Two old friends meet on a riverbank one day. One paces, one sits, watching the water. They do this every year. They have become famous in the local area. Their arguments are legendary. People think they hate each other. Most believe one will eventually kill the other and be done with it.
Every year, people hide in the trees, silent, listening.
Some crouch, hidden, on the opposite side of the opposite riverbank, silent, listening.
Some lay belly down in the tall grasses, the grasses that sway and rustle as the world’s breath passes, through them, a trickling chatter of ghosts that is our mind, this evanescent interweaving of all of us, silent, listening.
Y stops pacing, turns to Y (everything is silent, everyone holding their breath, nothing, nothing, nothing, except the ghost-breath-wind, which never fully rests), and shouts, shouts from their diaphragm, shouts loudly enough that all the people they secretly know are listening, can hear, shouts with a full-throated roar, a lion’s roar: “Grow up!!!!“
They pace a few paces more. Everybody exhales, nodding.
They sit down, beside Y, on the soft, warm sand of the riverbank, and in a low voice, so low that almost nobody can hear it except the really careful listeners (and the ghosts, and those who can hear them),
“Look, it’s good advice. Being a responsible, successful human being, the kind of person who can get stuff done, who other people can rely on, who brings home the bacon, who builds a better world, is not an easy task. But too damn bad. Do it anyway. Taking action makes you stronger.”
“Goals, motivation, inspiration, go get ’em, grit, self-discipline, determination, stick-to-it-iveness — this is what keeps the factories pumping out elbow grease as people build a bigger world and bigger lives, and feel bigger and stronger and more capable and more confident and network more and do more and accomplish more and BECOME MORE. As the problems of the world get bigger, we get bigger too. Life is hard, but we were built for struggle. So be strong. It’s what you are here for.”
“Don’t expect handouts. Don’t be weak. Stand up straight. Look people in the eye. Believe in yourself.”
They pause….and in an even lower voice, a gentler voice, one that only the very quietest could hear, “Your Will is a gift, and a burden. It is your existential responsibility. It’s the power that builds the world. Don’t try to escape from your own Freedom to choose. If this is hard, start small. Clean up one small part of your world. Show yourself you can do it. And build from there.”
Silence. A long silence. Everyone waits for the response. Even the ghosts.
Y nods and thanks Y. “I appreciate that. That is very good advice. I will try to……no,” (they catch themselves), “I WILL live more like that, and take a step forward, today, if I am able. Thankyou.”
Y hands them a folded-up note in response. “Read later” is scribbled on the outside.
Y stands up, bows.
Y nods courteously in response.
Y turns in a slow circle, looking from grass to trees to the opposite side of the opposite riverbank. They smile, at everyone. It just feels like the right thing to do right now.
They sing. No discernible words, just a simple rhythm, a simple melody. They can hear the bodies all around, swaying. Then they walk away, keeping up the song, but softly, so that only those who would be close enough to hear, can join in.
Y goes home, into their bedroom. Sits on the bed. Unfolds the note. It’s a poem — “Aboleth.” It’s about….monsters? Y doesn’t understand it, but feels…..strange….. They re-read it, think about what it means. And still don’t understand.
Then they fold the note back up, put it in a drawer, and go back to work.