In my book series there are monks who have hidden themselves in secret underground libraries. They are preserving the ancient spiritual and historical texts of their world, studying them, copying them, memorizing them. They are desperately searching for answers that will help humanity fight against an enemy that seeks to destroy and enslave every living thing. Some of these monks have not emerged from hiding for many years. They are safer that way. The enemy would love nothing more than to destroy them and the knowledge they keep. For these monks, the outside world represents both danger and a distraction from their unique role in history. They have gladly given up any claim to a normal life, even a typical monastic one, in exchange for something far greater.
This image took me deep into one such hidden library, where in a dimly lit room, a monk eagerly reads sacred texts by a stump of candle. Day and night have no meaning. Neither does time. Has it been months, or years? And does it really matter, so long as the work continues? There is only here, and now; a single flame for light, and the smell of parchment and old leather bindings.
With the absence of all other distractions, nothing exists but the contents of each tome as its words come to life behind the reader's gaze. Descriptions of verdant forests, fragrant fields, and rushing water become all the more vivid, leaping from the page with a life of their own. Here in the dark, they become more real than the living world far above. The monk can feel a fresh breeze against his skin, even though the stale air around him is motionless. The spray from a waterfall leaves beads of water on his worn woolen robe, and the candle's flame burns his eyes like the blazing sun. He shields them protectively and continues on his journey, slipping into another place, another time, as easily as if his hand was the one that had scribed the words on the page before him. He can bear this life of isolation because the trueness of his vision has the power to sustain him. Through the tomes, he sees the world, not through the eyes of a mortal man, but through those of the Creator who brought it into being. Not as it is now, but as it was meant to be from the beginning. After such an experience, nothing else compares...and nothing else will satisfy.
What about you? What visions come to you as you gaze upon these pages, lit up by nothing but a small stump of candle? What world are you transported to, and what will you find once you get there?
Artwork: “Lost in a Story” by Glenn Porter