The Mystic

>Flickr/Hartwig HKD

The Mystic

“My soul went into the desert, never to come back again.”

“My daughter went into the desert, never to come back again.”

“If you meet your daughter today, would you recognize her?”

“No, my child, I wouldn’t.”

“Is she alive or dead?”

“To be honest, it is entirely immaterial. Deep down, I know we’re not going to meet again in this lifetime. But I do hope once we pass through death, we get a chance to know each other.”

“You cannot be so charmed with the idea of death that you let go of life itself. Surely life has more to offer to you?”

The old man shook his head.

“Death is the longing for life itself. For the mortal soul, in death lies an unfulfilled promise, a promise of a better world. We adore the idea of living forever but we know, such an arrangement cannot last forever. We cease to evolve the moment we defer to change. Is there a greater change then, than the transition from one life to the other?”

The mystic smiled at the old man, she was both amused and delighted at the way he spoke. He was the complete opposite of a man from the plains, the place where great cities, busy bazaars and rich people lived. He was dressed more like a hermit on his last journey than a traveller finding his way in the desert. They both had met in the tent that afternoon, to seek shelter from the storm blowing across the desert.

She noticed the lightness of his bag. She enquired where he was headed.

“Wherever the fair winds guide me. My folks back home say that’s more of a death wish than a dream trip. But the winds, the desert and the omens I would like to believe, they all are metaphorical. In the end, I’ll follow my own heart.”

“I’ve learned to trust my own heart too. Some days, I do not know what it says. On other days, I do not wish to know. But either way, I listen to my own heart.”

“So you must. One can never really regret the choices our hearts make for us.”

“It’s indeed strange for a man of society like you to say this. For them, the heart’s sole purpose of existence is wine and love.”

“I wouldn’t really call myself a man of society. I was living in it, but never really a part of it. But tell me, what do you think of wine and love? A mystic like you would know best.”

“Wine is to love what a muse is to a writer. A metaphor the layman takes literally. But that’s a human failing, for we wish to simplify things instead of exploring them. The mystic knows this, that all outward manifestations of love are redundant without making the inward journey first. The basis of true love is not in the couplets we rhyme or the monuments we build. It is in knowing that come what may, the assurance of love and peace lies not in the people we love and the objects we adore but in our own hearts. The signs we shun, the omens we omit, they are all cries of our own hearts. Before seeking to listen to others and to the world, we need to listen to ourselves. It’s here that all answers lie.”

“That explains what I knew all along,” he said. “The mystic knows the end to her own story.”

“The mystic isn’t the omnipotent teacher you make it out to be. Merely, the mystic is one who is forever in love with the idea of love, with the love of the Lord, the love of his fellow beings and the love of being in touch with one’s higher self.”

“Aah, you put it really well. If that indeed is true, then you’re a mystic by choice. And I’m one by nature.”

The tempest was reaching its peak. The old man drew the tent flap closer before turning back to her, “Doesn’t the desert scare you?”

“No, the desert amazes me.”

“It sometimes scares me. Because it is a part of the world, it is unpredictable and harsh.”

“And because it is a part of the world, it is beautiful and forgiving.”

“You can trudge along in the desert, during merciless days and cloudless nights, only to starve and die.”

“Or,” She said. “You can intimate yourself with the ways of the desert, absorb it in all its glory, seek its people and make yourself one with them.”

“You’ll stumble in the dark if you don’t hold onto the light.”

“And you’ll decay in the dark if you are afraid of the light.”

“True. I fear it for precisely that.” He paused as he played with the sand. “It’s in our loneliest moments we realize that love is a cocoon we live in. And that is why the absolute stillness of the desert scares me, for it reminds me of my own vulnerabilities.”

“I would say that the cocoon you describe are the people you love,” the mystic said. “You can live without them, as your travels must have shown you. But you cannot live without loving them.”

“Indeed. We live and die for our loved ones.”

“We love people, because in them we see the promise of a better life, a better world for ourselves,” The mystic said. “We wish the best for them, for through our prayers, we bless the bonds that binds us. We wish to see them happy, for it is indeed our own happiness at stake. The joy of spreading love is second only to the joy of being loved in return.”

“Do we seek love or is it the other way around?”

“Irrespective of the answer, will it be ever enough?”

He wore a sorrowful look as he said, “I’ve come to realize we’re selfish by nature, for we cling onto our loved ones like the sand to the desert. We wish to keep them with ourselves always, not mindful of the reality that all things in the universe must cease to exist in one life, only to appear in the other. To let go is a sign of true love. All journeys must come to an end. So too must love.”

“You can say love lives on, it exists beyond our bodies and beyond the memories of our mind, both which must decay one day. But that isn’t true, for when we die, we take the ones we love away, to the next stage.”

“That implies love is immortal.”

“Or so we would like to believe.”

Silence again, as they both contemplated their individual lives, the people they had met, the places they had been, the choices they had made and the choices that had made them. As the winds slowed down, the mystic asked the old man,

“Do you miss your daughter?”

“I miss my daughter like one would miss one’s breath. Imagine being forced to live without your most crucial organs. If the thought of that pain and struggle overwhelms you, you would know exactly how it feels to be away from the ones you love.” 

“Humans are meant to live and thrive, in all their glory. But take away love from their lives and just like leaves without water, land without rain, they decay and suffer.”

“In suffering lies salvation. For in our sufferings we’re closest to the ones we love.”

“And in seeking love, we’re closest to the ones who may make us suffer.”

“Is that view out of staying in society or more out of staying away from it?”

“The thing about love is, it is another of those dualities we associate life with. Pain and pleasure are both experiences we associate with love. Just as light is inseparable from the dark, so is pain from joy and love. We must seek one but we must learn to live with the other.”

“But then again, what is darkness but the absence of light?”

“And what is hatred and the lust for revenge, but the lack of love?”

“We seek revenge, when none is ever possible. How do you make someone suffer, without suffering in return? How can you hate someone, without hating yourself first? And how can you love someone, without loving yourself first?”

The old man laughed, the metaphors had positively woken up his soul. “My child! You’ve a gift for words! In my youth, I lived on my words. But in my old age, they are my deepest fears. They change you, the challenge you. Mostly, they provoke you.”

“I think the promise of the unknown provokes me the most. And yet, I’m content living as a hermit in the desert. The caravan leader disagrees, he insists I’ll be far more happier in the plains.”

“I wouldn’t let my own daughter live there. Do not venture there, you’re better off here. The desert has enough to make you forget the plains.”

“Why do you abhor the plains, the place where you were born and lived all your life?”

“The same metaphor again. I cannot criticize them without criticizing myself first.” He took a deep breath, before continuing. “As people of society, we seek the means, when the end is nowhere near in sight. We quarrel for the mundane, live for the futile and struggle for the never-ending. Society is the reflection of our own lives. It’s no wonder then that we can’t help but feel pessimistic about it.”

“True. If the individual makes up society, then it is up to him to change it. An enlightened individual precedes an enlightened society.”

“For someone as young as you, you’re wise beyond your years. You know more than most people, perhaps more than anyone I’ve met.”

“I do not claim to know more than you or anyone else. But I can say I’ve travelled more than you.”

“And pray tell me, what have your travels taught you?”

“It has taught me a lot. But to say everything I’ve learned in this lifetime would require another to state it. We’re all philosophers in that way, for we all have stories to tell, experiences to share. Why, entire lives to be relived!”

“No wonder you haven’t said much about yourself. A mystic, unlike the rest of us, is a full-time philosopher. You breathe and live among questions and discussions, don’t you?”

“Questions to keep my soul alive. And discussions with my fellow philosophers, to keep me rooted to this world. There are times, during meditation, during sama’h when I take leave of my body, of the world altogether.”

“Not entirely unnatural, for they say that the body is but an extension of the mind.”

“True. It’s a misfortune that we’re too busy running after the former, when it is the latter that should concern us. Only when our bodies collapse, when we’ll be mere whims of the wishes of our Creator will we realize it is the mind we should have taken care of.”

“If the Creator is indeed watching us, He has reasons enough to be disappointed. You’ve never been a part of the society, but for someone as devotional and pure-minded as you, it’ll be a pain to live and breathe amongst my people who profess to live their lives for their Lord. But He knows all, He sees all. The places of worship will be full always.” He added with a sad smile. “Unlike the hearts of the people filling it.”

“Surely, those places are meant for the faith to live and flourish?”

“We’ve erected monuments to show our love for our Lord but we fail to summon the courage to face Him in our private moments. We can deceive and lie to the world but our conscience knows and while it may forget, it never forgives. We’re a peculiar race, for we’ve managed to delude ourselves into believing that we can run amok, unchecked and unhindered in the world. Only in our moments of crisis do we seek out a higher power, for our hopelessness restores our hopes. We pray to a God whom we profess to love, only to forget Him the moment we’re comfortable again. Surely we cannot be so naive to believe that such an agreement can continue forever, that we can fool the highest powers of the universe? To deceive someone is to show that we don’t care for them, that we don’t love them. How can we expect love in return, when we’re so miserly in giving it?”

“That’s the beauty and the terror of it. You get what you give.”

“Indeed. It’s our deepest wish and our deepest fear.”

“The deepest of our fears rests in the ravines of the deepest of our desires. For one is incomplete without the other. We fear, for we refuse to recognize a world other than the one we create in our heads, that opulent wonderland where our minds function but our hearts rule. If reality is a function of our imagination, then hope is an extension of despair. As with all the dualities existing within the universe, one completes the other for one contradicts the other.”

He nodded.

With a calm settling in the tent, the two intercepted their conversation for some peaceful musings, this time in the confines of their own minds. The storm was dying out. As sunset approached, the old man stood up. She smiled at him.

“Father, if you meet your daughter today, would you recognize her?”

“No, my child, I wouldn’t.”

With a brief bow to the mystic, he stepped out of the tent.

>Feature image courtesy of flickr/Hartwig HKD.

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