Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Pocket Full of Rye—The Tale continues (2)

When last we left off, the queen was musing over the ways she might settle scores with the churls…but…

Once upon a time, Kings and Queens did not always have power over the churls. The oldest churls will tell you of the days when churls alone ruled the country, when churls had been respected and sought after for their knowledge and talent in tending any lambs or sheep sent to them. Kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, counts and countesses who today in so many countries lord it over the churls, like to say, in their haughty way, “if not for the lambs and sheep, the country would not be here.”

But these are the words of parvenus. 

Just sit next to an old churl when the palace dilettantes gather to repeat what their superiors tell them to say about the lambs and sheep. The seasoned churl snorts and mutters to anyone within hearing the other truth, the corollary: “if not for the churls, the lambs would have nowhere to go.”

“People don’t bring their lambs to the country because we have a king or queen in a palace,” one old churl hissed recently after one of these dilettante gatherings. “The lambs and sheep come to the country because of the churls.”

The essential work of the country, as any country man or woman here knows, comes down to the churls and the lambs. Lambs and sheep need tending. Churls know how to tend them.

Once upon a time, churls were at the center of this country. And for a long time they made the country work without need of elaborate palaces and their preening inhabitants. It had been thus in other countries in the empire of the Field of Spring. Together with a few loyal serfs who knew how to obtain the tools or handbooks needed by the churls, who knew when to send out the call for lambs and sheep, to record their progress and development or others who knew when the barns had to be warmed and lit or when the sheep pens needed cleaning, the churls and the serfs ran the country pretty well. Often the serfs, served the country as long and as loyally as the churls. Whole families of serfs had been known to work for the country and some long lines of descent extended beyond the oldest churl’s memory.

Serfs understood the course of a year in the country: the annual influx of lambs and sheep in September, the preparations for the semi-annual sheep shearing in fall and winter, and the springtime release of mature sheep into the mountains. The serfs understood that their job was to make the churls’ work easier. It was not always or in all times the most harmonious relationship, but it usually was.

In these olden times no one had ever heard of a king or queen, duke or duchess, count or countess ruling over a country of lambs and sheep, churls and serfs. Kings and Queens and the rest were from faraway lands, from countries that did not tend lambs and sheep; they were from places that could not care less for them in fact. The countries with kings and queens measured success by how much they gained from making or trading widgety thingamabobs. Many a fortune was made that way and that made you a king.

The absolute best place, however, to become a king or a queen was not in manufacture or trade, it was in the Never Neverland also called, the Field of Spring.

In the Never Neverland of the Field of Spring anyone with a cheap suit of armor could grub for a benefice, an office, a toll bridge and become a doler of contracts, a holder of permits. This was where mere mortals became the retainers for the someones who themselves had already bootlicked their way into an office. No matter how low or degrading or phony the office, the only thing you needed in order to get ahead was an ability to flatter lesser talents than yourself. The bended knee, the honeyed tongue, and a truly perverted sense of loyalty based on betrayal --that’s what got you in.

The Field of Spring was where imperial power resided. The inhabitants waged wars for any and all offices, especially those that put them closer to the chamber of the emperor. The current emperor was once the ultimate maker and trader of widgety thingamabobs. Entrance into the imperial hierarchy was not based on any particular talent, but on the pretense of having talent. The inhabitants of Never Neverland postured for each other. They dressed for success. They spouted buzzwords and jargon, mastered clichés and pontifications and practiced these regularly. They called each other by exalted titles based on pieces of paper they issued to each other or bought from someone else’s someone. Annual parties honored one or another of them for something or other. The most lavish parties and awards were given for those who were on the brink of public scandal. Praise at these events was always fulsome. In these circles it became important to proffer cult-like homage to a great person and grovel for their largesse. And someday others would do that to you.

Although nowadays kings and queens, dukes, duchesses, counts, and countesses have been ruling so long in the country of lambs and sheep, one takes for granted that it was not always so. For most of its history the country had been run by the churls. Even the oldest churls are foggy about when and how royalty usurped power from the churls. Did they enter at the invitation of the churls? Had they been imposed by imperial edict far away in the Field of Spring?  Old churls cannot pinpoint it exactly.

Unlike the standards used for royalty and retainers in Never Neverland, no one was allowed to become a churl without years of training and learning the trade of tending lambs and sheep. Even after formal training ended, a churl still spent seven years as a journeyman working with more experienced churls who knew sheep. After that a churl was called a master-doctor. The serfs knew and respected these churls who had dedicated themselves to learning their trade for so many years and had made the sheep their vocation.

The churls then had no elaborate rules for running the country. They took oversight of the country in turns. A churl who had been an accomplished sheep tender was honored by fellow-churls with the title of Rector, served several seasons away from sheep tending to live in the big barn and make sure that the country of lamb and sheep tending ran smoothly. The Rector might be aided by a few other officers—After a few years these churls went back to their sheep and other churls took their place. It was true that some churls were better at barn work than others, but the rotation allowed all the churls an understanding of what it took to keep the country viable and to see the work of the country as a whole.  

At some point, and the older churls debate when this happened, a few churls got tired of taking their turn in the big barn. It was not that running the country was all that complicated but it did require time away from one’s sheep and one’s own personal garden which all churls had.

“All I want to do is tend my sheep and go home to tend my garden,” some churls began to say.

“I don’t care about budgeting for new tools or reorganizing grazing spaces or obtaining the latest books on sheep tending. I just want to tend my sheep,” said others.

At some point, a house-proud virus took hold. Churls began neglecting not just their responsibility for running the country, but tending the sheep came to be seen as less important than garden work.

I must add that some churls arriving into the country were so zealous of their own specialized sheep tending talent that they failed to understand that the main enterprise of sheep tending was to give sheep foundations and skills to live on their own in the mountains. In the mountains a sheep often had to live by its wits, make judgments critical to its survival, be able to adapt to changing circumstances, to think and act creatively. The original foundations of sheep-tending were steeped in this knowledge.

Younger churls now seemed to have been bitten by the bug of “moving forward” and single -minded experimentation: “If only the sheep learned to find clover grass to eat, that is all they need to succeed in the mountains…”  

Others said, “sheep needed only to learn to navigate rocky paths and sense changes in the weather that is how they will succeed...”

Or, “a sheep’s most important skill was to learn the proper way of licking and caring for a new-born lamb...”

It was just about then that kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, counts and countesses of Never Neverland began to appear in the other countries of lambs and sheep. Lo and Behold, a great kingmaker, the son of a serf mind you, surveyed the landscape from his tower in the Field of Spring and his eye fell upon this country of lamb and sheep. “I could do great things in that country,” he thought. "Plus, I need a place to place my retinue…"

Next:  The Age of the Great Kingmaker and his Poseurs

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