The Sentence

I was sentenced to life in prison. They shut me in a small cell.

Outraged by the injustice, I kept shouting, "let me out! I want to be free!" But the louder I shouted the smaller the cell became, until it was an infinitesimal particle, tinier than an atom.

Finally, I shut up and collapsed. Immediately, as I sank to my knees, the walls disappeared and I could see the stars. I went on collapsing for a long long time, sinking into a black hole of unbounded tininess, and relinquishing all yearning to be anywhere else.

Then I heard the voices and rattling keys of my judges and jailers. "We have come to tell you that all charges have been dropped," they announced. "You are free." But they were astonished to find the door to my cell wide open.

"I know," I said. "You never really locked the door."

When they examined my dwelling place, they all cried, "Marvelous! There's a mansion for each of us here!"

"Come," I said, "judge, jury, criminal and executioner. If you want to live with me, just give up seeing any difference between one who forgives and one who is forgiven."

So they brought their wives and sisters, cousins and clansmen. They brought armies of ancestors, rich and poor, priests and heretics from every religion. They brought planets, suns and galaxies. We all dressed up in the star-clustered gowns of space itself, and feasted in my infinitesimal Palace of Surrender, on whose wide open gate someone painted:

"Enter Now, You Who Were Always Here!"

Painting: 'Jacob's Ladder,' William Blake, 1800

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