The tendrils of confusion eclipse the beauty of the minds flowering gardens. Enter, “The Riddler of Nipiac” to sever them loose:
The crackling flame bequeathed sparks of colors into the air as it danced to an invisible melody; a crowd of villagers huddled closely around its warming effulgence as they sat shoulder-to-shoulder in heightened expectation of the impending narration. The yoke of the days labor had released its pressure, and had been sublimated into the gleeful elasticity whose expansion consumed all gathered in its wake. The earthenware was distributed, and a stately man of ordered build with his assistant apportioned the cool milk. Not all jugs received equal fill, but was distributed according to a mandate from his superior based on the days labor. None dared challenge his authority; instead opting to bypass and leave unprovoked the caged wrath, lest the audacity be mercilessly exiled into the barracks of discipline, where the want of deprivation would be his portion as the presumption is forced to a pensive silence in submission. Summoning what audacity does the hungry stomach in its wretchedness take to critiquing the laden hand of its breadwinner? After the milk was distributed, a thick meat with dripping juices cooking over the flame was allotted accordingly.
Then entered the riddler. He was renown across all lands for his riddles that evaded the capture of even the most illumined minds. The cycling of weeks would find the brightest huddled in corners in desperate attempts to decipher the solution. But to no avail! When news leaked about his approach to neighboring towns and villages, anticipation reached a fever pitch. Hearts throbbed with unbounded giddiness for the treat of ‘the riddler’ whose tongue subjugated the hierarchy of all societal castes under its spell. None was exempt from its hypnotic influence, and conflict even broke out among families should attempts be waged to restrict anyone from this amusement. Feeble bodies gained strength to rebel and even the lowest rung in the family ladder abandoned decorum in confronting its patriarch, thus gaining courage to speak. Therefore, only the uninitiated seeking distress took to enforcing his mandates on such days! Today, “the riddler” was in the village of Nipiac, where rumor has it he was born, although none could confirm it as his familial connections were untraceable. A cryptic aura hung around him, the real name of whom no one could ascertain. Even where he slept at night was a mystery, as he always disappeared into darkness on trails no one dared follow. For even when blatantly asked his name, this he answered in a riddle. Today he had his seat on a rock mounted at a distance above the squatting masses. His face was close to the flames, lending it an eerie shadowy outline as he spoke that complemented the quiet yet rumbling tone of his deep voice.
“Everyone be quiet!” The disgruntled assistant of the stately man coarsely commanded.
Most banter subsided but select pockets still continued when suddenly the assistant, a plump power-hungry grouchy man who seemed ever on edge in a desire for conflict, growled:
“If I have to repeat myself again you buffoons, I will instead enlist a rod of steel to finish the sentence!” At that, the police of silence immediately arrested all tongues and confiscated the weapon of voices. Once everything was in place and the masses calmed, the riddler began speaking:
“A man woke up in a room with 4 walls, a roof and a floor. The walls before him including the roof and the floor were all made of impenetrable iron and each had no doors, windows or wide openings of any kind. The only opening was a 2cm gap on the wall to his left and right, and the only item inside the room was a key and a lamp. Yet, in 10 mins he walked out of the room whose location was unknown by outsiders. How did he achieve this?” The riddler posed the dilemma before the befuddled masses whose thoughts dallied in the marsh of obscurity. The squatting throng occasionally stared at each other, as if antennas seeking to attune to neighboring satellite signals for personal clarity. Commencing the dialogue of answers was always a herculean feat, as it exposed the person to the initial ice-breaking embarrassment of incorrectness, subsequent to which no special consideration of emphasis was placed. Gathering himself, the grouchy man of pompous comportment answered:
“That is easy, he was a genie and wished the walls to part!” a vainglorious air ringing in his voice.
“No!” the riddler simply responded, which provoked much snickering throughout the crowd.
“It could be that soldiers found the location and broke a wall down to release him!” another man responded.
“No, for the location was unknown as I stated.” The riddler said.
“Maybe the lamp was a small grenade in hiding, and the key was the pin that set it off!” an erudite scholar responded in complexity.
“No again!” the riddler stated while shaking his head. His crooked teeth with multicolored streaks accenting the chromatic flares of the night fire. Losing hope, none attempted the riddle for 10 mins before a little boy perked up from his squatting position with a confused look on his face evidencing the endless toil for answers. Taking a deep breath as though distressed, he stated:
“Sorry to speak so plainly and thus ruin the cryptic mood, but I do not understand your riddle. You see, if there is no way to exit, there could have been no way enter. With no doors or opening of any kind, would he not have to be dreaming to enter the room, and wake up from sleep to exit? Anything else becomes fanciful and improbable.” the little boy said and then fell silent as eyes quickly shifted to the riddler.
“You are correct little boy. Therein lies the answer in all simplicity!” the riddler with a big grin stated to a shocked mass who was slightly embarrassed a little boy could discover the exit of this vocal maze. Infuriated by the humiliation of his inept answer in view of the little boys reasoning, the disgruntled man in insolence called out to the riddler:
“This is nonsensical you fraudster. Your mental famine must be desperately wanting in knowledge livestock!” the man stated with nostril-flaring irritation pervading his words in wounded vanity.
“Thank you dear friend for the compliment! For the arid field still retains the possibility to be tilled through bowing in humility to Nature’s rain. Tell me though, in this regard through your resistance, are you not the obtrusive rock in whom no seed of wisdom can be planted despite even the downfall of torrential rain?” the riddler stated with great warmth and he stood up and took his leave along the night trail into the darkness toward an unknown destination.
Meanwhile, the entire crowd gathered erupted in laughter at the kind retort of the riddler who vanquished the man with wise words. Teasing him, young and old joined in the merriment as the man just sat in silent discomfort, unable to quiet the laughing crowd. Suddenly, a distant voice broke the giggling:
“Employing what justification do you taunt him? Although you call me the riddler, know you do so because it is your minds that are confused and complicated. Therefore, if you yourselves are equally deficient, where then does laughter enter?” At that, the crowd of people grew silent through the scolding and dispersed to their dwellings for the night to engage in calm reflection of the lessons just learned.
We often approach life extremely complicated in mind, and render difficult what should be clear. We experience problems and complications not because life is that way, but because we approach it that way. The riddle illustrates that the expectation of the masses (like us) was something supernatural, something beyond the ordinary, and perhaps something tricky. But there are no tricks in life. Creation, Nature and experiences do not trick us, it is us that trick ourselves in confusion. Sometimes events do not require laborious thinking but the simple acceptance of a clear and logical answer. The grouchy man symbolized the fact that even when the answer to our quandaries stare us in the face through experiences, we do not see it because we are blinded by our own confused vanity. Letting go of unnecessary thinking and just simply approaching and wholeheartedly experiencing what comes will lead to a more fulfilling life. In this regard, you will see that we are each in some way deficient and thus have no right to tease our fellowmen who like us constantly struggle for inner clarity (evidenced by the taunting of the villagers). If we have nothing positive and beneficial to say, our comments are best kept to ourselves. Simplicity is the word. Therefore, we should seek to forgo unnecessary confusion and approach all that comes with a balanced heart, simple mind and calm deliberation like the young boy. This opens the gates for the experiencing of joy in our hearts. Should we do that, the pursuit of happiness will become the life of happiness, for our search will end when we discover the jewel sought after in all simplicity ever stands before us in its glimmering majesty!
Ikenna Q Ezealah