The Seven Beggars : The Oldest Man

As their hearts began to break with longing, a voice called out,

Here I am. I’ve brought you as your wedding present the blessing that I promised you, that you should grow up to be like me. And you will, you will live to be as old as me. I make this over to you, as an outright gift, no strings attached, yours forever, expressed directly, not in ambiguous hints.

It may be that the short form of my blessing, ‘May you grow up to be like me,’ gave you pause. You thought I was blind. In fact, I’m not blind at all, I only seem so because I don’t consider the whole physical world worth so much as a glance, not even for as long as it takes to blink.

And I am exceedingly old, but still as young as ever I was, for I haven’t begun to live. I have a sworn statement made under oath, an affidavit, to this effect, from the Great Eagle.

Once upon a time, a group of people set out in in ships. A tempest arose and shattered the whole fleet. They survived the shipwreck, washed up on the shore where a great tower stood. They went inside, climbed up the winding stairs, and found there food and drink and clothing, everything one could wish, in fact, all the good things and pleasures of the world. They decided that, to pass the time more merrily, each of them should tell an old story—the oldest story each of them knew, that is, the first thing they could remember ever having experienced. Since there were old and young among them, they decided, out of respect, that the oldest among them should be the first to tell his tale.

That elderly fellow said, “ What can I tell you? I still remember when the apple was cut from the branch.” No one really understood what this meant, but there were a number of scholars among them, and these wise persons declared, “That is indeed a tale from the distant past!”

Then they turned their attention to the second most ancient, who was only a little younger than the first, and he said, in tones of incredulity, “Is that what counts among you as a tale from the distant past? I remember that, and I also remember when the lamp still burned!” Everyone said this tale was even older than the first, and they marveled that although the second fellow was somewhat younger, he recalled an event that was even older that the first one had.

Then the third oldest was honored with an opportunity to speak. This one was even less ancient, and he said, “I remember how the fruit was formed before it became a fruit.” Everyone cried out, “That’s even older!” Then the fourth oldest, who was younger still, said, “I remember when they brought the seed that would someday produce the fruit.” Then the fifth eldest said, “I remember the wise men who invented the seed.” Then the sixth eldest said, “I remember the flavor of the fruit before it was in the fruit.” Then the seventh eldest said, “I remember the smell of the fruit before it was in the fruit.” Then the eighth eldest (the youngest one yet) said, “I remember the appearance of the fruit before it appeared as a fruit.”

And I, who was just a child at the time (said the beggar who was recounting all this) , I was there too, and I said, “I remember all those things and I also remember nothing.” At this they all cried out, “Now that’s a really old story, older than all the others.” And they marveled that a child should remember something more ancient than even the oldest.

Meanwhile a Great Eagle came, who got their attention by striking the walls of the tower with his wings, and said, “Stop being poor! Return to your riches, make use of your wealth!” And he told them to leave the tower in order of age, oldest first, and thus he led them all out of the tower. He brought the child out first, because the child was in truth older than them all—judging by the depth of his recollection, and the oldest graybeard came out last of all, because he was, as it turned out, actually the youngest.

The Great Eagle said to them, “I will interpret all your memories. The one who remembered the cutting of the apple from the branch recalls the cutting of his umbilical cord right after he was born. The memory of when the light still burned is a memory from within the womb, for it is written in the Talmud that the unborn child still has the all- encompassing knowledge that was his when he was a disembodied spirit, and sees by the light of spiritual knowledge, which shines for it yet, like a lamp in the darkness of the its mother’s belly.

The memory of the fruit taking shape is the memory of the embryo forming. The planting of the seed is the ejaculation of the father’s sperm. The wise men who invented the seed are the erotic thoughts that were in the father’s mind. The taste, smell and appearance of the fruit are three aspects of the soul that entered into the embryo, in order of exaltedness. And the child who remembers nothing at all remembers what came before the soul had independent existence, separate from the mind of God.”

Then the Great Eagle said, “Return to your ships, which are in fact your bodies which were broken. They have been rebuilt. This is the Day of Resurrection, return to physical existence and be blessed.”

Then the Great Eagle said to me (that is, to the blind beggar who tells this tale), “You come with me, because you’re like me, very old and yet very young, you haven’t started to live and you are already ancient.”

And that’s my affidavit from the Great Eagle, and I’m authorized to make you this wedding present, a gift with no strings, yours forever, you will live to be as old as me. Everyone rejoiced and was truly happy.

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