I was seated on an old wooden seat at the bank of a lake. It was twilight. The birds chirped and every once in a while the lake’s grey surface splashed gently with the activity of the lake’s inhabitants. To my left was seated an elderly man. He was not frail-looking as the elderly were wont to look and he stared towards the lake with a gaze that made it seem as though he were staring not only into space but also into time. His eyes seemed to glint every half-moment – I had no sense of the time that was passing. His hair was of an uninterrupted white that I had not come face-to-face with before. I turned to look at him every now and then, but whenever I turned away I forgot what he looked like. I thought to greet him and then perhaps introduce myself and then perhaps ask his name. But for no reason discernible to me, I remained quiet. And so, he and I sat, quiet – he, looking pensive, and I, inwardly restless and uncertain about how I got there by the lake, feeling almost as though I were lost.
He was the first to speak. His voice was, for lack of a better word, perfect. Quiet but clear and precise. “You are here because you have been carrying a baggage of questions for quite a while, to put it mildly. I am here because I have a fraction of time to spare today for one who questions rather obsessively and perhaps rather unnecessarily.” He turned to me and smiled mischieviously as he said “unnecessarily” as if to make sure I caught his humour.
I responded as I was wont to – respectfully. “Good evening. My name is…”
“I know who you are. And I know you want to ask who I am, but don’t bother. It does not and will not matter. Ask me what you would.”
I felt afraid and calm at the same time – was that even possible? I tried to gather my thoughts together, to remember all the lingering questions from a lifetime of learning not to ask certain questions because most people deemed such questions of little to no relevance to the prime necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, labour) or deemed them irreverent. The questions came back in bits. I did not want to start out on the offensive, so I began with what could pass as acceptable questioning. “What is the first or most important thing to have in the journey of Life or existence?”
He was quiet a while. From the side of my eye, I could see a smile form on his face, “Safe question. Better safe than sorry, aye?” I smiled, because he knew one of my mantras.
“There is no such thing as a ‘first or most important thing’ in Life or existence. Contrary to the tendencies of your motivational speakers and coaches, Life does not consist of many absolutes. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. You may have heard of Time and Chance?” He turned to me with a questioning stare. I nodded in affirmation.
He turned back and continued staring towards the lake. “However, if I were to venture to give an answer to your question, I would say ‘vision’. As an individual or as a collective of people, at any moment in your life or existence, you are either living in your vision for yourself or your existence or you are living in someone else’s vision for you or your existence. Of course, both can be the same. Or, worse still, you are living in no one’s vision for you or your existence – you are leading a purposeless existence, in that moment. If there were such a thing as a ‘first or most important thing’ to have in the journey of Life or existence, vision would possibly be that thing, because a vision for yourself or your existence that you are passionate about is a vision that will inspire in you the will to persistently take the action and pursue the knowledge required to bring that vision to pass. Furthermore, a life or an existence with vision has potential for Fulfilment. You cannot happen upon fulfilment when you had no vision of where you wanted to be and no goals, to start with.”
“A life or an existence without vision will continually bear indiscipline, a lack of restraint, dissatisfaction, resentment and rancour, and we don’t want that now, do we?” He turned to me once again, smiled, and turned to face the lake again.
After he was done speaking, I remained silent, still trying to make sense of his words, trying to open my eyes to what he was saying. And my eyes did open, slowly but eventually fully… to the rays of early-morning moonlight piercing through the blinds of my bedroom’s windows. As I propped myself up on the bed, I began to think. I thought about myself, about my family, about my country, about humanity. Where are we headed? Where am I headed?
This is a work of fiction.
Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash