The Day the Moon Smiled
Apr 22, 2007
The Master of the Moon was just finishing a detailed sketch of a dimple when the light over the message tube flashed red. He paused, and thoughtfully erased a smudge on the paper, trying to ignore the insistent flashing. He had been expecting it for days.
His children on the earth had been in trouble for a long time. His efforts to help them had been ignored. His normal exuberance had grown thin, darkened by the bitter realization that his children were leaving him. As he smoothed out the message on the worktable, his hand trembled, knocking over a jar of ink, blotting out the drawing on the table.
The message was terse. “They’re gone. I’m sorry.”
• • • • •
During the next few years, the studio floating high above the earth lay abandoned. A deathlike gloom crawled along the floor, swirling around the vacant chairs and easels. The drawing of the dimpled face lay discarded on the table, its smile hidden by the caked India ink. Dust lay everywhere.
When the door finally creaked open, the drawing had yellowed and the paper had become brittle. The Master of the Moon hardly glanced at it, brushing it aside in a puff of dust. His assistant, a tall and quiet-faced person, watched sadly as the drawing fluttered to the floor, lodging behind a high-backed chair.
The Master glanced at the assistant. “Come now. Leave it there. The moon will have a face very soon.”
With a sigh, his assistant walked to the table and placed a new sheet of clean paper on the table. He bit his lip slightly as he laid out a set of brushes and opened a jar of ink. Striding to the windows, he threw open the shutters, allowing the light of the moon to come streaming through the studio. He gazed at the smooth surface of the moon. There were no craters or blemishes of any kind on it. It was a shiny white stone, waiting for a personality.
The assistant spoke diffidently. “You will not use the other sketch, Master? It was such a delightful, happy face. Would your children on the earth not be inspired by it?”
The Master nodded. “Yes, of course they would.” His brush was busy, making clean, broad strokes on the paper. He looked at his assistant calmly. “You are forgetting, my friend, how far away they will become.”
“Yes, indeed.” The Master carefully added a bit of shading around the mouth. “They remember me now, as you know. They understand what they’ve done, and feel terrible remorse. Yet, the violence of their passions is even now driving them farther away, down into a darkness that will remove all knowledge of you and I from their hearts and minds.”
The assistant shuddered. It was difficult for him to comprehend the reality of the Master’s words. Yet, the flat resignation in the Master’s tone was impossible to ignore. The assistant moved closer to the table and stared down at the face that had taken shape under the Master’s brush.
“Master, it’s such a sad face. Why do you make it so?”
The Master didn’t answer, as he looked at the drawing. Satisfied, he blew on the paper, to dry the ink, and then briskly rolled up the drawing. He handed it to the assistant, with a nod toward the message tube on the wall. The assistant inserted the drawing into the tube, and pressed a button. With a whoosh, the drawing was gone. The Master motioned the assistant to the window, where they both leaned against the windowsill and gazed at the surface of the moon. As they watched, a stream of asteroids came into view, moving at great speed toward the moon. First one, then a dozen, and finally hundreds crashed into its untouched skin, flinging gigantic clouds of powder and debris across its surface.
The assistant gazed in awe as the face that the Master had drawn on paper slowly appeared on the surface of the moon. Finally, the last asteroid made contact, and the moon was once again silent and shining.
The Master pointed to the earth, floating serenely below the moon. “Someday, millennia from now, some of my children will stare up at the surface of the moon, and see that sad face, and ask why it is so mournful. They’ll ask themselves how it came to be, and they’ll argue about craters and asteroids and random mathematics. Eventually, they’ll realize that chance had nothing to do with it, for what are the chances that unthinking rocks could carve a face like their own?”
The assistant nodded. “Then they’ll remember you. I see.”
The Master placed his hand on the assistant’s shoulder. “Yes. And perhaps they’ll wonder how I feel.”
They stood for a while, gazing at the sad face of the moon. Finally, the assistant closed the shutters. In a silence that neither wanted to break, they slowly walked through the studio door, shutting it gently behind them.
• • • • •
On the earth, as many centuries passed, the Master’s prophecy proved true. Once enlightened children slid down into a brutish existence, punctuated by the gnawing of bones and the gradual loss of knowledge. Many things faded beyond their memory, such as the niceties of bathing and the brushing of one’s teeth. They lost all knowledge of tools and fire building. The concept of science and the realm of higher thought disappeared for a very long time. When they met each other, they were only dimly aware that they were different from the animals that they eagerly hunted for their next meal. Huddled together for warmth on cold nights, they stared up at the moon, and thought that it was a god. They had reached the bottom of human existence.
In those days, the Master of the Moon never visited the studio. He and his assistants spent most of their time monitoring his children on the earth. His assistants were awed by his patience, and privately wondered how many millennia it would take to restore knowledge to the earth. When they became impatient with the dullness of their human charges, they gazed upward at the sad face of the moon, and silently continued their work. Yet, more than once they grew discouraged because of the darkness of that time. Goodness seemed entirely extinct.
The Master of the Moon shared many of their feelings. As his assistants brought him the recorded volumes of each year, he would often leave them unopened on their shelves. Reviewing them was too painful, for every page was drenched in the blood of his children. Instead, he constantly reminded his assistants that no deed or thought, no matter how dreadful, could destroy the beautiful core of heart inside each of his children. It was that core that they labored to find in their travels on the earth.
As time passed, bright spots gradually appeared among the masses of his troubled children. His assistants eagerly told him about each new man or woman or child they found who thought and felt in a new way, a kind and more loving way, leaving behind the callousness of their neighbors. A special team of helpers was immediately dispatched to guide and protect those illuminated individuals. Protecting them was difficult, for their neighbors had the unfortunate habit of murdering them as quickly as they could, for illumination was not popular.
The Master and his helpers grieved when a person’s beautiful light on the earth was snuffed out in a vicious attack. They welcomed each person to their final home with the comforting assurance that with martyrdom all was not lost. An ever expanding atmosphere of goodness was being created by thousands of acts of kindness, unselfish love, and sacrifice on the part of his children. Knowledge was returning to the earth. The Master and his assistants gave special attention to the few, great individuals who, by their own extraordinary examples, were helping to wrestle humanity from the primeval mud.
His assistants reported to the Master with amusement that the moon had become a prominent figure in popular culture. They related with some glee that “the Man in the Moon” had entered the public lexicon, and had appeared in a number of children’s stories. The Master of the Moon gently reminded them that such things were all well and good, but had anyone yet wondered why the Man in the Moon wasn’t smiling? They bowed their heads, and couldn’t answer. He comforted them, and told them to wait, and be patient. The sphere of heart growing in the world had already achieved an unstoppable momentum.
The Master of the Moon had at long last achieved remarkable success. Civilization had returned to most corners of the world. Having guided many of his children to become teachers and prophets and saints, he had been overjoyed by reports that violence and hatred was on the decline. There were still outbreaks of war, and many of them were horrible in the extreme. His assistants frequently marveled at his endurance and vitality. It was simply that compared to the dark brutality of the past, he knew that the home stretch had been reached. The methods that he used to reclaim the human heart were often complex and secret. Untangling the pain and resentment and evil actions of history was a job that his assistants had obediently left to him. In return, he insisted that he had always been powerless without the response of his children. Compelling them to love him would have removed them from the ranks of his children. Thus, he had forced himself to wait.
Even now, at the final hour, he waited. He wasn’t idle, for there were many things that he could do; many ways for him and his helpers to assist in the process of reclamation. He felt like he was running a graduate school, desperately anxious for his best students to win their doctorates. He had taught them according to their cultures, and had managed to raise up millions of students, all specializing in their particular branches of knowledge. They were good at their jobs, and were justifiably proud. He was proud of them as well, but knowing that a race was not won until the end, he was very nervous. His assistants were particularly solicitous in those final days, taking great care to report every instance of victory on the earth.
Later, his assistants would remark among themselves that the final steps of their labors had seemed to take the longest, probably because they were at their most anxious. A great transformation had swept across the earth after the deepest thinkers of the age had finally cast aside their own stubborn viewpoints and had agreed to adopt a common sense view of human affairs. Peace began slowly at first, and then gathered so much momentum that the twenty-four hour news channels had to add staff to keep up with the stories of inspiration. So much reasonableness overwhelmed the media pundits, who had been prone to report the darker side of life in order to gain viewers and increase their ratings.
Children were the ultimate beneficiaries, for the grownups finally realized that they had to teach children everywhere that the core of their hearts was connected to a gigantic powerhouse of love that had unfortunately been ignored for far too long. The children didn’t mind hearing such things, since they already knew them anyway. Great masses of children managed to remember who they really were, even as they traversed the rocky slopes of adolescence. A tidal wave of change had finally swept across the world.
The Master of the Moon was particularly pleased when his tall and quiet assistant carefully placed in front of him the front pages of newspapers from around the globe. At the top of each, with a banner headline, was a story about the sad face of the moon. A distinguished panel of scholars had met, and had concluded that asteroids needed more than random mathematics to carve out faces in planetary objects. Someone rather erudite had mentioned that they had never been able to get a monkey to randomly type out “Romeo and Juliet.” The group had thus reached the inevitable determination that a Great Consciousness must have deliberately carved the face in the moon. They added an addendum, in bold letters, at the end of the last paragraph of their very wordy and sophisticated analysis. It stated, quite simply, “We got the message. We know why it’s sad. Can you fix it?”
• • • • •
The next day, the assistant had to call three of his strongest aides to help him push the door of the studio open. The studio hadn’t been used for such a long time that it took them half an hour of earth time to fully open the door. The assistant immediately rushed to the windows and opened the shutters, letting in the cool night air. He watched approvingly as a junior aide brought in a cart filled with flowers. After a few moments, the studio had taken on a completely new atmosphere. Pressing the button of an intercom, the assistant spoke quickly, unable to contain his excitement. “We’re ready.”
A moment later, the Master of the Moon entered, smiling broadly. He looked at his assistant. “Did you find it?”
The assistant pointed to the table. “Yes, sir. I’ve cleaned it up. It’s ready to go.”
The Master strode to the table and looked down at the drawing of the smiling face that had lain hidden for so many millennia, half forgotten under a chair. His assistant had worked wonders, removing, through a special process, all traces of spilled ink and yellowing from age. It looked like it had been drawn that very day.
The Master looked around at the group of waiting assistants. He smiled again, and they all smiled back. He took a long, feathery quill pen and gently dipped it into a bottle of India ink. With the utmost care, slowly, hiding the trembling of his hand, he wrote the word “Approved” at the bottom of the drawing. He stood up, placing the pen on the table, and rolled up the drawing. Handing it to the assistant, he smiled once more. The room broke into a tumult of cheers. The assistant couldn’t speak, for tears were streaming down his face as he shoved the rolled drawing into the message tube and pushed the button.
The Master of the Moon, who understood such feelings, put his arm around the assistant, and motioned everyone to the windows, where they stood, transfixed, as a stream of asteroids descended upon the moon.
It was over in just a few minutes. Squinting his eyes, in order to see the face at a distance, the Master turned to the group of assistants. The tall assistant swore later that he actually saw a grin ripple across his face, as the Master of the Moon asked the room at large, “Is it OK?”
• • • • •
His children on the earth spent many, many years after that, talking about the day the moon smiled. It was universally acknowledged that although the Mona Lisa was indeed a great work of art, it simply lacked the grandeur of their very own three-dimensional living postcard from the Master of the Moon.
Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”
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