A young crusader was returning from the wars. He was walking home across Europe, pondering his experience fighting the infidels. He had been in a successful campaign, and was returning physically intact and of sound mind. This was more than he could say for many of the other young men who had gone with him. Nevertheless, he felt unsatisfied. The just war he thought he had gone out to fight had never materialized. Mindless carnage and pillaging raged on both sides. He decided he would now prefer to be a healer rather than a warrior. But his heartís desire eluded him. So on he walked.
He entered a fairy-tale-looking kingdom, with prosperous farms in a glorious green valley surrounded by white peaked mountains. Everything looked perfect at first glance, but as he walked toward the castle to seek shelter for the night, he became aware of a rather eerie lack of the normal bustle of everyday commerce in so prosperous a kingdom. No one traveled the road with him in any direction.
As he approached the castle, he knew that ordinarily he would be confronted, and then welcomed, before the gate guarding the bridge across the moat. He entered unmolested. He moved more quickly as he noticed the dead body of the dog by the door in the stable yard. His war experience gave him the stomach to view the castle keep with compassion rather than revulsion. The plague had struck quickly here, and with total devastation. Nothing living was moving in the castle. The dead lay as the plague had overtaken them, many in the process of clearing the bodies of those who had died before them.
He was not afraid. He knelt and prayed for the souls of the departed and undertook in his heart responsibility for burying the dead. He scouted the grounds for an appropriate mass grave and found a root cellar under construction that would simplify the task greatly. He found a wagon, but realized he could not pull it himself, so he set off to find a beast of burden to help him.
In an isolated pen behind the castle, he found an old donkey, who had been retired after a long life of wagon pulling. He was a patient, gentle creature, and he agreed with a blink of his huge brown eyes to help the man in his task. Together, they gathered the dead in the wagon, time and time again, and transported them to the cellar. Although it was surely the grisliest task either had undertaken, the man and beast performed it lightly. Each in his own way was glad to be in Godís service.
Finally, they finished and rested before the man was to begin filling the hole with the soil piled beside it. As he got up to begin the task, he stopped once more to stroke the donkeyís face and thank him for his assistance. With a final brown liquid blink, the donkey gave a satisfied sigh and died. The man cut the harness, and the carcass of the noble animal fell into the pit beside all the others. Touched to the heart, the man knelt beside the pit and wept.
Much later, he rose to finish his work. With his heart broken and now open to the glory of the day, he hummed and then sang as he shoveled. The sun was shining brightly, and he decided to do a ceremony to cleanse the castle before he left it.
He found the bathhouse and cleaned himself first. Then he explored the kitchens and collected sage and other appropriate herbs. He burned these in all the rooms in the castle, blessing and refreshing each as he passed. When he was finished, he slept.
He awoke in the morning, having had a dream that he would find his heartís desire at the top of the castleís tallest tower. He had seen the door the day before and he knew it was locked. He was determined to go up there, regardless of the obstacles he had to face.
He went directly to the door of the tower to assess the situation. He tried the door. This morning, it swung open at his first touch. He mounted the winding stairs quickly, intent on discovering his heartís desire. When he reached the top, heart pounding, he found another heavy barred door, but this one, too, opened to his touch.
He was now in the kingís treasure store. Precious jewels, pearls, gold, tapestries, and all the riches he had ever imagined were gathered in this room. He handled each in turn, eagerly waiting to discover this one or that one would be his heartís desire. But his heart remained empty and unfulfilled.
Finally in despair, he walked out on the parapet, thinking perhaps he would throw himself off and end his dissatisfaction that way. He became interested in the view instead, walking around and around the tower. He looked far down the valley in every direction, and up at the mountains and out at the rivers. He felt from up here he could see forever. Without his really noticing, his heart began to sing. His mind became confused, but he started feeling fulfilled as the words "clear vision" arose from deep inside him.
"Clear vision, my heartís desire is clear vision," he repeated happily to himself as he ran through the treasure room, down the long tower stairs, and out through the castle doors. As he crossed the bridge over the moat, his mind objected he had no idea what the phrase even meant. But his heart was full, and he just smiled. A hawk in a tree a mile away heard him start to sing as he started down the road out of the kingdom.
I have long understood Heart's Desire to describe the necessity of burying the dead, of releasing the past with reverence and love, in order to find my Heart's Desire. I was as bewildered at "clear vision" as the young man in the story. Synchronicity prevailed, and two weeks later, I received a flyer for the Grand Teton Retreat (later changed to the Big Sky Retreat.) The theme for that year was "Clear Vision." I now associate the phrase clear vision with the ability to vision, to receive guidance from Spirit in visions.
More recently, I understand the whole first half of the story is about being in the incredibly uncomfortable position of having my experience in life completely contradict my heartfelt belief system. I feel muddled and unhappy with the resulting cognitive dissonance. The way to ease is not through material things, regardless of how valuable they may be. The way to peace is through connecting with broader perspective and clear vision, through appreciating beauty and freedom.
It's a joy to finally learn material things are of spirit, too. I know I can have love and money, and clear vision, too. But first, I had to make a choice to follow my spiritual path as my primary goal, and all else followed in my life from there.
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Copyright 2000 Connee Chandler
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