Toward the Dark Tower: A Race, or a Crawl?

Week Five of the Dark Tower arm of the Hunt for the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. April 23, 2019.

I am going to leave out the whole tedious account of the trek undertaken by Olde Stephen and me as we made our way towards the Dark Tower. If you want to get the flavour of it, read Robert Browning’s “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”. Our geography was very different, although the ethos of the journey was not. Complicating our progress were the myriad voices of those who had gone before, or tried, blaring contradictory advice or singing in our ears, saying that this was all folly.

We were somewhat impeded by our lack of knowledge concerning the exact appearance and nature of the Dark Tower. We had been led to believe we would find there the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, but whether the Riddle was the Tower itself, or a creature who lived inside the Tower, we knew not, and none of the voices was willing to tell us. Probably they didn’t know either.

We faced other problems too. We were standing on the edge of a darkling plain, blanketed in fog, trying to gather our wits amidst the cacophony of the myriad voices, and contemplating the complex of trails whose opening few steps we would see, and which appeared (this could have been illusion) to group themselves into three parcels which I will call, at considerable risk of over-simplification even to the point of absurdity, the Left, the Right, and the Centre. By looking carefully I could see Olde Stephen’s lips moving, but could not make out what he was saying. I was very confused, because he was pointing with his fingers, but in all three directions at the same time, waving his arms this way and that, pointing with one finger, or two, or several, or all of them. I tried the Right-hand path. He pulled me back and pointed down the other two. I tried the Left. Same result. I tried the Centre. Same result.

At last I could tolerate the uncertainty no longer. I seized the Slug-Horn and blew a mighty blast out across the plain. The fog did not clear, but the voices did fall silent, so that I could hear what Olde Stephen was saying. It was not very consoling. “You have to take all three,” he said.

“At the same time?” I quavered.

“At the same time.”

“How on Earth am I going to do that?”

“That’s the problem, isn’t it,” he replied. “You have to do it on Earth, because that’s where we are. You can’t do it in Heaven, because we aren’t there, and when we try to do things on Earth in Heavenly ways we always seem to end up in Hell. I never did figure that out. Or maybe I did, but no one believed me. The result was the same.”

“Suppose we link them with bridges,” I ventured.

“But the bridges will go cross-ways between the paths,” he said, “and not forward to the Dark Tower which, may I remind you, we don’t know where it is.  The only way we can go forward, under that regime, is to run back and forth across the bridges from one path to the other and moving forward by building more bridges each step of the way. It will take a long time, and by the time we get there the Tower may have moved. Oh, woe is me!” He was the one quavering now, and quivering, ectoplasmicly. I felt sorry for him, and decided to chance my arm more boldly than I might otherwise have done.

“Why don’t we change the plain,” I suggested. “Why don’t we make it in three dimensions instead of two. As long as we have only two dimensions, then our paths remain incompatible. If we add a third, then perhaps we can make in that dimension a new path out of the materials of the old.”

“Isn’t that the same thing as flying?” he asked. “Isn’t that just building Dark Towers in the air?”

“Not at all,” said I, “at least perhaps. Air is its own dimension, and would be unaffected. I am talking about a third dimension of ground. I am talking about doing what painters do when they move from flat representation into perspective. That, visually, makes a third dimension. Maybe we can do the same with our darkling plain. When we are in only two dimensions, and visualize our situation as we are wont to do, then we see only on the one hand or on the other hand. In the third dimension, if we learn how, we will see on the one hand and on the other hand, at the same time. We will take from the Right-hand path with one hand, and from the Left-hand path with the other hand, and from the Centre path with both hands, and we will build a new path in the New Dimension.”

“But where is it? We have to put the contents of our hands down somewhere on Earth, in order to make a path that we can walk. I say,—I said,—put them in the Centre path, make the Centre path into a new one out of the materials of the old, in the old dimensions, and walk on it. It will prove a sturdy and useful path.”

“It did prove useful for a little while, but not sturdy. It showed a strong tendency to drift either to the one hand or the other, or to lose sight of Social Justice altogether and walk towards a Dark Tower of its own conception, not in a New Dimension, but in a reconfiguration of the old one.

“To walk on the surface of the plain is unstable, to float above it a separation, not an engagement. I can think of only one other possibility.”

“Under ground, you mean.”

“From here on: burrowing.”

“Unable to see or hear, having to find our way by smell.”

“Like moles, or worms.”

“Guided not by what is on the surface, or in the air above, but by what is below among the roots. A truly radical approach to the Dark Tower.”

“I both wanted that and did not want it.”

“It has been discovered recently that trees can talk to each other through their roots.”

“If you follow the root, you will find the tree.”

“The route is among the roots.”

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