and distant panoramas suggest this is the top floor executive suite of a powerful man. A wig on a hanger suggests it might be chambers of a judge.
Incenzo, a much younger man, dressed as a “David” in a shepherd’s smock, clasping a rustic staff, faces him, standing, from across the desk. He stands straight, his small but athletic frame contrasts with the more bulbar shape of the older man.
Imperius: These are serious charges!
Incenzo: You believe so, Sir!
Imperius: Most serious. They foretell the most undesirous calamities
Incenzo: I see Sir
Imperius: I very much regret this news, Incenzo. It is well you have revealed it to me
and to no other
Incenzo: No Sir.
Imperius: You are a good lad, Incenzo. I will reward you well.
Incenzo: (without changing voice tone) Thank you Sir. How Sir?
Imperius: You will have my kind regard Incenzo. And the wisdom of the words of my
Incenzo: You are exceedingly gracious, Sir. Wisdom in such words is rarely given.
Imperius: (Stops, reads the innuendo. Adopts an assertive and correcting tone)
Wisdom is a precious thing, Incenzo. Truly it is rarely given. (Fixing Incenzo’s eyes) Yet it is even more scarcely received.
Incenzo: I have noticed both conditions, Sir. What reward of wisdom would you offer
Imperius: I would offer you Caution lad. Such gifts as you are promised are best
fulfilled in time. Were wisdom drained as from a tap, it would be less than precious.
Incenzo: (Unrelenting) Is it so, Sir? Is it wisdom which is hard to come upon? Or is it the tap which is so
little regarded and so little maintained that founts from which wisdom flows are far between. Here, amidst the seats of judgement there are many echoes sounding in the long corridors. I discern much of display. Were wisdom so easily found how would it display?
Imperius: (Grinning momentarily in recognition of Incenzo’s boldness) You are a shiny lad, Incenzo.
Incenzo: As a lad is nearer to the paths trod beneath richer gowns, I perceive ceremonies more plentiful, and borne on soles remarkably common.
Imperius: (Noting – admiring – the boy’s courage) And a rascal too, young man. A man of station, Incenzo, learns to cast his eye from above, and not from below. As you cast your eye, so the world reveals itself.
Incenzo: And thus it seems all things are drawn, not down but toward the centre.
Imperius: Toward the centre?
Incenzo: In looking down, does not your glance simply follow the unquestioning path of all things that fall. Not with judgement, but in the random company of all things travelling with neither will nor wisdom? From my low station Imperius, I must drive both thought and sight against the path of relentless jetsam travelling downward. As it courses towards the unseen centre, so my questions travel out of the centre and arraign the world I find unfathomed in foaming endless breath of unattended questions.
Imperius: And to what ends, Incenzo?
Incenzo: To live, Imperius.
Imperius: It is living to fly against the currents of nature and the universe?
Incenzo: It is living to be as a stone falling, Imperius?
Imperius: Many a stone is placed securely at the corner of a fine building.
Incenzo: (Teasing Imperious) Many a stone, Imperius, is lodged unseen along these fine corridors as
Imperius: (Expansively) In this way our society is fortified. Myself, I choose to be the Mason, not the stone, Incenzo, for I value rightly the strength and structure wrought of these well cut stones. I am pleased to observe the beauty and the triumph worked in stone that itself lives beyond both the mason and the architect and reveals the power and endurance surely reflecting the nature of God Himself.
Incenzo: And thus both Mason and stone contrive together. As one is raised by the other so are both afterwards remembered for what they used to be. And here, Imperius, is the evidence that what you say is false. God is not reflected in monuments fated to collapse or be remembered for former glories. God is revealed in the new moment and the emerging sign. It is limitless when one looks out from the centre. As God is surely limitless.
Imperius: (Displaying irritation and affront – he may be tiring of the challenge from the youth) Your protest is to reduce our finery to a common garb. Why speak of the soles beneath our rich garments?
Incenzo: It is not so Imperius. When one looks out from nearer the centre one is struck by the extending view of so many things. It is the eye of the magistrate, the eye of the Lord, that works by reduction, reducing all things for ease and convenience of understanding. The mind which must make things small, Imperius, is hardly great.
Imperius: (Stoops his head. Looks over his glasses and fixes hard on Incenzo’s eyes) You trouble me with courage lad. But if we speak of former times and new then will you not concede that those things I represent have stood with
remarkable consistency. They are not things of former glory I applaud, but strengths and proofs as rich and real this day as any other. If God is not consistent then most assuredly our understanding is not possible, Incenzo.
Incenzo: Can God be both consistent and creative Imperius? Is power other than the freedom to do new things? Can God be as you say with power unexpressed?
Imperius: You speak of power, Incenzo. You have no understanding of power? (waves his arm out expansively again) These corridors have power Incenzo. They have the power to bring things about or the power to keep things in place, as you can scarcely imagine.
Incenzo: Is that so Imperius? Surely it is not. For what these corridors can merely do is to comply. As the stone complies with the mason. There is no power in the stone. Its character is simply the character of Without Power To Change. And these dark and echoing corridors are merely the ratchet wheels, the machinery of office. But which
office? What is that office? Is it not simply a link in a closed chain? Is not the logic of this institution a completely circular argument in logic? Is it not merely a corner stone of a building whose year to fall waits unguessed in the shadow of tomorrow?
Imperius: Alas young man, can you see no future?
Incenzo: I shall tell you of the futures (for there are so many) I can see, Imperius. But first tell me of the future you can see.
Imperius: My futures? I am more modest than that, Boy.
Incenzo: It is not modesty, Imperius.
Incenzo: It is the duty of the cornerstone to ensure the future is foretold and unchangeable. Your station pre-empts the future and attempts to deny its limitless possibility for change or improvement. And since your task is fanciful, Imperius, it is without power. It supplies only comfort and consolation to those who shelter from their want of courage. But it is without power. In truth these fine symbols can do nothing to contain the force and movement of the new day. As they can hold back neither the rising of the new sun, nor the setting of the old day, they can merely hope
to make believe that each day can be within the limits of the established practices, hopes and beliefs of of ancient times. I regret Imperius that these corridors do not contain eminent and powerful minds and beings. Their darkened and closed off chambers contain merely the alters and practises of witchcraft and illusion.
Imperius: And yet they contain also the machinery of order and decency. And order and decency are - if nothing else- the blue prints of civilised nations. Even so, there is more. Except for order and decency, there can be no future within the breasts of those among you, Young Incenzo, who yearn - as you do not – for the things of a technological age and the fruits of our mastery of nature. Though you would have your brothers and sisters take up prayerful positions and invoke the unseen futures, the truth is this is not what they want for themselves.
Incenzo: And what do my brothers and sisters want, Imperius?
Imperius: They want homes and fine things. They want to bring their children into a world both comfortable and safe. They want to buy and take into their homes the products of innovation and convenience. They want to partake in the
pleasures of good living. These are the futures they nurture.
Incenzo: It is true that when you take a dog and train it from infancy to lead a blind man it will be content to spend its life leading a blind man.
Imperius: (Pauses. Looks intently at Incenzo. His expression gives nothing away. Chooses his words) Yet your vision of a limitless God does not appease these more grounded aspirations Incenzo. Take away these corridors, Incenzo; take away the hopes and aspirations of the multitudes who people our suburbs, commute across our concrete bridges and who call upon my colleagues of these corridors to provide more of the facilities you and they take for granted. And you will return men to their hunting dogs and hand weapons. You will turn them out onto the hostile plains and into the winter gales. Mankind has worked 10,000 years for better than that.
Incenzo: (Unrelenting. Challenging Imperious) It is hard for you, Imperius, to bite upon the flesh of my knowing. Except you also walk the hostile plain in the winter gale you are not acquainted with yourself. You cannot believe that your experience of yourself is exactly the same. You cannot know that central heating and the concrete bridge make not the merest jot of difference to personal experience. To cross a river by car and bridge to pass a day in these corridors is scarcely better than to clamber over rocks to pass a day in a meadow pasture.
Imperius: (Smiling. Enjoying the challenge) Ah, Incenzo your youth is freshing.
Incenzo: (Ernestly) You believe it is my youth that is freshing, Imperius. You are wrong. It is my experience which is freshing. I have clambered the rocks, I have lain in the meadow, I have carried fear in my heart trudging blind in the snowy gale, I have passed days with neither food nor drink. Imperius, it is not the fine garbed peacocks hidden upon
the alters of the shut chambers of your corridors who are experienced and tried. They are the lambs, Imperius. Soft, sheltered from sun and thorn; naive and neither adapted nor adaptable. They are the sad creatures poised and vulnerable in the cells of your making. It is these whom your fine stones contain. It is amusing that upon their rare showings they strut and exhibit themselves to one another in whose lonely and perceived admirations they cradle and contain to the limits the poverty of their lives. It is to these plumed fowls of the yard you would have me surrender my
fortunes, my judgements, my destinies.
Imperius: (Quietly. Taunts Incenzo) I say again, Incenzo, yours is the song of innocence.
Incenzo: (Unintimidated) And I say to you, Imperius, well may I be innocent in the grand canvas of the natural world. And yet have I proven my capacity to change and survive. And have I also proven - and learned to love - the world and its capacity to surprise and reveal new things. It is not I who is tethered to ancient fears and bound by the ropes of medieval ritual. The gleam in my eye is not the reflected admiration of a kennelled dog. The hairs on my neck do not bristle with the praise of men who cannot see they walk upon the ground.
Imperius: (Paternalisticly) You will see, Incenzo. In twenty years you will change. In forty you will be glad of both your kennel and your chain. You might even be glad to set your books upon the shelves of one of my chambers.
Incenzo: And then, Imperius, you will consider me fit to have office? Like dried prunes would you have the dark corridors full of withered and dying men? By these, you would orchestrate the future? Do you perceive the character of your fear Imperius? For these old fruits have no long futures for which to live. Their preoccupation should carefully be to consume the pleasures that remain for them in their available days. Would wisdom truly be found among men fearing death? Indeed, I would surely expect paranoia and grasping lusts where courage and wisdom would better be found.
Imperius: (sits down behind the desk and gazes first at Incenzo and then beyond the windows in
silence for a few moments. Turning back to face Incenzo...) You do experienced men little justice.
Incenzo: (voice tone rises. Coming in for the kill) I read the signs of decadence more clearly than signs of distinguished and relevant experiences. When men take up your offer, Imperius, they ought to expose themselves to more rigorous scrutiny. Imperius, how can you scrutinise the worth of experience for tomorrow's world, when you stand buried in ritual and costume validated only by an era of Dukes and Earls long since past?
Imperius: (At first quietly, reflectively, then his voice and the power in his eyes growing strongly) I was not always a peacock, Incenzo. I was also a warrior and fought my battles with courage in my heart and strength in my limbs. And I recall how ready I was then to die, Incenzo. I cared nothing for my final moment. I sought out my dragons and vainly (emphasis, staring at Incenzo to see if he flinches at the moral innuendo in the word) looked them in the eyes. And I survived the terrors of youth, Incenzo, because I was not merely lustful for conquests, but talented also and skilled. There were many among my comrades who did not travel the full distance with me but were cut down or lost their ways. From my vantage point as a survivor of the fickle fortunes of destiny, I see perhaps more than you allow me.
Incenzo: Then it is to prouder moments and hidden memories that I address myself, Imperius.
Imperius: And you do well Incenzo. But for these, before this I might well have thrown you out, along with your impertinences. (Changes tone. Now speaks to Incenzo as if to a brother) Incenzo, what future really lies before the path of the heroic man your speeches call upon? Is a day on the plain so very different to a day in a chamber? Does the morrow that awaits greatly care where a man stands or whether he is cold or has eaten? I think not. As you well discern the days of my glory are passed. And the ritual rags an old man wears gratify a hungry ego his limbs can no longer fortify. Is his knowledge to be spurned because his limbs have become frail?
Incenzo: (Changing his tone, testing Imperious) Imperius, are all the creatures inhabiting these corridors like you?
Imperius: (Strongly. Stands) I am the greatest. I am always the greatest.
Incenzo: Are not many of them youthful in years but aged and weary of mind?
Imperius: (Turns away, saying nothing. Turns back to face Incenzo) Many of us have not gained experience on life's field of battle but have studied well in institutions of knowledge.
Incenzo: Aye. And grown old in youth. Heads full of knowledge prepared by dying men in times gone by is scarcely adequate preparation for tomorrow's men.
Imperius: (Turning to gaze through the windows again. Silent for a moment in reflection. Then
turning back to Incenzo. Speaks softly) Alas, Incenzo, its all we have. The plains have gone. Concrete bridges span the rivers, the rocks you would clamber upon have been cut to build new corridors, hunger has been addressed by legislation and the gale winds now blow along emptied streets. Such knowledge as can be recalled is to be found
in library archives and fashions sweep the preparation of new minds. The future is here, Incenzo, and once again I demonstrate my skills of adaptation and survival.
Incenzo: (Encouragingly) You are adapting to the death you now fear and resist, Imperius, because it is drawing in on you. It surrounds you in the places and people that have lost all purpose and meaning. You busily DO because you have lost your sense of true becoming and being is filled with despair and the shortening of days. The institution of these corridors, built on fine cut corner stones, is indeed but a monument to the misty memories of heroic times that its very building has helped to close.
Imperius: (Reassertively. Stands up. Draws himself up. Faces Incenzo) Incenzo. You fire my youth. Be there no future. Be it too late. You are nevertheless right Incenzo. Let us put fire to this box. Let it flame like houses of parliament. Let us light the sky and turn fear inside out. No more the insidious corruption of fear to die, fear to lose. Let us wear it on the outside as our visible adversary, look it in the eye and leave it to perish of its own futility. Where are my glasses Incenzo? (Begins looking for his glasses) Where did I put them now? I have my matches somewhere here.
Yes, somewhere here .............
Now where did I leave my matches?
© Bog O’Mullet 2010