I have seen many strange and fantastic sights, I have embarked on many noble adventures, and I have learnt lessons both grand and small from all of my escapades. Here I will submit to you now one such tale of morality which I find not only entrancing but more importantly, nourishing. I mean that in a spiritual sense, of course, and I hope you come to agree with my word choice. So read, dear friend, and be satiated.
My word of advice to the reader is to not close your mind the moment you come across a thing that upsets you – and they will come, believe me – rather, engage with that upsettingness and ask yourself ‘why does that upset me?’ and then dig even further and ask yourself ‘why’ five more times until you come to the very root of your upsettingness. You see, in this world of vast information, one truly finds themselves in this spot of ‘too much’. There is no limit to engaging (and uningaging) content! An unfortunate result of this is what I am calling the ‘don’t like it, won’t read it’ sensation, though others who are smarter than me call it a ‘filter bubble’. The ‘don’t like it, won’t read it’ sensation describes the moment one comes across not only something upsetting, but even something difficult to understand, and the result is an unfortunate letting go of that content and a search of content which agrees with their already-formed presuppositions. There are many works of study on filter bubbles out there on the world wide web, so I am content to leave you with this little understanding of it here and move on with my preamble.
And so I begin my account with some context. I live in an unnamed city (naming it would do one of two things: one, it would ring a bell within your mind and you would exult because you know the place of which I am speaking about; or two, you would shake your head in silent disappointment because you have no idea the place of which I am speaking. Thus, in not wanting to isolate the many for the sake of a few, I leave my city unnamed.) So like I said, I live in a city on a street called ‘Happy Lane’. For a majority of my life, I have made it my aim to seek personal happiness and, once I have found it, to grip it with such tightness as to never let it go. This has been my sole purpose in life: my own happiness. That is why I found it fitting to live on Happy Lane, and truly I believe that living there has increased my overall happiness just an iota. The scenery around my house is urban; yards are small, houses are close together, there are few trees, except those that line the street. Happy Lane is close to the center of the city and fairly trafficked by pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles alike. For me, privacy is secondary to a feeling of connectedness and closeness to the bustle of the city.
All these details are important because on the day my account began, I stepped outside my house expecting to see the sidewalk that leads up to my front door, a small gate barring my exit down to the mailbox, and beyond that the street where cars would be passing by. However, to my great shock, none of that was in sight. Instead, I was affronted quite abruptly by a barren wasteland. No longer was I in bustling urban city; now I was in a sandy desert with no civilization or any settling thing in sight! My first thought upon leaving my home was that it was cruelly and unbearably hot (for it was winter on Happy Lane!) Indeed, I was covered in warm clothing from head to foot; a hat, scarf, coat over long-sleeve shirt, pants, heavy socks, and casual boots! Within seconds I was sweating and overly aware that something was not right. My second thought was that I must be in a dream, and so I turned around to open my door and re-enter my abode. However, I was met with an alarming complication – my house was no longer there! Indeed, when I turned around, I was met by nothing more than sand as far as the eye could see! I did a sort of 360 degree spin around, searching, wondering where–how–where indeed has my house gone off to? As if my house could just disappear like in a magic show! Oh the absurdity and horror I felt in that moment! I must be dreaming!
It was then that I heard a voice address me from behind (whether ‘behind’ was in the direction of where my house once was or any of the other 3 directions, I did not know, for as far as I knew I was teleported to the middle of the desert with no markers indicating direction. I was completely discombobulated.) I whirled around to face the voice that invaded my unexpected feeling of isolation.
“Good day!” I said to the fellow that stood before me. I am sure my face expressed my shock and confusion, for the gentleman let out a gentle guffaw.
“Might I ask where I am and how I got here and–”
The man stopped me with an upheld hand. “All in good time, my friend.”
I looked at him, waiting for some sort of explanation, but none came, at least right away.
“My name is Jack and I have been sent by God to take you on a journey of discovery. But first, why don’t you shed a few layers of clothing; you’re perspiring quite heavily!”
“Sent by God!” I guffawed a little too loudly, and I was met by a gentle frown from Jack.
You see, I have never been one to believe in God. I am what you might call a materialist – one who believes only in things the human eye can see. No ghosts, no angels, and no gods. Everything that has happened in my life has been a direct result of my own previous actions. It’s a simple ideology, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, and most importantly, it frees me from rules. Ah, rules! How I despise moral rules. Of course, in the correct context, rules are valid, even necessary! But when it comes to the actions of an individual which affect no other human being, well that is nobody’s business except his own. And so, when confronted with this tall fellow’s words (for he was tall, even taller than me, and I’m above average!) I could not help but let out a guffaw of my own.
He recovered from his frown quickly and with confidence addressed me once more, “That’s right, good sir, sent by God. I am here to usher you into the journey that God has for you. Won’t you join me?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sure you mean well, but I have a full day ahead of me and simply can’t be bothered by a silly dream.” At this, I looked down at my wristwatch so as to affirm that I was in a rush.
“You will notice by glancing at your time keeper that in this realm, time stands still. As soon as your journey is complete, you will return to your doorstep on Happy Lane, having lost no time or energy. You see, this is no detour at all, and if I’m being blunt, you don’t have much of a say in the matter. What God has willed, let it be done.”
Indeed, my watch showed no indication of progress and I looked back up at the gentleman, quite baffled.
“Certainly there must be some natural explanation for all this,” said I, circling around myself once more to search for a break in the scenery which would provide some sort of clarity. Of course, I ended up back where I started, staring at this man named Jack, wishing very much that all this would end and I could go on about my day.
“Come on then,” said Jack, noticing my fading determination to get myself out of this, “shed your coat and let’s begin!”
“You’ll only steal it, for it’s a perfectly good coat and don’t you just look like the thieving type!”
It was a rather cruel thing to say I admit, and I didn’t much mean it, for in fact he did not look much like the ‘thieving type’, whatever that means; however, I was flustered and flustered people say things they regret. Jack just shrugged and with a curt “suit yourself”, turned and began to walk into the wilderness. I had no choice but to follow, though I did so with much reluctancy.
I noticed right away that Jack walked much more effortlessly through the sand than did I. His tread was light and his pace quick; I sunk deep into the sand with each step and I felt heavy and sluggish. When I asked him about it, he told me my clothing was weighing me down and if I were to shed my layers, I would walk with the ease that he walked. I refused as I did before and kept laboring behind him.
I was drenched in sweat by the time we reached our first destination – a deep, long trench.