The Mirror of Truth

The Magic Coin

The Gopher’s Other World

The Forbidden Union

The Trail of Paradox

The Squirrel and the Apple

The Camel’s Conclusion

Will and Trust

The Subservient Child

Fanning the Freedom Flame

The Seed of Possibility

Harvest Forlorn


“Stories tell us of what we already knew and forgot, and remind us of what we haven’t yet imagined.”

—Anne L. Watson

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The Gopher's Other World

_____There once was a gopher who loved to burrow deep into the ground. He took great pride in his ability to dig fanciful tunnels of intricate design. Though his path was not always an easy one, he dug and he dug, often having to perform most unusual tasks to make his way through the various materials he encountered far beneath the earth's surface.
_____Proud of his work, the gopher longed for someone to share his unique underground world of magic and goodness, but it appeared no other gopher was willing to go to such extremes. Then one glorious day he met another gopher who seemed to share his fascination with the possibilities which lie beyond normal gopher endeavors. He invited this insightful friend to enter his world.
_____When they reached the opening of his vast tunnel, the other gopher commented on the neatness of his craft, noting the perfection with which the mouth of the burrow cut into the frail topsoil. Peeking inside, his new companion marveled at the first room, a cavern that projected freedom and a sense of openness.
_____"Such a beautiful use of space," his friend commented.
_____"Oh, but you must see more," answered the gopher, "the best is yet to come. Please come below."
_____"Well, I really must be going, I've other places to go, but I am truly fascinated with your beautiful work."
_____The gopher was crushed, for his new companion had seen nothing but the beginning, the ordinary, a sight that might be present in even the most mundane of gopher homes. If anyone was capable of seeing beyond the limitations of a cliché gopher existence he was sure it would have been his special friend, but this gopher only took the time to see what he'd likely seen a thousand plus a thousand times more.
_____Saddened by his position, alone against the narrow focus of gopher-hood, he retreated to the room he'd built in the side of a piece of stone beneath the surface. It was here he went when he had magic to perform, and today he felt a great need to transcend his reality. In meditation he barked out his condition.
_____"Oh keeper of dreams, author of my deliverance, help me to find a better world where I can be free to share my marvelous discoveries without fear of persecution or rejection. Here in this world, my fellow gophers fail to see the possibilities that lie beneath them, choosing only to see the surface. Once they hit a bit of bedrock they see it as a boundary, a barrier telling them where their journey must end. They seek the comfort of easy digging, but they have failed to see the wonder that comes from challenging these walls. The riches to be gained by conquering the toughest of adversaries will never be theirs, and I am weary of hoarding my treasures. I want to share what I have gained, but no one will accept my unconventional gifts. I've heard talk of another world, beneath the surface of the great ocean where intelligent creatures swim in freedom. Please allow me to transcend my sod filled world and splash in a vast sea as a limitless dolphin among other limitless dolphins in a boundless ocean of discovery."
_____With this the gopher found his spirit rising from the depths of the earth. Splashing into the cool waters, he began to see through dolphin's eyes.
_____He swam for years among the dolphins learning their world. He found it easy to master their system and began to challenge its conventions as he had challenged those of the gopher world. It was not long at all until he had discovered a world of infinite beauty far below the surface of the waters. As soon as this world became his own, he once again felt the pain of loneliness and wanted to share his discoveries. Remembering why he had entered the watery world in the first place, he took a chance and sought that special dolphin who possessed the potential to understand the unconditional world he had enjoyed.
_____On a wondrous springtime morning, he believed he found this special someone and invited her to join him in his infinite world. Intrigued by the very idea, she agreed to see his marvelous place, for she was one who seldom turned her back on a new experience.
When they arrived at the place where his world began, she commented about the beauty of the fish that swam about. The warmth of the water caught her attention as well and she felt a certain sense of belonging.
_____Asking her to collect a deep breath, he led the way as they began to dive. Deeper and deeper they submerged until she began to feel a touch of discomfort, for she'd never challenged her capacity for air to this extent. Furthermore, it was getting ever darker and she began to fear the inadequacy of her sonar in such unfamiliar territory. Overcome with fear, she ended the plunge and raced to the safety of the water's surface. Breathing deeply she felt the sense of freedom that comes from one's deliverance from impending disaster. Quietly in the depths, the lonely dolphin did not feel such relief; for once again his heart had been broken. He had trusted openly that his friend's insightful dolphin mind would be free from the limitations of its underwater world. Free it was not. It appeared to be prisoner to the idea of walls and barriers, much like the earthen dungeon he himself had recently escaped. Once again he felt the cold hard walls of his gopher world close in around him.
_____He felt sure that his chosen dolphin friend would realize through her intuition that there was no need for worry where they were headed. Time did not exist, so one could hold his breath forever, and one would have no need for sight or sound in a world with no obstacles or barriers to negotiate. It didn't matter now, for he found himself once again alone and he longed once more for another chance in another world.
_____He remembered a friend he'd made in his life on the land, a beautiful turtledove who flew in peace. "I'll bet the sky has no limits, for it goes on forever, and I've seen so many of its creatures fly high out of sight. I'll surely find a soul there to share a world of such endless freedom." With this thought he suddenly felt himself falling in space with air rushing all about him. Looking through a dove's eyes he saw his wings, extended them, and found himself floating freely in the breeze.
_____After many days of flying he realized he was ready to move to higher heights and faster speeds. He soared through the clouds and into the heavens, discovering new and better worlds like none he'd ever imagined. With this discovery came the pain that now had come hauntingly familiar. He longed to share his marvelous world with other birds.
Remembering his failures with his earthly and seaward companions, he felt fear beneath his breastplate, but his quest was far too noble to allow the possibility of another failure to stand in his way. "Besides," he thought, "I've found such beautiful creatures in the skies. Surely I'll find one who is not crippled by convention."
_____Once he'd met that special bird his fear subsided, for he knew his moment had finally arrived. This bird before him now taught him so many new and wonderful secrets. Never before had he imagined that his quest would see himself in the role of student. He'd only imagined teaching others his amazing discoveries.
_____Together they flew for days on end, wing tip to wing tip, taking in the marvels of the air. But as days turned to weeks, the dove began to feel restless, for although his new companion showed him many new things in the world of birds, never had they made an attempt to challenge the heights he had discovered. Finally his unrest grew too great and he had to confront his newfound teacher.
_____"You have shown me so many wonderful new tricks and discoveries, but I have grown weary of one fact. Why is it you never fly above the clouds? Might there be even more to find at newer levels?"
_____The dove answered, "Why would I challenge the reality handed me by my ancestors? Even the least of the doves knows where he belongs. To fly into the clouds is to suffer great turbulence. One might even become beaten by the winds to the point of injury. Why, one might even plunge to his death. Besides, even if one survived this thrashing, the air is thin. Working harder and receiving less air would mean sure disaster for even the strongest bird. There's so much beauty to be found here in our safe existence, why challenge destiny on the chance of finding more of the same somewhere else?"
_____Hearing this, he knew not whether to challenge his friend's idea or to quietly accept it and go about his business. Had he not been flying in the role of pupil for these past weeks? Would challenging his teacher's limiting beliefs display something other than the intense love he felt for his friend? After a moment of thought, he felt he must share his insight with this wise bird, for it had grown apparent that the chances of any of the other birds challenging the boundaries of their world were indeed scarce.
_____Restlessly he spoke. "Friend who has taught me so much about your world, I have found another world above the clouds and I wish to share it with you. It was the turbulent winds that you fear which propelled me to these new dimensions, and the thinning of the air that taught me to breath with greater efficiency. Learning this economy made me slow down the very hands of time and gave me unbound energy as I learned to use each fraction of my fuel to its utmost potential. You are a wise and respected bird. You can learn this too and bring it back to the flock."
_____His words shocked his friend and this discord created an obvious strain in their relationship, but not wanting to leave this special bird, he chose to stay and continue the lessons. With time, the differences in their ideas created an unspoken dissension. The journey he had dreamed about could not be compromised for it was built on the institution of limitless potential. No longer wishing to accept the dove's limited view of reality, he knew it was time to move on.
_____Flying alone now, the dove wondered where he might go to fulfill his prophecy. He had tunneled his way to the depths of the earth, conquered the depths of the sea, and now he had soared high into the heavens. In each of these places, the creatures that called it home were content with only seeing the most obvious of things. With sky, land, and sea exhausted, he wondered where he might turn. Then, in a breath of inspiration he recalled a story from his childhood.
_____Once he had been told of a creature who inhabited the earth who appeared to be a superior creature, for not only did this creature have a body and a mind with which to negotiate his world, he had a spirit which enabled him to see beyond his existence. "This is for me!" exclaimed the dove, and he changed into a man.
_____Living as a human being opened his eyes to so many new possibilities. He learned a new language that could be written as well as spoken. This seemed to be the key to his new quest. If he could write his ideas, they could be distributed to all the people, and surely someone would read them and understand, or at the very least, become curious enough to seek him out. Filled with excitement, he set out on his quest. When his writings were complete, the distribution began. Soon he began to hear from those around him. Critics praised and critics condemned, and people of all kinds wroste to him with a variety of ideas and comments. At first this was very exciting for him, for the large response was bound to reveal to him that long awaited mate to share his world.
_____Days, weeks, months, then years passed, with many people passing in and out of his life. Each person who seemed to appreciate and understand his story was invited to his doorstep, and a special few were invited inside his heart. He talked briefly with some and in depth with others, including the one whom he trusted could share his dream. The more he shared his idea with those around him, the greater his knowledge of human existence became. It was that very fact that signaled his destiny! One morning, his closest of friends appeared at his door. Entering, his friend found nothing but a note.
_____"Do not fear, for I am alive and well in the world of limitless being. I explored the worlds of gophers, dolphins, and doves, and made my way at last to a world that promised a chance for a spiritual life. Upon seeing the creatures willfully refuse this glorious gift, I learned that I could no longer live amongst mankind as one of you. Whenever you see a creature of any kind challenging the walls before him, it could be me. In each of the three animal worlds I visited, I found creatures afraid to dig, swim, or fly beyond their ingrained comfort zones. They failed to realize potential realities simply out of their refusal to see them. This hurt me as I saw them lock themselves in an existence far short of their potential. Living among mankind revealed a greater tomb. At least these creatures left the unknown alone. Man refuses to explore his possibilities as well, but it is not because he refuses to travel to places unknown. It is because he has already labeled these places prior to his arrival, bringing with him the conditions of his limited world. _____The other worlds I visited had depths and heights unspoiled by prejudice, for creatures that were not yet ready to discover new horizons did not trespass in areas unknown. So I have gone back to the life free of judgment, and alone I shall conquer these pure unknowns. I hope that within your human reality you can one day learn to do the same."

© 1993 - Paul Stephens