The urban forest is wide and deep, biologically versatile, inhabited by many rare species that have become long extinct in the outside world.
Deep in the heart of the forest, resides the One. He has been dwelling in the Deep Forest residence in the capacity of being the One for the last few decades of his mature adulthood, leading a life filled with tranquility, paramount duties and prayers.
Every dawn, as the awareness of his own existence arises, the One finds himself again in the familiar setting. He gets up from bed, trying not to disturb the surroundings. He goes to wash his face, gentle and slow. The towel he uses to wipe his face is made from the finest cloth available in the land. And yet, the appearance of it could not be more modest and humble, because he strictly wishes every item in his domicile to be so.
As the One goes through the protocols, he often reflects on his own stream of consciousness, just like any human being. He secretly smiles, to himself, how his existence has changed, especially since he has assumed the office of the One.
The One used to be a quite boisterous child, just like any typical boy. When he was a teen, he even ventured off into the middle of the bright lights of the metropolitan night life, with his fellow pupils. Such an act of carelessness is impossible now. Even at that time, it resulted a massive recruitment of the metropolitan police, as his unusual outing became known to the officials.
Over the years, the maintenance of the peace of mind has become his first priority, a life’s art that the One has improved upon and perfected over the years, while breathing the air of the Deep Forest.
Except for days the One travels around in the country, and on rare occasions, abroad, he leads a simple life in his private domicile and office quarters in the Deep Forest, consummating his duties. He makes a point of carrying out services to the greater community, every second of his life. His spacious rooms are not meant to impress, but only to give the impressions of a serene atmosphere to everything he does, and for those who visits there. In a sense, his very existence itself has become the ultimate ministration of office.
Breakfast is always simple and adequate. The kitchen staff know the One’s preferences in and out, and never make the slightest mistake. It is not that it would be made obvious and sunk in when the staff make a mistake. The One would pass it as if nothing has happened, so as not to embarrass anyone.
The actions of the One are ordinary, but the context in which these actions are taken is far from the ordinary. It has been perhaps a happy coincidence that his actions have been conducted in peaceful circumstances over the years. There were times when the One would have been forced to do otherwise. In fact, he has been witness to such times, when, as a boy, he was forced to evacuate from the Deep Forest due to difficult circumstances.
The capital was frequently on fire, some of them calamitous.
Since then, peace has been his main concern, from the depth of his existence. Every morning, he wishes happiness and equanimity for all his people and far beyond, knowing peace is hard to come by and maintain.
At 9 in the morning, an official meets the One in the office. The official hands several papers for him to sign. His signings are conducted in the traditional way, with a specially designed seal reserved only for the One. It is a constitutional duty, designated for the One, as the Symbol of the land.
The One prides himself in conducting his duty conscientiously, even when it involves signing papers whose purpose is solely ceremonial.
At 10, he receives Mr. A, who is currently in charge, for audience. The One has been receiving Mr. A ever since he has become the person in charge. The One listens to the affairs of the land as put forward by Mr. A. The One never says anything, except for very neutral comments, since it is not in the nature of the One to make a remark on things of such essence.
In the brief free moments before Mr. A arrives, there is a reverie, in which the One happily indulges himself. (The protocols require that the One never walks into the room before anyone, not even Mr. A. It is always the case that the guest is in the room, and then awaits for the One’s arrival. There is, however, a private room in which the One resides, next to the audience room, in which the One could spend a few moments of private reflections before assuming a more public facade.)
This morning, the One remembers the days when he received private educations from an American lady. The lady was a writer, a charming person, but rather strict in her principles. Some of her prescripts would have come from the civilization that she represented: Others would have originated from her own individuality. The One was young then, and absorbed the lessons like a sponge in the rain.
It was a time when the land was in great turmoil, but full of hope for a new era. There was the Old One still in residence, and the One did not have to assume quite so much public duties. The One remembers, with a slight embarrassment, how, on arrival of the American lady, he thanked her for the candies that she had sent, forgetting the proper protocols lectured by the officials.
These were the carefree days of his life, long gone.
The head ceremonial master informs the One that Mr. A has arrived. The One nods in acknowledgement, and slowly walks into the audience room. The hushed silence feels like it fills the entire universe at such moments, as the One tiptoes into his next public duty.
The audience with Mr. A proceeds smoothly. It is always a solemn duty to hear what concerns the heart of the person in charge, as matters of the land is of the foremost corporeity for the One.
After the audience, back in private quarters, the One is joined by the Loved One, who has been conducting separate duties, giving audience to the general public who volunteered to do some maintenance and cleaning works within the Deep Forest.
The One met the Loved One in the tennis court, several decades ago. At the time, the episode was widely reported, as it was the first time a commoner would marry someone in line to be the One.
The memories of the romance of the century are perhaps faint in the zeitgeist of the land, as are the sparkle of new awareness that seized the imagination of people in the years after the calamity, when the young One received lessons from the American lady. The remnant fire of the romance is still felt, however, between the One and the Loved One, as they are indeed still deeply in mutual affection.
Much in question is whether the post-calamity awareness of freedom and individuality still shines in the land today. This, of course, is not matters to be judged by the One. It is, ultimately to be formulated by the general perception, and currently the office of Mr. A. It is certainly the case, however, that the spirit of the teaching of the American lady very much thrives in the One, to this day.
Lunch today is a rather formal affair, with the British ambassador and his wife making a visit, to say goodbye to the One, nearing his stay in the land.
“Did you enjoy staying in our land?” The One asks, with a smile on his face, like rays of reflected sunshine on the water canals surrounding the Deep Forest.
“Very much, thank you, your majesty,” answers the ambassador.
“I still cherish the memory of coming here, to pay respect to your majesty, a few days after my arrival. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom.”
“Yes, it was certainly so, wasn’t it?”
The Loved One nods, in recognition.
Conversation then flows like a nectar from the boughs swinging to and fro in the Deep Forest.
The One speaks fluent English, and discusses many aspects of science and culture. There are implicated familial ties with England, too. The Son of the One, and the Lovely One married to the Son, both have studied at Oxford.
The conversations, though, never touches on recent political issues, such as the exit of the UK from the European Union, because it is not in the nature of the One to deliberate on such issues.
The British ambassador finally exclaims “O my, I must excuse myself, it is already half past”. The time flows differently in the Deep Forest, and it is perhaps to the compliments for the household agency serving the One, that guests sometimes indeed forget that their assigned time has been over.
As the ambassador shakes hands in farewell, he ventures to mention to the One: “I would miss the sushi restaurants dearly. It has been really a privilege to visit these fabulous places where it all started.”
The One smiles enigmatically. The ambassador remembers, that it is simply not possible for the One to visit the establishments that the he himself came to know and love.
There are hundreds of excellent sushi restaurants in the capital, but the One never visits any of them. It is not in the nature of the One to make such private visits.
The ambassador, leaving the Deep Forest, thinks to himself again, that the One is perhaps leading the most restricted life in the world today. Not even the Queen, nor the Pope, is enduring such restriction of private actions, of breathing space. A strange mixture of compassion and respect for the One surges in the heart of the ambassador, as he gets the last glimpse of the One, as the One and the Loved One stand to see the car of the ambassador and his wife off.
While driven out of the Deep Forest, the ambassador wonders, how in the frivolous atmosphere of the contemporary world such a self-sacrifice is possible.
After the British ambassador leaves, there is some moments of tranquil transition for the One and the Loved One.
As they walk back to their private quarters, the One asks the Loved One, passingly, but passionately.
“Do you sometimes wish, that we had been an ordinary couple?”
The Loved One, who has been trailing slightly behind the One, as custom requires, answers, without a hesitation in her voice.
“But we are an ordinary couple between us, aren’t we?”
The One straightens, and corrects himself.
“Quite so, Love, I am sorry.”
The Loved One bows and smiles.
“Sorry I am, to say such things to your majesty.”
The One and the Loved One walk in silent harmony.
Silence befalls on the private domicile of the One. The One is 82 years old now. It is not possible, or desirable, to carry out the daily duties without taking a great care of his body and soul.
Sitting on the chair designated for the One, he goes into another reverie.
The One remembers, how, as he was a little boy, he looked up to the Old One. The Old One held the same position as the One holds now. But the times were completely different.
The One often imagines, had he been in the position of the Old One in that difficult period, would he have done things any differently from the way the Old One did. The Old One was later reproached, almost to the full abandonment of the venerable tradition. The One finds himself in serious doubt. The One does not feel, that he could have done things any differently from ways the Old One did.
At times of such musings, the One feels that an individual is after all what the system makes of him or her. The One feels an awe at the fact that the succession of the position of the One has been repeated, with occasional turmoils, 125 times until the present.
The One wonders, how it has been possible. There must have been difficult times: However, the Ancestors somehow persevered.
It is at such times that the One feels that if he is a pivot of the system, as indeed he is actually likely to be, he would gladly serve the purpose of perpetuating the succession, even if that means compromising his private life on this earth.
At half past three, the Son arrives from the East Forest, where he resides with the Lovely One. The Lovely One does not accompany him.
The Lovely One has been having difficulties since joining the order of the Deep Forest, especially as regards some traditional ceremonies that the One and his family perform and enshrine.
“I am sorry, majesty”. On arrival in the Deep Forest, the Son apologizes for the absence of the Lovely One.
“That’s quite all right,” the One answers, with a reassuring smile all over his gentle face.
“These things take time,” the One says, ruminating.
The One remembers, how the Loved One used to have difficulties after marriage, when she tried to adapt to the often mysterious traditions of the Deep Forest. The Loved One has overcome these difficulties, and is now enjoying being in service to the land, every second of her life.
The One and the Son sit together. Time as this is quite valuable, as the succession of the spirit of the One could be only relayed from a living person to another.
A small talk is initiated, if there could indeed be a such in the Deep Forest. The Son mentions to the One a particularly terrible incident of terror that recently took place in one of the cosmopolitan cities in a remote continent. The Son knows that the One is always concerned with peace, and that those mischances that demolish the very foundations of harmonious existence always saddens the One.
The One sighs, and says, in an intimate voice, like father to son.
“You know, I never suspected that the world would come to this. I always hoped, and was convinced, that enlightenment and better judgment would become the norm for humanity, especially after the terrible wars that we experienced. I would have thought that we would learn the lesson.”
The One could see that the Son was wishing that the Lovely One could have been here, at such moments. The Lovely One has worked in the foreign office, and is knowledgeable about the world affairs. It has been the hope that a great era of Deep Forest diplomacy will be brought about through the marriage.
“Things never get to what we expect them to be, don’t they?”
The Son says to the One, with a profound feeling of resignation. The One senses it, and sees that it could not hurt, because, after all, it is a sense of resignation that makes life sustainable, in the turmoil of this imperfect world.
The chief master of ceremony enters the room, and informs about the special ceremony that is about to take place. It was for this ceremony that the Son has come to the Deep Forest from the East Forest residence this evening.
The special service today is for the 1200th anniversary of a Respected Ancestor of the One. Almost every day in the year, there would be a special service commemorating one of the ancestors. It is no wonder that the ceremonial calendar is rather crowded, when the One is the 125th in the succession line.
The One, the Loved One, and the Son line up in the periphery of the sacred area, and pray.
After most intensive minutes of silence, the forest musicians and dancers emerge and initiate their performances.
Music is made, which is more than 1000 years old. Some of the dancers wear traditional masks, with enigmatic patterns painted all over the place.
The music and dance would have been originally formed under the influences of other neighboring lands and beyond. In the passage of time, like many other things, they have been perfected and made unique, so that they now felt like the land’s own.
The One listens to the music, and thinks over times gone and lost, well beyond his own life.
The Son whispers to the One.
“Listening to the music, one feels that one’s soul would go far away, even beyond heaven.”
The One nods and whispers.
“It is all about the dead.”
The One muses, silently to himself.
“At this moment, our hearts are given to the many millions of people, that lived, and went, before us. Our prayers must be dedicated to their souls, who have now become gods.”
The sun sets, and darkness befalls. The protocol officials gently indicates to the One that it is now time to leave the ceremony. The One inclines, and starts to walk slowly. The Loved One and the Son follow.
The musicians continue to make music, and the dancers dance, even after the One has left, for a long time, late into the night. There is no audience, not even the protocol officials, except for the musicians and dancers themselves. It does not make any difference, according to tradition. By making these exquisite music, they believe, the souls of Respected Ancestors would gently descend from the heavens, to join their earthly companions for the enjoyment of music and dance.
It is about the dead.
The many millions of people, that lived, and went before. The music, dance, and prayers must be dedicated to their souls, who are now in heaven, and perhaps beyond.
Author's note. "The One" was written in the summer of 2016.