Chapter 5 – The Calm Before The Storm

I was standing on the porch of my house, which was slowly decaying as the principals that I had made the house from waned. There was a strange whisper in the wind that carried a vague message. It seemed to be a message of hope. Rain was coming. I stood there and stared at the vast sky and anxiously waited, so I could greet it. The sun slowly grew a little colder, from blistering hot to a pleasant warm as the dark clouds that carried rain slowly entered the scene. A smile appeared on my tired face after a very long time. I clapped my hands in joy and stared at the sky and the fields. The rich blend of colours in the scene gave me a new kind of energy, perhaps a fresh perspective. The brown fields, thirsty for rain, moving in waves as wind passed through them. The brown faded into blue and the fields became the sky, which had grey clouds slowly covering its entirety. The yellow of the sun was scarce now, but it was still present.

The first drops of rain came gently, slowly moistening the dry ground. I put my hand forward and let the drops fall on my arm. I took a deep breath and reveled in the smell of rain. The dry soil and the rain drops created a pleasant petrichor which reinforced my bones. I laughed and watched the rain wash and water my fields. For a moment, all my principals grew as strong as ever and my house was renewed. My personality and my character which I had used to decorate the house was enhanced. The floor of empathy and the walls of honesty grew stronger. The roof of kindness and the doors of generosity, the windows of love, the furniture of simplicity, the curtains of hope, the fence of loyalty and the foundations of modesty; everything was suddenly restored or so it seemed. The paint of honour and integrity that covered the house was as bright as ever. I smiled and stepped into the gentle rain. There was a calmness that I had longed for quite a while now. I closed my eyes and let myself soak.

There was a sudden flash of very bright light, followed by a great sound. My eyes opened and I was shaken. I looked up to the sky in question, and there was another bright flash of light and another noise. It was thunder, and it worried me more than it scared me. I have found that loud, invasive and immoral people bring ill things with them, and the same applied to the thunder. It was not just rain; it was a storm. The calm before the storm was but a device of nature, much like the treachery of people who build trust before deceiving you. The rain grew in volume and in intensity and there was a relentless onslaught. The field, I saw were now drowning, and the mischievous water seeped into my house and soon, I was waist deep in a flood. As I waded towards my house, It disappeared right in front of me. There was nothing left, and I stood there in disbelief. All those years, all the hard work gone.

At World’s Edge – Chapter 1

The desolate visage stretched as far as the days felt long. Spread was a fine saline dust that painted the flat landscape. The earth cracked under the pressures of parchedness, and only the sporadic appearance of shrubbery suspended the otherwise repetitive atmosphere. Bare were the brown bushes that sprouted from the mosaiced ground, between splits and trenches that the arid air had carved. It was a portrait of repulsion, and a scene of despair, and brave were the souls that skimmed across its terrible surface. They would be glad when they left the dreadful silence behind. A most spacious cell was where they found themselves, marching to a distant drum. They pondered at the fleeting beauty of the clear sky only to be dragged back to reality as they stumbled over the brown rocks that littered the land. The vastness of the barren plain was second only to the expansive sky that appeared as a speckled veil thrown over blue-black.

Kicking up a screen of dust as they went, the band marched on wards. The metal of weapons could be heard scraping; the rustling of hide bags and their contents was also audible. Standing proud was the standard ahead of the group, a flag bristling in the wind, attached to a blemished wooden staff. The cotton banner itself was entirely black, save for the white orbit that decorated its surface, followed by a black orbit, and then a white circle center – it resembled that of a colourless eye. It was supported by Mombulu, who held nothing else for it was his sole purpose. He was shortly tailed by a more mysterious figure. His face bore an orange mask with a red strike down the center, and strung to his belt were two curved blades. They were a steely grey with streaks of yellow; they glinted ominously in the starlight. He seemingly surfed across the alkaline sand; his movements were gracious yet timely. His whole being would impose a dreadful fear into his adversaries – he knew this well.

With the others shuffling behind the standard, Mombulu turned and called over the gentle chatter of the band, “I can see the ravine ahead”. At his mention of Tink Ravine, a stillness spread through the crowd. It was a nervous hush that instigated the sound of the sands shifting into the limelight. Bustling through the remainder of the crowd came their religious oracle, Cescar. In one ancient hand she held an even more antiquated staff. It was the same, albeit slightly short, height as her, with several circles of wood carved from the cedar it was shaped from. Like a tree weathered by the relentless storms of dust, the staff was scarred by age, with the surprisingly agile woman showing no sign of her own fragility in her confident movement – she thrust the staff forward. Her green cape dragged across the floor, frayed, whilst her collar contained a collage of feathers that rose above her head high. As she barged her way through the bundle of veracious warriors, she came to a halt and gestured to the far distance

(Cont.)

Chapter 2 – The Green Flame

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 and 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.

Chapter 1 – The Promising Earth

Have you ever held fresh soil in your hands? On which no foot has ever walked and it has never been disturbed before? A field, full of soil that has only been touched by the soft hands of nature? Have you felt its purity? Have you ever held It close to yourself to experience the earthly aroma and experience a state of natural bliss. A field much like that I once was. A fresh canvas, ready to embrace the entirety of life. You see, when we enter the world it seems like there are endless horizons to traverse. Much like the farmer who plans for his fields, the world plans for you. The painting on that canvas could be anything.

In the folds of time I slowly developed myself to embrace the worldly life. I prepared myself to be measured against the conformity standards of society and slowly evolved into an acceptable human being, ready to work the field of life. In the very same field, I stood upon the soil and held it in my hands. The rich earth beneath me promised endless opportunities. I walked impatiently and felt my feet sink in the soil with every step I took till I reached the middle. Standing there, I could see the entirety of the field all around me. A vast landscape of fresh soil I saw, ready to be tilled and seeded.

I settled down in the middle of the field and built a shelter for myself. I decorated it with my personality and furnished it with my character. The floor, I made out of empathy and the walls from honesty. The roof overhead was made out of kindness and the doors were carved out of generosity. The windows were large and had love in them. The furniture was made out of simplicity and the curtains were sewn from hope. The fence around the house was made from loyalty and stones of modesty were in its foundations. The entire structure was painted with colors of honor and integrity. From there I started my work: to work the field, to paint the canvas and to create serenity.

Chapter 5 – The Answer

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 …

Chapter 4 – The Narcissist

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.

Chapter 2 – The Recovery

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.

Chapter 1 – The Latest Debacle

“What is persistence?”, he asked when I asked him the reason behind his attitude towards everything. He has always been persistent in everything regardless of the outcomes. Always adamant on getting the results that are not only right, but also sometimes not in his control. Naturally, I tried asking him again, “Why are you always trying to make everything perfect?”. This time, he paused and stared at me before replying. His gaze was patient, yet it made me uncomfortable. “Perfection is subjective. What is perfect for me, may not be perfect for you”. He looked away and spoke slowly, “We all work for what seems right to us. Sometimes, we get what we want”.

This statement obviously raised more questions than it had answered. Instantly, I leaned closer and asked, “What about the times we don’t get what we want?” He seemed annoyed by the question, as if I had asked something strange. There was a silence. I looked at him intently, but his expressions were painful. He shrugged suddenly and took a deep breath. He gave me a melancholy look, smiled and spoke softly, “Then you get what you deserved all along … ” The smile faded slowly and he closed his eyes as he added, “…something a lot better hopefully”. I knew I couldn’t badger him any further with my questions although I was growing impatient to learn more. I looked at him and my mind kept stirring.

But this is what I learnt from him that day; When you heal others and let them know you will always be there no matter what, they often take you for granted. That is perhaps the truest of all tests. A person who does not value you at their strongest, does not deserve you. Sometimes people put the blame on others so they don’t have to feel guilty for what they did to them. I understood that when people say something, they don’t always mean it. Not everyone is like how you are. Everybody has their own agenda in everything they do. The only person who really should matter to you, is yourself. People become strangers when words spoken have no meaning. There is nothing one can do to make anyone stay. The only person who truly stays with you and deserves all your love, is yourself.