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Voices of the Forest



Voices of the Forest

A Fairy Godfather Story

"This is a story from the travels of my youth," the Panda Warrior began. The Godfather settled back to listen. The Panda's stories were always intriguing, for she had travelled much more widely than the Godfather. Too, one learns much more about a place by walking through it on foot than by flying over it with ruby slippers.

"One day I came to a forest, but this was no ordinary forest. Each and every thing in it had its own voice. The trees told me about sunlight on their leaves, the squirrels told me where their nuts were stored, the bees told me which direction the flowers were, and the dirt told me when it had last rained. They all spoke at once, as if not hearing the others, and they all wanted me to listen. I soon wanted to tell them all to shut up."

The Godfather grinned, but realized that the Panda could not see him. She always told her stories with her eyes closed, as her masters had taught her. They believed that a story must be told with the proper reverence, and some even said that stories want to be told, and that the teller is merely the means to that end. He listened with increased respect.

"I wanted to do justice to all the voices, so I rolled out my mat and sat down to meditate. That helped somewhat; in that receptive state I could take in more of what I heard. Now I could not only hear the voices of myriad living things, but also the wind telling of its travels in far-off lands, and the great mass of the Earth beneath me telling of its spinning travel through space. However, the more I focused, the more voices I heard, and I realized that there was no way for me to keep up."

"So, I broke the connection. I gathered up my things and fled through the forest, trying to silence the cacophony of voices in my ears. It was futile: there was no place within that forest where silence reigned. I had to try something else."

"As you know, I have been taught a number of techniques which allow me to focus my mind more than most can, so I resolved to resume meditation, only this time with the aim of shutting out the voices as only one of my training could possibly do."

"Again I was successful, but only in a manner of speaking. As the voices of the forest subsided, so did all other sound. Have you ever experienced that? Total silence? I could no longer hear my heartbeat; there was no rustling when I moved; no sensation that I was still alive at all."

"I bore it as long as I could, but even one with my training could not endure total silence for very long. I began to despair. My only hope was to find some middle ground, some way to filter out the incredible mass of information to remove all but what I needed."

"I started by listening to myself. I heard a heartbeat, the gurgle of digestion, the whisper of breath. I recognized those sounds: they were me, and had always been with me."

"Then I listened for important sounds outside of me, like dangerous animals or the rumble of thunder. There were none; I was safe."

"Then I let in the conversation of my friends the animals, a little at a time. I spoke with a few of them, who seemed startled to be addressed. Perhaps most visitors to that forest never manage to stop listening long enough to speak."

"I found that, with practice, I could widen my attention even further, to hear the wind sigh and the wood creak and the earth spin, without completely losing my inward focus on myself. And, having learned the lesson of that place, I felt content to journey onward."

The Panda opened her eyes. "So it is with many people. The world speaks to all of us, all the time; only, we don't always want to hear what it says. Many try to avoid the difficulty by not hearing anything at all, but then their lives become pale and silent. Others try to fill themselves with experiences and learning, only to find that they cannot possibly encompass it all, or there will be nothing left that is uniquely them. Perhaps the most that one can do is to find a way to be part of the whole without becoming lost in it."

Then, looking at the Godfather mischievously, she said, "And don't laugh in the middle of my stories: I can hear you."


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