The Great Pall and its Fall: A Not-So-Grim
September 14, 2004
By Bernard Weiner, The
upon a time, seemingly out of nowhere, a Great Pall settled over
the world. Marauding religious fanatics, each convinced their god
was the one true deity, tried to force their rule on their citizens
and neighbors. Scientific thinking and logic were regarded with
suspicion. Greed held sway, and many were poor or forced to work
so hard just to survive that they had little time or energy for
anything more, certainly not for resistance to their lot.
It seemed as if the world had receded into tribalism, perpetual
warfare, and religious frenzy.
It wasn't clear from whence the Great Pall had come. Did it originate
in the East, born out of strains of fundamentalist purity? Or did
it come from the West, where rulers sought to rule by divine right
of cash and more advanced weaponry?
Or did it arise out of the seeming chaos and cruelty of the world,
with many wanting to return to a time of strict order and precision
in order to assuage their fears? Or was it the universal Shadow
that needs every so often to emerge into the public mind, to remind
folks of their dark sides and what can happen when those forces
and aspects are not dealt with?
Whatever the origins, the situation was dark and depressing, and
the ruling cliques seemed to like it that way. The Marauders remained
in power by constantly frightening their fellow citizens with how
awful and bestial their enemies were - and with the wrong god, too.
THE DANCE OF THE TARANTULAS
Those who tried to find alternative ways out of the morass were
regarded with great suspicion and fear. These idealists, from various
religions and tribes, came to be known as Lantern-Bearers or Lanternists;
they were more interested in bringing light than in enforcing darkness,
which focus fingered them as potential troublemakers.
In country after country, the Marauders held sway. Former liberties
were curtailed, under the guise of protecting the citizenry from
the Enemies. Most people went along, worried for their families
that the enemies - and many of the Lanternists also were regarded
as Enemies - might come and harm them. (Those Enemies might indeed
harm them; the Marauders on all sides almost seemed to welcome those
attacks - as long as they didn't go too far - since they provided
the Marauders with more fear-ammunition with which to exercise their
The Marauders, being in control, were able to make themselves
and their closest friends rich, in money or in power. The ordinary
people had to struggle just to make ends meet. The Marauders talked
about helping the people out, but doing so would "have to wait"
until the enemies were conquered.
In short, the world seemed locked into a permanent state of warfare
and greed, which appeared to suit the Marauders just fine, no matter
what side they were on, no matter what gods they prayed to, since
their power remained constant.
In sum, each enemy needed the other, as if they were tarantulas
intertwined in a grotesque political/military dance, never striking
the fatal blow lest their reason for being disappear.
THE LANTERNISTS MAKE THEIR MOVE
All around the world, more Lanternists sprang up, wondering why
they had to accept this Great Pall, this grim status quo. They realized
they were in the minority, that most of their fellow tribesmen had
fallen sway to the ideas and propaganda of the Marauding leaders.
But these few idealists wanted to do something anyway, to try to
alter the situation in which all found themselves.
They began meeting and talking with their neighbors, passing information
from community to community, getting together with the like-minded.
And slowly, a movement began to form. Some of the resisters continued
to call themselves Lanternists; others called themselves Pendulum
Soldiers, because of their desire to reverse the horrific momentum
of the Marauders.
Whatever they were known as, they found that whenever they began
to be effective, the Marauders would find them and stomp them out,
divide and scatter them and their idealistic energies. The Great
Pall settled in even deeper, and there was much depression and anxiety
in the various lands.
THE FORBIDDEN SONG OF LIGHT
Some of the Laternist elders recalled from their mythology the
ancient Song of Light (now banned everywhere), which had been invoked
at times of great stress. The myth told them that children represent
hope and light, and therefore they were the only ones able to rekindle
the flame of truth and compassion and eventually force the Great
Pall to retreat.
The elders searched far and wide for courageous, creative youngsters,
those relatively free from the enchantment that enthralled so many
children - the hypnotic messages and images that flooded so powerfully
into their lives each day and evening.
These children were brought before the elders nightly, who taught
them the songs and poems of power - especially the charismatic influence
of the Song of Light - and schooled them in the truth of their people's
history, and what life could be like devoid of the Great Pall.
These young men and women located others like them around the
world, and began sharing the Song of Light with them, helping break
the enchantment of the Maruauders' images. Little by little, the
idea spread that perhaps the peoples in all of the countries could
unite in their desire to bring light and progress to their peoples,
and shake off the corrupt, brutal, dark rule by the Marauders.
The Marauder leaders eventually heard of the childrens' plans,
but dismissed their importance. After all, these were mere kids,
not to be taken seriously.
But slowly and then more quickly, the children's movement grew
- and was joined in by many young grownups and many other adults
THE NIGHT OF THE LIGHTENING
After many years of preparation and training, the children chose
one night for The Lightening.
The night they chose was moonless, to enhance the dramatic power
of their effect.
They met with their elders, received their blessing and good wishes,
and held their lanterns open while the flame was transferred to
The young people quietly walked into town after town, village
after village, city after city, bravely singing the Song of Light.
So many lines of young people carrying lanterns in the dark had
the effect of creating a kind of artificial dawn. Many citizens
threw open their windows to see what was happening.
When they heard the forbidden Song of Light, and saw that the
children were not afraid of the Marauders, smiles lit up their faces.
Many grabbed torches and lanterns and joined the growing line, humming
and singing along.
It is said that so many people were involved in these snaking
lines of light that the world seemed aglow from the inside.
More and more ordinary citizens, tired of the Great Pall in their
lives - and of the constant fear in which they lived - joined the
swelling crowds. Hundreds become thousands became millions. The
chorus singing the Song of Light grew so large and so loud that
the walls of the Marauders' homes and offices began to vibrate.
The Marauders, all over the world, looked out and were terrified
at what they saw. They ordered their armies to vanquish these light-carriers
and singers - and there were some slaughters and mass arrests. But
more and more of the armed soldiers and police threw down their
weapons and joined the chorus.
It soon became apparent to the Marauders that the force of life
was too strong. It was time for them to go.
Some of the worst of the Marauders were arrested and tried for
their crimes. But most were permitted to leave, or simply melted
into the dark of the night. As they departed, many of them proclaimed
"we'll be back, someday!"
But the children and their supporters were not afraid. They knew
that, if they stayed alert and dedicated to the power of the light
- and if they took steps to correct situations that gave the Marauders
entryway into their lives - the Great Pall would be lifted and they
and their friends and families could live lives of great peace and
harmony. And would be able to deal more bravely and intelligently
with any Marauders who attempted to return to power.
And it all came to pass...
*Acknowledgement: great inspiration for this metaphorical tale
was derived from storyteller Jim Thurston who, along with shaman
Tom Baker, years ago devised a community ritual in San Francisco
that included some elements included here.
Bernard Weiner, a poet and playwright and Ph.D. in government,
has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor for
the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. He is a contributing author to the Big Bush