The Humble Hermit, The Lofty Masses (Part 2 of the Humble Pebble Series)

And then the masses flocked to the hermit, who stood at the brink of pebbledom. They begged and they pleaded, they wept and at his feet prostrated, “You need to use your powers to help us,” they said. “That I shall,” said the hermit. “I shall teach you to be happy with less.” “Oh! No!” Clamored the masses, “That’s of no use to us! You must meditate until you please the Power that be to grant us immortality!”

So once again the hermit stood atop the mountain top, basking in its familiarity. Once again seasons passed, ants crawled, bees buzzed, spiders spun, and he meditated on, seemingly oblivious. No water entered those lips, no food touched that belly. He is close to Nirvana, everyone said, staring at him in awe. They filed past him in reverence which he never saw. They brought him food that he never ate. They adorned his feet with flowers that he never smelled. They chanted his praise that he never heard. They sought his blessings that he never gave. Years passed. He stood on the very tips of his toes and froze for years and then some more, chanting the name of the Power that be.

Finally, happy with his dedication, Power that be appeared and asked, “Valiant monk, what would you like as a boon before you swoon? Very pleased I am with your invocation”.

“O’ Powerful One! I beseech thee! In return for my piety, grant the human race immortality.”

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“Thats not possible.” Said the Power that be, “Immortality is limited to me. I shall grant you anything else you ask, unquestioningly.”

So then the clever ascetic replied “May we never be destroyed by anything we can see, no bomb no meteor…no floods, no tsunami, neither earth quakes nor hot global bakes, no alien invasion, no symptomatic disease (He still wanted his probiotics, you see, so he let the asymptomatic be). May we not be destroyed by the living or non-living!” And then he screamed, “MAY WE FORGET WE ARE MORTAL FOR AS LONG AS CAN BE!!!!

“So let it be” said the Power that be, smiling stealthily. And that’s how it all came to be.

And so they forgot they were mortal, you see.

Buildings were built to scrape the skies, markets brimmed with rice and produce. People travelled to Nice and Venice. Parties were thrown, elections were fraught, rumors were spread, and in mirth they lived.

They forgot they were mortal, you see.

They obsessed with looks and spent on goods. They thought this life was all there was. Of the before and after, they never gave a thought. Wealth defined all and intellect took a lower rung. Life ebbed on, emotionally strung. So engrossed were they in their own saga, that naught did they see the upcoming drama.

They forgot they were mortal, you see.

And then came the jolt of mortality, rather inevitably.

Not in a bomb or a meteor. Not in a global bake or news that was fake. No earthquake, no tsunami, not a bacteria or a parasite, or even an alien might. Just a virus, on the fringe of life and non-life, it crept in asymptomatically, you see. It landed unliving on the unsuspecting living, replicating without interrupting. Shedding its coat, outside the door, it inserted its core and of itself made many many more. The unsuspecting human went mirthing on, with nary a cough or even a fever on. And while some lamented death of generosity, the virus multiplied copiously, spreading into young, old and all.

And yet, they forgot they were mortal, you see.

And they partied on. Let the old die, they first said and the infirm as well. And then crashed a tsunami on the economy. Markets crashed, firms closed. Produce ran out, hunger got a foothold. The young starved along with the old. Doors closed.

Fear took hold.

They are still mortal after all, you see.

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