Revisionist History For Children

In the mountains around Tibet there is hidden an ancient monastery with a few wise monks. For centuries these monks, some of whom are actually over five hundred years old, have sturdily kept the promise they made to the Master of the Universe, which was to make sure that at all times, somewhere in the world, at least five people would be thinking the name of god at all times.

The Master of the Universe is busy somewhere else for a long, long time, and he can’t be around to watch and make sure that all Is going well in his domain. Therefore, he asked the monks to keep alive the memory of the king, even when everyone has died and forgotten it, even when all the rocks that knew him had been ground into powder and melted. If he is forgotten then the world will vanish, and all that will be left is pain for the spirits of all the things that were.

A little while ago one of the monks, who had been the best student In his youth four hundred years ago, fell asleep during his prayer period, and a terrible earthquake happened, because the seams of the world of Things began to unravel just a little bit. This happened a few more times and once two monks happened to be asleep for a whole ten minutes and because of this a giant bomb fell very close to the monks on cities in Japan. Much weeping went on, and only a few Masters in Japan were there who knew about the few monks who kept the world alive. When one burned up in Vietnam his spirit sent out such a cry of anguish that it woke up a sleeping monk, but this wasn’t enough because, of course, the optimum number of monks has never been calculated.

Some say that if there were one hundred monks who studied the ancient wisdom all praying and thinking of god’s name all the time, there would never be a war. If there were two hundred monks, then everyone would return to childhood and be happy, and the birds would bring our food to us, and the lions would guard us against the bears, and the wolves would make friends with the days again and they would keep an eye on the crops for the birds, so that the pheasants would not be too greedy and eat too much.

But with only five monks, the world is very sorry all the time since it is just right on the edge of dissolving. And there can’t be more than five because some of them have to watch the spirits of the night, and others must tend the snow gardens so that Beauty won’t go away from the Earth. They have many other very important tasks to attend to. Some of them are busy trying to rediscover the One Word that will bring god back if it is spoken aloud. This word was forgotten because only the Wisest Honk knew it. When god told it to him before he went away, he said, “This is the most important word I have created, and you must never use it unless it is almost too late. Don’t even tell anyone, even if you die, because if you tell them, it will be spoken aloud, and its power will be unleashed, never to be assembled again. Bad things will happen if it isn’t used when it is time for it to be used, because the Guard at the Door of Meaning will know if I am needed, and if I am not he will send the word into another part of the building, where it will revive many strange and terrible things. If you die, the monks will remember the word when it is time to use it, even though they may not realize they have found it, and might not use it.”

The Wisest Monk died one day and forgot the word to call god, but the monks have many, many other tasks to fulfill. Each day they must refill the twenty pails and water the twenty trees so that no drought will ever happen, but they are shorthanded and only have enough strength to get to some of them. One tree died and all the monks wept because now there will always be a drought somewhere in the world. The monks also must plant seeds of sand in the floor of the monastery so that the stars will not fall out of the sky, and sometimes when they can’t plant enough on rainy nights, stars begin to fall onto the earth. You can see them falling, and they are so angry about falling that if they catch you, they’ll burn a hole right through.

The monks are very busy. Some of them are frightened sometimes, because they know how much they must do, and each day they must caress the rock of sadness with the finest silk cloths, to wash away the sadness. If they have time, they can wash away enough to make people happy without any reason, but every day more sadness enters the world and the first people to feel it are the monks. They are so busy that many days, they postpone tending the rock of sadness until it becomes almost unbearable, and this is why so many people are sad, because the monks have so much to do.

In this way some of the monks have died before their time (which is measured on the string of life, another tale), because they feel the sadness the most, and they try to hold it back so that it won’t go and spread to other people. They can hold more than one hundred men, but they are a small wall against the oceans of tears that will pour, and sometimes they get so much that they run and fall over the cliffs. Even worse, the spirits of the night wrestle with the monks while they sleep, and If the monks don’t win, some of the spirits escape Into the day and make mischief on the Earth. Once when the monks were attacked by many many spirits, all of them escaped and caused a great plague In Europe. It is these spirits that make the monks fall asleep when they should be thinking of god’s name, but it can’t be helped. The monks have so much power that if they touch anything, it will be able to heal any disease, but they can’t use their power this way very much because then they wouldn’t have it to use against the infinite enemies of life.

Originally appeared in Inside Joke #25

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