What they term konch is when a lot of people gathered and shouted at random. For this it could perhaps be translated as a meeting or rally, but theirs, of course, are basically different from our meetings.
In my country it is usual that respectable citizens, organized into associations, occasionally come together so that by mutually exchanging their experiences they may augment their knowledge. We could also call the sessions of our wise legislators' meetings, where our most outstanding speakers acquaint the audience in touching speeches with how it would be possible to face dangers, to ensure peace and Christian civilization, threatened by the intrigues of certain foreign countries and the opposing party.
The basis of all these meetings is, it goes without saying, a sound mind, without which there would be no sense in the unselfish efforts of our speakers. Is this not the case?
But how could I render into the language of my country the konch, whose only aim is to extinguish any human sanity that might perhaps still exist, with senseless verbal torrents?
After all this, maybe it is unnecessary to mention that they called namuk anyone who at such a konch reeled off either his own rubbish or the flow of words committed to paper by another namuk.
I have already mentioned that at the konch everybody shouts at the same time, but neither the namuk's words nor those of the choir (indeed I cannot term them an audience) have any meaning. More precisely, the words themselves may have a meaning, but this can be thought only by a naive outsider — because they did not understand each other at all.
If one speaks to a Behin and, let us suppose, says to him, "The sun is shining," he will understand it. But if he tells him the same at a konch, one must be prepared that he will draw his knife and react by saying, "Yes, he must be stabbed!"
My description may seem perhaps somewhat muddled, but it can be imagined how difficult it is to describe a system whose main characteristic is the absence of system. I might compare my task to that of the mathematician who wants to represent an irregular curve drawn by a child's hand in analytic equations.
However, there is one rule I can put down: at a konch it is never the intellect but always the stupidity which is epitomized. It is strange but true, that the Behins' sense is in inverse proportion to the number of those present.
For the Reader to understand what follows fully, I have to mention the antecedents.
In one instance I perceived that some people had painted their ear-lobes blue, and when they caught sight of each other they rubbed their chin with their forefinger.
Among the many Behin fads it did not even attract my attention, but the blue-eared became more and more numerous, and later I saw also yellow-eared ones, who, on the other hand. rubbed their forehead with their third finger.
Gradually I began to suspect that perhaps this also belonged to the kipu, and if I did not smear my ears, the same thing would happen to me again as had happened in the case of my clothes which I had eventually had to rend on the betiks order.
So I spoke about the matter with Zemoeki and asked whether it would not be desirable to paint my ears blue.
"Oh, you unfortunate," he flared up. "Are you out of your mind? Such things are done only by hare-brained lunatics!"
For a moment I almost thought that the Behinic disease was curable, but by that time I should have become accustomed to the rule that I should never indulge in such illusions. For the time being and for safety's sake I decided that I would leave my ears clean.
However, a few days later I came across Zemoeki, complete with yellow ears, and as I drew nearer he kept on rubbing his forehead eagerly with his third finger.
The sight filled me with deep pity and I tenderly inquired after his health. He replied with a question.
"How can it be that you have not yet painted your ears yellow?"
"Why, it was you who said that I should not paint them!" I said soothingly.
"Oh, you poor bivak!" he laughed. "You have already forgotten that you wanted to paint your ears blue, while the blues are all base evil-doers. A true kona, who has any feeling for the anebas, paints his ears yellow."
What could I say? I tried to reassure him that I would reconsider the matter, and as soon as I got yellow paint, I would paint them. Then I hastened to say pricc- prucc and in the days that followed I tried to avoid his company as far as possible.
One day, having finished my work, I returned with my betik to his office. I placed the box with the yellow pebbles (after my betik had touched it three times with his copper cubes) on a shelf, and then together we went upstairs, then downstairs. Meanwhile I had to carry a thorny chair after him, the aim of which I had not the slightest idea about, but from this day onwards, I had to do it after work every day, and I was not going to inquire after the reason, being glad that one stupidity less disturbed my mind.
Once when I had put down the thorny chair, I was just preparing to leave with a loud vake- wake and the betik called after me, "Tomorrow a great honour will fall to you."
Of course, at the very word itself, my back became covered with goose-flesh. I stammered out my pleasure and inquired as to the nature of this future event.
"You will have the opportunity to prove your faculties for the kona and the anebas at the yellow-eared konch."
Suddenly I was seized with self-reproach for having so easily rid myself of Zemoeki instead of gently extracting from him the main essentials of the yellow idea.
Thus I hurriedly acquired some yellow paint, painted my ears, and called upon Zemoeki, for whom I rubbed my forehead eagerly with my third finger already in the distance.
Zemoeki exultantly stated that the sound conviction had brought me to my wits at last, for which I thanked him with a grateful heart, and briefly asked him why actually I had painted my ears yellow.
With this, of course, I revealed that neither conviction and still less sanity had had anything to do with my action. But I already knew the Behins' nature well enough. I knew that for them sound conviction was to be understood as communal insanity.
And I was not disappointed in my calculation. Zemoeki heaped so many praises on my wisdom that I myself began to doubt the soundness of my mind.
But I was more interested in the yellow danger and asked him to tell me everything I had to know about the konch.
For Zemoeki's lecture to be comprehensible I have to remind the Reader that the Hins only allowed patients to the Behin settlement after thorough examination, because there are some mental patients who imagine themselves Behin, whereas they only have a simple paranoia which is curable.
It was a tragic event some fifty years ago that had prompted the Hins to this precaution, when the Behins had hacked two unfortunate paranoids to pieces.
We know that paranoia by no means takes over the brain to such an extent as the Behinic disease. There are many who apart from their single monomania think quite normally, so that a layman would not even notice the disorder.
One such patient began to speak about having seen with the Hins a wonderful thing, the lift. He suggested that the Behins, too, should provide the higher houses with a lift.
His words were at first received with great laughter, and they called him a Hin, who had no sense for the boeto which required the Behin to go upstairs by foot.
"What would you say to that degenerated Behin," they retorted "who, sitting on a thornless chair, would have himself hauled up to the upper floors by a halter, after the manner of a brute beast?"
"The lift brings destruction to the kona!" was the general opinion.
About this time there were also more such unfortunate paranoids who were unthinkingly allowed, merely at their wish, into the Behin settlement.
It happened as follows. Several people spoke up for the lift — there were even some who wrote studies in support of it. In addition another paranoid began to write about having eaten among the Hins many dumplings made with curd, and, though his common sense protested against the Hins' fooleries, he nevertheless had to admit that the curd dumplings had been good, and he suggested that the Behins should also consume them.
At this the whole gathering rose in protest. The more staid among them called the new ideas youthful folly.
"Wild-goose-chasers," they said, "who don't want to work and be of use to the public with their labour, but pursue unattainable dreams instead."
Long essays appeared on how the curd-dumpling did not conform to human nature and how hitherto the cause of every famine had demonstrably been the unrestricted consumption of curd-dumplings.
Of the lift some wrote that it imposed extraordinary exertion on man, while others asserted that the kona would perish in the excessive comfort and would not be able to answer its lofty purposes.
"The lift makes one tired and emasculated," they said repeatedly.
"The lift and the dumpling dull the brain's response to the boeto and the anebas!" wrote others. "Their unhealthy trend plunges the kona into ruin and throws it victim to the ignoble kemon."
"They want to extirpate us with lift and curd-dumpling," wrote one mufruk. "The only question is how long the sober Behin nation is going to tolerate this evil propaganda. It is our very existence which is at stake. The lift and the curd-dumpling will seek our lives if we don't become conscious of ourselves in time."
They labelled the comfortists (as they called themselves) lamiks and the matter came to an end by both unfortunate paranoids being beaten to death.
This was all clear and logical from the Behins up to this point, considering that everything was turned completely upside down. The oddity came only afterwards.
After the comfortist were struck dead, their doctrines not only failed to cease: their followers even grew in number among the Behins. What is more, some betiks also joined and professed that the unfortunate victims had been the greatest geniuses of the kona, but they had been misunderstood.
When I had learned as much from Zemoeki's words, I asked him to tell me how all this led to the smearing of the ears. "The yellow-eared are the comfortists," he said, "and the blue-eared are the narrow-minded anti-comfortists who do not understand the signs of the times."
So I understood that the next day the people of the Lift Party would come together at the konch to demand the acceptance of the lift which, according to Zemoeki, had already been accepted, even put into practice by many elak betiks.
"Indeed?" I asked in surprise. "Then why is there still no-lift anywhere?"
"Of course, there is!" he answered in indignation. "Moreover, to my knowledge you, too, are a lift attendant!"
I was a little bit perplexed as until then I was unaware that I had such a post.
"Oh? What?" I stammered.
"Well perhaps it is not you who is wont to carry the thorny chair upstairs?" he asked with deep resentment. "What kind of a beratnu are you if you don't perform this either?"
"Oh, of course, of course!" I hastened to reassure him. "So, in brief, this is the kona's lift!"
"Well, what else could be the lift if not the lift?"
What else could I expect of them? With disgust I refrained from further debate, believing that I had already understood everything.
So I was not disappointed in my presentiment.
The unfortunate paranoid had been beaten to death, and they, having not the vaguest idea of the lift either, imagined that it was the chair going up and down. This was the way the thought had developed until the Behins accepted it.
However, the fact that there existed a Lift Party at all gave rise to the thought that now I might have the opportunity to spread a sound and useful idea among them.
"If there is a Lift Party," I reasoned, "and I tell them that I demand, together with them, the introduction of the lift, then perhaps they will not strike me to death, even if I indeed demand the introduction of the lift."
I decided to explain to them the next day at the konch what a real lift was like, thinking that finally I would have the chance to do them a good, turn without endangering my life. As far as I knew its construction, I thought it over, made sketches and a detailed explanatory text to deliver to them the next day.
To this very day I marvel at my naivety at that time.
The konch was in that barn, the institute for degeneration of children, where once I had handed over the yellow pebbles to the proko.
Many yellow-eared came together, and in their mutual pleasure they kept on rubbing their foreheads.
Suddenly at one end of the barn a Behin stood up on the table. His body was covered by a cloth torn into rags, from the holes coloured pebbles and dead beetles hung on strings. When he rubbed his forehead with his third finger the yellow-eared vaked with wailings which pierced to the marrow.
"Who is he?" I asked Zemoeki who was wailing beside me.
"What's a namuk?"
"A namuk is one whose vocation it is to explain the honest truth."
When the row ceased, the namuk began to speak.
"We have come here to lead the kona from the greatest danger to the path of the true boeto, rescuing it from the whirlpool into which the vile anti-comfortists want to plunge it so that we should fall victim to the kemons."
The response to this was a still greater uproar.
"We have demanded only," the ragamuffin went on, "that houses with three or more floors should be provided with lifts. But the anti-comfortists have labelled us, the best konas, Hins, and this ignominy cannot be suffered by any selfrespecting kona."
Needless to say, the yelling rang out again. This is why, for brevity's sake, I shall from now on indicate with an exclamation mark in brackets the increase of the uproar. (They bellowed incessantly, the difference was only in degree.)
"These hirelings of the kemon (!) did not blush to vilify the curd-dumpling, and are crying from the housetops that we commit spirituality, moreover, in the presence of the yellow pebble (!); on the other hand, they are oblivious to the fact that anyone who does not catch his foot before the square has no right whatsoever to put others wise; and this ignobility has been proved with regard to more than one anti-comfortist (!!).
"We, accordingly, cannot reply to this mean machination and base challenge with anything except that we continue; to demand the introduction of the lift, but now not only in houses with three floors, but also in those with two or even one!
"And of the curd-dumpling we only wish to say to our attackers, that whoever calls the curd-dumpling spirituality is a lamik, or at least a kemon trouble-maker. The curd-dumpling is good, and gives strength, so we not only not refuse to abandon our demand that the yellow pebble should' be named the curd-dumpling (!) but insist that every kona should ,be given not one but two yellow pebbles, one under his left and one under his right arm (!!) and they should finally admit that the yellow pebble will nourish and give real strength against the kemon only under the glorious name of curd-dumpling (!!) "
With this he got off the table. The yellow-eared vaked with all their force, many surrounded the namuk and almost rubbed the skin off his forehead which, according to Zemoeki, was a sign that he had spoken the truth.
So, I already saw that the curd-dumpling also shared the lift's fate.
After another namuk followed in similarly or, if possible, still more tattered clothes. That the exclamation marks should not disturb the Reader, I shall now omit them, he can in any case imagine the terrible cacophony.
He commenced by saying that he would acquaint us with the Great Liftmaster's thoughts. He then sat down, took out a sheet of paper from which he began to read the writings of the poor paranoid.
Now I ask the Reader to hold on tight.
The Liftmaster's text was purely and simply the standard description of a lift. That the lift is a little cabin in which people sit down; then it is pulled up to an upper floor by electric power; and it is also possible to descend in it without effort and walking.
And if I had any doubts with regard to their knowledge concerning the nature of the lift, they would have been eliminated by the original drawings that he presented afterwards, and they entirely conformed to the sketches I had prepared.
To tell the truth, I understood nothing of the whole matter.
Why if they knew the Liftmaster's ideas, and could follow his concepts with such desperate fury, how was it that the lift became a thorny chair to be carried upstairs and back by the poor boxshaker?
Then he announced that he would now recite the words of the great mufruk: the Dumplingmaster.
At this I already took out my travel diary hoping that, considering my modest faculties, I would be able to be of service to my colleagues by hastily sketching what was to follow. My notes provide the following evidence.
The namuk stood up and with sweeping pathos and grotesque grimaces began to shout.
"The curd-dumpling is a mixture of boiled dough and curd!"
Here he lowered his voice. The crowd clamoured.
"According to my experiences it is a very good food."
Again he stopped. Then he took a deep breath, raised his arms high, knitted his brows and bellowed, "It is to be served warm!!"
Dropping his arms with a sudden gesture, he slammed them on the table, bared his teeth, and clenching his right fist shook it towards the ceiling.
"It maintains physical strength!!"
Reaching forward horizontally with his palms, he panted with pursed lips.
"When we have eaten it, it causes a pleasant feeling..."
With this he fell back on his chair. I ask the Reader to excuse me from describing the howling that followed. My ears still buzz when I think of it. Let it suffice that the shouters reviled the kemons and demanded that they should be ripped open. As to how the curd-dumpling came to be a grudge against the kemons, don't ask me.
However, the best was now to come.
The namuk (the one who had bellowed and demonstrated all this) began to speak about how efficiently the lift served the welfare of the kona.
"In olden times, " he began, "the narrow-minded conservatives reproached the Liftmaster saying that his ideas would lead to the emasculation of the kona, moreover the lift would directly prove to be the ruin of the kona. (General laughter.)
"However, I ask, what supplies the kona's strength against the ignoble kemons if not the lift, which, imbuing the beratnu with the electric current of the boeto, swings him into the higher spheres? And is there a more wonderful aneba than the curd-dumpling squeezed under the arm, which gives us strength to abstain from the pollution of spirituality, and gives us strength to wipe the kemons' loathsome circles off the walls?"
With this he left the table and the mass burst into an intensified howl. This, however, was more than I could have permitted without a word.
With great decision I fought my way through the crowd, climbed on the table, at which they turned their attention to me with interest, and I asked them in a few simple words to listen to me because I myself wished for the introduction of the lift and wanted to say some true words about it.
Then I tried to enlighten them in brief about their mistakes. "The electric power of the lift is not to be understood figuratively," I said. "Actual electricity is involved."
"The fullest truth!"
"Down with the ignoble
kemons!" the crowd clamoured.
However, I continued.
"And the lift does not hoist one up figuratively or spiritually we actually sit into it and it carries us up to the upper floors."
"Up to the upper floors!" they shouted. "Down with the kemons!"
"And the curd-dumpling is not a yellow pebble but dough which is to be eaten, and it maintains the strength this way."
"Strength against the kemons!" came the reply.
"But Behins!" I shouted. "Let us understand: the Liftmaster and the Dumplingmaster did not speak about the kemons but wanted us to travel easily to the upper floors and eat the curd-dumpling so that we shall be able to remain alive!"
"Up to the upper floors! Up! Up!"
"We want lift and curd-dumpling!"
"Down with ignominious spirituality!" they shouted. Sever al of them brandished drawn knives.
Now I began to lose my patience. I spoke my mind openly.
"But if you know the lift and the curd-dumpling tell me why you still humbug yourselves with the thorny chair and the yellow pebble? Understand that those you follow did not intend such idiotic nonsense but life, comfort, nourishment!"
"Save our life!"
"Strike the kemons to death!" they shouted brandishing their knives.
The situation began to be dangerous but this bottomless, swirling morass of stupidity made the blood rush to my face. At this stage, what did I care even if they were to strike me dead. I could but tell them off once! Not caring a fig for the dangers I tried to raise my voice above all the others.
"You are half-witted amok-runners! Don't you think that this way you will not live? Don't you think that this whole herd of oxen will perish miserably?"
I stamped my foot so hard on the table that it was cleft in two.
The fury of the crowd here increased to paroxysm. They stabbed their knives into the walls with a towering rage and from between their foaming teeth the strident madness screeched, "We are a herd of oxen!"
"Let's rip the amok-running kemons open!"
The pitiable horrors of the scene suddenly brought about a great change in me. In a second I was over the climax of rage and felt that I had come to understand the innermost essence of the Behins.
For if on the gate of hell the word lasciate figured, on the gate of the Behin settlement this could have been most aptly written: in vain.
In deep contempt I continued, "You are right. It is the best thing if you slaughter each other until the last kona, kemon, comfortist, anti-comfortist dies out. The mountain, the valley, the cloud, the sunshine, the wise maggot, and the benign tiger will be grateful for it."
With this I got off and folding my arms, with the audacity of prophets I bravely faced the swirling mass of the demented.
And vakeing they surrounded me, exulted, abused, the kemons and the anti-comfortists, and they fell upon my forehead and rubbed it so that my skin almost caught fire. Then they hoisted me and cried that I was the bravest kona.
Moreover even a baking-sheet-soled betik shuffled to me and solemnly took hold of my nose.
"That's right, kaleb," he said and shook the copper cubes on his knees. "Not a single namuk has defended the kipu and the kona so forcefully up to now as you. Many similar brave and true konas are needed for us to be able to drown the ignoble enemy."
With this he stepped onto the table, and publicly thanked me in warm words and suggested that the yellow-eared should accept my proposal and call themselves a herd of oxen. On their forehead they should glue tiny horns that this elevated emblem should also display the boeto which elevates the true comfortist (that is the ox) above the base and obscure anti-comfortists, and at the same time, gives strength against the ignoble kemons.
Finally pointing to me he called upon the crowd to cry vake at me for my beautiful words, and to call me in the future chief ox.
This, too, I had to suffer.
Arriving home, a wild kaleidoscope of what had happened danced before me and it was only after long hours that I could gather together a few thoughts in explanation. The blunting caused by the Behinic disease I imagine somehow like this.
The basic element of their existence is a grudge against each other which we might perhaps call some unquenchable bestiality if I may at all compare the normal beast of prey which kills for its livelihood with those who ravage against the interests of their own life.
Each group has a certain circle of monomanias and this is what, on the surface, distinguishes it from the others. This is, however, only the surface appearance. The truth is that they do not fight for monomanias but concoct monomanias to fight for. Somebody becomes blue-eared only to be different from the yellow-eared and vice versa. They fight for fighting's sake.
"But then what are the many theories and debates for?" the Reader may rightly ask. "If the sole element of life for the Behins is the grudge against each other, why have they to invent kona, kemon, comfort, anti-comfort, boeto, kipu and other fantasies? Why does everyone not turn on his neighbour with a club without any explanation?"
Well, this is what I do not understand either. Undoubtedly, in comparison with the wild animals, they have intelligence which enables them to suppress their sound instincts and fight for aims beyond the instincts, even for some which are in contradiction with life. And their better ego does not merely fail to suppress this faculty of theirs — they deliberately develop it.
Perhaps I understand even this. But why it is necessary to connect theories to hand-walking which will justify its being more convenient and healthy I do not understand and, what is more, I never will.