As the figure in azure approached the podium, Carl felt again the impact of his presence. There was such a radiating combination of power and poise that it was unavoidably impressed on one. Every movement and glance revealed a leashed energy, and a deep, pervading compassion, which compounded to draw from one feelings of reverent affection. Despite this most impressive appearance, one felt that this warm being was so humanly friendly that it were as if an old, familiar friend stood there.
Chan Shu drew to the side as the speaker stepped up to the podium. With a clear, intense voice Chan Shu announced, "The Regent Elder will address the Assembly". Only this simple statement, and Chan Shu returned to his seat.
Again the sonorous, enfolding voice reached out to Carl. This time, he did not fade away from the scene. He listened alertly to each word, as if it were meant especially for him. Later, though he knew it was not strictly true, it seemed it surely had been.
"Fellow members of Ulathai, and beloved World Aspirants". A gaze like a benediction seemed to gather all present into a unity of warm fellowship. After a few moments, he continued. "Among the many crucial matters requiring our attention, we are also trying to avert a collective 'anxiety crisis'."
"The cumulative impact of increasing world problems has a collective psycho-mental effect with which we are greatly concerned. The outworking of this potential, if unchecked, could bring about a traumatic condition, where very unstable members of society react in violent and destructive acts, while those struggling for stability feel paralyzed with anxiety, and are unable to discern an effective course of action."
"We must alleviate this chaotic tendency in some way. We have determined, after several discussions of the problem, that a vision of the ideal and orderly intent behind the life-evolving process must be offered. To do this, we are in need of those qualified to express these ideas through a variety of means, and make them accessible to those in need of reassurance, in forms they can understand."
"It should be apparent that this will require action and talents of many who are intimately familiar with specific and varied areas of world society. This activity must touch all levels and aspects of world society. We need communicaters to relay ideals of potential harmony and World Unity. This is not a new effort, but it must be updated and intensified."
"There are those among you who are already active in this work. Be assured of the value of your efforts, and continue with renewed vigor, past rebuffs and ridicule, past the name-calling. We know some attach the label of 'utopian visionary' to such ideals. You do indeed carry a vision, but far from being the nebulous dream some consider it, it is a sturdy Eternal Seed, which promises, and can create, a better future. Carry it proudly and with vigorous dignity, not with dispute and extreme attitudes. It is an option of dedication. It is the Hope of the world !"
"In addition to those already active in this, we need many more, from all walks of life. All areas of world society must be reached if reasonable stability is to be maintained during these critical times. If there are others present who are not already identified with such work, who feel inclined to answer this need - please advise Officials associated with your specific contribution form."
Again, the Regent Elder paused and scanned the audience with a benign gaze, before concluding. In a voice deep with feeling, as if to touch each attendee individually, he added - "We thank you for your loyalty in trying times." After another brief pause, he made the familiar gesture with emphasis - "Omu Amrishi" !
Again came the audience response, and intense, silent unity of thought. Waves of vitality and fellowship seemed to unite all. Carl felt as if much uncertainty had suddenly come to a focus for him, and kaleidescoped into a clear answer. Etanai was studying him thoughtfully. As the speaker left the platform, Carl became aware of the steady gaze, and turned in response. The Elder smiled and gently touched Carl's arm. "This you could do, my friend."
Carl smiled and replied. "Yes - Etanai - as I listened I realized that. It all seemed to click into place. Not like a new idea, but like something recalled. I now know something I've been aware of dimly all my life. But it was in a restless, confused sense of dissatisfaction. Until now !"
Carl's eyes were alight with something that suffused his being. He was full of serious elation. Serious, because he realized the importance of such work. Elation, because he had at last found it. "How do I go about volunteering for this, Etanai"?
Etanai had ready reply. "I can advise them for you at the meeting of Elders which follows this open meeting. If it is necessary, someone will contact you, advising you as to how to proceed..." His voice trailed off, and he smiled, but stopped there. Carl had a strong feeling that the Regent Elder already knew of his decision.
In a moment, Etanai spoke again. "You may feel free to give this some private thought. If you are not retired for the night when our meeting adjourns, I'll see you then. No doubt, in the interval, your intuition will reveal much to you regarding this matter. As you have said, you know more than you have yet consciously recalled. In quietude much more may emerge."
The Elder arose and Carl did likewise. The stream of departing attendees had thinned as they made their way toward the broad doors.
As they reached the portico, Etanai stopped and turned to Carl, "I must return to the conference, Ka-ra-el". He gestured gracefully and disappeared into a nearby hall.
Carl turned toward his quarters. Walking along, he saw only a scattering of returning members, and none of that group he now knew to be addressed as 'World Aspirants'. he wondered about this for a moment, then concluded they had attended in such forms as he the night of his 'dream'. Entering the quiet of his room, he poured a glass of his favorite beverage, and settled into a chair to think about this new revelation.
Questions arose in his mind as to his capacity to serve such a duty as he envisioned. He was familiar with words as a medium of expression, so anticipated no great problem in that respect. Except the problem of reaching the reader with a sense of validity in what it was his mission to express. He well knew that, among certain factions in his world, a response of ridicule was a sure thing. He felt his experience would enable him to allow for that and endure. It was the possibility of acceptance for the wrong reasons, and mis-interpretation, that troubled him most. This apect included the accompanying potential for deliberate twisting of implications, such as sometimes employed by selfish interests and rabble-rousers. He must be sure to include a clear statement that reason and temperance were an integral part of all activities of the Ulathai. After all - they were healers of scope . Even the action of the Samai,when acting to correct conditions dangerous to System-balance in a Cosmic sense, were aspects of 'healing' on a scope so vast it was difficult for many to properly understand. We are not always aware of the more extensive and long-range effects of actions, when we view from a limited reference.
All these things and many more related aspects passed in review as Carl sat in silent questioning. It was a period of severe inner trial he spent, wrestling with pros and cons on every imaginable aspect of that service for which he had volunteered. He felt sure this was the type of private personal examination all Ulathai members went through when first applying for membership. Etanai had said it was essential to determine if such was the true desire of their soul. Carl recognized a wisdom in this arrangement. It would enable members to be prepared for both requirements and potential problems involved in their future activity.
After what seemed a lengthy period of time, he emerged with a firmer attitude, and clearer view of the course on which he had embarked. He was reassured of the importance of such work, and deeply convinced that he could do it; even becoming immune to the rebuffs, indifference, and name-calling sure to arise in some areas. What had been added to his original enthusiastic response, was the quiet wisdom of caution, and the awareness that even in this activity, which was designed to promote peace, there were elements of danger to be considered. He didn't think it would be easy, but he deeply felt it was a worthy work. It was the 'gesture of meaning' he had been searching for through years of restlessness.
Reaffirmed and calm with inner poise, he strolled into the garden. The air was fresh, cool, and delicately scented. Above, the glittering vastness of a starbright sky displayed its timeless order.
Recalling Chan Shu's earlier statement, he murmured to himself - "Only a very still pool can reflect a star..."
"And very true, my son"... The voice was so peaceful it did not startle, even though it was unexpected. He looked up to see the Regent Elder approaching nearby. As he started to rise, his visitor motioned for him to remain seated, and took the seat next to him. "I told Etanai I would come and talk with you myself - regarding your decision. Is it still the same" ?" A smile of unparted lips moved on the Regent Elder's face, and an extensive aura of communion seemed to enfold Carl. Carl was sure his visitor knew of the inner ordeal he had just experienced. He answered without hesitation.
"Yes - it is still the same - after some inner questioning, and self-examination - it is still the same."
The Regent Elder searched Carl's eyes with deep knowing, clearly revealing that he well knew the nature of the inner search. He seemed pleased with Carl's response. "This is good. - And may I ask - how do you propose to go about this task"?
Carl had ready answer, as he had thought about that matter at length. He paused only to summon words. "I have in mind to write a book - in narrative form - which the reader may accept as fantasy or fact, depending on their personal response and affinity. In this book I will share some of the liberating, hopeful awareness I've found while here."
"The Ulathai will be depicted as the wise and generous people they are. They will also be shown as warmly human, as they are, so that readers can identify with them, and be better able to understand the weight of decisions that need to be made. The reader will not feel like a remote onlooker, but can realize that they too are participants in the matters discussed."
"The ideals and aims of Ulathai will be faithfully presented. I believe that many readers will find them similar to their own private aspirations, even as I have. In all that is written, I will be discreet regarding any matters you feel should not be discussed. I've learned from Etanai your reasons for wishing to remain silent on certain matters, and I respect the wisdom of those reasons. The final manuscript will be subject to your approval before submitting for publication."
After this last statement, Carl sat in silence, awaiting response of his questioner. After a few moments, it came.
"Your journalistic background will be valuable in this endeavor, as you will be familiar with the necessary procedures to accomplish publication."
"You will encounter little, if any, interference from us, as the proposed outline is well within what we would wish. I sense in you a steadiness of dedicated caution, which is well and wise. It tells me you are aware of the type problems you may encounter. We never want to give anyone a task until they have considered all aspects, sufficient to make an informed decision."
"We shall aid you in whatever ways we can, but I cannot foremention specifics." The Elder paused. Carl could sense that he had more to say, and waited quietly. They studied each other in silence for a few minutes. There was a silent exchange, but, as usual, it would have been hard to put into words. When the Regent Elder spoke again, it was in a tone of good-natured curiosity. "I now know 'what' you intend to do. Now - I would ask - 'why'."
Carl smiled, warmed inwardly by the ease with which this venerable personage had received his explanation of intent. This second question was easiest of all for him to answer.
"Because" - he began slowly and thoughtfully. "I have experienced the 'anxiety paralysis' you spoke of in your address. I was sensitive to accumulating world problems, and viewed them daily in my work. I collapsed under a real overload of depression. I was truly, as you said, 'unable to discern an effective course of action'. I wasn't able to ignore the crisis I could see coming. I wanted to do something constructive, but couldn't decide what action I might take that would be of any value in present circumstance."
"This contact with Ulathai has served to release me from that 'paralysis'. I felt great affinity as I learned of Ulathai ideals and aims. Knowing that others were working toward solutions to world problems strengthened my own resolution and hope. It's because I have personally experienced these values, that I want to pass on some of what I have learned to others, who may feel as lost as I did, and may be equally ready to respond. I am not ambitious to act as some sort of figurehead representative. I especially like the 'fellowship' attitude of Ulathai members, and to me that is the attitude best suited to those who act as messengers of such ideals in the present world."
The Regent Elder seemed especially pleased with Carl's explanation of purpose. The bond of communion grew stronger, and the receptive silence was filled with mutual exchange. At length, the tall figure arose. He saluted Carl with the motion of Omu Amrishi. Gently, he said - "Welcome, my son", and walked quietly from the garden. Only lingering calm still pulsed with the power of his presence.
Carl sat awhile, reflecting on the rewarding exchange he had shared with the Regent Elder. He felt strong, as a man feels strong who has a defined reason for being. He knew this reason was an immediate one - a first step - and he also knew that the dedicated allegiance he felt for those long-range aims of Ulathai was a promise of ever-renewed purpose and meaning.
After a few minutes, he arose and returned to his quarters, entering just as Etanai strode into the room from the corridor. The Elder seemed unusually animated and joyful. He was waving his arms in mock exasperation, and laughing, as he said - "Vasai asked me to look in on you, to be sure you found your sleep-robes ! She has concern that you might be wandering about here wondering what to do next ! She has the true spirit of a nurse in all things !"
He shook his head and rolled his eyes back, as if in despair. Carl had to laugh aloud at the scene of the dignified Elder's theatrics. Etanai crossed the room and pressed a bar near the bed. A panel slid back, revealing a closet with six or seven straight robes in various colors.Then - with more motions, he added - "Oh yes, should you wish a bit less light when you retire, this curtain pulls across the side of the bed near the pillars." He pressed a bar to exhibit the working of the curtain, and again to reopen it. "Have you any questions before I go ?"
Carl mentally inventoried the full bath facilities, the more than adequate grooming articles he had found, the amply spread table, and the inviting bed. The revelation of the sleep robes, and the curtain, completed his supply of necessities, he decided, and laughingly replied to Etanai.
"I think not, Etanai - but you can tell Vasai she was right. I hadn't yet tried to retire for the night, but had I not known about the sleepwear, I would soon have started an all-out search" ! They both laughed a moment at the picture of perplexity. Etanai commented,"She will be amused by that, I think." He offered the silent gesture, and added - " Sleep well, my friend, and - welcome."
Carl watched Etanai leave, pondering just what the "welcome",voiced by both he and the Regent Elder, meant. It suggested some change of status, but he wondered just what difference was inferred. He vowed to ask for an explanation tomorrow. For now, the bed offered a more obvious 'welcome'. One he was ready to accept. It had been a long and busy day, filled with great change.
He selected a sleep-robe with a swirling design in various shades of yellow, and went into the alcove to change. When he emerged, he went directly to the bed. Pressing the bar, he watched the shimmering blue curtain unfold silently along the bedside. He left the doors open onto the garden, and slid easily into the softness. As he sank back on the pillows,he could see through the open doors a vast starry sky.
"Only a very still pool" - he murmured, and drifted into welcome sleep.
The Pool And The Door