A Life Apart

Chapter 38: A War of Words (pg. 176)


The door bolt clicked. Mirabelle instinctively pulled the covers up over her legs as the door opened. She hoped it was Millie who had been called away earlier. But, instead, a strange man entered the room. She knew at once who it must be. He was of medium height with jet-black hair. As he approached, she noted the sharpness of his features and the scar on his right cheek. Standing before her, he quietly placed a stack of clothes on the bed. He stared at her, seeming to appraise the person before him. Mirabelle returned his gaze without blinking.  Finally, he spoke, “You can put your clothes on. Your father and I have reached an agreement. If he meets my demands, I’ll release you.” She said nothing in return, but continued to fix him in her gaze. Suddenly, he seemed irritated. “You behave badly. You look at me like you have nothing to fear. Don’t you realize I hold your life in my hands?”

“You mean I behave unexpectedly. You want me to recognize the power you have over me, right?”

“You dare to question me?”

“Is it because I’m your captive or because I’m a woman that you presume to have sway over me?”

Hmph,” he scoffed. “Your insolence has no bounds. If I had no respect for you as a woman, I could have done much to your person. Your father might have seen a much different picture of you. But you are my captive. And I must deal with you as I see fit because I serve a higher purpose. You are fortunate that I see no need to deal more harshly with you than I have.”

“Is there a higher purpose than acknowledging the dignity of every individual, man or woman?”

His face cracked into a smirk, likely his flawed rendering of a smile. “You think you can debate me because you’ve studied philosophy. I’ve checked up on you. You’re one of those Western high-brow women who demand equality but who abandon your role in the family.”

“Stereotypes aside, you didn’t answer my question.”

“Ah, but I have.” His face noticeably tightened, and he continued in a raised voice, “Your life is not worthy. You are a woman without home and family to care for. What dignity is there in a negative? You are nothing. I could kill you without regret. Indeed, if your father fails you, I will willingly remove you from this world that you defile.”

“Don’t you see the irony in your words? You can’t erase a negative, though you can kill a fellow human being. In fact, I am who you are, but not whom you imagine. If you see a need to remove anybody or anything from this world, then start with your delusion.”

“What foolishness is this? You’re not anything like me.”

“Apart from the x and y genes, we are genetically identical. Our human ancestry has the same lineage. We interact with the forces of nature the same—sensually, perceptually, and conceptually. Moreover, we both are capable of identification with a primary, unifying self—a consciousness we visit intermittently in moments of insight, creativity, and love. We share the experience of our humanity, and in that way we are one.”

“So if I have to kill you . . .”

“. . . You’d be killing yourself!”

His look turned incredulous. “You believe this?”

“Yes, and so do you. If I’m not mistaken, you read the Koran. Does it not make the same statement?”

“You know the Koran?”

“I’ve read some of it, yes. In the main, it does not differ significantly from other religions. They all offer signposts to a transcendent experience, common to our humanity—an experience that brings us in harmony with the universe and with each other. If you can feel that, then you can’t kill me or any human being. You would only succeed in distancing yourself from that wellspring, a very slow but real death of the spirit.”

He stepped away from the bed toward the chair. Sitting down, he reappraised the woman before him. He seemed unsure whether he wanted to engage her in further conversation. But finally, he spoke. “You’re not what I expected. I’ll grant that part of your argument. But, for the rest, I consider you idealistically naïve. The world we actually live in is contentious. It’s all a zero sum game of opposing wills and of chance. Every advance requires something left behind or destroyed. What one possesses, another is denied. Your country has a weapon that mine lacks. You win, we lose. You and I, our individual lives, are not material to the movement of this history. What I do to you to preserve my country’s future is what must be done. I don’t count myself of any more consequence than you. So in that sense I agree with you: we are the same. We both may live for higher goals. But where is it written that one cannot succeed at the expense of another?”

“Love thy neighbor as thyself. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you . . .”

“Stop!” He rose from the chair. “It’s blasphemous for an infidel to quote religious texts.”

“How can it be blasphemy to believe in a truth espoused by religion? And what sense does it make to call me an infidel—a non-believer—when I state my belief in that truth?”

“You’re not a Muslim. Your country oppresses Muslims, provides weapons to our enemies, and plans to invade my country. Your beliefs bear no fruit. They are a sham. The only truth you accept is power. You Americans want to dominate the world while you rape it of its wealth and resources.”

“I grant that countries have fought over such things throughout human history. But, right now, we are just two people talking to each other. We can’t be compelled to this course of history unless we allow ourselves to be blind followers.”

“I’m not blind! I see a threat to my country. Your father only sees his potential fortune; your government, its greater hegemony. But I must act to preserve what I believe in.”

“Beliefs are tricky. When they arise from within, they speak to what is both most authentic and often universal in the human psyche. When they merely reflect the conditioning of our culture and society, they reveal an absence of discrimination and free will.”

“Your argument is absurd. You pretend to challenge my beliefs as mere conditioning and ignore my judgment in how I choose to follow them.” He waived an accusing finger at Mirabelle. “You insult me!”

“Forgive me. I didn’t mean to insult you. I just want you to see that you’re free not to participate in the death dance of this unfolding history. We share the same fundamental beliefs and are not enemies unless we allow ourselves to become so. We are not so unlike, except that we were born into different circumstances. I think it’s possible for people to change history by choosing not to become participants in its destructive tendencies. With or without my father’s software, those who want to wage war will carry out their deluded objective. But you do not have to be a pawn in this senseless power game. Whether or not you kidnap, or even kill me, you will not change their intent.”

“You’re not afraid to die?”

“No, I’ve glimpsed behind the veil of this reality, though not through the eyes of any philosophy I’ve studied. Instead, I was awakened to a way of life that defeats the doubt that must haunt every defined ideology, the rote lifelessness of conditioning, and the sting of our physical limitations. At the ground of our very being is this universal consciousness. Each of us can manifest it in our individual lives like myriad reflections of a singular ever-radiant crystalline source. It is in this sense, that we are most alike. And perhaps now you can see why death has no power over me, for it’s just a transformation into that light.”

Disbelief clouded the face of Mirabelle’s inquisitor. “This is a waste of time. You’re just a child. What do you know about how the world works?” He rose and walked towards the door. Hesitating there, he looked over his shoulder at Mirabelle. “At least I can see why your father was willing to exchange himself for you.” Then he exited the room.

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