A Life Unlived
It is 4am.
The world is fast asleep.
The sun has many miles to go.
It has not yet reached the Pacific.
I will speak these words in silence.
I will speak them in the serenity of darkness.
Before the world begins to take shape.
For once it takes shape, Everything Changes.
Once it takes shape, man arises.
And his illusions arise with him.
You see, while he sleeps he has no problems.
While he sleeps he has no identity.
But as he wakes, he shakes his identity by the shoulder to awaken it as well.
And this identity, mind you, contains all the problems of his life.
By the time his foot touches the floor, he does so as the self he has become familiar with.
By the time his foot touches the floor, he has become the self that his mind has created.
He takes this familiar self into the familiar world and settles into his daily routine of fixing the problems that he has carried with him for years.
It is like a child who digs a deep hole on the beach, just at the edge of the shore. When he leaves for the day, the hole is free of water.
He goes home for the night, and when he returns the following morning he notices that the ocean has filled the hole with water. It takes him from sun up to sun down to empty the hole with an 8 oz cup.
Once he leaves, the hole is again free of water. When he returns the following morning, it is filled again.
He spends the entire day emptying it and returns home.
He returns the following morning to find it filled once again.
At this moment, somewhere within himself, something happens that will change the trajectory his entire life: He resigns himself to his fate. He resigns himself to the seemingly inescapable conclusion that whatever else he may do in his life, the bulk of his every day must be allotted to emptying this hole.
And, thus, it is also at this moment that he has willingly surrendered his life.
His will be a life of penance. His will be a life of turmoil.
What else can he do? The hole must be emptied. This work must be done.
Each morning as he arrives, he looks into the water that has filled the hole. And he sees his own reflection.
He does his duty and returns home, exhausted and somewhat satisfied. For putting in an honorable day of “hard work.”
The years pass, his body grows old and weak.
Early one morning, he arrives to the hole as an old man.
As he holds the cup in his hand and stares at the wholly familiar task before him, he realizes that today will be the final day. For he is now too old and too weak to continue this task that has occupied his entire life.
By day’s end, he empties the hole and heads for home.
Just before he reaches his house he notices a child in the distance splashing water in a hole of his own. The child notices the crimson sun as it begins to melt into the horizon.
The child retrieves his plastic pale and shovel and is about to head for home.
But just before he leaves, he runs his feet across the hole, obliterating it entirely.
He watches the waves wash over the hole until it is no more.
He notices the man watching him. He looks into his eyes and smiles. As if he knows something that the man does not.
And he runs home.
The man drops onto the sand.
He looks out across the ocean.
And realizes that he has wasted his life.
Originally published at www.kapilguptamd.com on February 18, 2018.