A man once stood on a corner of a street looking up at a minaret. Whilst watching the tower, he realised that in fact it wasn’t a minaret he was looking at, but a mountain. Confused in finding this out he decided to continue to watch until something happened that would confirm what he saw. Hours passed, as daylight began to fade and the evening grew cold, green lights began to appear. Puzzled to find that a mountain could produce such a marvel so readily, and as green light was usually man made, the only answer he could settle on was that he was indeed right in the first instance, and for the many hours that had passed he had been surely watching a minaret, and not a mountain. Shortly after this revelation, and from where he knew not, he heard a voice calling out to him to come to the mountain and pray that one day he would reach the heavens. As a man of little conviction and of little want, so as not to cause offence he obeyed the voice, and began to climb. Whilst doing so he realised, since the voice called him to the mountain, it was indeed a mountain in front of him and thought himself stupid to ever think it was a minaret. In climbing the mountain he thought he would find and tell the owner of the voice, ‘If I am called to pray on a mountain, I need not pray to the heavens, as today I have seen many mountains and so I have seen many heavens’. The mountain is far more awe-inspiring to those in the valley, than to those on the mountain.
The text that follows radically altered the man’s outlook, and indeed inlook, on what he presumed his life would have been if he hadn’t investigated the mountain. Maybe I should explain myself before I continue. You see, up to that morning the man had found that a dull grayness was all that lived with him. In everything he did, albeit that which he could do, which wasn’t much to say the least, a colourless haze infiltrated his mind. This, as you may imagine, was an annoyance at the least and at its most cruel it would reduce reason to its smallness and reek havoc with the ability to see much sense beyond the end of his reason, a problem to imagine for myself and far worse for him. The sums of his problems were so that an adventurous day for him was to imagine glass as glass and not sand or a table as a table and not the mediator of chairs.
Whilst he continued to climb he thought that when he eventually found the owner of the voice he would question him on his instructions. Upon realising that he’d already been speaking to the man who called out and that the end of the ladder didn’t seem any closer to him now than when he started to climb he decided to call out to goad a response. The reply was found to be satisfactory, yet in a similar fashion to the image of a minaret seen previously, a little confused.
‘By the right hand of the heavens sits a mountainous region where the source of language becomes simply arranged into what is seen and what is heard,’ said the caller. ‘You, my friend have seen but the beginning of many ladders to many higher places. If one step on one rung of any ladder ascends the climber to a place that could not be reached by not stepping on that rung, the rung itself is of greater heavenly purpose than any of the others. I say this for two reasons, firstly the previous rung has served its purpose by allowing access to the next and secondly the further rungs have not yet been stepped on and there for no knowledge of their grace and stability has been attained’. The climber saw this statement as a reasonable explanation but as he realised the speaker’s voice was still coming from a place higher than is own, he could not see how he had got to his vantage point without using the higher rungs of the ladder and therefore his second statement had been disproved. ‘But speaker’, the climber called out, ‘without the further rungs surly the rung I am stood on now would fail without their support and if the further rungs had failed you, I would be standing on the final rung without anywhere to go, speaking to no one. How could I not trust my presumed knowledge of the rungs I have not stepped on?’ The caller went on, ‘you presume to much my friend, the fact you are stood where you are does not mean I had once stood in the same place, for there are more routes to my position, more than you can ever know’. Whilst the conversation was going back and forth the climber continued to make his was up and up the ladders step by step. As he did this he soon noticed he could no longer see where the ladder had first begun or the pavement it resided on, and neither could he see where the ladder he was stood on finished.
With each step the light from the sun was petering out on the smog filled horizon and, as it was a clear day above, the stars began to make an appearance. Slowly, one by one as if being switched on by a slow old man with a stooped back, the light from the stars grew to form enough of a substitute to the sun that the climber wondered whether it was night at all or whether these were siblings of the sultan of the east left behind on his escape to the other hemisphere.
As he ascended the climber looked around for any other route he could have taken, but whichever way he craned his neck he was unable to settle on the idea that there were any other routes to where he was heading, let alone any other ladders. After a minute had passed and he had climbed a few more steps by he called out once more, ‘Sir, I cannot see how any man could climb another route, there is no means to travel upward apart from the ladder I am now climbing on, this is the one way and there is no one other.’ To which the speaker replied ‘my friend, one day you will reach me, but know this; after you reach me you will hear another voice and after that, more voices still. There is never an end you will find to be a satisfying one, if you continue to search with the question you have in your mind now why not ask it, you want to ask me, why I call you further? Yet you climb further without that question answered, so you see you give me no reason to answer you even if you could reach me. A man without conviction as yourself can never truly have a question answered because there are no questions you have that haven’t already been answered by you action. It will only be in the action of the already persuaded man where there will be no questions left, and only then can he hope in finding any sort of resolution. The only important question is the last one you will ever ask, and if indeed you want to find me, then stop climbing.’
The climber was lost in his own mind at hearing the callers statement, he could sparsely understand in his own mind and why he had started to climb and he wondered if his life was now relinquished to the pursuit of the next rung. As he pondered this thought and still climbed he noticed the clouds, which now engulfed him had changes into an unfathomable richness and into a colour that he was unaware even existed. A sort of purplish yellow, which could definitely not be described by using the words purple or yellow swirled around his upper body and obscured his vision of his feet. This made it surprisingly difficult to continue as he was then to rely on the presumption that his feet would do what his head told him and further more he was not entirely sure he had feet anymore, considering the image of them was now just a memory as was the ground where he started and the music he had heard on the radio that morning.
He pressed on, and just as his arms were tiring from the extra work he made them do in place of his lack of feet, he reached and felt something solid. It was of wider girth than the ladder and of more integrity than a cloud. As his fingers traced the cold edge of its form it became apparent to him he could describe it from a recent memory, as he pondered that memory he realised how sieve like his mind suddenly was and he could remember very little apart from the ladder, his lack of feet and the substantial idea that it was a sort of concrete platform. He thought it was probably a train platform, as earlier that day he had been stood waiting for a train and noticed that this platform was remarkably similar to that one in its intensity and grace. The cloud thinned as he peered over its edge and for the first time he was able to get some bearing on his position between the world he had left and the one he seemed to be now resident of.
He pulled his upper body over the ridges of the uprights of the ladder and onto the unyielding slabs that made up the majority of the distance he could see. His mind turned to think how intensely difficult it was to move without feet and that thinking about it mad it worse still, so decided his thoughts would be better spent on imagining feet or at least something that would aid his movements.
The further he pulled his body along the platform a feeling the same feeling of foreverness entered his thoughts as did when he was climbing the ladder, was this platform a horizontal ladder or something greater? Was it indeed horizontal or vertical or some other direction? And what was this motion he had created by moving along it which seemed far too familiar to be unusual? These were questions that answered themselves when after approximately 74 feet he found another ladder heading on an axis he didn’t recognise.
At this point the previously described clouds had become all but solid, like a sand mixture one may find of a windswept beach, ‘if I were a worm this would be a natural thing for me’, he exclaimed, ‘for it seems these clouds of difficult colour have become soil and I have out stayed my welcome as the jester often does’. The difficulty of his movements did indeed look like the movements of the garden worm but his saving grace came in the form of familiarity. The unexpected dink, dink, dink of a cowbell rang out making him slip and land on his front, grazing his chin as if he were in a school ground scrap with the floor. It had rhythm though, like a fast paced calypso, and he realised that, ‘yes’, a train was approaching. He was surprised at his own enthusiasm at this knowledge, maybe it was that it was a familiar sound or maybe it was that he wouldn’t need to drag himself along any more as his arms were all but submerged in cloud and he feared that they would suffer the same fate as his feet and disappear. As the train pulled in his relief was matched by the unease that he had no knowledge where it went, if anywhere, and that he probably didn’t have the right money for a ticket to anywhere, if anywhere was where he was going, despite that he felt safer than he did when climbing the ladder.
As the train slowed onto the platform and the doors opened, his eyes flicked from side to side in search of any other person, with or without feet, with or without failing hands. He found none. ‘No person with or without feet, no ticket man and not the faintest idea of where I am to be found at the next stop, what a peculiar train and what marvels are to await me next?’ He exclaimed, ‘Maybe a chicken on stilts or an abacus to count all the sand on every beach of all the world below, or maybe my feet who must now belong to a walking cloud by now!’ He hauled himself on to a cushioned seat as the doors closed behind him and looked out through the semi-frosted glass on the cloud soaked fantasia beyond. The train picked up speed as it dodged between the visible masses of water droplets all cirrus and cumulus nimbus, altocumulus lenticularis and stratus.
As he watched the clouds he began to make out the forms of men, but not men like you or I, these were wispy fellows, light on their feet and seemingly very busy. He observed an almost dance like quality to their movements and the lightness of their footsteps, the waltz they performed was a wonder indeed and words can do little justice to their grace, but believe me when I say it was a true beauty to behold.
As they pranced around they didn’t notice the train cruising past rather close to their heads, and as the tracks arched to avoid a rather impressive cirrus formation he finally got to see what the cloud men were making. It was a magnificent temple of epic proportions not unlike something made for the god of all the gods, or the king of all the kings. It resembled an unfinished sphere but was in no way spherical.
Now just wait just a moment… I feel that before I describe further the sights and events that were seen, the topography of the sky should be pronounced, as without a prior knowledge you may be at a disadvantage to me and in description.
It was not all together a strange sight to see, it was more a feeling of noticing a finished building for the first time or drinking grape juice when one has asked for it to be full of orange, unexpected but really quite pleasant. It was a question he hadn’t bothered to answer by guessing, as it had previously seemed quite unimportant. The simple fact is that what we imagine as open such as air, sky, ground and horizon is in fact contained in 11 floors of the factory, (12 if including the basement but that is largely irrelevant for the purpose of this). I only call it a factory in the sense that it produces and not in capacity for industrial trade or pollution one may imagine if not stipulated. It is not contained within brick and mortar but instead controlled by what you know as wind but I know as ‘the elevator’. Largely similar you may say, the operate in a similar fashion, wind sometimes stops and allow you to ride with him to an end, wind also is at the centre of the many acts of god yet the elevator he uses cannot be caught from any place I have seen. Who can say where wind comes from? What mouth of beast or wing of bird does it herald? An elevator has its place and is correct in stature, it knows its purpose and can understand commands, and do you imagine this is not the case with wind? But sir it surely is, we do not see its diagram and cannot understand its mission, but I am not god and have no authority to say it has none. The elevator has a source is what im trying to tell you, and read on reader and I will attempt to explain in plain English what I have seen, and the importance of what the elevator is and does for the cloud people.
Ancient scholars described the appearance as a tall fellow reaching the height of the heavens and the depths of hell, a culmination of whiteness containing itself and little more. When observed, this form would alter its shape to accommodate its further capacity and give possible birth to smaller amounts of itself. Of course we now know that what they called were looking at as a contained object is in fact mostly infinite spanning floors 3 to 11 and often further of the factory, and as it has been commonly referred to since as ‘Stairwell’.
As one may expect and mentioned previously the stairwell contains the elevator shafts allowing at the production of cloud forms at great speeds and the deposits of whiteness to find their place. These sediments are usually placed between floors 3 and 11 with little need to travel to the bottom 2 floors, as presumed by observation those floors contain the dirty and heavy fog often spotted on the earths surface and is no more than the waste whiteness fashioned by an over zealous apprentice cloud maker who has not quite understood the art of capacity yet.
The manner in which the elevator operates may seem ridiculous and unordered to an outsider, or the ‘ground folk’ as we are usually referred to by the cloud men during idle chat, this however couldn’t be further form the truth. One doesn’t need to understand the cogs and springs in a pocket watch to appreciate its craftsmanship or to know how to use it. We know the system works because we see the results and they make sense, but I feel a basic grasp is at the least preferable to complete ignorance.
It is a curious thing to recognise the moment of chaos that is produced by a barrage of cloud wind and cloud rain, as a moment of clarity and calm in the cloud peoples realm, but as the simple diagram of the factory suggests, it is only at the time of notably bad weather to us ground folk that there is any chance to observe the skill in which this marvel is performed.
It was noted in the Jefferson diaries that on the after a particularly dark night of ‘black air’ that, ‘the morning after was largely fractus, some sort of reminiscence from the day before, as if they were running late, chasing across the sky in an effort to catch what used to be. They are however too late, and I think they know that.’ And soon after that noted, ‘today it is as if they are watching me I feel very conscious that I am not one of them’. It may not surprise you reader that his last entry in his diary was only a few words, ‘it seems calm today’, and although unconfirmed and unsighted by any person of stature there were reports of seeing Jefferson on Tuesday 15th of June ascending into the clouds with his arms outstretched as if welcomed by an angel leaving no trace of his history apart from his, now published, texts (‘The System of Above’). This seems like an isolated and unsolicited event until one realises ‘The System of Above’ is actually an account of his attempts to experience first hand the processes of the Factory and whilst all signs point to his integration into the cloud fraternity my personal view is that one day Jefferson will return and tell all of his adventures and teach us clarity on any point left questioned, and so to the cloud men themselves.
The sewing of the clouds was a skill passed down from the cloud fathers to their sons and onto their sons for generations and generations. The best way to describe this process is to understand the elevators, the factory and the fact that each floor above the lower is where the next level of complexity from the last is nurtured. With the 12 floors in total one can imagine the relative simplicity of fog in relation to the convolution of say your average cirrus. The most difficult is the upper stratiform as it uses strands of air so thin only the most educated cloud person to thread the needles used. The needles themselves can not be seen by the naked hindering the threading, but over the generations a technique called ‘gazing’ has been developed where the condensation droplets found on the lower floors are used to magnify they eye of the needle enough to give a fighting chance to the threaders. To keep the consistency of each strand the head semester would launch into a sort of hypnotic dance twirling around and around into such a frenzied state that it has been known that he would actually loose his balance and fall with an almighty crash, shaking the very foundations of the factory itself. It is that which I now understand to cause the electric thunderous lightning storms we observe. After the performance there is one second of silence. In that most beautiful of seconds the threaded strand is stretched to almost breaking before setting it free to form whichever cloud it is intended.
Let us return to where we were.
 ‘The System of Above’ T. Jefferson first published 1803, re-print 1947,49,84