I WAS wondering in the dark, searching for my hands, for my feet, my voice, my mind. I sought all these things, but knew not that I was searching in the dark. In a strange valley that wipes away memory. Truly I was wandering too in the dark.
There are friends that stand around us in the dark, more in number than we know, nearer than we sense, they see us but we do not see them. For, self-centered us, we see only ourselves.
There was a self-centered man, and he never saw anything but himself. His own wants, his own needs, his own hopes, his own fears, his own hunger and thirst, his own pain, joy, views, his own creed.
There he was, wandering in the dark, lonely and alone, thinking he is all alone in the world. Not once does the thought of another cross his mind, for he has long lost the ability to see any other person but himself. A hundred questions trouble his mind, to which he finds no answers. It is dark. Some helpers stand around him, trying to draw his attention for once away from his own ego, for these helpers have the answers he craves. But he sees them not; he has long lost the ability to see any other but himself.
What are these rocks that strike and bleed his feet? He knows not, he sees them not. The light with which to see them is not visible to him. He sees only himself, nothing else. His inner eyes are closed, where is the insight with which to see the inner light? A misty lake has become his insight; therein, trapped, his egotistical love for himself.
So did we wander side by side for decades, centuries, blind to one another, unconscious of each another, for each of us was self-centered. Slowly I started to long for an end to this grey solitude, this heavy empty aloneness. Then did a thought, dimly, strike me, in the depths of my lonely suffering. The thought that this lonely life I led was so sad, so depressing that I would never wish it for anybody else….
– stop. What was that?
Anybody else? … What strange thought is this that strikes me? Is there anything like somebody else? Am I not alone in the world? Could there be any other person here? Struggling in this dark blindness too? A strange new thought that nagged at, and grew in, my heart. If there were anybody else, then would that I could find him, maybe even help him, halve his frustration. – Like a miracle, this thought became a light within me, slowly did my inner eye open.
And… I saw myself in a Valley… walking beside a man who seemed faintly familiar, with the soft sun shinning far away, dimly but visibly. But though I called and called to him, this strangely familiar man, yet he heard me not, felt not my touch. And lo and behold, not he alone, but hundreds, thousands, millions like us were wandering blind in the Valley of Self-centeredness. Unreachable. Alone. I had been simply one of many all this time and I had not known. So deep was my shock that it loosened my heart and set my tears free. Only half the tears were for me. The rest were for my fellow wanderers, as blinded by self-centeredness as I had until recently been. And yet all they need in order to awaken is just once to think of another… spare a thought for another. Focus again on the thought that there are also other people in this world, think of their needs, feel the desire to understand and to help someone else.
After the tears had started to flow from my eyes, I heard a voice. There was a woman walking behind me.
“Did you say something to me?”, I asked, surprised, as I turned to her. She had a voice like a bird singing. She too I seemed to almost remember.
“Osahon, my friend”, she said, “I have been calling your name now for many many decades, patiently trying to awaken you to the way that leads out of this Valley wherein you have been groping…”
“You?… Calling me for decades? Has it been that long? Yet I heard nothing…”
“It is because you have stepped off the way.”
“And where lies the way?” I asked, still dazed, still grappling this new awakening.
And she pointed to my neighbour, he who had been by my side all this time, unnoticed by me, unconscious of me.
“Walk with him a couple of miles. Find out what he needs, and try to give it to him. Therein lies the way.”
“But who is he?” I asked.
“That is Erobo. You were his friend, to whom he once looked up, once upon a time…, like I too once was your star, before we both went blind. Before the bird came to wake me up again. Long long ago. Do you remember?” –
Like a mist slowly parting did I gently recall distant friendships, selfless love, ancient, bright sunlight once upon a time. And as I did, so did the Valley become ever brighter, for this faint Sun had always been there. Only I had gone blind.
“This is what happens,” my ancient lover continued, “when self-centeredness takes over within the soul. So do memory, connection and awareness fade… This is what happens when self-centeredness takes over within our souls.”
I gazed at Efe, my one true love. How could I have forgotten her all this time? … Then I turned and beheld once more my very best friend, Erobo, he who had once been to me even as a brother. Softly I called his name, then louder, until I was shouting it. And yet he heard not.
“He hears you not,” Efe sorrowfully said. “He hears only his own thoughts, and knows not that any other thing exists. And all this he once learned from you,” she said softly to me, “For he has always followed you.
Yet wipe your eyes, stand by his side and keep on calling his name… Weary not, but love him even as you love yourself.”
At first I felt a sense of guilt. I reflected upon this mystery: You can lead a man in, but not out. The thought of an unending, unrewarding sojourn beside an unresponsive soul suddenly brought a hesitation upon me. I looked at the multitude of sleepwalkers around me in the valley, and saw behind so many of them a Helper, bound to each as by an invisible thread, trying to reach them. Tenacious thoughts. They arose again in me. What of my own goals? What of my own wants? A frown, a dark cloud came over my brow, I slowly sunk into brooding –
“Osahon… my friend – “
Startled I looked up. My gaze, as from far away, settled again upon Efe. Her hand was upon my shoulder. A smile was her face. A sad smile, it pierced my core. And then did drop the last chain. I turned again to Erobo, my best friend, placed a hand on his shoulder and began to talk to him, calling his name, telling him of the sun and of friendship and of helpfulness and of the way out of the Valley. Out of my words I made a song, which I am still singing…
“And should he one day awaken and his blind eyes open before Time bids you stop,” my Lover continued, her last words to me, before she left to go there where she must await me, “ … and should he then weary too of selfishness, and desire a way out of this half-lit Valley, then show him also this Way which I have just shown to you, teach it to him gently, and remind him of it should he quickly forget too… – for there is no other way that leads out of this Valley, but the way of selfless love.”
Then I saw her walking away, following a distant bird. When I weary I think of her and of her selfless love; and thus, I too am still talking to my friend.
– CHE CHIDI CHUKWUMERIJE.
From my collection of thoughts and short stories: THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.