Yuzmin's Folly

"The most decisive actions of our lives are most often unconsidered actions." Andre Gide

In the fifteenth century A.D., during the reign of Yuzmin, King of Mullah-Banin (a now forgotten territory situated near the mountains of Attain in the Middle East) a famous decree was made. The young king who made it had a well-established reputation for his lavish parties and bacchanalian orgies. Incredibly wealthy, King Yuzmin took such pride in exceeding the renowned festivities of his forebears that at the height of one of his most outrageous annual spectacles, the week long Homage to Attis, the Phrygian god of fertility, Yuzmin declared that the rest of his reign would be a perpetual revelry.

Fabulous mirrored rooms, dazzling cathedral arches, glimmering silver and gold brocaded draperies, billowing silks, bejeweled statuary, walls of ornate mosaic -- on every hand the palace of Yuzmin was devoted to excess. For entertainment, Yuzmin had imported musicians of the most excellent caliber. He had also assembled an astonishing collection of exotic dancers, voluptuous and able-bodied, whose sole function was to bring unending delight to the members of his court. But of his many treasures, Yuzmin took the greatest pleasure from his harem of concubines, who were among the most beautiful women in the world.

At times the mood in Yuzmin's court was feverish, electrifying, sensational, swelling to a near riotous frenzy. At other times the mood was subdued, seductive, and subtle. Like an ocean's unremitting surging and subsiding, the perpetual celebrations in the palace of King Yuzmin continued without interruption.

While many believed this everlasting feast of sensual extravagance had been arranged simply for the entertainment of his court and to impress emissaries of foreign lands, King Yuzmin's true intent had been, in fact, to re-create and experience on earth what he believed to be the glory of Heaven.

Thus it was that one hot and humid day, while Yuzmin was feasting, enjoying the luxuries of his wealth, basking in a rapturous delirium, he murmured, half aloud, half to himself, "Truly, I must be in Heaven."

To his surprise, a voice answered him, "Indeed not. You are in Hell."

Yuzmin twisted on his cushion and, seeing no one, said, "How can this be Hell?" Without wondering from whence the voice had come he continued. "It is not at all unpleasant to me. I have always associated Hell with squalor and debauchery, ugliness, cruelty and terrorism. But here I have assembled the most exquisitely beautiful women in the world. Are we not witnessing the sumptuous and awe-inspiring splendor of God's handiwork? Nor have I kept these pageantries to myself. I have shared them generously with all who come! I say once more, how can this be Hell?"

"It is evident that you do not understand the nature of Heaven and Hell," the voice replied. "Heaven is not merely the accumulation of pleasures and delights. Heaven is the Presence of God. What is it you truly seek? You have embraced Beauty, but have you captured God? You will find Heaven when you find His Presence."

"Are we not now in His Presence? If God is everywhere, then I am in His midst, am I not?"

The voice answered, "Do you really wish to find Heaven?"

"Oh yes, I truly do," said the king casually.

"You will receive your next instruction when you declare an end to your perpetual celebration," said the voice.

Whether Yuzmin heard these last words or not, no one can say, for they had no sooner been spoken than he found himself captured, captivated and caressed by two of his most beautiful (and favorite) mistresses, the music of flute players transporting him to new levels of ecstasy. It seemed to him the high point of his life, and this time, when he said again, "Truly, I must be in Heaven," there was no voice in reply.

For forty years the spectacle in Yuzmin's courts continued without ceasing. On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, the bells were chimed announcing the anniversary of what later came to be known as his Decree of Perpetual Revelry.

In many respects nothing had really changed. A new generation of musicians continued to play. A new generation of lithe, young dancers unveiled themselves with carnal abandon. A new harem of beautiful courtesans had been bred and purchased, yielding themselves in perfect submission to his every nod and gesture.

However, Yuzmin was no longer the enthusiastic, impulsive Adonis who performed legendary self-indulgent feats of endurance with boundless energy and imagination. For he had now become an old man, his pale grey skin splotched and wrinkled, his colorless eyes staring unfocused and unseeing. His once easy smile had been replaced by the thin, tight line of bloodless lips, ever drawn to conceal the ill-fitting dentures which no amount of money had been able to adequately engineer. And while the music poured forth in an endless stream, the rhythms and tones had long ago settled into a drone to which his ears had become deaf.

So it was that shortly after dusk on the night the bells chimed, Bernice the Younger drew near to him and said, "How long must we worship you, Oh Master? When will you let us rest from seeking to bring you delight? It has been so very long since you showed any signs of the awakening of desire. How is it possible that we must continue this pointlessness?"

Seeing Bernice's boldness, another of his concubines likewise drew near and lay beside him, saying, "Your heart is far from us, Oh Master. What is it you truly seek?"

Yuzmin tilted his head back and tried to remember.



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