– Doing nothing and a little fairy tale –
The days are quiet and comfortable. Nothing to do. The heat is long gone, the bugs are history. Fishing is excellent, but this year I stick more to the rule of only going when we really need fish.
Oh, how nice to sit and do nothing! I could look out over the sea and wonder if it’s right for paddling, I could walk over to friends and see what they are up to, I could sit down and think about the new story I’m working on. (I could fire up the computer and compose an new message.) We could take the bike and go for a ride. Sure, I could go for a walk and see if anything happens there. I’m not tired, which could hold me back, and something always happens. So many things I could do but don’t have to. So I just sit and enjoy the absence of the need to do something.
To do nothing is to not add anything to what is already happening by itself. Somehow it is not very often that we really trust that things go well by themselves, we are mostly a bit uneasy and feel that it’s better to control and change things. Sure, sometimes things do go wrong, and we have to intervene, but, truth be told, it’s rare.
It can feel awkward to do nothing. It’s a skill we have to learn. It takes practice, lots of practice.
* * * * * *
A little story was floating through my head, an old story, in fact, an ancient story, even when it sounded new to me:
Someone on a ship traveling to nowhere
Once, when I was young, on my first great journey out into the world, I stood at the bow of a big ship. A warm tropical wind was caressing my face, the bow wave was rushing underneath, an empty horizon lay ahead, and I was singing at the top of my voice. I sang songs I’d never heard before, melodies that appeared on my lips out of nowhere, lines full of pathos and cliché, meaningless outbursts of pure emotions, I sent them out like paper airplanes, carefree, and let them fly. My heart was breaking open with joy. I looked out over the vast ocean, I felt the slight vibration of the ship, the gentle rising and falling with the waves, and the steady powerful motion forward, forward toward the empty horizon. I sensed the motion as if it was going right through me; not as if I was moving but as if the world was moving through me. Forward to nowhere, no direction, just movement.
“Is this what life is?” I thought.
“I cast my fate into the wind!” I sang and laughed.
“Why not? Why should I not be lucky? Why should I not find a wonderful life? Why should I not solve great problems and have fantastic adventures? Why not cruise through this life with ease and laugh about things that appear on the way?”
And I closed my eyes to better see the wonderful images, the miracles that might occur, the happy scenes that would happen. And in the dim light of dreams reality faded.
A tall figure in a red cloak stood next to me.
“This shall all be yours,” he said in a clear and gentle voice. “Everything will happen and more, much more – if you are willing to pay the price.”
“Who are you, phantom?” I asked, afraid to look at him. He was not the devil, I somehow knew, he looked strangely familiar.
“Don’t ask who I am, you cannot understand now. You will recognize me one day, but not now. Don’t ask, just listen. I am the one to whom time means nothing. I stood here for eons and talked to others, to people who’s fate took them here. Some did not search for happiness like you, they were only yearning for peace and forgetting, and they dreamed of finding it here on the bow of a ship traveling to nowhere. I quoted them the price: a stigma of failure on their bright names for all times. Some took the deal and paid the price. Others did not.”
“What is the price you ask from me?“
“The renunciation of your ambition to make a name for yourself in your life. The sacrifice of your future.”
“But what will become of me?”
“A ‘might-have-been‘, someone who chose to be nobody instead of becoming somebody. Someone on a path not taken. Someone for whom freedom lies in the midst of slavery. For whom freedom is not just an option but an obligation, the source of all options. Someone who instead of keeping promises resists to make any.”
“But I want to keep my promises.”
“So, be careful what you promise.”
“And don’t we all want to be a contender and be somebody? You’d take from me everything worth living for.”
“No, you are mistaken. I am giving you everything, I’m giving you all you ever need to live life to the fullest.”
“Is there more you demand?”
“Before you die you must pay yet another price, a very high price. But before this payment comes due you are going to see the sun at places like this for many years, see it set over cloudless days singing with happiness and see the moon rise over starry nights full of dreams.”
“Am I going to die here?”
He put his hand on my shoulder. A trembling ran through my body.
“Man could not endure life if he knew the hour of his death. Beware of seeking an answer to this question.”
I did not really reply then. In fact, I did not really understand much of what he was talking about. But life was too good, how could I not accept? I didn’t waste a thought. “Yes, I’m willing to pay the price.” The thinking came later and kept me busy most of my life.
He gently withdrew his hand from my shoulder. “It will be one more time,” he whispered, “that I’ll stand here at such place with you after sunset – until then you are free, the world is yours.”
* * *
* * * *
Windy, moon lit nights, also something that belongs to the Baja magic. When the singing of the cicadas is drowned out by the roar of the surf, when we have our evening wine away from the wind behind the trees. Windy, moon lit nights, when I often have deep powerful dreams.
Klaus December 9. 2008