Old Man Hangneck

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There’s a story that has served me well over the years and the more I tell it, the more it inspires me.

 

Once upon a time there lived an old man who was so eccentric, so cracked, that people thought he was mad, and in truth they were right, he was quite mad indeed. The older he grew the more unusual his behavior became until at some point he developed an understanding of the dark arts of magic. He grew obsessed with discovering more and more magical secrets until he grew so great in knowledge that he began to speak with the dead, but more importantly than that is the fact that the dead began to speak back to him. So he spoke to the dead and he asked questions of the dead and the dead revealed to him a great secret, which was not in the power of any human, living or dead, to reveal.

 

The dead told the old madman that there existed a great tree, an axis mundi, upon whose branches hung the entirety of the cosmos itself. At the base of this tree, said the dead, there was a deep well whose depths had never been discovered. Into this well, or perhaps out of it, all of time was said to flow. The old man grew tired of hearing of this wondrous tree from the dusty lips of corpses, and so he journeyed far out into the world or worlds to discover it, which at last he did. There in the midst of a dense forest there stood a tree so great and old that the old man, wise in mysteries, was awestruck by the sight of it.

 

At the base of the tree there lay the well, which watered the roots of the ancient tree. The old man stood at its edge and stared down into the black waters of that well, until at last he was struck with a wonderfully crazy idea. So he took a rope and he took a spear and with the spear he stabbed himself and with the rope he hung himself from the branches of the tree and he hung there for nine days and nights and he stared down into the depths of the well beneath him and at the last he died. But before he died, before the light faded from his eye, he beheld in the waters everything there was to behold and he understood it all. Then, understanding everything, he came back from the dead.

 

And there’s some who say that he came down from the tree and went out into the world or worlds and he worked all kinds of charms and spells which steer the course of the cosmos itself and everything in it. But there’s others who would tell you that he hangs there still, high up in the branches of the tree which governs all, and of course the truth of the matter is that they’re both right.

 

They’re both right.

 

October 2017, Athens.

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