Dream or Reality: A Conversation on Being Human
“There are a lot of things that I do not know.”
So he tells me. With the last word, his voice fades into a confession addressed more to himself than to me. Although I know, he is saying it for my sake.
We sit by the sea, feet dangling above the terrace, our eyes set upon the lowering sun. The usual radiance of dusk warms our cheeks, but the sun has a subdued glow; I can keep my eyes fully open without squinting. The neighbourhood that is hosting our togetherness this evening is quiet. All the people, tourists and locals alike, have taken to the local bars for drinks. It’s a popular area here, but from our setting by the sunbathing terraces, separated from the buzz of the harbour by a hundred yard hike by the side of the cliff, we can hear only a distant hum — as though to remind us that a world still exists, somewhere near our shrine. Being human can take myriad forms other than this contemplative state that has descended over the two of us.
“You are so humble.” I lean back a little, gazing at the horizon. “I am learning that, too. That is all I want to be.” I breathe softly; there is no sigh of relief, only the sense of coming to an understanding. “I have been trying so hard. But it is about acceptance.”
Silence. The view is nothing but a scenery in which the inner view is experienced, like the impressionist paintings where everything quivers and flows. A fragile lily here, held together by a confusion of brushstrokes that feel more like emotion strokes; for if the artist intended to paint with his eyes, how could he pin heaven down to earth? So it is here. An orange ball of fire descending into a purple lit horizon where sea and sky meet, its light dispersed upon the surface like quantum leaping seeds. All of it there… for us to make of it what we will. And what we will, we do.
“What do you do in your spare time?”, I asked him once. He was on a break away from work, here in his hometown. “I walk around dispirited and crestfallen”, he replied. His dark humour seeped into my marrow.
Here is this defeated, yet hopeful sense of self-irony. Look at the size of this soul. His speech is as simple, though not easy, as it gets. To speak in full acknowledgment of being just a person, a little sliver of infinity, infinitely complex in itself. I admire this innocence. To say what one feels with no trace of shame, denial, or victimisation. This feeling, to sit by the sunset with a dear soul and simply, silently be.
We find ourselves—and one another — by the sea. Time wears on.
“I doubted your simplicity before. I was skeptical of your…” — I pause, choosing my words — “acknowledged ignorance. I guess I was busy pretending that I know more than I do.” I sigh. “High ideals.”
“I know. It is easy to cling to those. We look at what we go through and think we have finally made some sense of it, that we are finally aware. I tend to do that, too.” He turns and looks at me. Shoulder to shoulder, my heart awakens. “But… it takes time.” His face melts into a timid smile, the kind a teenage boy might flash to his dearest crush after confessing his love — a gesture best accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. As if to say, “What do I know; this is the situation, here it is.” Except the girl is existence itself, and him — well, he is simply trying to romance it.
Then the sun shall be my lover. I look at the descending aster, and I remember — disaster means a star falling apart. In each fall from the crests of our ideals we find the valleys of truth; that kind of truth that cannot be felt except stumbled upon, open eyed and willing to fall, when we can dig our hands in the dirt only to find our life force there. Through the whole process, my mind will think, as minds do. If I were to pursue these thoughts to their end, I know that I would come to no conclusion. Along the lines of… “is acceptance a defence mechanism, or is it simply the act of facing up to life? Is it facing up when there’s really no choice at all? Is there something we’re missing by virtue of being humble, some Alexandrian greatness of being?” It goes on, and on, and on. Like a snake chasing its own tail, the intellect will eat itself. So it seems that the only question that remains is… what do I experience? Us two, shoulder to shoulder, married with the sundown. There’s a gem hidden in this moment.
And so I am learning to be humble. To think humbly. What is all this language for, this constant struggle to survive and thrive, anyway? If animals fight to survive, they do it instinctively. A lion has never decided “I am powerful, I am the king and I must defend myself”. He just does it selflessly, effortlessly. I am no lioness, only at heart. There’s too much wounded tenderness to call myself mature now. But I am made of this fierceness, this insatiable desire to experience, to open up and feel. It is not a quest as much as it is a surrender to something ever deeper. If I am to be highly intelligent, but also highly ignorant, why should I seek to engage in those analytical and spiritual pursuits that demand some end point, some goal, or worse, some… skill? I’m not sure that I want to have skill. I want to have awareness. I don’t want to learn force. If I shall be blissful or crestfallen and go through all these motions, I am here to learn grace.
I have asked him many questions throughout our time together. I have shared poems, discussed books and philosophies and confessed our somewhat timid, somewhat brave experiences with human interactions. Once I lay my head upon his chest with my heart sobbing on its knees on the floor of my chest, and he held my sorrow; my tears fell upon his jeans, even as he was falling apart himself. I have asked him many questions, and each time, I was met with this soothing combination of masculine vitality and disarming innocence:
“I can try to speculate and come up with a decent answer, but the truth is, I don’t know. I have a lot of stupidity in my mind. And I’m not saying that so do you, but—so do you.”
Is this a dream, or reality? I can dream, but the insight gathered from this trip lives within me. If we filter each moment and perception through our past experiences, and if we endow it with the meaning we seek in that specific moment, as our minds are wont to do… then I will at least choose to do it as wisely as I can.
Take this exploration, enjoy it, and craft your own, too. Use each sensation and piece of information that you encounter as a catalyst for your growth, for the deepening of your spirit and the broadening of your mind.
Live your days like this, and you will be living like an embodied god. You can create a universe out of nothing in particular. Is it not time to play?