King Nebuchadnezzar ‘s mind is troubled, and he struggles to fight off a growing cloud of madness. He calls Daniel before him, has he has done many times before and will many times to come. Signalling his guard and court attendies to leave them alone, he turns to Daniel with an expression of relief peaking out through sweat. He does not wish Daniel to know how troubled he is, but feels compelled to interact with a voice outside his own head.
Nebuchadnezzar opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. As his mouth hangs half open, his expression turns from relief to determination. Daniel can tell he is struggling to form his words, but he knows not to speak before the King. Finally, a trembling finger points at Daniel and words follow.
“Daniel, you have spoke to me of many wondrous thoughts. I am troubled by your idea of a ‘soul.’ To think that there is some part of me which lives beyond this world, whose fate is not my own. It is cruel to me. I…” The King falters, once again appearing to struggle to collect his words.
“My King, we indeed have a soul. More than that, it is all we have. For everything else is evanescent.” Daniel replies, not expecting to satisfy the King but to prod him forward.
“But where is it then?!” Spouts the King, and throws up his arm in protest. He continues in exasperation. “I cannot see it. I cannot touch it. I cannot feel it. How do I know of my soul? Where is it that I may know it is well?” The King finishes staring intently at Daniel.
“But your soul is within you, my King.” Daniel says insecurely, not quite grasping the true nature of the question.
“That is not enough!” The King continues in frustration. “My heart is in me, but I can feel it beating. My stomach is in me, but I can hear it when it is hungry. Where is the soul that I may be aware of it?”
“My King is wise.” Daniel relaxes, feeling confident he now understands the question. “Few would think to ask such a question. In truth, few ever become aware of their soul.” He says this as genuine praise, but also in hopes of calming the conversation before continuing.
Nebuchadnezzar relaxes, feeling validated by Daniel. He collects himself and probes further, “So then, tell me. Is the soul in my heart, where I love or hate? Is it in my mind where I see the patterns around me and govern my people?”
“Neither my King, for the heart and mind are temporary. The heart can be taken from you with the sword. The mind can be taken from you with old age, or madness.” Daniel pauses, and stares at the King as if waiting for a reaction.
The King cringes, wondering if Daniel already knows the extent of his struggle, or if it was just a coincidence he chose those words. He brushes it off and continues, “So if not in my heart or mind, then tell me. Where in my inner castle do I find a place for my soul? Speak plainly, do not give me more riddles.” The King responds, not as an accusation, but with a sincere plea to hear more.
“I will tell you where the soul is, my King. It is in the mirror. When you…”
The King leaps up, “Ha! You contradict yourself, sage!” He said mockingly, acting like he just won a battle of wits. “A mirror can also be taken away from me. It can be broken. It can be shattered. It can be lost. What help is a mirror… ?” The King plops down into his chair with a huff. He is an intelligent man, and is used to outwitting those in his court. But to think he might have caught Daniel in a misstep feels especially good, for the moment.
“I am sorry my King,” Daniel wishes to be cautious, not wanting to pop the now inflated pride of the King too quickly, “I should have put more order to my words. I do not speak of the mirror in your chambers, I mean the mirror you see in your third eye.”
“Now you are just speaking nonsense,” says the King, coming down from the thrill, he is becoming truly exasperated. “Please make yourself clear or leave, I need my burden lifted, not heaved upon.”
“I promise my King, clarity will come soon.” Daniel knows the King’s tolerance grows thin. “But, I am afraid it may still add to your burden. Please, go to your window and look out upon your kingdom. Tell me what you see.”
The King lifts an eyebrow, then the rest of his body follows as he rises out of his throne. He walks to the window and looks out. The first thing out of his mouth is not words, but a deep and heavy sigh. Then he speaks, “I see madness, cruelty, filth, and desperation. What is man? He is a animal with enough intelligence to be truly malicious. A beast draws blood in a moment out of fear or hunger, but man can plot a massacre for years. I see my people kill each other for food. I see thieves, plotters, and gossips. Each person smiles at his neighbor in the street, then speaks his destruction when home. I see nothing but darkness and destruction. I see…” The King stops, his eyes grow wide. He began to understand Daniel, and suddenly knew what he just revealed.
“That is your mirror, my King.” Daniel responds bluntly but gently, he knows what is happening to the King. “So you see darkness, so you see yourself. The world is a mirror to all of us who look upon it.”
The King’s face morphs from his wide-eyed discovery to a furled brow, and then progresses to intense rage. The King snaps at Daniel, “You say my soul is so dark for seeing the world for what it is… humph! Well then sage, tell me. What do you see? Are you brave enough to show me YOUR soul?” Daniel knows his title of “sage” comes up only as a sarcastic retort. The King respects Daniel, but also resents him.
Daniel walks to the window and looks out. He takes a breath as if smelling a fresh bouquet of flowers, and then speaks. “I see the children of God in their infancy. Like a seed of a mighty Oak, it is nothing to the eye, but limitless in potential. I see a loving Father in heaven raising up a stubborn but promising youth. I see a people slowly coming to understand their power to bring good to each other’s lives. I see a kingdom destined for redemption.”
Again, the King lets out a “harrumph!” He looks at Daniel and speaks as if defeated but still defiant. “You see little different than me. You see a seed, but not an Oak. You see infants where I see the infantile. What does that mean of your soul, sage? If mine is darkness then what is yours?”
Daniel pauses for a second, stands straight, looks directly into the King and simply says, “Hopeful.”
The King freezes. As if time just stops and his face is a photograph. After a minute passes, the King just sinks back into his throne. He stares off into the distance, not looking at Daniel. “When I called you, it was my intention to expose your ‘soul’ as a fairy tale, a story for children. I was not expecting that even you could make a man aware his own soul. You are right, it does not lift my burden…” The King pauses for a moment, and then speaks. “Thank you for your help, Daniel. Now please, leave me be.”
Daniel bows respectfully to the King, and turns to walk out. His heart is heavy, for he knows what tomorrow brings for his friend, and the battle raging inside. As he nears the door, the King blurts out at him, “I wonder, sage, when tomorrow comes, which of us will be right?”
“We are both right, my King.” Daniel shouts back, again hearing the pain the Nebuchadnezzar’s voice and wishing he could do more. “There are two realities, one that ends and one that is eternal. Darkness may reign in the present, but hope inherits the future. Knowledge can find evil around every corner, but love can create good out of nothingness. There is a reality which is passing, and a reality which is emerging. We choose where to place our soul.” Daniel waits at the door for a moment, but no response comes. He closes the door, and leaves the King to himself.