The Legend Of
Christmas Vigilance--Part I of Five.
GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Dec. 20, 2003 --
ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Dec. 20, 2003 --
upon a time, just five days before Christmas, all the children and
parents of the Land of Vigilance gathered around a warm, crackling
fire to hear the story of how the Sentinel of Vigilance came to
conquer the Beast of Terror.
Christmas trees lined the Great Hall of Vigilance.
Strings of popcorn and bright red and white candy canes dangled
playfully from the tips of the bushy fir trees.
The rosy-cheeked children laughed and hugged one another as they
entered the Great Hall from the cold, snowy night.
Each deposited his or her wet boots along the wall and hung
their jackets and scarves on wooden hooks carved out of a giant oak
and polished brightly with linseed oil.
A cup of steaming hot chocolate awaited each child on a long
table heaped with cookies of all sizes, shapes and kinds. Gingerly,
the children studied the river of sweets, selecting three pieces each
from the choice of divinity, fudge and caramel confections their
Mothers and Grandmothers of Vigilance made the day before.
A large redwood chair, hewn by the village’s most accomplished
woodsman, commanded the center of the Great Hearth. It was fashioned
from the trunk and limbs of a giant redwood stricken by lightening
many years before. The back of the chair formed a "Y," with each
fork climbing up toward the rafters of the Great Hall as though they
were hands reaching up to tickle the underbelly of God.
The arms were highly polished slabs cut from the tree’s grand
branches. The were made strong and wide enough for three grown men to
stand upon them. A chunk of the tree’s trunk formed the chair’s base.
it took a half-dozen of the village’s strongest men to carry the chair
into the Great Hall. Were the village to ever ran out of wood to
burn during a blizzard, it was said the chair would fuel every
family’s hearth until the sand in eternity’s clock ran dry.
A bright, white sheepskin--thick and fluffy--served as a
cushion. The fleece was so deep that a child sitting in it was often
only noticed by the tip of his or her shiny nose and bright eyes.
After sipping chocolate and munching candy, the children
formed a line in front of the chair. Each holiday, part of the
evening’s fun was to sit in the chair and pretend to be the Sentinel.
“No more than one minute in the chair, children. And, be sure
and wipe the chocolate off your mouths and the sticky from your
fingers,” said one of the grandmothers, holding out a warm damp towel.
The first little girl climbed into the chair. It swallowed
her as hay does in the summer when the children leapt into it from the
lofts. “It’s like a cloud,” she squealed, waving her arms as though
she were embroidering a snow angel. “It’s so cuddly, like being in
the arms of a giant polar bear.”
One by one, the children took his or her turn. Some sat
silently, eyes pinched shut, dreaming of horizons yet to unfold.
Others squirmed luxuriously, and still others pretended the fleece was
a sea and they a playful otter.
A boy who hated winter and all the cold used his minute to
imagine the warm summer's sun kissing the earth, beckoning all
Spring’s seeds to burst through the soil in one great explosion of
life and spread a palette of color where the wintry blanket had been.
Another boy with red hair bounced against the rawhide slings woven
beneath the chair to hold its occupant.
Once all the children feasted their bodies in the supple
softness of the chair's mighty presence, they sat in a horseshoe shape
around it. Hands folded in their laps, legs crossed, they waited for
the Sentinel to enter and the first story to begin.
The scent of cinnamon sticks wafted through the hall as one of
the Grandmothers of Vigilance, her bright red trimmed and white apron
spotlessly clean, made her way to the flagstone mantle. She placed
her fingers around a thick strand of rawhide dangling from an ornate
brass bell anchored to the side of the hearth.
She pulled the rawhide clanger gently. A soft chime resounded
through the Great Hall. The children responded. "One!"
She pulled it again, this time a little harder. The bell’s
"Two!" The children choroused.
G-Ma Vigilance, as all grandmothers were known, winked at
children’s glistening faces. G-Ma pretended to heave and haul as hard
as she could on the clanger, but no sound replied to her efforts.
She feigned a grimace and pretended once more to pull down, but, alas,
"You can do it, G-Ma! You can do it!" The children clapped
and cheered her on.
"Help! Help!" G-Ma Vigilance shouted, grinning upon the happy
faces. A boy and girl, rushed to her aide. They reached up and
placed their hands on G-Ma's forearms.
"Thank you, Little Ones. Now, pull," G-Ma said. "Pull hard."
The Little Ones pulled at her arms as G-Ma bent downward. The
bell rang loudly. Children’s cheers echoed through the Great Hall.
As the bell’s clang began to fade, the Little Ones let out a yelp and
began to clap loudly.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!"
The Sentinel’s jolly laugh roared through the rafters of the
Great Hall. He strolled out from behind a large Christmas Tree, a
long staff in his right hand. On his left forearm was strapped a
Shield of Vigilance, its gleaming silvery surface embossed with a "S"
and a "V.” Marching along the edges of the curved shield, shaped
like two halves of a heart, blazed three words: "Courage,"
"Conviction" and "Right Action."
The Sentinel’s face was carved with deep furrows, etched by
time into his forehead, cheeks and neck from countless Seasons of
Vigilance. No one knew exactly how old he was, or where he was born,
or from what land he came from. They only knew he stood night and
day, in rain, snow, sleet, sunshine and clouds, guarding the entrance
of the Land of Prosperity, scouring the horizon, ever Vigilantly
watching and protecting the children and their Children's, Children's,
Children's from intrusions by the Beast of Terror.
"Hello, Little Ones.” The Sentinel knelt near one of the Shy
Ones. He reached out his forefinger, thick and calloused from
eternal patrols along the Land's perimeter and tickled the Little
One’s cheek. She looked up, blinking her eyes slowly, a habit of the
Shy Ones. "Have you a smile for me this great night?"
The Shy One's lips tweaked upward. Slowly, the downturn of
her lips thawed, melting into a smile.
"There, that's so much better.” He reached into his pocket and
pulled out a piece of hard candy. "For you, Little One."
The Sentinel of Vigilance wore long white hair not unlike a
lion’s mane but with dark eyebrows the depth of ebony. One of his
eyes was brown and the other blue, and when he winked at the children,
they laughed because he was always asking them what color his eyes
were, and forewarning them they had half a chance of being right.
"Can I touch your Shield?" asked one little boy, his big brown
eyes fixed to the gleaming silver and gold surface.
The boy ran his fingers over the surface of the Shield of
Vigilance, feeling the bumps of the letters hammered into the metal by
blacksmiths long ago.
The Sentinel wore a long sheepskin tied about his waist with
rawhide like the ringer in the bell. A tall, pointed cap resembling a
chimney stood on his head, bent near the top like the tip of a tired
finger. His knee-high boots were also fashioned from sheepskin, and
his leather pants shined from all the miles he walked each day,
turning their surface into a mirror that cast the reflection from
flames on his legs, as though he were walking in fire itself.
"Are you ready for your first Christmas story?"
"We are! We are!"
"Then, let us begin."
The Sentinel eased himself down into the Great Chair. He
placed his staff inside two rings placed on the highback of the chair
and the Shield of Vigilance on the other.
"Would you like some hot chocolate, Sentinel?"
The Shy One approached him with a steaming cup. He thanked
her and took a sip, placing it on the wide arm of the Great Chair of
Vigilance. The Sentinel leaned forward.
"Once upon a time," he said in a deep, hushed Voice, "there was
no Land of Prosperity, just Poverty. There was no fire or candy, no
cookies, no smiles or giggles. No! No! There was only cold. Only
being afraid. Only sadness."
"Why?" One of the little boys sitting in the front row
cocked his head and waited for the Sentinel's answer.
"Because the Land of Poverty was ruled by the Beast of
"Ooooohhhhhhh..." The children sang out the response. They
clutched themselves and their friends, pretending to be afraid.
They all knew about the Beast. The stories of him were taught in
school, and woven into all the Principles of Vigilance. They were
not afraid, for they had learned not to Fear the Beast, but to respect
his ability to make them afraid. This was their great defense, their
most powerful offense.
"The Beast of Terror didn't
like children. No, indeed not. He liked to make them
afraid. He hid under their beds at night and in the closet.
He disguised himself in shadows of the night."
G-Ma Vigilance brought
the Sentinel a candle that was shielded on one side by a piece of
metal, forcing the light to shine all in one direction. She held
it out as the Sentinel made a shadow figure with his hands and
fingers. The shadow seemed to walk across the wall, and
the children again echoed "Oooooohhhhh."
"The Beast of Terror went
around this land and made people sad. He stole the fruit
from the trees and put rocks into the earth so that things would not
grow. There were no fresh vegetables or corn, no tomatoes or
potatoes. People boiled grass and weeds and were
hungry all the time, for the Beast of Terror loved to make the
children and their parents unhappy, hungry, frightened of him."
"That's not nice.
Why would he be so mean?" This question came from a little girl
with pigtails. She shook her head as she asked the
"The Beast of Terror didn't
have a Parent of Vigilance. He wasn't taught the
Principles of Vigilance, as you have been. He didn't know
anything except how to be a bully. He wanted only to make
people afraid of him, to cower in his presence, and to think they
couldn't do anything about him because he had power over them.
After all, he stripped the land of its trees and blocked the sunlight,
and told people they were his servants and he was the king. He
told them they had to think the way he did, and that if they didn't do
what he wanted he would steal all their food and fire, and make them
even more hungry and cold."
"What a bad, bad, bad Beast,"
sang one of the boys.
"What about people, the
parents, grandparents. Why didn't they stand up to him?"
The Sentinel leaned back and
took a sip of his chocolate. "At first, they were afraid,"
he said. "They didn't think they were big enough or strong
enough to stand up to him. You see, there a many people in
the world who give the power they have to fight the Beast to the
Beast. They think they can't protect themselves from the
Fear, Intimidation and Complacency the Beast creates.
It's like when you believe you are sad, you are sad. When you
believe you are lonely, you are lonely. When you believe you
aren't smart enough, or good enough, or as strong as another, or as
pretty as, or as handsome as, or as lucky as another, you become what
you think. Well, everyone believed the Beast of
Terror was bigger than their beliefs. No matter how hard
they tried not to be afraid, they were afraid. No matter how
hard they tried not to feel Intimidated, they were Intimidated.
And, no matter how hard they tried to change those feelings, it seemed
they couldn't, so they gave up trying. They became Complacent.
And, the Beast laughed at them. He told them they were nothing,
that they were nobody's, and, sadly, the people believed them."
"But we don't think that.
Why did they?"
The Sentinel leaned
forward and smiled at the little girl who asked the question.
"Because they hadn't yet taken the Pledge of Vigilance, little one.
They hadn't learned and practiced the Formula of Vigilance, or gone to
the Plus One Percent School of Thought. People learn, little
one, from experience. And, these were the first people on earth.
They didn't know yet they had the Power of Vigilance, and that the
Power of Vigilance was much stronger than the Power of Terrorism.
They believed the Beast of Terror was in charge of their lives."
"But, how did they
change? How did they become Parents of Vigilance?
Grandparents of Vigilance? Loved Ones Of Vigilance?"
"Ahhh, that is
tomorrow night's chapter. But for tonight, we need to all
remember just one thing. That all our Fears, all our
Intimidations, all our Complacency, can be changed. We
need to remember that the land of the Beast of Terror can be plowed
under, and the fruits of Vigilance can be seeded and sprout and turn
sadness into happiness, change poverty into prosperity, and make
little children who are afraid and lonely feel secure and loved.
When you go to bed tonight, think of the magic of a land that
changed from sadness to happiness, from being afraid to feeling secure
and safe, from being unloved to being loved. Tomorrow
night I will tell you how the people and parents of the Land of
Vigilance came to battle the Beast of Terror. About how they
learned that Courage was the first step in chasing the Beast away.
You do want to hear how the Beast was banished by your parents, don't
"Yes. Oh, yes!"
Good, tomorrow we'll talk about the
Courage it took to make the Beast run away. But, for now, enjoy
another cup of chocolate and we'll resume the story tomorrow.
And, with your parents permission, you can have one more piece of
--end of Part I of V--
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