An arduous path, fate has set before me. The kind which relentlessly taxes my spirit and has begun to slowly erode the very seams of my sanity. The deafening cries inside my mind keep me awake and the deception, lies and manipulation have made their mark on my thoughts. The decision to forgive and not seek retribution has now weakened the once willful patient man. They say that those who leave such matters to faith and goodwill eventually find peace.
Does the father, who withdraws; not because of the unending repression by the ruffians hiding behind their false agenda, but due to his deliberate choice of not separating his daughter from her mother, not deserve better? Or would it have been wiser for him to have unleashed his wrath until he could have had her in his arms? On this path, I have found that a father who withdraws for the sake of his child has a love far greater than the one who does not. I would have never forgiven myself, for letting you be used as leverage by those who sought mischief. I left you in God’s care and I hope you have the same heart as me for you will need it to climb out of the moral-less abyss.
I could write a hundred words, to express how much I miss you and how I long to see you, yet when I start, there is little I can muster. So, for this Father’s Day, I managed to get a painting made for you which I hope holds true to the adage; a picture is worth a thousand words. May you always be happy and healthy and may you always choose the right path, no matter how hard it gets. May you find peace through morality, like I did.
As morning crested the side of Tink Ravine, Mahofon stirred. He blinked but it hurt. He lay on his back, feeling a great tension in his muscles. Very cautiously, he turned his head to either side, testing his diminished strength. With him lay Dulkatra, who clutched his hammer as he slept. The tents were cramped and unsuited for the two of them. Light filtered through the thin hide of the tent, highlighting the patchwork and stitches that kept it functional. Other than some scattered belongings, that was all that resided in their shared home.
Mahofon worked the courage to sit up, and eventually he gathered himself and his drooping staff to face the sun once more. His skin felt sensitive to the change of light intensity as he pushed the cover of the tent and stepped outside; the aftereffects of his far sight disaster, he knew, would be felt through the following, trying days. He had pushed it too far – it was an arduous task regardless, but he had tried to sense something far beyond his understanding. He had been punished. He questioned what could be capable of such immense power, that it could attack him without contact, in fact with a sizable distance between the two. It was magic he had never before seen, even as the leading magician of the tribe. His mind was far from at rest, filled with dread as to what exactly existed is this wasteland.
He gazed around the small campsite. The smoldering remains of the fire sent wisps of trailing smoke skyward. The few that had awoken lounged around, eating foul smelling meats or talking – once they saw Mahofon however, silence prevailed. No one dared asked what had happened, and a steady fear seemed to creep to each one’s eyes. After some time, the chatter returned. Tents began to be rolled and strung to packs, and before the sun reached midday, their steady march went on. It wasn’t long before irregularities began to appear in the terrain.
I had a dream last night while I was sleeping inside the house I made in the middle of the field. I was flying by a million stars. I was awestruck and glanced at all the passing stars, each more beautiful than the other. I flew across the Orion’s belt and came upon Betelgeuse. There I hovered in front of its magnificence. I tried to shield my eyes with my hand in hopes of getting a glimpse of the star’s beauty. Its light was so bright, it pierced my iris and penetrated my soul. There, I froze for what seemed to be forever, trying to steal a glimpse but never succeeding. The strangest thing happened though, as an eternity was spent in the effort. The star slowly faded. Its light diminished as if it was ready for me to gaze upon it. I looked straight at it and what I saw was severely disturbing.
Countless spirits were leeching off its light. Syphoning it away into their bottomless bellies. These were not the good spirits, but the wretched ones. They all had collars around their necks and they were being held there against their will by leashes which were held by deceitful men and women. Who were they? Why were they devouring the starlight? I ran towards them, hoping to be able to save the star but no amount of force could eliminate the imposters. Soon I had no more strength in me, and while floating away quietly, I closed my eyes and wished kindness and healing upon the spirits and their masters. There was a long silence. A blast of radiant light covered my floating body again. The spirits had broken free from their leashes and the men and women were no longer there. A tiny drop of tear escaped my eyes and floated away into the emptiness.
I woke up to a bright day outside. I rubbed my eyes, and went to the door and pushed it open. A few steps outside revealed the fields around me. They were full and the vast landscape was thriving with life. Towards the east, I had planted love of all things. The west field held the crop of honesty. The north had trees of empathy and in the south, there was an endless field of flowers of hope. In the middle stood my house. I was proud of the realm I had created. I held my tools in one hand and started another day of work in the fields. I labored away that day, thinking about how in the dream, only a mere charitable wish had the power to save the star.
Emotional intelligence is essential when taming oneself. The key to controlling situations and retaining your inner peace is restraint. A famous quote comes to mind, which is of disputed origin; ‘You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass – Unknown’. This is the only task he had assigned himself for a while now. To practice restraint. The art of self-control. In learning self-love, he found that perhaps the greatest accomplishment of a mind, is to have the ability to control itself. It was on our way back home when he revealed the purpose of our journey. All this time, I had thought that the answer to everything related to ‘self’ was the experiences we all have in our lives. That everything that happens to us and around us defines our image, or rather our understanding of ourselves. Little did I know, that it was quite the opposite.
The way we react to situations, problems and challenges in our lives is in our control. To exercise that control, we need to practice restraint. We need to learn to control our emotions and hence our reactions by being calm and restraining ourselves. This gives us power over ourselves. This gives us the power to define ourselves and in turn, understand ourselves. This is the pinnacle of self-love, awareness and discovery. When you get there, nothing can control you and disturb your peace. When you get there, nothing can impact your self-image and nothing can affect your ability to love yourself. When you get there, you understand your worth. You ‘restrain’ yourself against negativity of all nature. You grow bigger than the everyday noise. You stop indulging in activities and company that drains you. Your emotions are in your control. You embrace your feelings, and give yourself enough space and time to let logic and restraint define your reaction.
“So how do you
do that?” I asked, wondering how one can develop restraint and emotional
intelligence. “Solitude” he replied. “You spend time with
yourself. You look around yourself. You understand yourself and you embrace
your emotions. You let every possible thought into your mind, and let yourself
react to the thoughts. You repeat this, till you understand that your reaction
does not change the original thought, but only the thoughts that come after it.
Only then, you understand how to control the thoughts, through your reaction.
Understanding this is enough to realize that your reaction is in your control
and you define the outcomes by exercising this control via restraint” We
kept walking downhill as he spoke in slow, careful speech. I made mental notes
and did not feel the need to respond. While this worked for him, I knew that
there are many ways to achieve restraint. Some practice meditation, some
practice other spiritual ways and many find their own path through constant
struggle to find and improve themselves. Regardless of the method you choose,
if you are trying or even just thinking about it, you have already started your
journey. The answer to the simple impediment of ‘self’ is restraint …
It was a slow day. The birds seemed to be engaged in a never ending song which could be heard from above in the vast trees. Their shade extended over the wild grass. The sun was shining through the leaves, flickering on the narrow paths under the trees. These paths, much like the trees in which the birds had made their homes, were a product of time. Grass worn down by timeless feet, moving under the trees. There was a set of large stones almost next to the trunk of the oldest tree. It was a natural, yet necessary place of rest for all those who ventured there. It is often heard that spending time in nature brings peace. A chance to clear your mind, gather your thoughts and to look around at the natural arrangement of so many things existing in harmony. This makes you wonder, what are we doing here? In a perfectly balanced environment, we have a plethora of complicated problems to deal with. Most of them, ironically are created by our very own existence. Humans creating problems for humans. Is this what we are here to do? To avoid, solve, or handle circumstances that disturb our peace. Circumstances that we don’t even have anything to do with? Why don’t we have the choice to just alleviate ourselves of this turmoil and become peaceful?
“We do”, he answered. We sat on the stones as the leaves rustled above us with gentle wind. The flickering sun warmed our backs and our eyes enjoyed a magnificent view of unending plains with far off mountains. “We can tame ourselves to love who we are and reflect our self-understanding in our everyday interactions by controlling our emotions, prioritizing virtue and practicing self-love” He looked at me with a rather assuring smile, “When you know your true worth, you learn to withdraw from things and circumstances that are not worth your peace yet you don’t choose momentary peace over a righteous struggle to achieve something lasting. To enable yourself to recognize the battles worth fighting, is to enable yourself to love yourself” He finished and reached for his satchel. “How would you define righteous?” I asked him as he rummaged through his belongings looking for something. “By virtue and ethics” He responded rather quickly. “Everybody has a different perception of right and wrong. One may also differ in defining virtue” He stopped and pulled out a tiny piece of wood. It was polished and gleamed in the flickering rays of light. It had something carved into it. “Virtue is constant, and always will be. It is as simple as not hurting another with your words or your actions. It is as simple as understanding that preferring things that make you happy are only worth it if they bring good about you” Then he showed the wooden piece to me.
I held it in my hand and read the engraved words ‘To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness – Confucius’. He studied my expression and then smiled “Do you think you would define it any differently?” I did not reply and closed my hand around the wooden piece as I looked into the landscape in front of me. We sat there quietly for a while. There was a certain calm inside me. As if a storm had just passed and now the sun rose over the darkness it had left behind. Is self-love really about doings things for yourself to preserve virtue? Does one not have the right to just do everything that makes oneself happy and at peace? There are times when we all need to just take our space and time to do things for ourselves. I looked at the piece of wood in my palm again and realized that all of my questions were valid but the five things Confucius had identified does in every aspect ensure that when we give ourselves the liberty to practice self-love without gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness – we become narcissists. We take what we think we deserve and we disregard those around us. We disregard the smaller and the greater good. We become the very humans who create problems for other humans.
I still had a swarm of thoughts in my head trying to establish some understanding of all this, when he reached out and took the piece of wood out of my hand “It was given to me by someone I hold very dear and I don’t want to lose it” He whispered aloud as he carefully stowed it away in his satchel. We sat there for some more time, till I decided it was time to move ahead. But one thing I was certain of after that day was that self-love is separated from narcissism and selfishness by virtue.
How does one recover from a debacle ? Especially, one concerning losing people you care about for no apparent reasons ? Why is such loss difficult for one, but seems so easy for the other? A swarm of thoughts and questions kept circling his mind. A person who cares, and loves unconditionally, can never really forget those they once cared for. “I learnt that you should walk away from people who use the entirety of all their issues to measure every single thing you say or do and let their past shape your relationship with them. Love is not about healing others. It’s about loving them regardless” He a said with a calm tone. He sat down on a bench besides the walking track and was not bothered by the wind ruffling his hair.
Recovery to some extent, however does come with time. You can heal, but the scars always remain. The road to recovery starts from forgetting everything you were told about yourself and venturing on to find who you were, before it all happened. Recovery is about being yourself again, loving yourself again and prioritizing yourself again. Recovery is all about staying true to who you are and always were. It is about learning from your mistakes. It is about using how others treat you to grow as a human. It is about not letting the cruelty of others and this world shape you. What I have found is that, recovery begins at forgiveness and it takes place at self-realization, and ends at growth. The process is not easy and it takes time. It is, however something we all must do to create a better space for ourselves and the people around us. The little acts of kindness, the mere effort put in bringing about smiles, the simple joy of giving – all these things become a part of a person who has forgiven, realized self and in turn grown. The pointless noise of the world no longer excites them. They exhibit a positive energy. They start doing things they have always wanted to, breaking the imaginary chains they put on themselves for the sake of others. They become fearless and independent of everything and everyone. They become enough for themselves and this very feeling makes them content and happy. They become Indifferent of the anything abstract or concrete and nothing can disturb their peace.
He has reached that milestone. Recollecting all his mistakes, learning from them, realizing his self-worth and being aware of himself. He has grown. In all the turmoil, he has found his strength and he has overcome the vast mountains set before him. It has been a while since he has been this focused. His belief in building things with his own effort has never been stronger. He has given up finding good hearts. He wants his life to be about him and the greater good and about spending his time and effort in making this world a better place by practicing small, everyday deeds of kindness, generosity and humanity . Perhaps, I cannot comprehend this any better, but I believe he has found his road.