Plato looked out of the window and mused. He was given to musing quite a lot. That’s what he did for a living. Of course, at the end of his cerebral mastication he was supposed to mouth words that would mean something to someone somewhere or his musing would come to naught. In fact, a lot of times he only mused about what to say to those damned multitudes teeming under his window watching him muse. Today seemed like a day when he wouldn’t have much to say. A clear threat to his job. Looking around for something that he could build his thoughts on, he saw a goat munching at a tuft of grass that the horses seemed to have overlooked.
The goat had a thoughtful expression on its face, almost like it was thinking of the very grass that it was chewing. Plato started musing, like he always did between 9 to 5, unless nobody was watching him and then he would take a saucer of coffee and ogle at the women walking on the streets. Plato looked hard at the goat and as it chewed, imagined that it was following the grass all the way to its belly, in a Zen-like way. Like it was one with it prey. Like the goat was the grass and the grass was the goat and both were one, only separated by dimensions of space and time but actually part of the same design and Plato shook his head hard to drop the line of thought and stomped his right sandal-clad foot on his left foot to see if he had lost his mind. He cried out in pain but felt relief in the knowledge that his senses hadn’t deserted him totally. The crowd below let out a collective sigh that sounded like a train letting off steam after a long journey but there were no trains in that era and so the parallel was missed by everyone, including Plato. But with nothing much to go on with, Plato went back to that rubbish about the goat and the grass and tried to get on with the thought but the goat had had enough of the meal and possibly even more of Plato’s gaze. With a slight shake of its tail and a slight jerk of its neck that only an observer as keen as Plato would have noticed and recognized as a snub, the goat trudged off. That left Plato with his earlier unfinished thoughts, an empty piece of earth where the goat had been and a few hours left to cook up something.
At such times he gazed up in the sky looking for an inspiration. The crowd below followed his gaze but could not decide if it was the bird that he was looking at or the cirrus clouds that lined the skies. Plato was looking at neither, from where he was he could see a towel hung up to dry in the balcony of the palace directly in front of me. The towel was a shade of pink and definitely cut from a fabric meant for queens and princesses. Out here the sun was treating it no differently than it would a cobbler’s sweat-soaked vest hung out to dry. Plato mused and mused hard wondering if that kind of thought would rub on the people hanging on for his words. Possibly, especially as most of them belonged to the working class. But that was all there was to be said of the sun’s impartiality. If probed further, he would have to admit that the sun did an awful job of soaking the cobbler’s vest while lurking timidly out of the thick palace walls. Hurriedly, he took his gaze off the sky and started staring at the trees yonder. Staring at the trees yonder was something he was doing a lot lately. The trees yonder were in their leafless cycle and leafless trees have given seeds to poets and existential blokes to ruminate over the transience of things, of the promise of tomorrow and the hope that their thoughts will be thought deep enough to earn them a few pennies. Staring at that tree Plato hoped to find something that others already had. But the thing stood like the city’s red light areas and its inhabitants. There wasn’t much that had not already been seen. But he had run out of places to stare at and muse so he stared at it while the crowd below stared at him. The sand in the hourglass was trickling to the 5pm mark and if he didn’t do something soon he would have to put in some overtime and that didn’t sound like a great idea, what with the party coming up tonight.
The tree had just shaken. Plato peered hard. The tree was some yards away and in another compound so part of its base was hidden behind a small wall. Plato retreated and ran up another flight to see what had caused the lifeless tree to shake. Seeing him reappear at another window made the crowds below hopeful. Seeing the tree shake made Plato hopeful. And discerning the cause made him even more so. The tree had shaken because the goat from his earlier musings was rubbing its back against its rough trunk. All that nonsense about the grass and the goat came back to him and he bunged the tree in and cooked up this thing about the world being there for each other and really one thing but punctuated by time and distance and such. His gaze lingered as the goat continued to scratch itself against the bark with a dream-like expression in its eyes. Plato watched, mesmerized as the goat, as if in a stupor after a good meal and a good rub, kept sliding down, its legs weak with pleasure even as it continued the scratching. Eventually, the goat lay on the ground, in the shade offered by the tree and its gentle snores drifting in with the wind. The effect was magical and the stupor infectious. Plato yawned and his eyelids drooped and he slowly slid down till he disappeared from the window leaving the crowd in suspense. On the ground, he lay flat, sleeping on the job. He may have to explain a lot later on, but for now he slept like a baby.