Verdant green forests, craggy white mountains, gurgling rivers and roaring seas. Who would not be tempted to explore these? He set out with empty hands and a heart filled with wonder at what lay before him. Every step a sacred communion. Every breath in – one of joy. Every breath out – a reverent sigh. Such that he began to feel he himself was sheer transparence, light.
Until one night he arrived at a village. The fire in the square burnt brightly. Shadows danced and stretched behind the performers. The loud voices and impassioned gestures had everyone riveted. The traveller was no exception. Drawn in by the power that the ‘villain’ appeared to exhibit, he could not help but forget his way. He forgot all about the journey and was bewitched by this unfolding drama. Instead of moving with the winds, he seemed to grow roots in that place. Returning every night, again and again. Finally, his unspoken desire was given opportunity. The actor had failed to show up. He had been a silent understudy long enough and could step into his place. For several nights he played villain. Reveling in the reactions he provoked. The gasps of fear. The whimpers of subjugation.
Till the beauty caught his eye. No matter what he did, she would not even look his way. She was bewitched by the brave ‘hero’ on stage. Slowly he began to regret his choice. He began to wonder what she saw in that beleaguered lead. Now bravery and honor began to look appealing. Perhaps that was not a bad part to try out for after all. The first chance he got, he changed roles. Now he could play a human God. This was even greater fun and the enchantment complete.
Within a few days he was off the stage. He became the helpful hand. The voice against injustice. He owned the role so well, that soon they all forgot who he really was. It did not stop there. These exciting, wonderful tales – of color and vivacity – they had him completed addicted. The laughter, the tears, the coming together of hearts and the falling away of friends. The alternating gains and losses of the adventures he underwent. The makeup had been on so long, it became his skin. The costume no longer his temporary attire, but a defining part of him.
In the meantime, the weather changed. The forests were cleared, the rivers were running dry. The sun was scorching. The winds were high. They were all calling out to him in their own way. But he could not hear them.
He was lost in his play. When he grew tired of being the leader, he played the sage. In true identification with his role, he set off back on a mountain trail. After days of penance, fasting and prayer, an unease arose. He did not admit this to his followers. He led the meditations every week. In between, he continued to be verbose.
But one full moon night, he looked up and felt the cool breeze. Through the cloth, the covering skin. It touched his heart again. He could smell the forest despite the incense. He could hear the leaves. The sounds of the village drama, the actors, the audience – none of it deafened him anymore.
It was the waters that finally reached him. The resilient babbling of a dwindling river sang him awake. He walked back to the neglected track. He returned the way he came.
Quiet. Attentive. Grateful.
And slowly but surely, with his return, the landscape blossomed once again.
Image Credit : Flikr Trey Ratcliffe (under Creative Commons)