sable, worn by some queen?"


Finally, the learned attempted an answer haltingly,
"You have spoken to me of a vast array of objects...  In one set of objects, I perceive a definite beginning for that object within the confines of time, while in another, I could not perceive such a thing..."


"You hit close to the mark, my son, but there is more:  I find it to be a rule that whenever the mind perceives an object, it transcends past the thing-in-itself, flying straight to entertain thoughts of that object's maker.  The minds of men find it easy to do this with lesser objects made by human hands, for the creation of such lies within living memory.  So, one will rarely find a man sitting, meditating deeply with furrowed brow on the true meaning of the house in which he lives, or the chair in which he sits, for he perceives the beginnings and ends of those objects with ease.

However, a mountain range, ocean, or starry expanse are different things altogether, baffling the comprehension of our minds' limited perception.  Naturally, our minds can only attempt that which they are hard-wired to do.  As a result, we receive the image of the mountain range or starry expanse and attempt to sift through a vast field of thoughts, searching for the beginning, searching for that object's maker.  Can you easily perceive the maker of a starry expanse, my son?"


"The answer can only be a resounding no!  My mind reaches out longingly past its existential horizon, beyond which it cannot perceive", exclaimed the learned one.


"O the poetic tragedy of such, my son!  But still the immense glory in how our mind connects objects, Art, and Beauty into one.  You divided the categories of objects correctly, and therein lies the answer to the interchangeable nature of the words 'Art' and 'Beauty.'  It should be obvious that not all human objects can be called Art and still less, Beauty.  Although Man creates through Art, referred to by some as a knack, it does not necessarily lead to Beauty.


But, O my son, hear me when I say these words:  The works made by divine hands, those made through Artful design, can only lead to the eternal manifestation of Beauty within this mortal sphere.  All human Art once lead to this higher form in the imitation of divinity, but has since become corrupted.  These thoughts can lead us to a definition of Beauty, although men will always and only seek to debate over such things.


Beauty, that grace manifested when divinity creates, and when a human worker creates in imitation of the divine."


Still, the learned one appeared anxious, and spoke thus, "I assent to your definition whole-heartedly and agree to the function of Beauty.  Nevertheless, the existence of the existential horizon in my mind, beyond which I cannot see or perceive, fills me with doubt and disquiet, for it leaves the most important question unanswered: 'Whence cometh Nature?'.  There have been some throughout history who have flown beyond this horizon, reaching a state of knowledge, where the eyes of their very souls were enlightened.  Was the Scholar such a one as these?"


"Your curiosity is a gift, my son!  I hope that my tales will hold your answers.  Let us explore his life more deeply, discussing his vision from the tome in which he read. Leaving the foothills of Beauty, we also shall ascend further still to contest the peak of Justice, and finally that crown-jewel, Love!"