The Crystalline Mountain

I grew up in the land of the shadows,
Where nobody ever saw light
In the fields or the glades or the meadows,
Nor on the highest height
But there was a story we told
Of a glassy and crystalline mountain,
Where courageous pilgrims of old
Saw the sun sparkle down like a fountain
And atop that mysterious hill
Lived the glorious Infinite One
Whose ultimate, glorious will
Was for all to encounter the sun.

A wonderful wives’ tale indeed
But could it be possibly true?
Such questions did nothing but feed
My need for a hint or a clue.

And so I decided one morn
That since I was so fully torn
I’d welcome man’s praise or man’s scorn
By seeking the truth, come what may.

Two factions in my land there were
Who felt so completely cock-sure
That they could correctly infer
The truth of this legend of Day.

The Jeevers were believers who claimed to believe
That belief in the Mount was the way to achieve
The meaning of life and a life full of meaning,
Existence devoid of this darkness deceiving
And filled with the splendor of light.
But though they claimed to put trust
In the road as an absolute must,
They never were moving, they always were staying,
Fearful of doing, fearful of straying,
Filled with no faith and much fright.

The Jinkers were thinkers – bright, intellectual.
They sat and they thought – being quite ineffectual.
Their only activity would pass for passivity –
They’d sit and they’d ponder how a Jeever could squander
His life on the road without end.
I went first to the Jeevers, the house of belief,
Hoping believers could offer relief
And I asked…

“What do you know of this Infinite One?
How do you know he exists?
What do you know of this dazzling sun?
Can you tell me of what it consists?
And what do you know of this mountain of glass
That no one has seen with their eyes?
Can one really ascend, can one truly pass
From this darkness and into the skies?”

And they answered…

“Well, um, gee, gosh, mister, gee, I don’t know,
No one has asked how we know what we know.
But we know it, we know it, we know it, we do –
We always have known that our story is true.
The best way to believe is to murder your doubt,
Do this first and then you will soon figure out
That the Infinite One surely reigns in his glory –
Just doubt all your doubt and believe in our story.”

Their answer didn’t satisfy,
In fact it sounded like a lie!
How could I in vain deny
The power of my doubt?

So there I stood my mind confused,
And as I stood, my mind, it mused,
Maybe the Jinkers so enthused
About doubt could help me out.

So I went to the Jinkers, the house of doubt,
Where thoughtful old thinkers were milling about
And I asked…

“Why don’t you believe in the Infinite One?
Is it true that he doesn’t exist?
If it’s dumb to believe in a dazzling sun,
Then why do such thoughts still persist?
All skills and all notions are at your command,
You claim that by knowledge you’re powered,
Yet you always dismiss what you can’t understand –
Doesn’t that make one a coward?”

And they answered…
“Well, um, gee, gosh, mister, gee, I don’t know,
No one has asked how we know what we know.
But we know it, we know it, we know it, we do –
We always have known that our story is true.
Believe in your doubt and doubt your belief,
I’m sure you will find it a welcome relief
To know that your life is a meaningless hole –
You no longer need to pretend there’s a soul.”

I stumbled away in grave melancholy,
Refusing to say that my life was mere folly.
I was tired and weary of looking for truth,
Existence was dreary, all notions lacked proof.
In light of this doleful and dismal analysis
Both mind and heart were trapped in paralysis –
Neither a Jinker, nor a true Jeever!
Neither a thinker, nor a believer!
So by the end of this spiritual squall
I sadly believed in nothing at all!

But just as I made this dreadful decision,
My focus beheld a magnificent vision –
A man who was dressed in traveling gear
Saw my distress and kindly drew near.
His eyes wisely twinkled like flames in the night,
His face, nicely wrinkled, was beaming with light.
His eyes pierced right through me, I felt understood,
He knew me as only a traveler could.

“Where are you going?” the climber inquired.
“Oh, I’m not going,” said I.
“Well, everyone goes, it’s the way that we’re wired,
You choose but the path you will try.”

“I’m glad that you’ve found the great mountain,” said I,
But that path will not do for me, sir,
For I’ve seen way too much to ever deny,
But too little to ever be sure.
Don’t bother to preach about faith and belief,
Why don’t you just move along,
For I’ve found a nice way to conquer this grief –
By not choosing, I cannot go wrong.”

“A choice not to choose is a choice in itself,
Just look at the Jinkers and Jeevers!
Their lives are deprived of a traveling health,
They’re nothing but vain self-deceivers!”

“I will not commit, I simply refuse!
I will not submit to a choice I could choose,
For a choice is a risk, a decision for strife,
To journey this mountain would cost me my life!”

A fire in my head, a war in my brain,
I couldn’t discern what was sane or insane.
Then the man spoke with a storm in his eyes –
His words held the hope of the infinite rise.

“So you’d forfeit your life to stay where you are,
Where the land is dismal and dreary,
And yet won’t consider the mountain afar
As more than an unfounded theory?
Faith is required at either extreme,
It’s a risk either way, my dear friend.
As badly repulsive as that thought may seem,
It’s still what is true in the end.
So why not bear this load with me
And see what it’s all about?
Why not take this road with me,
Where faith isn’t threatened by doubt,
And belief is more than pompous opinion
Fostered by ignorant fears,
And doubt has a voice, but never dominion
Over volitional spheres?”

That was the day my decision was made,
Reluctant, recalcitrant mule.
That was the way, though distraught and dismayed,
I became a spectacular fool.

At times I see this mountain,
And sometimes I cannot.
And sometimes this crystalline mountain
Moves from its mystical spot.
But always it supports me,
This glass beneath my feet,
Whether or not I’m allowed to see
A visible mountainous street.
And so I keep on plodding
One step at a time,
And still my feet keep trodding
On this treacherous, tremulous climb,
Until my eyes behold him
On the day my race is done,
Bathed in the sunlight golden
Of the glorious Infinite One.

Matt Mattoon


One response to “The Crystalline Mountain

  1. Brilliant writing, Matt. Full of pathos, and also very interesting from an epistemological perspective. It reminds me of Blaise Pascal, that “the heart has reasons that reason knows not off.” Taking a step of faith is necessary to acquire any knowledge. In turn, the new knowledge may warrant further steps of faith … “faith seeking understanding” in the tradition of Augustine and Anselm.

    I wonder if the desire to move beyond one’s unsatisfactory lot in life–whilst initially the justification for stepping out in faith–might over time give way to greater motivations. For instance, if our relationship with the “climber” grows, and we witness and experience incomparable sacrificial love in his care, then this may become for the ongoing journey the greatest warrant of all. Simply put, might “love” be the primary sort of knowing, beyond blind belief, blind doubt, and even tentative steps toward something better?

    Thanks again for an incredible poem :)

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