As he watched the birds fly, a young Indian boy named Devdan wished he too could soar above the surrounding cliffs. Scaling the mountain was hard work; well at least that’s what his elders had told him. And he believed them, too. Children in his tribe were prohibited from even attempting the climb, so Devdan had practiced hiking much smaller hills in preparation for the time when he would finally be offered the chance to climb the mountain. It was all the young boy could think about because it was all he was inspired to do.
Devdan well knew the traditions of his people: the opportunity to climb the mountain would be offered by the Tribal Chief to all boys who became of age. It was an esteemed rite. Further, Devdan had clearly observed that boys who didn’t promptly climb the mountain because of fear or accidents were treated differently in the tribe. It appeared to Devdan that they lost the respect of their community. The striking teen didn’t want that! His father and grandfather had shared with him many times the importance of respect, and he wanted to earn respect, too.
Everyday in the small tribal village, young males would play games that taught them skills they would need when they were called upon to climb the mountain. It was commonplace for elders to guide the boys’ performance during the games. Each lad expected and looked forward to receiving advice from the elders. And appeasing them was important. Devdan was exceptionally good at the games. With each new exercise he learned, his talent was so great that it seemed as though he must have played before. Playing the games wasn’t hard- even the new ones- but Devdan could see the frustration in the eyes of his peers who weren’t as athletic. They struggled to learn and master the games.
Devdan asked his Father about his observation. “Father, it seems unfair that some of the boys don’t have a chance to win.”
Devdan’s Father answered, “Do you feel badly about winning?”
“No, that’s not it. I really like to win, but I don’t understand why the others don’t get to win too?
The father responded slowly. He appreciated the wisdom of his son’s question and said “These games have been with us since the beginning of our tribe and they are very important to our identity and purpose. They show us whom the gods will choose to lead our tribe as our next Tribal Chief. You do want to win, don’t you?”
Immediately understanding the need not to appear weak, Devdan responded as he had learned from the other warriors of the tribe: “Yes, sir!” as he left his father’s side.
Day after day, Devdan continued to show his natural expertise by leading the games with victory after victory. Many of the boys had already begun to whisper that Devdan would surely conquer the mountain with the best time ever recorded in the history of the tribe. These rumors were accentuated by the tribal elders who administered the boys’ games. Soon, everyone was talking about the strength and leadership of Devdan. It was clear to most of the tribe that he was destined to be a great leader, yet it was not commonly known that the Chief and the Tribal Council had also noticed Devdan and his many wins. The Chief knew that this boy Devdan, whose name meant “a gift from the gods,” was special.
But Devdan didn’t feel special. He grew bored of the games that he so commonly won. They were easy and he wondered if his journey up the mountain would really be that hard. “But it had to be,” he reminded himself. The older boys who had completed the journey went on and on about how hard the climb had been. The elders always said the same thing. Devdan didn’t want to disappoint his father and the others when it came time for his chance to climb the mountain, so he put away foolish thoughts that it could be easy.
Yet, Devdan found great comfort in watching the hawks glide higher and higher like they were magically being lifted to the top of the cliffs without flapping their wings. One night during a very vivid dream, Devdan felt he was able to fly like a hawk. He stood at the base of the mountain and with ease he lifted his arms and began to free himself from the earth’s pull. Devdan felt wonderful excitement as his feet were no longer tethered to the earth. Without his legs to carry him forward, he began to feel he could go anywhere. While this felt fun, it also seemed scary because it wasn’t what he had grown accustomed too. It was weird to go beyond the strength and power of his legs.
Devdan, in his dream, initially hovered close to the ground flying and circling, twisting and twirling. Then, during an in-flight back roll, his eyes opened to see the vast mountain that he had stared at all of this life. In an instant he turned his body and opened himself to fly even higher. No longer paying attention to the safety of the ground, Devdan flew higher and higher observing the many layers that composed the mountain. He could feel that he was nearing the top. Putting even more awareness into the moment, Devdan instantly caught an unseen stream of air that propelled him in a way he never had thought possible.
Just like the hawks, Devdan flew easily in and around the cliffs enjoying the lifting sensation that was created by air blowing against the peaks. To Devdan, flying felt easy and fun. It was exactly as he thought it would be when he had watched the hawks fly from below.
During his exploration of the skies, Devdan felt an overwhelming desire go to a mesquite tree located at the top of the cliffs. Not at all tired, the teenager sailed with the breeze to land just beneath the tree. He felt heaviness in touching earth again at the top of the mountain. But, it felt different here. It felt lighter at the top than it did in his village below. Then he noticed a group of birds that circled above him before landing in the mesquite tree one by one as if they were about to host a meeting. With respect, Devdan started to sit down in honor of the gathering before him. As soon as Devdan had taken a seat, the instruction began. “You will now be called Dev,” came the strong message from the bald eagle sitting on the main branch of the tree. “You have finished your climb and have become one of us,” the Eagle stated in finality.
“Have I died?” Devdan asked aloud in his dream.
“No,” answered the grey hawk who was perched to left of the Almighty Eagle, “you have merely risen.”
Devdan awoke early the next morning feeling differently than all his other days. The dream seemed so real and it had felt completely natural to fly. In a daze, Devdan wandered, as was customary, to the place the young boys gathered daily to practice the games. As one of Devdan’s favorite games was about to begin, he held up his hand and stopped play before the game had even started. “I can’t play any longer,” Devdan said aloud. He spoke without forethought; unaware that he had done so. Shocked and upset, the many boys wondered what was wrong with Devdan. Several “weaker” boys who had never excelled at the game suddenly became enthusiastic that they might have a chance to win now in Devdan’s absence.
The Teachers of the games immediately surrounded and scolded Devdan for his outburst. One teacher in particular yelled at the disrespectful youth because of his rebellion and dishonor to his elders, the tribe and his family. The angry instructor publicly chided Devdan stating that he wouldn’t even be allowed to try to climb the mountain if he stopped playing the games.
Devdan stood still and replied “I am Dev. No longer are you to call me Devdan.”
The boys and all their teachers stood still in response to the way Dev had spoken. The confused group turned angry and halted all game activities due to the unusual act of disobedience. Boys circled around Dev buzzing like flies. Teachers forced Dev immediately to go see the Tribal Chief. A disturbance of this kind had never been expressed so blatantly in the small village and everyone stopped their morning activities to follow Dev’s footsteps in wonder of what the Indian Chief would say to the once- popular Indian Boy.
Dev said nothing as the entire tribe yelled and poked at him with words, fists and even spears as they approached the tent of the Chief. Only moments before the arrival of the angry mob, the Indian Chief had been told of the special boy’s incident and his desire not to play the games. The tent flap opened from the Chief’s teepee and the Chief himself was presented to the masses; which consisted of every member of the tribe. Immediately, the tribe began to quiet in respect and honor of the Chief.
“Devdan, have you disrespected yourself, your family, all of us and the ancient ones in not playing the games?”
The mob that had once exclusively encircled Dev had now surrounded both the Chief and the boy. Without words, Dev began to sit, as he had done in his dream. Before being killed, many of the tribe’s enemies had been forced to kneel before the Chief but no one -friend or foe- had ever sat before the Holy Man without being given permission. The entire tribe stood back in horror of what would certainly take place. The sitting boy’s parents became hysterical and cried that the Chief of the tribe would spare their son’s life. The Chief held his hand to quiet the hate- filled crowd.
“What do you have to say to me… ‘Dev’…?” The Chief of the Indian Tribe mocked his new name.
Sitting quietly and unaffected by the hostile environment surrounding him, Dev spoke: “I have risen.” He gestured to the cliffs that comprised the mountain. Uncomfortable laughter came from the crowd while the Chief looked to the boy’s teachers- of- the- game as they collectively shook their heads. No, the boy had not climbed the mountain.
“Do you have us believe that you climbed the mountain?” responded the Chief.
Dev spoke no more. The beautiful boy remained quiet and comfortable in his conversation with the High Priest.
The entire tribe awoke from their collective shock and once again began to rage at the boy with increased threats, jabbing, spears and even rocks.
In an inner quietness, Dev closed his eyes in wonder of his dream. He knew what it meant to be raised and in his very last breath he smiled and wondered if his family, friends and community would realize what they had done. Then, the crowd quieted when life left the boy’s body. It was finished. The body remained still and lifeless. A sudden vortex of wind enveloped the group. Air, decorated with a hint of red dust, whirled from the earth. The circular motion of wind unexpectedly paused in mid-air and then disappeared straight up as if the dust particles were sucked upward through a straw. The change of the wind’s circular motion to linear was unnatural, but it was understood to be physical evidence of the release of the spirit into the heavens. Then, in unison, the crowd gasped and breathed as one. Dev had ascended.