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A Mean Between the River
Sometimes, as I look back at the past and try to trace the path I have followed, I realize that it is very difficult to do so. To even begin to attempt to trace the development of my identity calls for the recollection of every second, each event that may or may not have played an integral part in my being. There are no shortcuts, or moments where I can just sit down and think to myself, "Well, life has no reason anyway. Whatever happens just happens and is going to happen, so there’s no reason to understand why." But maybe it is the question why that can best explain how I came to be who I am today.
The word why is a word with many meanings---some inferred, some known, and some that will never be known. When one asks why, he who asks can always be assured of a simple but evanescent answer---fleeting, temporary, the answer ready to be shattered to oblivion the moment a question becomes asked again. What question? Why. Why can never be answered; why can never be known. Why is as elusive as its explanation, the greatest device there is to both stall and create time. Within the confines of this questionable question, an entire lifetime can be lived within the span of a second.
"What does this question have to do with the development of my identity? Why?" Questions. Questions are temporary things; surpassed by their successors called answers, each question writhes and grows to come into being, only to be thrust down again and again by unlikely answers. The human attempt to give an acceptable answer to everything is time-wracking. There can never be a thing that can be called the answer. The answer, the explanation, whatever words one may want to use to describe it, does not exist and never existed. Everything is only an attempt to explain the unexplainable, to understand the incomprehensible.
It is this latter statement that may seem to shed some insight upon the true nature of my being. I am a person who is unique, different from all in many ways as I will try to explain later. Notice that I am trying to describe myself---there is no one who can better describe what one really is than oneself. My life is superficial as the surface of water. I have never begun to tell anyone what lies under the reflection of the surface, nor has anyone been able to glance above to see what had lain in the sky. It is this desultory, random path of life which for, as long as I can remember, I have been trying to transcend. To transcend a river, one must force oneself to the side, one must swim, one must flay oneself upon the waters or throw oneself onto the banks---if not, then there can only be the remaining way, to flow along with the superseding current and follow it without end. On today’s river, faster, longer, more powerful than anything existing within the material world---let me give it a perfunctory name, perhaps Life---Life flows only one way, and at the end of that way is the bottom of Niagara Falls. Let me ask the all-important question: "Why?" If my meaning can be understood, even though at times I do not fully understand it myself, my place has never really been in the water. I was meant to get out and stand, walk on my two feet, be one with the land that is my home. This is what it means to transcend ordinary trivialities. This meaning I have understood ever since the dawn of my time---let me stand and gaze out over this figurative river, let me look out upon Life and choose my way.
There are things that have no readily comprehensible meaning, things that must be experienced and understood, things that cannot be written down, or spoken about, but just simply seen and acknowledged by the eyes. My journey began at the very moment I set unknowing eyes onto this world---I was born into the water, ready to run the path that I would later have to be molded into. My time had begun, time to take my place in the ever-repeating history of life, that which had run from what was, what now is, and on to what is to come. I knew, everyone around me knew that I was a sentient being; I would have to choose my own way and because of this law of nature, I have traversed the distance of my years to today.
Before it is even possible to explain how I came to be who I am, I must first describe myself as I am. The past carries no meaning unless the present can be understood. Therefore, to start upon this explanation that is by no means whole, I should begin by relating my present but changing state of identity.
I am what most would call an observer: a person who can stand back at a distance and watch all in happening, a person who has already separated from the rest of the river and can now gaze freely upon Life. Within the river are the trivialities, that which all else inconclusively term the reality---because that is simply all that they can see. As aforementioned, the surface of the water and what lies above in constant watch are two vastly different things. I only view, I see what has been done, I learn how to use what has been done and to integrate it into what will become my future. I have never been able to and still do not desire to become part of the river. I am content with my place, even though many tell me that I do not belong on the side, that I belong with the rest of it all. "Maybe," they have tried to say across the distance, "maybe you have forgotten what it is like to live life. This is where everything’s going, and if you’re not heading the same way, then you’re going to be lost."
I have listened, but still I have not changed. I am an observer, they are participants. I see what they participate in, young and old alike, I can see corruption and despondency without taking part in it, I can see the imbalance of life, people not satisfied with the given reality of nature and trying to conceptualize their own. I say "conceptualize" because there is no way to bring a concept into being without a thought firmly resting behind it. People can construct and build, they can order and plan, they can think and dream---but there are a very few who can believe. I cannot say that I believe, I cannot claim anything on my behalf, but I can say that I do believe in trying to find my true way rather than giving up and straying from my path. It is easier to traverse a maze in the light than to walk to the front door in the dark. At times, the right way is not always the quickest.
I had once dreamed without action, I once wished without foundation---I was once content with life. Maybe it was more of a curse than a gift, though I can never truly know, but I can see, I can understand for some reason things that would normally escape the eye. I do not want what others want---I do not need to amuse myself with the same things that others do, I do not need to be the same way, I do not need to live the same way. Content, for me, can be just as profound in gazing up at the clouds or watching the changing ripples pass by on a river, as others only would know if they need an entire crowd in order to belong. I had once thought without thinking that I also needed to have a crowd in order to belong; such were and still are the accepted ways of the world, but for me, there are other things that I can belong to. I can affirm, I can declare, say without the slightest tincture of shame, that I belong to the human race, that I belong to the grand workings of nature, that I am a part of the neverending story of the universe. I am one in many ways as I am also all. I am only a single representation of what is as everyone is---I can belong, I do belong. I do not need a crowd when I can belong to all.
The question may arise, "Why did I choose this way? Did I understand what I would have to do in order to perform this seemingly amazing feat? Was I not happy with my life?" I was happy with my life, and I still am content. Whatever events may have taken place before now, I acknowledge their happening and am thankful for their occurrence. If the events of the past had not occurred, today would not be what it is for me. There has been a timeless saying that applies to all facets of life, that there is always room for improvement. There is also no new creation without change. I could not consciously force myself to become stagnated along with the currents of the river. I could not endure destruction, pollution, probabilities instead of possibilities, but one thing that I could endure was the meaning of paradox. Life is a paradox; what is isn’t, rainbows are not really there, water is sometimes not really clear. The lens is sometimes blurred, the timing is sometimes wrong. Things are not always what they seem, and what I am cannot always be expressed in superficial terms. I am the greatest paradox to myself, but also the most known paradox that I know of all.
The definition of paradox is paradoxical; that of a mystery is mysterious, that of my identity is incomprehensible. I am at peace with myself, I am at peace with all. How can one not be at peace when he is able to stand on firm, dry land, watching in complete harmony the waters of Life in constant flux; when one can breathe the air of what really is, how can one want to jump back into the murky, asphyxiating waters? The river has not always been this way. From its origins, from the mountains, from the heavens or wherever, maybe even from the depths of every soul of every living human creature on the face of this earth---that is where the water begins free, untainted and pure. All people know and understand their individual ways at the very first moment of life, but over time when the waters rush and converge, corruption and waste thrust themselves involuntarily into the river. Each person knows what life means to them, but the river can create change; the river is unpredictable, carrying with it influences, suggestions, and the like. Each person then becomes molded by the river; shaped, reformed, changed, divided, forced, forged, designed by all, the individual loses meaning and fades away. I knew entirely what it would mean to become who I am today---I would have to resist but incorporate, integrate into my being the new reformations of the river. I could not allow myself to become forgotten, to lose my shape, my boundaries---I had to separate myself from the river, transcending the river, transcending what I had known for what I will know.
Therefore, I have no permanent bonds, no tethers to the past to hold me back, no other materialities that may serve as an inhibition to change. My only true belief, my only true creed, is that of pure change. I have no need to want anything more. Life is change, and it is this change which I so strongly watch and observe, deciphering my small portion of the great mystery of what is. I learn because I need knowledge to understand. I live because I need time to gain knowledge. I must follow my path in order to live, and in order to do all, one must understand the meaning of change. Material needs come only as a phase in life. They serve to satisfy for only a brief moment in a lifetime, they stall time for a while in a feeble attempt to prevent change, and they are only transient. When one is born these things come into play, but when one leaves the earth they can no longer apply. Life may be transient, but change is not. One must learn to live, to truly live.
I do not believe that I have fully learned how to live. "Why?" I ask myself. I believe that I am only beginning to understand life, despite the claims I have made to my understanding of it. There is still more time for me to learn and to experience new things. I believe that I have a purpose in life, a purpose that I will never know until I can see the summation of all things I have seen, all places I have been to, all those whom I have known---when I can see the summation of my life suddenly flash before my eyes, only then can I truly understand why I am who I am, and why I am here. Until then, I must take a single step at a time, a greater effort than some people ever make in their lifetimes as there is not much effort placed into following the rest of the current downstream. I must hike from the water’s edge, over the mud, across pebbles, rocks, stones, stretch across boulders, push myself onto ledges, climb over mountains and span the abysses of the unknown, wherever they may lie. I must face the wind head on; I must walk in the biting cold, I must penetrate the deserts when there seems to be nothing left, I must overcome all obstacles in my way. Only then can I triumph over the distance through which I have walked.
It took time for me to realize what I was. To turn pessimism into optimism, to find joy within morosity, to count stars even when there are none; the latter of each was what I saw in the world, the former, what I had to know. I can find peace in all things, and most can find a peace with me. I have no enemies, no people who may wish me bad fortune; if there were, I would not hold them without forgiveness. As I have mentioned before, all associations can be considered trivialities. I have transcended these things; as a result, concerns which make others distraught have little or no meaning to me. It would take many a great effort to shake the innate peace which I have found. I do not wish to create the impression that I am somehow separated, though. Before I can help others, I must first learn to find my way. As I have partially accomplished that, I have grown to be a person who is inwardly free---I can see, therefore I can help; if it is within my ability to, I will help another along the way. Why? What I have to teach and to share is without benefit or purpose if there are no others to listen. It is not only for myself that I have found peace, but also for others to see and understand, so that they also can find peace.
For the most part, I have described my present state of identity and have only given mostly why I had chosen to live the way I do. I have not yet explained exactly how the change was brought about, or by what means I happened to effect that change. One thing I must state before I begin, only as a matter of importance to understand how difficult it is for me to relate how my identity was created. There is no one whom I have yet told the complete meaning of my understanding; because of that, that is why I had mentioned earlier that what I may seem to be is only superficial, only a reflection of the water. No one knows the true meaning of my identity except me, and now I attempt to relate the story for the first time to someone other than myself. As I have not yet revealed the meaning behind all else I have explained, not only here but elsewhere, upon the course of many years, I cannot readily put anything forth. Even if I could, I still feel that it should be left a mystery until its time, when I have come a little closer to finding my purpose for being.
The word why is a word with many meanings---some inferred, some known, and some that will never be known. Just as this simple statement has a different, new meaning than before when I first began my explanation of my life, all things change when there is reason for change. But how can one be certain when there is a reason for change? There is no certainty, as some questions have no answers. Why is such a question. It has a foundation, a past, a meaning---but like myself, it cannot know its purpose, it cannot know what will come next. It is a question that can best describe who I am. All other questions have quick answers, answers that can be seen and are perceptible, but the question why is apart from all, is unique, transcends perceptibility by combining all that is known from all other questions and taking the great leap from a wispy dream to concrete action. To answer why is impossible unless one knows that nothing is impossible---it is this and countless other things that I have learned over time.
The river is only a brief allegory of my perception as time is but a fragment of worldly imaginations. I had once dreamed, once thought, and still do---but of different things. I have now found a place in harmony and peace with all, including myself, making no difference wherever it is that I stand. It makes a difference that I do stand, that I am on solid ground, that I am where I was meant to be. There is still a long way yet on my journey, but I am at a place where I can see all and judge from a standpoint why I had come the way I did and where I will be going. I have seen the difference between the observer and the participant and know that both are needed to create the greater picture. But I do not regret becoming the observer---I do not regret having to be the one to rise above all. My belief, in the truth; my home, nature; my creed, what I am, and my identity, no matter how transcendent it may be, is none other than change. Even though I know that I will always stand apart from the river, I do not regret it. From up here atop the land, I can see the endless ripples on Life’s surface. I can move, feel the air, I can look up and see the birds; at night, I can see the stars, even though at times they cannot be seen. The water is the beginning of all life, but life must move on. It must step apart from itself and traverse the land. It must rise up above all and walk. It must be what it was meant to be. After all, from up here, if there can be no other connotation, it certainly is a wonderful view.
For, in fine, what is man in the eyes of the universe? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite,
a Something in comparison with Nothing, a mean between Nothing and Everything.
Unlike what I am, I am the only one like me.