The City

By Raymond Rugland

The day has ended. Up on this hill I let my eyes wander down the long slope to where it meets the valley. I span the miles of the great metropolis to where the haze, the sea, and the sky are one. Lost to sight are the ships at anchor in the harbor. Outlines of buildings become indistinct and lost. Hills cast their shadows no more. Ribbons of smoke rising upward are swallowed in night.

What the eye cannot see now, memory draws close. There are assorted scenes - jostling with the fun-makers at the amusement park, watching the customers of a department store, riding a bus to the end of the line. Boys play baseball in the street. A light blinking on a dark alley with a message - "Jesus Saves Sinners."

Is this city unique? There are amusement parks in London, there are stores and shoppers in Tokyo, boys play baseball in the streets of Chicago, and there are missions in San Francisco. In the darkness my imagination takes flight.

Even while I watch identity comes again. Even as the stars have come forth and light the heavens, so below has appeared a manmade galaxy of lights. Above the eternal; below the ephemeral. But part of me rebels against this reasoning!

Yes, this one day is ended! But who shall measure the product of this city? Who shall add the hopes, the fears, the loves, the desires? Who weighs the thoughts - deep and abiding, fleeting and unguarded? What is the worth of each human cell in this organism? How many thoughts become words, how many thoughts become acts? How did each soul affect some other? How did each affect the all?

The city cloaked in night is not hidden. Each point of light has its source. By that brief light, a man travels the street. Another light illumines a book. In neon a name or a product blinks forth. There is light by sickness. That light is dimmed in the presence of death. Bright and dazzling lights surround festivity. There are candles by an altar.

Stars and planets - you, who are the eternal ones, what is your message? Will you tell me it is a cosmic mind that set the nebulae in spiral motion, provided the ellipse and parabola, and set each celestial body into its motion? Must I integrate and differentiate in complex formulae your meaning? No, not so. Men look into the galaxy with their minds. Out of your deeps, mind it is they see. And the God men see in you - it is the vision of the man that could be. Nothing more.

It is not a mind that creates a city, it is a heart. That heart is a destiny which joins human beings together. If there are buses, pavements, buildings, ships at anchor - and all a metropolis contains - they have their existence that people may meet, work together, share themselves and one another. People are brought together - call it a city - for the sake of their souls. In a city every street and by-way is a heaven and a hell. Into them enter the proud and the humble, the ambitious and the meek, the well-dressed and the tattered. Yet no one can judge. No one is damned. No one is "saved."

This day is ended. The record is writ.

When the sun rises tomorrow, the little lights will bow before a greater light. It will shine on everyone, it will illumine every soul. It will bathe the city tomorrow and ask no one who he is. The light gives to each alike.

Fellows of the city (and of the world): We are joined by that heart of compassion which knows us, understands us, feels for us, loves us, and guides us. It knows all our values and weaknesses. It is for the soul's growth that we are lonely, that we study, ride the streetcar, or stand on a porch gazing into the night.

(From Sunrise magazine, October/November 2005; copyright © 2005 Theosophical University Press)

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