He had lived in this cave for far too long.
He had long identified with the darkness and solitude that surrounded him within its confines. He had gotten use to the dampness and the hardness of this place, and the security he believed he had when there. Nothing could disturb him.
Actually, he had started to understand that nothing wanted to disturb him here. Most had become accustomed to their own caves, their own sense of comfort and light, and his seemed too dark and cold for their liking. Every once in a while, he would find some company in this place, but those encounters usually didn’t last very long. He had grown accustomed to being alone, in the dark, and completely protected by the walls he had grown to love.
Once, he began to feel stirrings within him. He wanted to know what was outside of this place, what went on out there. He started to edge his way to the doorway, but each time he got close the light would drive him away. There was something scary about the light, something unusual about it. Each day he would try, and fail to leave, but each day, he would find that the light hurt less and less, and soon he discovered that he could see things.
After a while, he could make his way out the opening. There were no walls he noticed. He could see upward as far as the blue sky. He could see in every direction until the Earth met the sky. He felt most comfortable at night, as the cold night air and darkness reminded him of that place. He smiled at the notion that his cave went from “this” to “that” place. Perhaps he wasn’t missing it as much as he wanted to believe.
At night, he could see as far as infinity as he looked toward the Heavens. The stars let him know that the darkness held no power, that the real power was in the light. He would not have been able to see the blackness of infinity had it not been for the light. The light defined it all and gave it form. The blackness allowed him to see the light, just as a wall gives a window its form. He could lie there and stare at the sky for hours, enjoying his new perspective and watching as even the vastness of the universe changed before his very eyes.
Nothing was permanent. Even infinity changed.
He wanted to know more, he wanted to experience and to know what was beyond the place he found himself. He came across fruit trees and tasted the fruit. This is what is out here, he though to himself with each bite of sweetness. Every once in a while he would recoil at a bitter taste, but realized that this is what is out here. The bitter made the sweet taste what it was, and vice versa. Neither was permanent; both were of the moment. Neither would last very long.
Soon, his body became strong in the searching, and his mind became resolute to understand this experience. He would cut, he would bleed, he would heal. He would laugh, he would cry, he would laugh again. He would feel the heat of the sun, and the chill of the rain on his bare skin. He would climb, he would fall, and he would climb again.
Nothing is permanent, and the search for understanding is a testament honoring that impermanence. I once sat in my cave, content with only that, and the search has brought me here. He bowed his head in solemn appreciation for that which has brought him to this place.
Once he came across a fire. He had never felt such intense warmth or enjoyed such light. The fire was strong enough to beat back the rain, and it dried his skin when the rains had subsided. It warmed him when the chill came, and lit this place when the darkness came. He would feed the fire, give it fuel, and it would give of itself in return. Both were unselfish in their giving.
Soon, the fire needed more fuel. He looked around and saw that he had taken and given all there was. The fire began to withdraw and took its light and warmth with it.
Is there anything else I can give? The fire responded by continuing its withdraw, until soon there was nothing left but glowing embers among the charred remains of all things that had been given.
With an unsure mind he poked around in a dying fire, looking for a warm ember to warm his hands. Finding none, he returned to his cave, unsure of his return. A part of him welcomed the walls, the chill and the darkness. He sat here, still, knowing that this place truly no longer suited him. He had grown to love the warmth, the light, and the freedom of no walls.
Sitting in the darkness, he realized that the fire had become just like the cave. He needed that cave at times, and he needed that fire at others. The need is the prison. Need is the mindless desire to make impermanence permanent.
He knew he would find fire again, but he also knew that he didn’t want to need to find it. He didn’t want to need to have it warm him, or light his way. Despite this, the shivering of his body told him that he would have such a need. He was, after all, a man. A man whose search had taken him from darkness to light, from cold to warmth, and back again. He knew the taste of sweetness and bitter in this search. He had seen the freedom of infinity and confines of the walls he called “safe.” He had been wounded and had been healed. He knew, and for that he was grateful.
He looked toward the cave’s opening, and with a smile stood up and started to walk. It was there that he met her, and the sparks lit a fire anew…
(To be continued…)
Editor: Brianna Bemel