Wednesday, 15 January 2014

My History with the Emperor's Clothes

I was a big fan of the emperor's clothes. My family and friends weren't fashion experts, but they all knew about his legendary and wonderful fabric. One day, I overheard a few people speaking in hushed tones at my university. They said that the clothes were either invisible or didn't exist. What a radical and serious allegation! What's the likelihood of the emperor being naked? How could people not notice? How could my parents not have noticed? I didn't think much of it, but every time the topic of the emperor's clothes came up, their murmurings popped into my mind.
So I started going to the tailor's shop every week where he would tell the crowds about the fabric he had used while making the emperor's clothes. He said it was the softest he had ever felt and the most beautiful he had ever seen. The best part: he told us that he knew where to get more of the same fabric.  He promised to order a large supply of it when he could afford it and make a robe for each person at his shop! So, every week we would buy his clothes or sometimes just donate money to his shop. Occasionally he would donate clothes to disadvantaged children. I would say that was a win-win!
While many people came for his stories and his promise, I found myself enjoying the music he played in the background the most. It must have been the work of really great composers throughout the ages. I also noticed that the people who came to the tailor's shop were always really nice! I don't know if they were all genuinely nice, or if the tailor's shop and all his promises made people want to be nice. Either way, the effect was the same. This is where I belonged and the murmurers had nothing on us.
Except, they weren't murmuring anymore. Years had passed, and in that time they had started speaking out loud. They were writing books that accused the tailor of lying. They said the emperor's clothes were a "delusion" and that their belief was hurting society. Actually, it's true that the tailor and his closest followers wanted school to start every day with a mention of the emperor's fabric. It's true that in my sewing class, we had spent a lot of time talking about how to use the emperor's fabric rather than the fabric we had in stock. Also, it was the emperors opinion that the color chartreuse should never be worn. It was unnatural, eccentric, and it clashed with the emperor's clothes horribly. The townsfolk passed laws that made it illegal for people to wear chartreuse colored clothing. If chartreuse was your favorite color, you were out of luck. You couldn't even wear it in your own house. This started to seem wrong to me, but it was only a minority of people affected. I wasn't a fan of chartreuse myself, so I put it to the back of my mind.
I continued to ignore the books by the dissenters and started reading books about the emperor's fabric. In retrospect, I realize I only cared about hearing more about why I was right and why the dissenters were wrong. This was easy to do because there were a lot of books to choose from! Every book with positive things to say about the fabric was a bestseller in our town.
Yet, for some reason the number of dissenters continued to grow. One day, I got the crazy idea to hear what the dissenters had to say. I would have just a peek inside their insane world and be done with it. I borrowed one of their books from the library, and covered the front so nobody would see. I sat down on a bench one morning and started reading. It was so different! It discussed philosophies as old as the ancient Greeks, a history of "invisible" fabrics from all over the world, and the latest findings from fabric scientists! All of it relevant and all of it building up to an increasingly inescapable conclusion. The fabric books I had read started to fall down in my mind. My defenses were crumbling and every chapter dismantled yet another brick. As I was finishing the last chapter, I heard the emperor's processional bell down the street, which now sounded more like a funeral knell. My lifetime flashed in an instant as I re-imagined my whole life from this different perspective. I finished the book and suddenly noticed it was silent. I looked up, and to my horror, there was the emperor, and a crowd of people. The tailor's shipment had come in. Everyone was wearing their new robes of soft, beautiful, and most importantly: comforting fabric...and they were all naked.

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