The Thirteenth Leaf

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Something rather unusual happened of late.  One of the boats came in with a harper.  He spent a few months on the island and there were many stories of his comings and goings.  One day I bumped into him and asked him if he was indeed the harper.  He said yes, I am he.  We talked for a while and he told me of the interesting places he had seen and the important people he had played for.  But then he sang a song for me, a song which affected me greatly and which stays with me still.  I dare not to define it here for I know not how it haunts me, only that it does.  And I wonder if that is what I am trying to do in this book, to bring to life something unborn.  And maybe, rather than all the interesting places to see, or important people to meet, what I desire most is to pass a stranger in the rain and answer yes, I am he.


– Sorren

The extent of my anger at this man has reached a new crest. He dares to dream that he can create something new in this world, to bring to life something unborn! Must I even have to explain that this is reserved for only One? He must be a simpleton of high degree for even small children know the maker and his works. Can this man be saved? Of that I cannot know for here I am as a small child: I know of the maker and his works, but I know not his mind. I am torn. Should I pray for this man or applaud his torment? Now, even I am caught in his terrible musings.

- M

I remember first reading this leaf and thinking just how contempory it sounded to me, this was a sentiment so modern that it could well have been written by myself.  But in fact, it is not modern at all, and when Sorren would have written these words, the sentiment would have sounded strange and peculiar to men laboring in dark mines and hauling in vast nets of oily fish from the cold sea  Sorren was a servant, a common man.  He had no claim to any great learning, no privilege born through bloodline, and he certainly would have had no expectation of ever rising above the station of being a servant to a King, which would have offered him food and shelter above many of his contemporary peers living in the surrounding villages.  Comparatively speaking, Sorren had a good life.  But he would have been forced to do what he was told.  To a modern man, this would be something he would never agree to.  But in fact, that is exactly what we all do.  No man is a King, and no man is an island.

But Sorren still allowed himself to dream and to imagine what it would be like to be respected for his thoughts and for the very personal opinions that he held in his mind, however small they be.  Was Sorren truly a thinking man?  I think it very likely that he was even more troubled by the essential, profound questions that haunted the thinking man than the average person living in our present day.  Profound questions are left to obscure philosophers now, and people do not even read the important thoughts that they have discovered, or see them as in any way important, because each person thinks only of their own immediate gratification, even down to the character of their daily meals.  Then, unlike now, there were perhaps very few opportunities for a serious, thinking man to associate or to even be heard by those outside of his social status.  Today the opportunity is both trivial and ubiquitous.  In truth, I believe that Sorren wanted simply to be acknowledged.  Sorren wanted to stand proud and say “I exist!”

After reading the annotations of M, I was perplexed.  They sounded ignorant and vicious.  But I could not understand why he would be so irate.  It made me think.  It seemed to be that M was upset that Sorren had the gall to dream that he was important, and that he had every right to exist as any other man, great or small, or simply that Sorren didn’t know his place.  It is clearly obvious to me that M is a man of faith, a devout man and a man that does not suffer a slight to the Lord lightly, but I do not think that Sorren was slighting the Lord at all, but that just the opposite was true. Sorren used the word unborn in his phrase about bringing something into the world.  This is the point of contention I believe.  Yes, the Lord brings to life the unborn with merely a word.  The Lord speaks, and it is created ex nihilo.  But the Lord also works through the hands of man even as does a number appear from the architecture of a mathematical formula, for it is the inspiration of the Lord though it come through the mind of man and enter the world. Could M have forgotten that the Lord does sometimes use even the most unfit men to do His work?

Finally I come to the most poignant part of the leaf.  Sorren talks about how he was moved by the song from the Harper, and that he knew not why he was moved, but only that he was.  He actually said that he was affected greatly.  It is my contention that he was moved emotionally, and that he had a visceral reaction like the tears of joy when we are overcome by a powerful experience.  This is what the beauty of inspiration from the Lord can do.  The gift of the Harper is a gift from the Lord, and that the inspiration may come from the Lord is a measure of that gift.  I believe that inspiration comes to us in this way though we are unable to describe it, or as Sorren said: to define it, for it is mysterious and it is haunting, and often comes unbidden and without effort.  Such is beauty.


A harper whose music is still prominent, even today.