Cavern of the Bells: A Parable

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“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface…” — Genesis 1:2 

At first, it seemed there was no sound or light of any kind. But as my senses adjusted, I heard a faint tinkling of bells. Straining my eyes, I saw tiny patches of light scattered around the walls of the cavern, flickering in and out.

I walked closer. I saw a rainbow of light erupt accompanied by a marvelous chorus of music. I watched breathlessly as the singing lights — perhaps fireflies or pixies — became caught up in some sort of eternal dance. I was speechless, wondering if the dance would become strong enough to finally push back the darkness…

At first, the dance grew and grew, drawing in more pixies. But as it grew, it changed. The light settled into a single hue, even as the sound coalesced into a single note. Pure and beautiful — but somehow lifeless. The pixies also seemed to settle into a fixed pattern, marching around and around in circles, that over time became ever slower and dimmer.

A great sadness washed over me as the light and sound slowly faded into the background. I lifted my eyes, and saw the same story repeated over and over. New pockets of light and sound would appear, bursting with promise, only to fade back to irrelevance. I knelt and wept,  as the pockets became fewer and farther between, and the cavern seem destined for eternal darkness.

But even as I hovered on the edge of despair, I heard a sound, like a great bell tolling. I could never remember whether it was a single tone or a majestic chord combining every vibration in the universe. But it thrilled me through every fiber of my being. I closed my eyes, wishing it would never end.

When I opened them, it seemed that everything had turned an insipid grey, and the air was filled with an annoying, monotonous buzz. But when I looked closer, I saw that every square inch of the cavern was full of countless individual lights, each emitting its own distinct tone. But they seemed disorganized, chaotic, like sheep without a shepherd. And each so dim that none of them seemed equal to pushing back the darkness.

I wanted to scream at them: Work together!  Organize! You need each other. You can’t do this alone.

But then I remembered they had tried that earlier, only to sink down into a sterile rigidity. I hung my head in shame. Who was I, to think I could avoid the fate that had claimed all those before me?

Suddenly a deep boom reverberated throughout the cavern, as if a mighty hand struck the Earth like a drum. I looked up, amazed, as the walls came alive with a crazy interference pattern, circles of coruscating light clashing and joining with each other. The air was full of tiny crashes, like armies of snowflakes dashing their wineglasses into marble fireplaces.

The booming continued, and soon settled into a steady drum beat. The dance of the lights became more intricate, as circles spiraled into towers and lines tessellated into networks of cables. It was like a celestial city, but fluid and organic. Just when I was certain I had figured out the pattern, it would shift again, a central node becoming a lonely outpost while the frontier turned into Central Park. All the while growing brighter and brighter, pushing back the darkness.

And the sound…

What had started as mere tinkling slowly resolved itself into actual music. At first only the high notes, like singing angels playing tiny violins. Then the woodwinds, from piccolos down to bassoons, while the brass emerged from trumpet to tuba. Whole orchestras formed, each the anthem of one city of light, joyously clashing, joining, and dividing as they cascaded over one another in their eagerness to drown out the darkness.

To be sure, the darkness did not give up easily. Like a living thing, it railed against the light, thrusting ebony tendrils to divide and smother the pixies wherever they grew in strength. But the music was their defense, showing them how to dance away and reform, encapsulating and redeeming the darkness that tried to overcome them.

The walls themselves erupted in demonic shrieks, seeking to tear apart the network of light and sound that was slowly filling the cavern. But as in Tolkien’s Silmarillion, every cacophonous sound was somehow absorbed into greater and more subtle harmonic resolutions.

I watched entranced as the light gamboled and gyrated through the cavern. Never quite eliminating the darkness, but subduing it, incorporating it into ever more sublime glory.

And then, as the music swelled towards its glorious climax, I at last saw a stable pattern emerge. A thorn. A crown. A brow radiant despite the scars. Two eyes containing all the pain and love in the word. A smile as warm as a supernova.

It was the face of my Saviour.

It was my face.

It was yours.

Then I woke up.

they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” — Revelation 22:4-5

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