Ben Okri: Astonishing the Gods

‘I love your silence. It is so wise. It listens. It invites warmth. I love your loneliness. It is brave. It makes the universe want to protect you. You have the loneliness that all true heroes have, a loneliness that is a deep sea, within which the fishes of mystery dwell. I love your quest. It is noble. It has greatness in it. Only one who is born under a blessed star would set sail across the billowing waves and the wild squalls, because of a dream. I love your dream. It is magical. Only those who truly love and who are truly strong can sustain their lives as a dream. You dwell in your own enchantment. Life throws stones at you, but your love and your dream change those stones into the flowers of discovery. Even if you lose, or are defeated by things, your triumph will always be exemplary. And if no one knows it, then there are places that do. People like you enrich the dreams of the world, and it is dreams that create history. People like you are the unknowing transformers of things, protected by your own fairy-tale, by love.’

‘Time is different here. We measure time differently, not by the passing of moments or hours, but by lovely deeds, creative accomplishments, beautiful transformations, by little and great perfections.

‘Size is also measured differently here. For us something is great if it beautiful, if it is true, and if it has life. Something is small if it has none of these things. A little perfection is large for us. A large thing without beauty or truth is small for us. A creative seed is greater than a mountainous lump. Hence the invisible things are the smallest and the highest things amongst us. If a thing, a quality, an art, a gesture, a form becomes so refined and pure as to become invisible then it has ascended into the eternal.

‘On the whole, big things are small for us. Great fame, great visibility, great temporal power are the easiest things for us to accomplish, according to our way. Hence we deem them small, and not worthy of our efforts.

‘The most difficult thing for us is to do things which achieve permanence in the higher universe, and which are unseen, and can therefore never be destroyed. Our highest acts of creativity are in the empty spaces, in the air, in dreams, in unseen realms. There we have our cities, our castles, our greatest books, our great music, our art, science, our truest love, our fullest sustenance. If you are lucky you will partake of this higher condition, and delight in its power that transcends all boundaries.

‘And sometimes – very rarely – but sometimes nonetheless, our highest creative acts, our highest playfulness, our self-overcoming, our purest art, our ascending songs, by some mysterious grace transcend so many boundaries and enter so many realms that we occasionally astonish even the gods.

‘The best things in the world dwell in the realm of pure light, from where they spread their influence to all corners of the universe, to stones and men and worms, and even to stars and the dead and to angels. We are learning to be masters of the art of transcending all boundaries. We are learning to go beyond the illusion that is behind illusion.

‘And even our way and our discoveries are still young in their possibilities. We wake every day in a state of absolute humility and joyfulness at all that lies possible before us.

‘Therefore we have no fame. We live quietly, as if within a sacred flame, and no one outside this island knows we exist. In our silence we dedicate ourselves to the perfection of our spirits, consecrated to serving the highest forces in the universe.

‘We do not want to be remembered, or praised. We only want to increase the light, and to spread illumination.’

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