A Flood of Questions

mountains, blue sky, evergreens, pines,
This story picks up right after Digging Out the Roots of Prejudice where we first met Mikayla who is on a quest to become a spiritual teacher. You can find more of my spiritual allegories here:

Spiritual Allegories and Stories 

Following the advice of ClearSky, Mikayla headed north.

And she encountered the same experiences, comments, and questions she'd already had with Tom the Rancher and others before him, including her own family.

"Why are you doing this?"

"Why do you want to be a spiritual teacher?"

"Aren't you too young to do so?"

"This path is too dangerous for someone like you."

"You should find a man and settle down."

Each town and village that she came to, this was what she heard and was told with slight variations again and again and again.

On the outskirts of Gambleton, she sat on a rock and sighed. She'd finally gotten clear instructions on where the spiritual order that might train her as a spiritual teacher would be. But the process of getting answers out of a people where everything was a challenge and a game had been exhausting. Everyone wanted to win something. 

Some people wanted to win at dissuading her. 

Others wanted to win at earning her affection. 

Yet others wanted to win her business to act as a paid guide.

Finally, she'd crafted a conversation where they'd competed to see who could give her the best directions.

Mikayla sighed again. 

Pulled out an apple. 

Took a bite. 

Started chewing.

The Erleuchtenden Mountains were now visible after several weeks of travel. If the weather stayed good, she'd reach the house of the spiritual order known as The Penitents in a couple more weeks. One common theme from everyone in the town and in other towns was that this was a very serious spiritual order. They had strict disciplines and practices that had to be followed every day. The Penitents weren't extreme. They didn't self-flagellate or self-harm in their practices like the Harenatics near the south coast and the islands did. But they asked for a lot of dedication.

And Mikayla assumed they would ask why a not-yet 20-year-old would want to be on the path to becoming a spiritual teacher and had given up everything she had given up.


"Why does my less than 20-year-old daughter want to leave for this...this," Mikayla's mother gestured at the outside. 

"To become a spiritual teacher," Mikayla replied holding her backpack. It's several months ago, but the scene still rang in her memory. She is sitting in her room in her comfortable home in her familiar town having a very familiar argument with her mother. They'd already had this conversations several times before. She knew how it would go.

"Yes...that. Why that?"

"Because it is what I want."

"By why, dear? And why not learn from someone around here? Like Minister Fraks. What's wrong with him?"

Minister Fraks was a dogmatic nincompoop who'd been accused of sexual harassments and skimming money from the local spiritual order.

"Fraks? That's really not your best argument, Mom. Priestess Shelby was a much better one last week."

Her mom nodded. "Ok. Just the first name I could think of. But the point stands."

Mikayla stood up. "I know. I get it. This is your home. You have what you want. You have Dad and all of your relatives and friends. The family business is great. And we're getting more land and money every year."

"Yes! You're making my point for me."

"But it's not what I want." Mikayla held her mother's gaze for a quiet moment.

"Mikayla...." Her mother pleaded.

Mikayla hugged her mother. "I love you, Mom."

Her mother squeezed Mikayla tightly. "Don't go," she whispered.

Mikayla let her mother go and picked up her pack. She headed to the road leading into the wilderness and did not look back.


Mikayla's legs felt like rubber as she walked up the stone steps to The Penitents' House. 

Mikayla had walked through the night in her excitement to reach her goal. She couldn't sleep much the night before with her destination so near, so she hiked in the dark, trusting the path before her. As she walked, the purple of night shifted to red to pink to orange. Now a smudge of deep morning yellow shown upon the land. Mikayla's heart glowed with renewed courage and energy.

Mikayla found herself slightly in awe of the "House." House was an understatement. The "House" was a large complex of large buildings made out of the local gray rock with a series of connected courtyards and dormitories, although Mikayla couldn't see any of that as it was all behind massive imposing walls. The initial impressions from this part of the House communicated more than enough to her about the nature of this place.

The Penitents' House sat in the foothills of the Erleuchtenden Mountains, and from this view, she could see vast stretches of land. Seas of trees spread out towards the east with Mt. Liebe standing apart at the edge of that evergreen horizon. Slightly south from that, a vast desert lay. To the west, plains, woods, rivers, and lakes filled the landscape. More directly south, many towns and farmed land could be seen.

As her eyes turned back north, there was simply towering, unforgiving rock.

Mikayla took a deep breath and knocked on the door for admission.


Her father was not as easy as her mother.

"You're not going."

Mikayla crossed her arms in front of her chest.

Her father frowned. His big gray bushy eyebrows pulled down closer to his gray eyes.

They stared at each other.

It was their thing.

It had been known to last for minutes and even up to an hour once. The longest time involved an argument over a favorite stuffed bear of all things--his, not hers.

"Dad..." Mikayla started with a soft voice.

"No. We aren't doing this."

"Dad...." Again softly.

Then he did something she hadn't expected. He started to cry. His large middle-aged body crumpled to the floor.

"Dad?"

She sat down at first confused. Then Mikayla enfolded her father into her arms. She cradled his head against her chest. It felt so strange and new, but also somehow natural.

"You're not coming back," he said.

"Dad, you don't know the future. None of us does."

"No. I feel it. This path. I've felt it since that time when you were fourteen. You remember."

Mikayla nodded, pressing her check into his short cropped hair.

"I'd hoped you'd change. But then those events when you were sixteen, seventeen, eighteen...." He leaned back from her embrace. "Please don't."

Mikayla felt tears rise in her eyes. She felt what her father was saying.

"I have to see this through." Then she let her father go.

It was the last conversation she had with her father.

On the day she left, he finalized an agreement to become the biggest landowner in the region.


The archway above the door to the House of The Penitents bore an inscription that read:

Sincerity is revealed through hardship

Mikayla pondered this while waiting. When no one came, she knocked louder. When still no one came, she knocked even louder. And as the full morning sun erupted onto the door and her body, she banged as hard as she could.

Finally, a brown-robed man came to the door.

"We heard you the first of the four times. But we were all at breakfast. Doors typically open to visitors at full daybreak as the sign says," the Penitent commented.

Mikayla looked over and saw the sign. "Oops." She smiled sheepishly.

"I'm Penitent Chen. Welcome. What is your name?"

"Mikayla."

He wave for her to follow him inside. "I'll take you to Penitent Briar. He'll talk to you about our order, what we offer, and why you want to be part of it, as I assume that that is your purpose."

Mikayla responded affirmatively and followed Penitent Chen into a large gathering room full of dawn light. Some of that light came through stained glass windows and colored the floor, tapestries, and walls with blues, greens, reds, roses, and yellows. Huge stone columns and buttresses held up the roof, and large iron candelabras hung from thick metal chains. They passed into a large hallway where other corridors branched off to rooms and doorways to different parts of the building. A musty smell mingled with a general smell of porridge/breakfast permeated the air.

"This is some House," Mikayla commented.

Chen smiled. He knocked on a door.

"Enter," a voice called out.

Mikayla moved to comply.

Chen held up a hand and looked sternly at her. "Be respectful."

Mikayla held Chen's gaze. "I will."

Seated on a stool with a ramrod straight posture, another man in a brown robe sat next to a window. He was bathed in light as was another stool across from him. "Please have a seat," he said, indicating the stool.

Mikayla sat down and said, "Thank you, Penitent Briar. I am Mikayla."

"Nice to meet you." Though not smiling, a sense of warmth was in his voice. Hard lines were chiseled into his face from years of life or some kind of sense struggle. A short graying beard was carefully maintained, and his thin grey-black hair was strictly combed into place.

"So you're the one who interrupted breakfast."

Mikayla blushed. "Sorry about that. I got excited. I'd been walking all night."

"Uh-huh. What's the rush?" Deep, dark eyes bored into her.

"I wanna be a spiritual teacher," Mikayla blurted. "Can you help me?"

"What is the rush?" Briar repeated.

Mikayla opened her hands, but they offered nothing. She ran them through her long blond hair for a thread of a thought.

"I guess there isn't one," she admitted.

"And why do you want to be a spiritual teacher?"

Penitent Briar folded his large, powerful hands, listening earnestly.

Mikayla felt frustration at the questions. More questions. A flood of questions. How many times does she have to explain herself to people?!

She took a deep breath, and then a flood of words erupted.

"When I was fourteen, they found a dying man in my father's fields. I felt compelled to go to him and hold him. And something...something happened. He got better. My dad and some other people in my home Isekus saw it. They told more people, and people came to our house for awhile. It got a little overwhelming, but more stuff like that kept happening. Sick people got better when everyone thought they couldn't. This can't just be random, can it? No, I don't think it is. I feel like I have a gift, several gifts. I feel like I have to share them. Can you please help me?"

Penitent Briar sat thoughtfully. He looked out at the window and responded, "Hmm. Interesting. But what about having a family. What about doing whatever your family does? What about relationships? What about all of that?" He pointed at the world outside the window.

But Mikayla felt clear, responding, "My family is one of the largest landowners where I'm from, but so what? I don't care about that. I don't know if I want a family of my own, and I've already had romance and sex with men and women. They are all..." Mikayla gestured and dropped her hands, "kinda lame."

Penitent Briar chuckled. Then he recomposed himself.

"There's nothing I want out there," Mikayla replied waving her hand at the world beyond the window in a kind of farewell.

"Maybe. And what are you willing to give?"

"Well I have lots of money with me. I can go back and get more if I need to, not that my father will be happy about it, but..."

"No, no," Briar interrupted. "What are YOU willing to give?"

Mikayla understood the question. She paused and met his gaze straight on, taking a deep breath.

"Everything I can."

Penitent Briar nodded. "Then we may be able to help you to get started."


Interpretation of A Flood of Questions

Following up on Mikayla's introduction story with the Rancher and ClearSky, Mikayla gets her first full story. We see her still struggling with the perceptions and prejudices of others. But at the heart of this struggle is Mikayla's internal struggle to understand why she wants what she thinks she wants.

By and large, this is a fairly straight-forward story, so I don't know that it requires that much interpretation, and some things that are going on will be clearer as this series of stories develops.

As usual, when you come across strange looking words, they're probably from another language and offer additional meaning. So keep enjoying the use of Google Translate. :)

We also see the typical sense of urgency that many people (not just younger people) have in Western Society. Mikayla is trying to get some place, but she doesn't really know where. She's placed a lot of her hopes on The Penitents. But she also doesn't really know what this order does.

When we don't really understand ourselves, we can get in trouble.

When we don't really understand other people and organizations, we can get into more trouble.

With all that said, clearly, something is going on with Mikayla. What are these gifts?

How will The Penitents help her? Or will they?

Tune into the next in a series of stories to find out.


The Process of Becoming a Spiritual Teacher

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