“So, Bob, you’ve committed to writing a series of clues to unraveling the mysteries of our suffering and thereby it’s end. For God’s sake why?”
“Wouldn’t you much rather be out in your kayak or making music than collecting images and writing blogs?”
“Well yeah, but…”
“And your meditation practice has gone to pot. You spend most of every session with your mind running wild composing, re-wording, searching for clever ways to express yourself.”
“Well, I’m not sure how to put it…maybe… Well, if you find a gold mine there are two obvious things you can do. You could not tell anyone and keep it all for yourself, or you could…well, maybe that would best be described with a story.”
The Story of Aaliyah, Part One
There was a girl named Aaliyah who lived in a remote village where no one had any knowledge of the world beyond the mountains that surrounded them. The villagers had a small herd of cattle and otherwise survived on game brought back by the men from their hunting trips and vegetables that the women grew in their gardens. Once a rather strange man paid a visit to the village. He didn’t speak their language very well, but asked a lot of questions. He would take out a stack of square white sheets which he called a “pad” and make marks on them with a stick he called a “pencil”. One day when the men were off hunting, he asked questions of the women who were digging root vegetables they had planted.
“Do any of the women ever go on hunting trips?”
“Oh no! The men would never allow that!”
“Do the men ever help with the gardening?”
The women laughed and laughed. Some of them were rolling on the ground in hysterics. “Oh no! How silly. They wouldn’t know how! The men are really stupid about plants.”
Life was pretty good in the village, but one year there was much less rain than usual. The crops were barely enough to keep everyone fed, and the game the men hunted was getting more scarce. The following year was even worse. Time after time the men would return to the village empty handed. By the end of the year all of the small herd of cattle had been slaughtered to feed the hungry villagers. There was no longer any food to be had and not a drop of rain to moisten the parched land.
Aaliyah became more and more despondent seeing her friends and family starving. She had always been enthusiastic about life, had been the first to jump in when help was needed and was a great encouragement to her younger brothers and sisters as they grew up to become responsible members of the community. But now she had lost all hope, and would have shed many tears if there had been any tears left to shed. One night, in despair, she walked out of the village toward the mountains. She could no longer bear the wailing of the women whenever someone died, and the sight of sickness and death sickened her heart. She was going to die and she wanted to do it in peace and quiet. By the time she found herself climbing one of the mountains, she had almost forgotten the village. She was conscious only of one foot being planted in front of the other on the rocky ground. When she reached the summit she was so delirious that she was not even aware of her own shivering from the high altitude cold, nor could she appreciate the growing warmth as she descended the other side.
Aaliyha awoke from a comatose sleep to a feeling she only slowly came to recognize. Lifting a hand to her face she felt coolness, wet, and opened her eyes to see a misty rain falling toward her, falling through a green canopy of trees. With great difficulty she rose to her feet, looked around and found herself surrounded by rainforest. There was the sound of a running brook nearby and weak though she was she ran to the edge, fell face first into it and sucked in the fresh cool water. She drank as if she had never drunk before – drank in life itself. Hanging from the trees were fruits which she ate with relish and finally, feeling as if she were in a dream, lay down in the grass and fell into a deep sleep. The following days were a wonder of discoveries as her strength gradually returned. It was as if she had never seen green before. The brilliant red of the berries she picked was almost painful to look at and the blue of the sky was so intense that she wondered if she had ever actually seen sky before. She would sometimes stand for what seemed like hours with her eyes closed, drawing into her lungs the fresh air and the smell of the fertile earth. But she never thought about the village or her family and friends there. It was as if her entire past life had never existed.
Then one day as she stood on a ridge high up on the side of the mountain, gazing out over the valley at the distant hills and more distant mountains, imagining the plains beyond the mountains, she suddenly thought of her mother, and of her father who had died, and of her brothers and sisters, and one by one every member of the village, those who had recently died and those who were still barely alive when she had left the village and walked into the mountains to die. Thinking of all these people she once had loved she began to cry. She wept and wept for all those who were still suffering and dying at home while she was here in bliss, in paradise. But what pained her most was that she could do nothing to help them. She couldn’t bring this place to them and she couldn’t bring them to this place. Here she was in the midst of boundless beauty and she was more miserable than she had ever dreamed was possible. This was truly the darkest of nights, and her suffering was so deep that even in death there would be no release.
Next Clue: The Story of Aaliyah – Part Two