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The Holiest of Things

The room was vast, two hundred feet radius, with tall windows of clear glass. It was flooded in light and rows upon rows of people, men and women kneeling, facing a tall column, so tall you couldn’t see what was on top of it—the murmur of the crowd beating the silence, rising and falling like the waves of a calm sea.

He looked around with furrowed brow, eyes shining with wonder and confusion.

“What are they doing?”

He had heard of this behavior but was witnessing it for the first time. It was scary and fascinating.

“They are praying,” explained the older guide with a gentle expression. The other one with tough skin and tough mouth and terrible eyes nodded without saying a word.

“And what is that,” the tourist pointed at the column.

“That,” explained the kind-faced one, “is an altar.”

“What is at the top?” Altars were used to put stuff above the rest, he knew. He wanted to see what was considered worthy of such devotion. Why would anybody wish to spend hours in this room, magnificent as it may be when there were so many things to do outside?

“The Holiest of things,” the old one was smiling. His words falling off his lips with devotion: “an Idea.”

The tourist's eyebrows climbed higher on his forehead in slight confusion. “Whose idea?”

“Nobody knows,” said the tough one, and his voice was like thunder, deep and frightening.

The man's eyebrows knitted together, demanding more information. “Who put it there?”

“Nobody knows.”, repeated the tough guide, his balding head tipped towards the column in reverence. The older one was nearly bouncing on the heels of his slippered feet.

“What’s the idea?”

“Nobody knows.”

Now, this couldn’t be right. The tourist pressed thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose. Around him, the rising and falling of the crowd's murmur threatened to pull him under, luring him to bend and worship a column holding some unknown concept put there by anyone.

“Well,” he said brusquely, he was starting to have a migraine, “why do people worship the idea.”

This time the happy old guide did clap his hands, the sound echoing against the stone walls in sharp contrast with the soft rise and ebb of prayers. His smile was sharp and blindingly bright with excitement: “Nobody knows!”

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