Cellbock 4 is one of the tallest buildings in our part of Arizona. Clawing at the sky, it achieves the towering height of four stories. From the top tier, inmates peer through tiny windows at the village below. One night it was noted that a light came on in a darkened part of the village at exactly 9 o'clock. It burned five minutes and was turned off.
This proved to be a nightly occurrence. There were no exceptions and no deviations. Always the light came on at 9:00; always it was turned off at 9:05.
Soon we were all watching for the light. We knew, of course, that it was a signal, and we inferred that it was for one of us on the top tier. No other men in the prison had a view that was panoramic. As time went by, no one identified himself as the recipient of the signal.
Our imaginations worked overtime. The giver of the signal was of course a beautiful young woman, and we decided her name was Gladys Mae. In no time al all our nebulous 9 o'clock visitor had been assigned a full cargo of traits and physical characteristics. She was real to us.
For several weeks Gladys Mae was an unfailing and most welcome visitor. It was easy for us to pretend that the switch was being thrown for us: and we were rather likely to engage in this bit of make-believe if it so happened that we didn't have anyone in the world outside our prison. failed. We kept a vigil from our aerie-like tier, but it never returned. On all subsequent nights that portion of the village remained in darkness.
Everybody seemed to have an opinion as to what happened to Gladys Mae, and I was perturbed to note that most all conclusions voiced were negative and depressing. Gladys Mae had moved away, or stopped caring. She had married a prison guard, or disappeared from life. One thing was certain: she was no longer turning on the light at 9 o'clock each night. This "proved" to my fellow inmates that love's young dream had been defeated.
But not to me. I choose to believe that one of the young men on my tier was paroled on the morning before the night the light failed. It seems certain to me that Gladys Mae was at the gate, waiting loyally and with love in her heart. They embraced, and he spoke certain words to her that a good and true woman deserves to hear . . . "It was your strength that game me strength; your courage that sustained me when mine didn't exist. It was your love, and nothing else in the universe, that brought me this freedom that I now enjoy, and this inexpressible bliss."
I don't know why I should put my trust in someone's hypothesis of despair. Surely it costs no more to believe in good and beautiful things that are certainly as possible as the gloomy alternatives.
It is apparently a condition of spirit. I understand that someone might say to me: "You are a cockeyed optimist. You probably believe in all sorts of fairy tales. Perhaps you even think the price of gasoline will come down."
It could. Conditions might prevail that will drive the price down to 17.9 cents a gallon, where it was when I pumped gas at my brother's service station, shortly after the cooling of the earth.
But I hope you see that it doesn't happen. We can live with high gas prices. I save my faith and my optimism for things that are relevant, things in the green earth that truly matter.
On the one hand, I feel that Gladys Mae's faith was rewarded. On another hand: I believe that I will be able to pursue my goals for a long time to come, hale and hearty fellow that I happen to be.
And I believe a time will come when all the little children are simply nurtured and taught, and welltreated and loved.
I believe a day is fated when all the prisons are to be torn down: both those that house men, and those that house the minds of men, which perforce are tighter.
I believe nations will spring up in the earth whose citizens dwell with one another in amity. Nations will live together in the earth as brothers, in peace.
And I believe in the hoarfrost of December and the torrid skies of summer, and repose vast faith in the image of lovers who stroll upon a white beach and leave footprints in the sand that only reluctantly are erased by the tide.
I believe in the beauty of song, and the feasibility of culture. Here is a precept that I cherish: a day will dawn when millions and millions of people embrace the ways of reconciliation. Then do we learn how to respect one another , and forgo violence no matter what form it takesm and eschew lies no matter what form they takem . I believe that we will cherish books more than we do, and reject vulgarity more than we do.
Even if my faith is misplaced, will I be penalized for cherishing these sane precepts?Are we not wise to repose our total trust in the peaceful image of a requited Gladys Mae and her liberated young man?
I feel that I have no choice. My nature is such that I will embrace the ideal of good happenstance. I believe that any other course is imprudent and unsalutary. I believe that to feel no faith in the bright vistas of the human race is to resign ourselves to weary rounds of eating and drinking, talking nonsense, engaging in idle activity, and then laying ourselves down and going to sleep at the end of it.
There is more to life. We bring our own to real fruition when we commence to presume triumph for Gladys Mae.