Let’s depart from the usual style of this column. It’s winter and it’s time to curl up with a Valentine’s Day story. Can you pick out the three types of love: caritas (impersonal love for fellow human beings), eros (impersonal sexual excitement), and amor (love of a special person)?
Once there was a handsome young prince whose father, a good king, was ailing, as was the kingdom. Dragons polluted the earth, monsters ruled the sea, and vicious birds filled the skies. Worms inhabited many people’s brains. Earthquakes shook the palace, concert halls, museums, and the sports arena.
The young prince determined to discover the cause of the growing doom. One night he had a dream. An older ruddy man said, “The cause of these calamities is the separation of the three parts of the Ring of the Cosmos. You must find them and rejoin them.”
“If this be so,” said the prince, “I will find them so that my people may be freed of their agonies, and I will love you forever.” With that, the prince unbuttoned the older man’s trousers and kissed him. When the prince awoke, he was eager to fulfill his pledge.
He went to his father. “My son,” the king said, “We must learn if others have had such dreams. Additional details might help.”
“Wow,” said the prince. “Could we announce a reward for anyone who reports a dream about the Cosmic Ring?”
“Sure,” said the king. “Why don’t you promise to sleep with anyone who has such a dream?”
“Great idea, Dad,” said the prince. And the next morning at the palace door there were 832,040 men claiming dreams about the Cosmic Ring.
So the prince, who in all things was prodigious, called them his Fibonacci Friends and took them camping by a stream, and the prince spent the night with each of them (he could be quick). In the morning, he asked those with dreams to sport with him in the waters.
But all were worn out except for one older ruddy woodsman who swam by and said, “I dreamt of the cosmic tree, described in countless myths, you know, like in the Garden of Eden and the tree under which the Buddha was enlightened. Think of a tree’s annual rings, such as this, O prince!” And he gave the prince a segment of a tree trunk.
“Wow!” said the prince, “a ring from nature, like the orbit of the earth around the sun and our picture of the rings of electrons around the atom’s nucleus.”
Suddenly vicious birds appeared and scared all the men back to their wives except for the woodsman, who said, “I can show you a second ring if you make love to me again.”
“I’ll do anything to free my people from these damn birds, monsters, ailments, and quakes,” said the prince.
Later the woodsman said, “O prince, my lips make a ring, my bottom is a ring, and blessed be the ringed alimentary canal. And with your love, you have indeed blessed top and bottom.”
“Wow!” said the prince, “a ring from personhood: metabolism’s route, respiration’s cycle, and the spirit’s embrace.”
Just then a dragon, belching fire, sauntered by, and the two decided to go to town. The prince needed to buy the woodsman a new Speedo, anyhow. But the dragon’s updraft sent them into the clouds where they saw images of all people arrayed in a huge circle with every heart beating in rhythm as the word “justice” pulsated in the air.
“The circle of humanity must be circumscribed with the cause of justice,” said the woodsman.
As they descended on magic carpets into the center of the sports arena, the prince said, “We must ring out justice for the community, for all society, for the world.” A microphone was thrust in front of him for an impromptu press conference. “By the way, justice includes equal rights for lovers, and peace among all nations,” he added with a naked grin.
The woodsman held the ideas of the tree rings, the mouth’s circuit, and the circle of society. When the prince kissed him, the rings were intertwined like gold
The prince spoke to the woodsman, “Man of my dream, you know where it goes and I will love you forever.” But when it was in place, it became invisible to all but lovers.
The wise woodsman said, “The torments stop as you and every man see nature, selfhood, and society intimately joined by the urge to love.”
And with the woodsman, the prince paraded around the kingdom and put a clip on YouTube showing where the Ring of the Cosmos was safely placed; and behold, the dragons decided to behave, monsters went back to the movies, the birds picked up the wreckage from the earthquakes, and the multitude of worms vacated all brains and eased the buildings back into place like new. And the king recovered and give the prince a raise in his allowance.
The Rev. Vern Barnet, DMn, does consulting, teaching and writing for religious and educational organizations here. His Kansas City Star column appears each Wednesday.