The Building that Touched the Heavens

Two friends gathered around the campfire. The night had encompassed everything. The moon is full, and its light seemed quite bright in the forest around them. There were the occasional ruffling coming from the animals hiding in the darkness, but the surrounding had become quiet.

“Let me tell you a story. I have quite a good one to share.” One of them, a bright young lady, who was a traveler, with quite a serious expression on her face, began to talk between them.

“Alright, let's hear it.” Spoke the other, who was a professor, quite accomplished in the academic world at his young age. He came out camping with the traveler for a change of scenery from the big city.

“There used to be a man who acquired rocks and a bag of tools. He was quite clever, and began to invent ways to put pieces together with his tools. Soon he had built an entire house. People passed by, astonished by the beauty of the house, came to talk with the builder. The builder's name was spread all over the country, and soon across the ocean, and many people came to see him and his house. During this time, he had added more stories, and the house grew taller and taller, until it disappeared in the clouds above.”

“Oh I get it. This is a story about fame. Or attachments.” Interrupted the professor.

“It might be so. But please let me finish. The taller the house grew, the more astonishment it drew from the world. People started to say that this builder was a miracle. After all, it was a miracle, to build a house into the clouds with one's bare hands and tools. So people gathered and lived around him. They built idols and monuments to worship him. They somehow thought his image would bring success in their lives. And organizations were formed around his image. People enrolled. They practiced rituals they invented from his image. And this whole business had become quite profitable, as more and more people around the world came and participated.”

“Wait. This is a surprising turn of events. But I think it is also natural. People worship things they do not understand. It is mere superstition. There are many such religions in history.” The professor remarked.

“Yes. Many organizations. The story isn't finished. As time passed by, no one knew where the builder had gone. They were busy worshiping, arguing about who was to be the leaders, the interpreters of the builder's words, the preachers in the name of the builder, and so on, and the builder seemed to have disappeared into thin air. It was quite a tremendous realization. Because, after all, the man they worshipped was gone, then who were they worshipping? An image on the wall? They argued among themselves, and decided that this could not be. So they convinced themselves that, the builder lived on, as a spirit who would eternally inhabit the Building that touched the Heavens. So the worship, organization, and rituals went on.”

“Are you trying to say something with this story? That people are hypocritical? That we are all worshipping images?” The professor asked.

“Do we? Do we worship? You are a professor. What do you think?” The traveler probed further.

“I'd like to think that with more and more knowledge, more and more experience, we as human beings have learned a great amount. We are still rediscovering lost knowledge. When we have knowledge, we won't give in to superstition.”

“But do we worship knowledge? The knower? Do we worship those who say they know and we don't? You are a professor. Your profession is to teach, isn't it?”

“Yes I do teach. But I wouldn't say we worship knowledge. Knowledge is necessary. There is no question of worship. The society must know history in order to progress.”

“We have had a thousand wars, haven't we? But have we stopped wars? Have we said, after thousands upon thousands of years of killing, look what we have done, let us stop this madness.”

“No. But that isn't relevant. We have developed technologies that were unimaginable. The trains, telephone, internet, and we have went to the Moon, and soon to Mars. Without knowledge how could there be progress?”

“Yes. We must have knowledge to do all that. To call another over the phone we must have knowledge to make the phones, to dial, and so on. But what have we changed? We have changed how we communicate physically. It is faster, more convenient. But did we change? We can reach another thousands of miles away in a second, but aren't what we say still the same?”

“That might be true. But I don't like that you are attacking knowledge. I see what you are doing. You are trying to tell me that knowledge is that tower that touched the sky. We added more and more and we are mesmerized by it. That is true. But I think it is necessary for human beings to progress.”

“But like I said, where are we? We may have progressed in physical things. We can go to the Moon. We can kill entire cities in a second. We have perfected all kinds of technologies. Now we are inventing robots to replace our intelligence. But where are we psychologically? The ancient people might worship an animal, or a God, and invent tremendously complex rituals and traditions around that worship. But aren't we doing basically the same thing? Aren't we still worshipping? It might be money, fame, power, superstition, or knowledge, but aren't we still worshipping?”

“And what would you say is the alternative? To know nothing? That is absurd! How would we live?”

“I am just asking questions. I don't know. But surely we don't have to worship knowledge. Knowledge has its place in life, but surely it isn't the entirety of life? Or am I speaking something sacrilegious?”


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Cover photo by Aman Upadhyay on Unsplash