Paul Edward Costa
The Lone and Level Sands Will Stretch Far Away
We once created intricate mandalas by pouring out patterns of dyed sand. We always made sure to brush our compositions away when we finished. We used an entire galaxy of colours in our quest to create all-encompassing and impermanent designs.
We kept up this practise until the day all that accumulated sand returned to us on vengeful winds displaying the whole spectrum of visible colour. Every granule—enraged having been brushed aside after briefly feeling purpose and admiration—together formed a rainbow sandstorm rolling over the land that could have dwarfed even the most immense cities ever built.
The sands blew over our black citadels and watchtowers until their forms vanished from view.
The storm continues raging and the sands continue rising.
Every able-bodied one of us builds additional floors on top of our structures and replacement buildings over those which have been buried. We do this in an effort to stay one step ahead of the kaleidoscopically coloured dunes swallowing up our architectural achievements.
The rising sands smother and mute the instinctual, last-second screams of those who give up and choose to stay in the lower structures as they are absorbed by the desert. In there they succumb to the same slow, sadistic suffocation contained inside every hourglass.
The one who most recently did this called out to me and said “I’m so sorry, I know you all need every last pair of working hands, but I can’t bear seeing another monument of our labor sunk…not again,” before the multi-coloured sands rose over his ears. He let out an abrupt scream that was cut short when the desert spilled into his mouth.
Slips of dry parchment sometimes fall from the sky. On each one are the words “perhaps you’ll one day reach heaven…” written out in shaky calligraphy.
The youth among us put their faith in these pieces of parchment. They only hope we’ll ascend to paradise before the dust storm finishes depositing the sands that raise the elevation of the ground and lift us closer to the sky.
They assume all this will finish when the amount of sand that has blown over us equals the amount we once used to make our meditative mandalas, but the older among us fear how they’ll react if we tell them that our ancestors had poured and brushed aside sand designs since before time immemorial, and that the storm draws from a potentially infinite source.
The oldest of us know that closure will not come when the sandstorm dies out, but when we do, when so many of us have lost hope and opted to stay behind in buildings absorbed by the dunes that the few who remain on the surface are too few in number to build new structures and additional floors faster than the quickly rising desert.
We wish we could tell the young that we didn’t intend for this fate to befall the civilization, that we poured those designs and swept them off into the breeze only in order to make peace with the passage of time, not realizing that an endless, wrathful tempest grew on the horizon in direct proportion to our deepening fulfilment.
We built our enlightenment on a foundation of sand mandalas we’d brushed away.
The polychrome desert built its dominance on a bedrock of our buried superstructures.
I’m overcome by the notion that solid victories stand on a foundation of forsaken dreams and densely packed defeat, though I don’t know whether I should feel unburdened or bereaved.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
The standard definition seems to be “that which is pleasing to the senses” but that statement sidesteps any direct discussion of what “that” exactly is. I think we are all programmed with a unique set of tastes that dictate what we, by instinct, find pleasing to our senses; the problems arise when our individual preferences clash with those held by the majority and are then declared taboo and are systemically discriminated against/driven underground (the wide array of secretly held fetishes found in humans shows this) thus leading to considerable individual and societal tensions.
There is a shockingly plain and open discrimination made against those not deemed “beautiful” by the status quo. Take a look at an episode of “Suits”, or most TV, for example, or the wait staff hiring practices at a local chain restaurant like Milestones, again for example. I worked once at a country club and wondered if there was a pageant portion of the interview process for influential and high paying business/legal positions.
Because we often objectify things which we find beautiful, there is also a conflict between seeing inanimate objects/life as beautiful and seeing sentient life as beautiful. The Mona Lisa, if called ugly, does not feel the hurt a real life person named Lisa would.
Being able to openly express and understand each of our individual interpretations of beauty is key to knowing ourselves, and each other better.
Paul Edward Costa has published in Timber Journal, The J.J. Outre Review, The Eunoia Review, Rainfall Books and other periodicals. His novella, Dark Magic on the Edge of Town, is available on Amazon from Paperback-Press.