The Natural Contemplative

Ask the animals and they will teach you

 

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You Jump

 

You head into the country, to get away from it all. You and your wife and your children, with picnic in hand. You head to the mountains. You spread your blanket on the grass with the sun in the sky and the trees all around and the children playing tag among the trunks of the trees.

But you are tired of it all. You have lived too long. It is all the same. You married the wrong woman. You didn't want children. You hate your job. It's pretty bad. You are tired of this place, this life, this earth. Why were you born into it? Isn't there something else? Isn't there some higher plane, some kind of Enlightenment? Some escape? You wish you lived on the spiritual level. You are tired of your body. It aches a lot, and gets sick, and drags you down. You don't have the energy you once had, the energy your children have. Even though you're not that old.

You make excuses and wander off on your own. You find a blackberry bush ripe with berries and you pick and eat. The bushes are thick and you crawl deep into them in search of berries. There are passages beneath the bushes and you pick your way among them. You find yourself under a canopy of blackberries, sheltered from the world that wearies you.

You dig deeper, scratched by thorns. You step on the base of the plants to push them aside, to make a new path. Deeper into the bushes you push until you discover a hole in the mountain side, a hole just big enough to enter the solid mountain. A small cave.

You enter. It is as if you knew it was here all along. It is the reason you wandered off so aimlessly. It is dark, too dark to see. You move anyway. It is small. Your hands can feel the rock walls on either side. The path is dry and level. You won't slip. The floor of the cave begins to descend. It gets cooler as you go down. The walls are damp and cold. You begin to doubt your initial certainty. But you continue. You feel that you are in the right place for the first time in many years. You continue down, into the depths of the mountain.

Outside, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, the children are playing, and here you are in the depths of the mountain, in a cave unknown to those outside, down in the darkness and the slimy wetness and the depths of it all. You begin to hear sounds beyond your own footfalls. Beyond your own heartbeat. Dripping sounds, and a faint murmur you can not identify, a sort of groan or hum. It is too dark. You have depended so much on sight and here it is so dark, you begin to feel afraid. You wish you could see where you are going. Your fingers feel every crevice, every bump and contour of the passage wall. You think you never felt anything so completely before, not even the contours of your wife's body. You think to turn back. To return to the sun and the familiar embrace.

You realize that ahead of you it is just a little bit light. You think that if you continue, perhaps you will emerge. Or else your mind is playing tricks. No. It is a little bit light. You can almost see your hand. The cave turns suddenly and you are in a chamber, lit with a slight green light. You feel you must be miles down, there is a tremendous weight above you. The sound you hear is the ever present groan of compression. You want to go back.

In the center of the chamber is a hole, a neat circle twelve feet in diameter. You approach it, after a pause. It scares you, but you approach it. It is empty. It drops straight down. It is deep, so huge and empty. You are terrified.

You find a pebble and throw it into the hole, listening for some sound, counting the seconds. No sound returns. You find a bigger stone and drop it in, with the same result. You are standing before a very deep hole that is not giving up its secrets. You pick up another stone, to test it again.

The thought flashes through your mind - the insanity of it! - to jump. You can turn around, climb the long way back up to the light and the sun and the trees, and your wife and... the tiresome weight that you have carried around for so long, the boredom. The choice seems to be to turn around, to return to that weight, or to cast off your weight and jump.

Insane. You jump.

You scream at first. In mid air with nothing to support you. But then you wonder what you are screaming about. Are you falling? There is no sensation. No sound but a gentle hush like a summer breeze.

After a time there is no time and you are completely lost. Where is "up"? Where is "down"? Where is "here"? Who is "I". The world "up there" -- a dream? Is there any end to this? Was there a beginning?

It is like this for a very long moment.

Slowly sensation returns, a slight red glow. And heat against your skin. And sounds. Sounds! Too many to take in. Birds, Streams, Laughter!

You open your eyes and you are lying on your picnic blanket. The sun warms you like a caress. A beautiful woman you hardly recognize, your wife, is looking down at you with a look of concern that makes you smile with pleasure. There is a particularly good pie waiting in the picnic basket next to you.

She smiles too, though warily. Her gaze turns to your right hand, which clutches something. You release your grip, and reveal a stone. A stone just large enough to test the unknown depths.

You smile again and you give her the stone.


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