Monday, November 30, 2009

A Fairytale

Once upon a time there was a great Emperor, mighty beyond measure. He loved all that he ruled and cared for all his subjects with Justice and Tenderness. In the course of time, one of the Emperor's greatest Knights became jealous and dissatisfied and led a revolt against him. The evil knight was defeated and banished along with the others whom he had seduced, but he succeeded in invading and setting up a rebel administration in one region of the Emperor's territories.

The Emperor had a special love for that territory, and seeing that the renegade knight was seducing his beloved subjects into rebellion, he sent the Crown Prince to put down the rebellion and establish a visible Kingdom within which His subjects could dwell without fear from the evil knight and his minions. After a long battle in which he endured hardships and sufferings beyond imagining, the Prince established the Kingdom and his Father declared Him to be the King of that Realm.

But the Emperor loved his son and wanted Him to sit always at his right hand, so the King appointed a Steward to minister his kingdom in his absence. "I will return" He told the Steward and all his subjects, "and it is not necessary for you to know when. But I want you to go throughout this kingdom, and send your ministers, and tell the people that they must all swear allegiance to me. Tell them that they must wait here in my Kingdom, which I leave in the care of my Steward, for my return! Teach them and love them, as I would do. Temper justice with Mercy, and temper Mercy with justice, and always deal with each other in a spirit of TRUE Charity which must sometimes burn as well as comfort. Be brave and loyal to me, even unto death, for I am your king and I will reward you. Protect those who are weaker, because of age, or infirmity or a weak spirit. Help each other to keep my charge to you. Remember that the greatest among you must serve the least."

The Steward and the subjects gazed at the King with grief and alarm, but the King said again---"I will return".

The years passed and the Steward did as the King had commanded. The forces of the dark knight, though defeated, were always active, always and everywhere trying to seduce the King's subjects away from him. The Steward was murdered by the enemy, and another was appointed to take his place, and another, and another. The years rolled by, but the subjects, always fighting evil and always led by the Steward, fought on in the King's name and established His Kingdom as closely modeled after his will as they could---making their allegiance to the King to dominate every facet of their lives---not just the government, but the smallest and least important rite or celebration bore the marks of the Reign of the Great King----even though it had been many years since his departure and none were left alive who remembered seeing him. Under the administration of the Stewards, the subjects built and nurtured and upheld the kingdom for over a thousand years, and the King's name, and the title of Steward, became revered as far as men could walk, or ride or sail.

But after a time, the subjects began to forget what they had learned from the King regarding humility and service. They had been required to fight hard to keep the enemy at bay, and their thoughts turned to power and riches. Even the Ministers and the Stewards themselves became more concerned with power and policies than in the simple code of behavior that the King had left them to follow. Some Stewards became great Generals, and were more adept at leading men into battle in order to increase their holdings than they were at tending the King's subjects. Some were actually evil, and brought their mistresses into the King's own chambers. When such things occurred, the subjects were grieved and said, "This is a bad Steward. May the next one be a good man and uphold the King's charge!" But still, they remembered the King's words, and upheld the evil Stewards because they WERE the Stewards, and as the king's subjects, they had no choice.

Still the forces of the dark Knight flourished, and infected the Knights of the King over whom the Steward reigned in his stead. Knights once devoted to the King ignored his orders, and began to set up their own governments, declaring "The Steward is not the Steward" and worse yet "The King never appointed a Steward". The good subjects knew that the rebel knights spoke nonsense, but the bad knights began pointing out that some of the Stewards had been very bad indeed, and subjects whose simple fathers would merely have replied that the King's orders could not be changed because the Steward was merely human began to think too much, and to separate their reason from their hearts and spirits, and they were lost and followed the evil Knights.

The evil Knights began setting themselves up as false rulers and establishing false codes and laws which they claimed were taken from the ancient books written by the first Steward and his ministers about the King and His victory over the dark forces. Although they were driven by pride and self-aggrandizement, many subjects followed them, and the True Kingdom was persecuted and its borders reduced as the bad Knights established their own realms.

Still, the faithful subjects remained where the King had told them, and upheld the bad Stewards along with the Good, since the King had made no provision and no exception. But the most harm came from the subjects and ministers who, like willful children, wanted only to test their boundaries. Their quest became not "How can we best serve the King", but "How much can we get away with without actually leaving the Kingdom." In answer to these, the Stewards and their cabinets produced reams of detailed rules and proclamations which, although they were meant to instruct, were, like the ancient books, used and distorted by the willful to their own damnation and the downfall of the realm. For the subjects forgot that they themselves had been charged by the King: that they themselves had a responsibility. They became so lazy that they forgot that the Steward was just a man and began to imagine that the King would magically make the Steward a little version of Himself, just because he WAS the Steward, and that they could do the King's will merely by shouting HURRAY every time the Steward made a proclamation, no matter how idiotic or treasonous.

Because these subjects did not dare to voice their opposition, every bad Steward was free to distort the King's will. Stewards became more concerned with the adoration of the public than they did in upholding the King's laws. They became sated with the adoration of the good subjects, and began to desire the applause of those in the false kingdoms. They would dine with the wicked false rulers as if they were brother Stewards, instead of denouncing them for the deadly usurpers they truly were. They approved of the false laws of the false rulers, and set them on a level with the King's own Charge.

A few of the good subjects were scandalized, and a large number of those began to say, even as the evil ones said, "The Steward is not a Steward" and they left the Kingdom and tried in vain to reproduce it as it had once been. Others suffered agonies of doubt and despair, for they understood that if even the Steward was subject to confusion and ruin, they themselves must discern very carefully the will of the true King. Most of the subjects were happy, however, for the Stewards excused all infractions of the King's code of behavior as nothing, requiring only that they have fun and enjoy themselves and forget that the King had been very specific in what he told them to do.

At long last, the King returned! His castle had been turned into an embassy for false Kingdoms, replete with lavish excesses and much winking and nodding regarding his sovereignty and his rules, and the Steward and most of the subjects were very sorry to see him come, for he looked so stern, and seemed to feel as if their behavior actually mattered.
However, some of those who WERE happy to see him return were very hurt, for he had stern words for them as well.

"Why did you follow my wicked Steward into this treason?" he asked.

"Sire," they answered: "He is the STEWARD! We HAD to approve of all he said and did! He is your own STEWARD! What choice did we have? Would you have had us abandon your Kingdom and pay homage to a false king?"

"You were right not to abandon the Kingdom," said the King, "for that was not an option given to you. And yes, he IS my Steward and I will deal with him. But your allegiance was owed to ME, not to my Steward. When you applauded his treason, you not only offended me; you failed to call his attention to his danger. You have contributed to his treason when you might have averted it!"

They were sorrowful unto death, but the King knew the hearts of those who were as true to him as they knew how to be, and he gathered around him all the subjects who were in any way worthy and told them:

"You are no doubt somewhat surprised to see among yourselves those whom you believed were acting in opposition to me. Don't be concerned. That is not your place. But rejoice that you are now leaving this ruined Kingdom and coming with me to meet my father!"

And what rejoicing there was in the banquet hall of the Emperor, where all things were revealed.