We have been together since childhood, you and I. We met in a temple, where your proxies performed your rituals. Ancient stories, bright and loud, dark and terrifying. You captivated me, and I loved you with the stomach churning excitement of recognition. Here was someone to be. You were huge and frightening, like a technicolour thunderstorm. Back then, I could not see you behind your magic, but I knew you were there. My dark spirit. My conjuror. You gave me nightmares, but also dreams. Dreams of a future.
Our relationship, of course, has since matured. Others have come to take your place. But they are all you, part of your magic. You have a thousand faces. So we grew together, all of us. My hunger to know your tricks grew fast around your trunk, like ivy on oak. As I grew, the stories you told me became stranger. I loved you most when you showed me places I never knew existed, yards from my front door. The strangeness of people half-familiar but never known. You brought them to me. You revealed poetry in the everyday, through tiny truths you opened up eternity. My obsession grew.
I unquestioningly devoured your every word. You became my window onto adulthood. Sometimes you told me of your love affairs and, insane with the jealousy of recognition, I emulated you in my own. The time I wasted over you. How you fed the narcissism of adolescence. (Luckily, there was no-one else around.)
One day, I asked you to teach me, and when you refused, I stalked you. I watched your nightly ceremonies, stole your sacred texts, forced myself onto those who had met you, and paid others to divulge your secrets. I picked through your trash in search of you, dedicated my life to knowing you, your uninvited student. As the years passed, so I began to unpick your spells, and little by little your magic unravelled. My obsession had made me strong, and in time, I had you where I wanted you, helpless before me. I took my sharpest knife, prised open your chest and plunged in my hands. I held your heart, and watched it shudder between my fingers. It was then that I knew. You were just like me. We had become one.
Now we are the same, and I judge you harshly. For now I know your ways. I too am paid to summon magic in front of crowds, in temples erected from the shared gold of a nation. You and your craft are no longer an enigma. You are human, and fallible, as am I. Now I know your duties and responsibilities, and no longer will my impressionable naïvety allow you to shirk them. No longer do I listen unquestioningly to your stories of tortured heartbreak. For there are greater things in the world. With the wisdom of hindsight I mourn the time lost on the paths you led me down.
There are others out there now, listening to us both. They are our eager confidantes, the missing links which complete the circuits we build. They are the reason we do what we do; sometimes our fans, always our patrons. They are the reason we exist.
They will take risks for us, our beloved congregation. They will follow us to dark places. For through us they gain the power to learn about themselves. In this isolated interconnected world, we bring them together. We are their poets, their journalists, their philosophers and their oracle. We can take their pulse and tell their fortunes. Our greatest works define the contours of our shared shores. Cartographers of the carnival of life.
But for all our protestations, we will always need them more than they need us. We are a peculiar anachronistic order, which should never really have survived modernity. Yet in a world largely devoid of the time and space for considered original thought, a shared pot is set aside to send we lucky few on lonely journeys of discovery, so long as we return to tell the tale. For we must pay for this privilege with kernels of originality we have gathered along the way. Seeds of truth, paid for by the shared pot, to be planted in the shared plot.
But it is easy for this privilege to corrupt. The sense of elevation can fatally inflate a human ego. Beware. For when the interior landscape seems the only one worth exploring, your time is probably up, and you should give way to another of your thousand faces. Narcissism is the enemy of art.
Sometimes, when I rejoin the congregation and watch you at work, you remind me of why I first fell for you. When you uncover a spectacular new truth, the old magic suddenly returns, and rays of delight dazzle us all.
For a few hours, you send us off into the night feeling the world is a better place for you being in it.