What is really important? Why am I here? What am I going to do with my life? Questions like these loomed large on John's young mind. It was less than a year ago that he had graduated from High School. He was still baffled by his new found freedom. No longer were there people around to tell him which questions to ask and which answers to give. No longer was he a helpless victim of other people's values.
One day, without any warning, without any preparation, he found himself face to face with the fact that life in this world is terminal. In a few moments his life could be ended, and there was not a thing he could do about it. He was as helpless as a bug. All he could do was surrender entirely all his claims on the past and the future and accept without resistance or denial, the mystery of life's final adventure.
He was swimming in Lake Michigan. He was a good swimmer, and comfortable in the water. He had years of experience doing laps and competing on the city swimming team. He liked to go out into the lake past the breakwaters, about half a mile offshore, where the water was cool and clear. Now he was in trouble. He was swimming free style, like he had done at swimming competitions. The lake was choppy though, and when he turned his head to breathe, he inhaled the oncoming wave. More than half a mile from shore and his lungs were full of water. "Can I make it to shore before I pass out?" he wondered. "Can I swim half a mile at top speed without breathing?" All he could do was try.
He had only gone a few yards when his head began to buzz and he felt himself getting dizzy. A few yards more and he heard a loud snap. Like someone had cracked a stick behind his head.
Suddenly the world was calm and clear. He looked around. He could see the shoreline, still in the distance. He noticed the sun shining overhead. It seemed brighter than usual. When he looked down he got the surprise of his life. There was his body, still swimming toward shore, moving as straight and smooth as a motor boat. He watched for a while, indifferent to the plight of his body. He was far more concerned with trying to figure out where he was.
He noticed a light coming from somewhere behind him. It was a peculiar light. It had feeling. When he turned to see where this light was coming from, it would remain behind him. Somehow though, he managed to get turned around so he could look right into the light.
The light was delicious. He soaked it up like a dry sponge soaks up water. He felt like he had been sealed up in a vacuum packed jar for as long as he could remember. Now the jar was opened. The pressure was gone. He could breathe again. He could feel energy flowing into him, loosening and softening parts of his being that he did not even know that he had. His whole being thrilled with well being and joy. A feeling that he had known before, though he could not remember where or when.
Time itself seemed to be softening. For as long as he could remember, the minutes, days and years of his life seemed to be fixed, like the markings on a steel ruler. Now, the measuring stick of time was becoming soft and flexible. It would stretch and shrink, like a rubber band. He could return to events of his past, examining them with greater clarity and detail than when they had originally happened, lingering there for what seemed like hours. But then, when he would return to where he was, it seemed like no time at all had gone by. Back and forth he went. Deep into episodes of his personal history, and then back into the light.
Time could also be contracted, he found. Centuries would condense into seconds. Millenniums would shrink into moments. The entire civilization that he was part of passed by in the blink of an eye. "Look at that," he marveled. "The whole civilization is no more permanent and no more important than a patch of wild flowers! It's so simple from here, and so beautiful. Whether it is a patch of wild flowers or a mighty civilization, the process is the same. It is only life, trying out different shapes and then returning from where it came."
He was being pulled into the light. Or was it that the world and the life that he knew was receding, the life that he had come to assume was the only life there is. All of his certainties and all of his doubts, all of his pride and all of his guilt, all of his pleasures and all of his fears, were all fading away. All that remained was the light and the awesome feeling of well being that the light contained. It felt like he was waking up. Like he had been in a deep sleep, dreaming an intense and detailed dream when somebody came into the room and turned on the lights. Now he was waking up and the dream was fading away.
As his sleepy eyes slowly became adjusted to the brilliant radiance, he could make out shapes in the light. There were people there! People that he knew and loved. The place was completely familiar, as though he had been there just a few moments before. "Did you have a nice rest?" One of his friends asked. His other friends broke out into roaring laughter. They were making a joke. They all knew what a grueling ordeal such ventures into the world of mortal men can be. They had all made such ventures themselves, many times before. He joined in the laughter. How good it felt to laugh so freely. How strange, to be so open, and yet it was all so familiar. He was totally alive again. An aliveness that was beyond beginning and ending. An aliveness that was eternal.
The world that he had entered was now as solid and real as the world that he had left behind, but the light was still visible. It was a living light. It had vitality and feeling. It was focused in every living thing just as the sun can be focused to a point with a magnifying glass. There were colors too. Not only the colors that he had known on earth but many octaves of color. Surrounding all his friends and every other living thing was color, arranged in intricate geometrical patterns, each pattern unique, every pattern original. Permeating the colors and patterns was sound, countless octaves of sound. It was as though the colors could be heard. It reminded him of bagpipes. Filling the entire region were the droning sounds. Octave upon octave of invigorating, vitalizing sound. It was very subtle, practically imperceptible but immense, it seemed to reach to infinity. Superimposed on this vast life-giving hum, was the melody, which was created by the individual sound of every living thing. Light and sound, color and geometrical patterns were all combined into a totality of harmonic perfection.
It seemed like years had gone by. There was no way to tell though, whether it had been minutes, hours or years. Where he was now, be-ing was the only reality. Be-ing, which was inseparable from the moment, inseparable from the eternal NOW, inseparable from the life that was in all other beings. Even though this place was as solid and real as the world he left behind, time and space were not an obstacle.
To a dog or cat, a closed door is an insurmountable obstacle. They do not have the faculties necessary to overcome such a barrier. In the world that he had left behind, time and space were just such an insurmountable obstacle. He did not have the faculties necessary to overcome such a barrier. Now he was free, like an animal that had learned how to work a doorknob. He could go in and out of worlds without getting stuck. He could stay inside long as he wanted, and then go back out into the fresh air and sunshine. He could be enter into a world and stay as long as he wanted. He could become acquainted with the people that lived there and get to know their particular customs and their curious opinions, conclusions and beliefs. Then he could leave that world and return to a world without end. A place where there were no opinions, conclusions, or beliefs. A place where there was only be-ing, a place of awesome beauty and joy, a place of total harmonic perfection.
Images of his former life began to flicker in his mind. Fleeting images at first, but now they were growing stronger and clearer. Visions of people who were dear to him that he had left behind. Visions of things he wanted to see and things he had wanted to do. From somewhere deep within his being, a powerful voice welled up;
YOU HAVE SEEN ENOUGH OF ETERNITY
IT'S NOT TIME YET, FOR YOU TO STAY
RETURN NOW TO THE LAND OF SHADOWS
WHERE THE MORTAL CREATURES PLAY
AND BE A PUFF OF DUST IN THE WIND
WITHOUT BEING BLOWN AWAY
"A puff of dust in the wind?" He wondered. He knew very little of the difficulties involved in bringing under control the "troubled waters" of the material regions.
Whoooshshsssss, whoooshshsssss, He raised his head to see what was making that sound. It was tiny wavelets breaking along the edge of a mirror-still lake, rattling the small pebbles that lined the shore. He was laying in the sand on the shore of Lake Michigan, just a few inches from the water. He felt good, like he just had the best rest that he ever had. He rose to his feet and looked around.
To the west he could see the Chicago skyline, standing out in the lake like a mirage, silhouetted by the deep red-orange setting sun. The sky seemed bluer than he remembered, the trees greener. The sand was brighter and the water more transparent. It was like a cloudy veil had been lifted from his eyes. It seemed like he had been gone for years. Like a man who had lived a long full life and had returned to the place of his youth to gaze again upon the once familiar scenery. Somehow, it was not the same.
Memories of what he had just experienced were rapidly fading away. "Was it all a dream?" He wondered. "Or did I see what it is like to be really awake, and then fall asleep again, and am I dreaming now?"
He started to head for home. The place where he lived was only a few hundred yards away. By the time he got there, every trace of what he had experienced was completely gone. He was a young man again, trying to find his place in the world, trying to find out what is really important. As he walked through the back door, he saw his mother puttering in the kitchen."Hi mom" he said.
"J.B. Star" firstname.lastname@example.org