Men: innately Janus-faced!
Once upon a time, a man was traveling back home after an exhilarating business in the foreign country. It was almost a year that he had left home and had gone to a distant unknown place in hope of bread and money. It was winter then, it was winter now. As he squashed his way through the woods, the chilling air grew denser, and the fog thicker surrounding him and as a result he lost his way. He fumbled in between the trees and lost more and more with his wandering steps and drifting thoughts in the opaque night. Suddenly, the god of woods, Satyr, showed up to him. Laughingly, the god belittled the man upon his mislay and, out of heavenly superiority and beneficence, offered to help him. The god promised him for a shelter and assistance in locating the path the next morning. The man felt relieved and thanked heavens to his destiny. And then started following the deity.
The path went into the woods toward the denser area where it was muddier, and to some extent sinister. And the night grew more fierce and winter took more hold of it. The air around him became colder and his body trembled in rhyme with the blow of air. He had not taken on enough warm clothes, and he repented for it. To keep himself temperate and warm against the night, it was necessary to do something. He couldn’t walk fast – for fast motion would certainly keep him at ease – as there was not enough space among the woods. He couldn’t talk to god – for talking would keep the thoughts, hence perils of the winter away – for he was with the god and certainly he didn’t deem himself pedant enough for any possible intellectual conversations with him. He couldn’t do anything else. Perhaps, he could think of yesterday’s sunny afternoon when he lay on his cot, sunbathing, and planning to go home triumphantly. Or perhaps, he could imagine a chimerical tomorrow when he would be taken up by the hot sun. But, nothing, none of them could keep him busy. And then, he repented again for sparing his winter clothes just because of the required efforts needed to carry them. He had thought that he would return home by evening, but he didn’t plan for the adverse conditions, such as this. He didn’t, merely out of ignorance, think of this. And now the chill was buffeting his bones. Ignorance is the most malevolent enemy and ought to be fought at the first instance. He looked up to the deity, the god of woods, and wondered if the god was also feeling the same; If he also suffered the cold; and if the god knew his turmoil; and if he knew, why didn’t he alleviate his pain. All of a sudden, the god, Satyr, peered straight into the man’s eyes and asked, “What are you doing this for? Rubbing your palms together and blowing at them from your mouth” Upon this question, this bewilderment of the god, the man was astonished equally. He looked upon his own movements and tried to figure out what his body was doing itself, without his conscious or concern. He replied, “My hands are numb with cold and my breath warms them.”
After a long walk, they arrived at the god’s place. It was all muddy but relatively less cold. The gods lived in peace and harmony with themselves and the nature. As he entered inside the abode, his feet squelched on the floor, and the traces of mud, of damp sludge, left behind a way. The path they followed outside was erased, but the path in the hallowed arena was designed to retain. Following this path, he, the plebian man, could hurry back, in case he confronted some danger inside. He was taken to the innermost room, the area that was tepid, if not warm, and incensed with heavenly smell, redolent with goodness. Soon he cleaned himself and sat on the wooden chair by the large table as he was served with a hot smoking dish of porridge. He was given such warm welcome by the deity, the god of woods, that he repented upon the moment when he cursed the god for his indifference and apathy. Such was the behavior of men – they regretted almost every moment of their lives; they lost their present for the past and the future; they cherished impossible visions and missed the present bliss, whatever might it be, happiness or sadness, they never lived it, because they lived in an imaginary world that remained nonetheless out of their grip.
Now, wallowed in the thoughts of his excruciating journey, that was already finished and accomplished to a happy end, to a warm room, to a hot porridge, to a smashing night, the man took hold of the earthenware jar that kept the smoking potion of life in it. He shifted his chair toward the table and freed his palms from the blowing mouth. Now, even before he could take a small quaff of the dish, he mouth inadvertently blew over its smoky surface and crinkled through the layer. A hot puff ran over the hot porridge.
The god wondered again and asked precisely, “Now, what are you doing this for?” The man found himself bewildered once again, and sieved through his own actions to make out a proper rationale. He said, “The porridge is too hot, and my breath will cool it.”
Fanatically mystified this reply of the man made the god as he retorted in single gasp, “Out you go, I will have nothing to do with a man who can blow hot and cold with the same breathe, at once.”
And the man was thrown out at once following the muddy trails of his muddy squelch that he imprinted upon the wooden floor amid the wooden night to the same predicament he was given haven from only a few moments ago.
What was it? Whose fault was it? The god’s or of man’s?
When I was kid, my grand-pa used to tell me such stories in night to push me to sleep. Now I remember the vividness of them more precisely than their ratiocinations. Through out the years he was among us, he had a miraculous abundance of such lore, but it was only after he left us that his stories started making senses to me. Today, when I was crossing the road in late hours while returning back from office I could relate to it. On a bicycle three youngsters rode insanely chorusing some Govinda’s song. They knocked at an old man who looked well but was in titters and carried a woolen bag as if it was a Pandora’s Box. I helped him up and cursed aloud at the boys. But they had gone. Who would wait in such a situation? I nodded at the old man and inquired if he was hit badly and if he needed any assistance. He looked improperly calm, halcyon, and looked into my concerned eyes. He was ok. Then he propped up his bag on his shoulder and gestured to go. I beckoned my worried face to him. And suddenly, from his woolen bag, he took out a dead snake – dead as it appeared to me, motionless, numb – shoved it towards me and grudged in the peculiar monotone asking for money, any diminutive dough, five rupees, two rupees or even a single coin. And then, out of the sheer practice, I menaced onto him. I turned my face off and screamed him away.
I was the same person who had helped him a moment ago, and the next moment I myself despised him. Both practiced in his avocation, he in persuading, vowing to various gods and fetching money out of their dread; me in reflecting those persuasions away.
Now, what was it?
Are men inherently, innately, double faced, Janus-faced, keeping surveillances on past and future at once, trained to do different things at different situations, at different demands? Did it essentially make them contemptuous? Or did it make them more adept – warming while in cold, cooling while in heat?