- Parable of the Googol Balloons
Gémino H. Abad graduated from the University of the Philippines and received his doctorate from the University of Chicago. A poet and literary critic, he is known for the three-volume Man of Earth: An Anthology of Filipino Poetry and Verses from English, 1905 to the Present. His books of poetry include Fugitive Emphasis, Poems and Parables, and Father and Daughter; and his many honors include the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature and the Manila Critics' Circle Award. He is a professor in the department of English and comparative literature at the University of the Philippines.
"Let your speech be simple," said the Lord. "All you need say is Yes when you assent, No if you disagree. Anything more than this comes from the Evil One."
As usual, though everyone seemed to hear, no one listened. No one took the words to heart, nor could anyone imagine any evil befalling speech. Yet the multitude followed the Lord wherever He went. Afterwards, when the Lord had departed, no one remembered.
Then a philosopher averred that speech was a gift from heaven. Even Egypt, he said, worshipped Tehuti, who taught men how to speak words, and God Himself came down to Earth in tongues of flame. To be free means, above all, to speak one's mind and sound the depths of mystery. The more words come to mind, the more routes there are to other clearings; and if one perseveres, the more access to truth. Mutes must indeed be the most unfortunate of mortals.
From that time on, everyone began to have an opinion on almost any theme and wished to convince others. Often there were endless disputes, for each one thought he had the best argument. Strangely, no one ever doubted in his heart that there was always somewhere a gap or absence, no matter how finely woven were one's meanings. But where exactly the rent was in one's net of words, no one could ever tell. But that hole had one consistent effect: it provoked yet more words until sense itself was dazed. [End Page 83]
A poet fancied that the Evil One had filled that vexatious gap with the whirling debris of contending truths. To evacuate and illumine that secret space, the poet said, you would have to renounce speech altogether. Then you would discover that in fact the gap had only been yourself, all the while too blindly engrossed in your own words.
But the crowd hissed at the poet with scorn. "Get thee to a nunnery!" sneered a wit.
And so it came to pass that men's words seized their thoughts and feelings from them, and whirled these into dogmas and heresies, ideologies and wars. Philosophers spun their magic texts and amazed even God's angels. Poets read their verses to small audiences, but since their words worshipped silence, no one understood.
Then a strange disease afflicted all the speakers. No one could rid himself of his foul breath whenever he spoke. Yet all persisted in speech until sense itself, man's sole claim to his humanity, became an all-pervading stench. A wise man perceived that sense had been trapped in the sound and fury of words, and so he fell silent. But no one understood his silence.
Finally, each time anyone spoke, he spouted a balloon. It was a marvelous sight, for the sky soon filled with everyone's balloons, every word a thousandfold replicated in gray solidity. It was a horror, for none of the balloons could burst, nor could any gale sweep them away. They simply mushroomed everywhere until all light was extinguished. An absolute silence reigned on Earth.
Gémino H. Abad graduated from the University of the Philippines and received his doctorate from the University of Chicago. A poet and literary critic, he is known for the three-volume Man of Earth: An Anthology of Filipino Poetry and Verses from English, 1905 to the Present. His books of poetry include Fugitive Emphasis, Poems and Parables, and Father and Daughter; and his many honors include the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature...