06. 25. 2006. 08:18

In a Pyramid

"Looking for a better job, I decided to join a pyra­mid. The admission committee (the pyramid it­self) judged my neck muscles suitable for the show; no particular objection was raised against my build. I was not supplied with any instructions or information; but then again, I didn't inquire either."

On my first appearance, I considered it natural that I, as a newcomer, would be placed at the bottom of the pyramid and support all the others above. My joy started to diminish, however, when I noticed that the début did not seem to come to an end. I had to reconcile myself with the fact that the pyramid I had joined was a permanent one. Its members slept, ate and performed all their activities in a pyramid.

I got used to the heavy load within a relatively short period of time, but I did find it hard to endure the constraint of immobility. Not that they told me to stay put, not to leave or walk about as I would; but I took it for granted that I, the lowest member, was the one who sustained it all and without me the whole pyramid would collapse immediately. I no­ticed that certain members from the middle and from the sides of the pyramid came and went quite often, sometimes left for weeks on end - this, however, was practically unnoticeable; others ea­sily replaced missing members with just a bit of rearrangement. By virtue of my position, none of this applied to me.

In my bitterness, I decided, after a long internal struggle, to get out of it. "Let the whole thing collap­se," I thought, "I want my liberty back, even if it means disaster."

When at last I determinedly stepped out from the bottom of the pyramid, I found, to my surprise, that the pyramid did not even wobble. It wasn't about to collapse. I felt that all my perseverance and my efforts had been in vain, and this exasperated me. At the same time, however, I had to be happy with my newly regained liberty, and I knew that if I returned to my place from time to time, my job would be secure.

My second painful surprise was that the load did not become any lighter. I continued to feel the whole weight of the pyramid on my shoulders. Even when I lay on the sofa in my home, the effort was breaking me. I could hardly drag myself to bars. Once I got to the sea somehow, but all this was even more uncomfortable, tiring and gloomy than when I was still trying to deceive myself at the bottom of the pyramid that my efforts had a meaning. I understood why members of the pyra­mid left their places much more rarely than they could have if they had wanted to. I realized that they left from time to time only to make important and urgent arrangements and returned as soon as they could. I also gave up my trips and returned to my low, seemingly important post.

That was when the most unpleasant surprise came. One morning I woke up only to realize that I was not standing on the ground anymore; I was standing on someone's shoulders. Given the logic of events, this turning po­int was foreseeable; yet, I had never thought of it before. I could only imagine myself as forever the lowest; I did not even desire to get higher. What troubled me most in this new position was that I had lost my sense of security: When everything wobbles above me, and my feet cannot rest on solid ground, I must strain every nerve just to keep my balance. Of course, I climbed down immediately and left, even though I should have suspected that it was all in vain. On smooth ground, I stood just as shakily, and every step required intense concentration. By comparison, it was relatively soothing to stay put, so that's what I did. From then on, my nerves began breaking down. I suffered from insomnia, and my health declined rapidly.

I haven't yet mentioned that human speech was not in use in the pyramid. Only a few moans, plaintive sighs and gnashing of teeth could be heard. The latter were considered expressions of joy in given circumstances. I myself grew unused to talking. My life before, indeed the whole talking world outside, seemed to me a mere illusi­on, a product of fancy rather than reality. It was a place where those who are skilled in techniques of self-deception can make languid excursions time and again, but self-deception is not such a unique art in a place where our senses deceive us and where we deceive our senses. Consequently, there was no difference between imaginary and real leaving. I was completely unable to differentiate between the two.

Then I made a discovery that made my position bearable again. I argued that if the pyramid could stand up without me, then there was no need for me to sustain it constantly. If I clung to those above me, nobody would have to hold me. Moreover, I would not suffer from a constant feeling of inse­curity, and my feet would not get sprained on swe­aty, slippery shoulders. If I just clasped the legs of those standing above me with my arms, then I would hang with ease, I thought. I would only have to sustain my own weight.

Soon it became clear to me that suspension was the general rule inside the pyramid, and although I was unable to survey the whole of this intricate and wide-ranging system, I felt that at least in a large zone around me everybody was suspended on those abo­ve them. I had no idea what on earth made the pyramid stand up. The relative stability of the system seemed a miracle to me. One time, unable to control my rapture, I cried out, "Folks, we're flying!" Plaintive sighs from afar answered my cry of joy and made me realize that (due to the peculiar weight transfer system in the structure) distant sections had to exert twice as much effort to sustain our levitating group. My enthusiasm for levitation decreased. I realized that being suspended was no easier and that the higher I stood, the harder my task became. More and more people were standing under me, and they were all suspended from me.

Knowing that job security was excellent in the pyramid, I gave up checking on my own condition constantly and gave up speculating about the system altogether. Am I happy or not? Satisfied or dissatisfied? It left me completely indifferent. Forgetting myself, my function and my destiny, I let myself be incorpora­ted into the throbbing life of the pyramid, as an unconscious cell.

Translated by: Ágnes Orzóy

Tags: Miklós Erdély (1928-1986)