The Court of Weimar
by Robert Alan Silverstein
It was in the Spring of 1807, I think. I was ten or maybe eleven when the angel first whispered in my dreams. I remember following that whisper deep down the winding caverns inside my soul and seeing that beautiful face. I remember staring at her, unbelievingly. I'd never seen anything so wondrous. I'd never felt so perfectly complete. I was no longer just a boy, shackled in the chains of adolescent naivete. Suddenly everything in the whole universe made sense, with a crystal clarity. She knew that I understood, and she smiled at me then with a love I can never forget as long as I live.
I never wanted to look away. Not ever. But before I knew what had happened, I awoke. My heart was broken, and the world looked so cold. I felt so small and so alone. But as I refused to get out of bed and the tears rolled down my cheeks, softly I remembered her whispering voice.
Without speaking any words that I could comprehend, she had shown me visions of Peacetopia, a timeless, spaceless place where love was all that existed. Where everyone was free and everything made sense. Where beauty and life and love and sharing were the guiding forces that filled each and every soul with peace and tranquility, harmony and ecstasy. She had shown me a world where peace prevailed on earth. In the stark light of day, I could barely remember the vision she had shown me so clearly, but the tiny glimpse that remained filled me with joy and hope.
My angel's words gave me the strength to face the adolescent tribulations I knew I would encounter. I rose from my bed that day to accept the challenges that would await the course of my life. I rose determined to be triumphant in my battles.
In return for my bravery, my angel did not desert me. She came to me in dreams again and again. Whenever I truly needed her, and only then, she was there. Each time she visited me, she spoke without words of that place where living was all that mattered, and love made everything whole. And though when I awoke each time I could only recall a glimmer of that vision of Peacetopia, it was enough to sustain me.
It was probably only a short while after I first saw her that I began to try to capture in my own words the beautiful visions she'd left with me. My literary attempts were rough and crude at first, filtered through the eyes of a child's perception, but as experience continued to mold and shape me, the craft that I was developing allowed me to cleverly reconstruct some of the magic she'd shared in those eternal moments.
And so it came to be that at nineteen I'd had a volume of short stories entitled Peacetopian Dreams published. In truth I was not prepared for the praise and accolades that were showered upon me. But all of these paled in comparison to the embossed invitation a courier brought one spring morning when the buds on the trees in Central Park were just beginning to awaken.
The Duke of Weimar had summoned me to his court. Of course my parents had no idea who the Duke of Weimar could possibly be; and the thought of my traveling alone across the Atlantic to Germany was completely beyond reason. But my publisher assured them it would be a priceless experience for me to be in the company of Goethe, Chopin, Goya and the many other creative giants of the early 19th century that often visited the Court of Weimar. And most of all, the publicity of my journey would vastly increase the international sales of my book. My father, now my financial manager, had been a struggling third-grade educated Pennsylvania carpenter until just that year. Now we lived in a fancy apartment in New York City and were the toast of the town. His business sense had become well educated in a hurry, and suffice it to say that I set off on my journey that very week.
Now, here I was on my last leg of the journey, riding leisurely in a carriage through the lush German countryside with two other travelers who had been summoned to Weimar. Ali Galip Ertem, a philosopher from Turkey, Miranda di Francesca, a harpist from Tuscany and, I Roger Singer from Pittsburgh, via New York City, were the newest inductees to the exclusive Court of Weimar. For the next year we would be submerged in our art, finding inspiration and feedback from the most creative minds of our time.
Although we shared that journey from Antwerp to Weimar for three and a half days, we said relatively little to each other. There were the obligatory introductions and the polite pleasantries, and a sharing of just a hint of the excitement each of us felt. But we didn't really share that much of who we really were. Throughout most of the journey, each of us was caught up in our own little worlds of anticipation and expectation. And in between our private daydreams as we gazed upon the trees and hills and tiny hamlets of the German heartland, occasionally we'd cast a furtive glance at each other, wondering about the other's life until now, and what the other's fate would be after this momentous adventure. We'd stare a moment too long, until our glance was detected. A shy, but politely embarrassed smile would forgive the intrusion and send us back into our private reveries.
I must admit that at first I saw my fellow travelers as nothing more than strangers. But by the time the Weimar castle was barely visible on the horizon, I found my daydreams straying more often into the secret lives of my companions. As I gazed at them, they seemed so very familiar. They both reminded me of people I was certain I had intimately known and trusted. I would stare at their faces and in an instant I would remember in my mind's eye. But the moment of clarity passed as quickly as it had come when our gazes met, and when and where, and who it was that I had recalled I could not say. Still I was left with a warm feeling towards them both, and in their returning smiles, I knew they felt it as well. We knew that we would discover much together over the next year.
The disconcerting but exhilarating deja-vu feeling I'd experienced was magnified tenfold when the carriage rolled through the gates of Weimar. It was as if I knew what everything would be like before I turned my head to look at it. I felt as if I'd already spent a lifetime here at Weimar. It was an overwhelming feeling that bubbled inside, gurgling up into my conscious brain, delivering the factual proof of my previous adventures at Weimar. It was almost there at the tip of my awareness, when the carriage came to a halt, and Miss Di Francesca and Mr. Ertem rose from their seats and stared at me inquisitively before they stepped down into the courtyard.
Weimar still looked familiar as I stepped down as well, but only in a vague tenuous way.
Our bags were seen to, and we were escorted to our quarters where we'd live and create and call home for the next year. My room was simple but elegant, and I could feel whispers of the creative works that were created and yet to be created in this very room. I knew that I would be inspired here.
That evening, after we'd rested, we were to be introduced to and dine with our host, the Duke of Weimar.
We were led to a giant hall. I could see sparkling chandeliers inside hanging from cathedral ceilings over tables set with the finest silver, crystal and china, and the smells of countless exotic delicacies drifted out to greet me. There were about a hundred already assembled inside in evening attire, engrossed in quiet conversation, or gustatory pleasures. The twelve new arrivals, myself and my two traveling companions included, were being greeted at the doorway by the Duke himself, who heartily and warmly welcomed each of us in turn. "Karl August, Duke of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach, at your most humble service," he offered, as he shook each hand. "Welcome to my home," he continued and he would address each by name without a prompt at all.
I watched his face carefully. He was exactly as I'd anticipated. Middle-aged, tall, dark with a thick mustache and warm, passionate eyes. I watched his eyes sparkle with each introduction. I could see that he was aware of and truly appreciated the creative treasures that each of his guests had brought to life.
When it became my turn in line, the Duke turned to me and his eyes blazed as if he'd recognized me, and had been waiting forever for my arrival. He said nothing for a moment, but his eyes spoke volumes. "Welcome, Ward!" his eyes screamed, though his lips did not move.
Something stirred in me. He could see in my own eyes that I had heard his silent greeting. But he could also see that I did not yet understand why he had called me that name, nor how or when it was that we might have known each other. It seemed like forever, but finally he held out his hand, and with a quivering smile and a trembling voice he said, "Welcome Roger Singer. I am so glad that you have come." And with a warm smile he nodded and gestured me into the hall.
I sat at the New Arrivals table and gazed around the room, listening to the orchestra playing and the gentle waves of conversation rising and falling all around me. We were as different as humans can be. Young and old and of every creed and nationality imaginable. And yet there was a similar creative fire that burned in each pair of eyes I gazed into. In the presence of so much creative energy I marveled at the thought of the works of beauty that would be created here.
Those next few months passed quickly by. They were so fulfilling, for indeed the creative spirit was alive everywhere I turned. Everyone seemed to be overflowing with its radiance. Each day each of us spent hours of solitude wading in its waters, flowing in its endless reservoir of an infinite wealth of stories yet untold, then joined in salons and over meals sharing and nurturing each other's creative passions.
No one was more nurturing than the Duke himself. He attended nearly every salon and certainly every formal recital. He seemed always to be there in a small circle when a creative work was being shared. He would also visit each of us in our chambers, from time to tome, with words of wise counsel and infinite patience and gentle prodding. He was so filled with passion that one could not leave his presence without feeling that creativity itself was a sacred and precious gift never to be taken for granted.
It was as if he hungered and fed on the creative spirit. But as the Duke fervently drank his fill, rather than diminish the creativity of the guest who had shared his work, one found his own creative flame even brighter and more consuming.
And so it was that in just a few short months I had created a sizable stack of treasures -- poems and stories, drawings and songs. I knew that they would be well received when I returned home. They had touched the hearts of my fellow creators here at Weimar, and without a doubt I knew that these works were destined to touch many other lives for generations to come. But there was something deeper crying out from within my soul, longing to be born. Something great. Something wondrous. All my works would be mere trifles in comparison.
I would begin each day certain that this new work I'd begun would be The One that would transform the world and all the creative worlds yet to be. It would burn inside and passionately flow, but when I was done, I knew it wasn't the elusive treasure I'd aimed for.
Ali Galip and Francesca did indeed become my closest friends there at Weimar as I'd first envisioned. Their works were so inspiring to me, and I could see that my creative attempts touched their hearts as well. That made me so glad. When I tried to explain the frustration I felt, though, they didn't quite understand. They felt completely fulfilled in their own creative passions. They'd never created more beautiful work in all their lives. The spirit at Weimar was helping them to aspire to their truest potential and they were more than satisfied with the fruits of their labors.
"Your works are so beautiful," they cried in disbelief. "How can you call them mere trifles!"
I knew that the Duke understood before I even shared my longing with him. When I finally did get up the nerve to discuss it with him, he gazed at me with a knowing look and he sighed deeply. "Come, Roger. It's a lovely night. Let us go for a walk and listen to the songs of the stars."
The sky was magically alive with twinkling diamonds, and the whispering summer breeze brought a symphony of fragrances and the melodies of crickets and frogs. The world was alive.
We walked along breathing in the night in silence, listening, watching, and feeling the pulse of life itself flowing unbridled all around us. "Passion is the door into eternity," the Duke of Weimar began softly as we sat along the wall and gazed out at the moon and stars shimmering in the lake below. I wasn't sure what to say.
"Love and creativity ..." he continued, just as softly. "Those are the most powerful passions of all. And the most transcending forms of love and creativity are those which focus on empathy and compassion and brotherly love. Eternity is so close in this court with all the camaraderie and creativity alive and growing here at Weimar. Can you feel it Ward? It's not like this out there, out in the real world. There are so many darker passions running rampant beyond these walls and in that reality forever is so far away. Imagine how truly alive the world would be if everyone used their creative passions to illuminate the interconnectedness of all life as we do here..."
He was watching my eyes in the darkness. He knew that I knew he'd called me Ward, the same name I'd heard his eyes see in me the first day we met. He could see that the name stirred something in me then. But he knew it wasn't enough to awaken the memory he was seeking to find.
The Duke of Weimar sighed, and I felt he carried a deep and troubling sorrow as he turned away from my gaze and stared out at the brilliant stars. I knew that later we would both pretend that this evening he'd had a momentary lapse. Or tomorrow perhaps we'd swear it never happened at all. But for now, he would share all that was in his heart, and I would listen, though I could not totally understand.
"Selfless love can bridge the gap between Now and Eternity for both the giver and the receiver," he continued. "In an instant it allows us to see ourselves in someone else."
By the time I vaguely understood what he was saying, he had moved on. "An artist has the unique gift to leave a door into Eternity open for many who come across his work. Yet both the gifts of the selfless giver and the artist are fleeting. They allow us to transcend our mortal bodies, but only for an instant. You, Ward, you will birth a new eternal doorway. You will deliver the key that will allow the NOW to last forever. Roger will spend his whole life seeking that perfect creation that will unlock that door. You will succeed, Ward. Maybe not in this reality, my friend. But somewhen you will share the gift of eternity." The Duke of Weimar breathed deeply and long. His voice trembled when next he spoke.
"When you see me then, sometime in the future or the past... I...I may not be as fortunate as I have been in this existence where I've been allowed to taste eternity so often. I may have to serve darker passions until your power delivers me to that place I long to be."
He was silent then, staring out at the stars. I had no idea what to say. I felt such admiration for this man. Such a deep bond. But I didn't know what he wanted to hear. "If I can ever help you, dear Duke, please know that I will."
With his face turned away to the stars, I knew that the Duke of Weimar was crying. "Thank you, my dear friend. I know that you will."
We never spoke of that evening again. That year passed by and I was deeply sad to be leaving all of my friends. But the memories that we'd shared would never leave me. And they would provide for all of us the inspiration for thousands of other works yet to be born, that we would bear into this world, which in turn would inspire others to dream and live.
I have yet to create that elusive work which still burns in me as passionately is it did all those years ago. But I keep trying. When I lose hope and faith, my angel comes to me in dreams, and I remember that wondrous vision of Peacetopia, and fleeting visions of pasts and futures I know I have lived somehow, somewhen on the road to that promised land. I remember people I've loved dearly in those times, and though the faces rearrange and the details of those lifetimes mix and blend, somehow behind them all I sense a karmic story is interwoven. In each of those lifetimes somehow Ward is my deepest essence and I am bound to the promise I had made to the Duke of Weimar; and in that promise I know lies the secret to creating that perfect work I seek to bring to life. And my angel whispers in each dream that I must keep seeking and dreaming and creating and living to fulfill that promise. And so I do, and someday I will.
From the novel, Utopian Dreamer by Robert Alan Silverstein