A story of a journey to self-realisation
|'Master, it's late already and do you think the train will still arrive as scheduled?' 'Yes, it's just a quarter to eight and it says Eight O'clock in their manifest. Besides, am not tired of waiting, the cool breeze and this terrace-paved seats are enjoyable to me'.
'Master, do you think that we've been here before or that we've had a life though not in this body we now inhabit?' 'Why do you ask? What feeds your curiosity in these things?' 'I am only asking cause the other day you sent me to the Foreman's house, to tell him about your plans on your Palm Estate, I overheard him having an argument with a friend. On this subject, he seem to argue against it. Wouldn't want to be seen poaching on other peoples conversation, so I left. But it has troubled me deeply, so the urge to ask your opinion'.
'He looks up to the sky, towards a bright star and ask, 'like I know Winspers?' Closing his eyes, with a breathe of satisfaction, 'one can sure know these things if they so choose. I once knew a planet, a planet so close to my heart, I called it Okwakpa'.
'A planet, what is a planet? Does it have people in it? Are they friendly, do they have colours to differentiate them?' 'A planet is a place where beings like human can habit, like our earth. Yes, it had people in it, but its inhabitants mistake an echo for the sound. In Okwakpa, youths are taught that cupidity and vice can propel one to the upper echelons of society'.
'I was a youth with dreams to become a famous musician like those around. My parents with their little and modest means, paid for my music lessons in a nearby school. I was taught the rudiments of music, and the genre that was in vogue in my country. But classical music did interest me most. I took up private lessons and became self-taught. I could play some notes and works by its greatest proponents.'
'One day, I was invited for a concert; a programme that had a quarter of ten thousand persons in attendance. I mounted the podium with a note from a famous artist I've practiced for months in my hand. I looked at the crowd, a moderate one. But I was shy and *afraid, cause I have never had to show my work to a public before. I stationed the piano, and played Beethoven's 'Andante favore'; a work I can call my own from the practice and time I've given to it'.
'The audience, I sensed, showed no sign of knowing my work nor it appealing to their ear taste. I held on and played all through the few minutes that was allotted to me by the organisers. And nobody did cheer my humble craft. I left the stage with dejection and dispiritedness my companions, speeding down the podium stairs to hide my face'.
'The organiser, a man of modest means, he walks to me and whispers in my ears. "You should have played contemporary music, don't you know that people here prefer listening to messages and themes with wealth, sensuality? Maybe you should change your music genre and practice Juju, Okonkor and all their likes. These are what our folks listen to these days".
'I left the place of my revilement, without thoughts of taking my concert fee. I walked the lonely path to home, cause I wouldn't want to talk to anybody. Burying my shame like a tortoise would bury itself in its shell. "But I have a right to be different, I am not suppose to do what everyone does. Come to think of it, how can I debase myself to such themes? Morality and virtue were all I've been taught from birth. I won't sing to materialism and sensuality, those topics demean a chaste soul as mine", I told myself as I walked home. A journey which seem unending as a result of my ladened heart.'
'Reaching my home, I saw my mother tending to seeds she had spread under the sun to dry in our courtyard. She looked at me and discerned my doleful countenance; something I've concealed from friends and foes on my way home. "Why this drab and dreary face my heaven-sent? Why did you arrive this early from the concert?" She asked me. "Mother, I don't know if I should give up music. I played my best piece which I've practiced for days and months now. The audience betook me for an alien from the moon; from the look of their faces and geste". Are the words I could cull, with tears flowing down my eyes like a river fountain. "I've told you severally that this 'Classical Music' of yours won't take you far. You have wasted my money and your father's on this empty and selfish venture of yours!" Are the words I thought I heard from her.
'I walked to my room, took my luggages and some of my savings and left my home, with no thought of ever returning.'
'My journey to freedom wasn't an easy one. I sojourned with thieves who were posing as salesmen in a carriage cart. They were having a conversation about a business venture they have and the returns it has given them just investing in it for a month. "If one should invest a thousand crown in this business in a months time, what should he expect?" I asked one of them sitting to my right. I felt sharp objects piercing my both ribs immediately I could end my question. "Stand down and bring out all the valuables you have! I knew he is a rich lad, this one. Look at his clothes, I've seen a duke's son with such vesture in York", is one telling his fellow larcenist, with his dagger now pointing to my throat.'
'Did they left you with any belongings to continue your journey? Did they hurt you master?' 'I can't tell if they did hurt me. But who wouldn't feel hurt when he is league miles from home and left with just his clothes on his skin? They made away with all my money, my luggage and even wanted taking my coat had one of their band member who seemed lenient and pertinent from the way I was treated by his vile and cowardly band stopped them.'
'Left in that lonely road and path, with nobody to my rescue. I walked some few kilometres and found my legs wanting, cause this was a feat I've never taken in my home country. I felt my bowel cry for food. Persons were passing with their cart, some empty, but none would want to help a lonely stranger and youth like me. I kept on my self-inflicted voyage, telling myself that it's a pilgrimage I was making, to draw courage and vigour to my despairing mind. "Someday you will gather your family and tell them about this haunting trek", I'd tell myself each time I lost faith in survival.'
'Agora was the town I saw after my long days of trekking and pilgrimage. Its city centre was bubbling with persons buying and selling. Terrace-paved roads and streets with horse driven carts; like more than I've ever seen, even in my modest town Okwakpa. Gardens, parks and high rising buildings littered the scenery'.
'I walked to a park, to rest from my misery. Heard a fair dame calling out to her friends to come see a stranger. She wondered how a youth could walk with such torn clothes and defaced shoes. "Helen! Come see this mad youth sitting on the pave where my purse is!", are the words I heard from her. A beauty that I would have wanted a moment with if I had magical powers to change my visage and vesture.'
'Many youth would want to pick a fight with anybody who calls them "mad man", in their misery. But not me, I wouldn't want to pick a fight with a fair lady. I've been taught that fair women are a sign of Fortuna herself. "Why would a mortal want a fight with a goddess?" I asked myself. I left immediately, so I won't see more fair dames calling me "mad". I walked towards the outskirts of town, a place I know folks won't take me for a mad man.'
'Entering a neighbourhood, in what looks like a ghetto, I saw old persons and youth, all radiating anger and none did mind my look, cause there were some who looked uglier and tattered than I was. Dogs barking and howling at me, cause in this neighbourhood, a dog could smell if you are a stranger. I kept my pace up, staying resolute and resolved, with no destination in mind.
"You look new here brother, are you visiting?" Are the words that I heard from a youth, who did pat me in the back and held my shoulder. Thoughts of running filled my head, "what would I be running for, I have nothing that a thief can steal anymore", were thoughts that came to my mind as I turned towards this benign youth, whose smile could save a drowning boat. "I have no siblings nor parents in this life. I could use a morse of bread and a roof to my head if you can so provide", we're all I could cull up, cause strength eluded my diaphragm. "My house is that cabin over there, we can both use her bed", are the words I thought I heard from my new found friend.'
'His cabin couldn't make for a goat pen or a fisherman's cabin either. No mattress or blanket or a fireplace to overbear the night cold, which I felt more on entering his modest abode. "Make yourself comfortable and eat those sandwich in that plate", are the words he told me pointing at an unwashed china on top of an old wooden box. I took my humble dinner with no thought of its soury taste. After having my ambrosial tasting meal, I made it to a cot-like furniture he uses as bed, and did sleep off my misery life.'
'Wouldn't say I slept through the night, or did I? I woke up the morning hearing birds chirping outside my new home. "Morning friend, we should be on our way", "on our way to what?" I asked. He looked at me and smiled, his teeth maybe white at his teething stage, but now they are so brown and dark from lack of mouth washing. "We have to make it to a farm at the country side. We have to hurry before we become surplus labour, unless you've got money to feed us today", are the words he tells me still smiling, a thing I'd say is a trademark of his. We left our honourable abode to fend for ourselves.'
'Our place of humble means is an olive plant plantation, sitting on a vast land with hills, valleys and a fresh water stream meandering and adorning its landscape. Each now and then, the foreman is seen riding his horse and shouting at us, "earn your wages and save yourselves and children from hunger" as he rides to keep an eye on our pick. He rode to my station, looking at me up my ladder, "son, why are your pick crushed, are you new here? I won't offer you a fair wage if you thus persist!" Then he rode pass me and all I could respond with from my uneasy position were "aye sire!"
'We made way for home, with each labourer earning a fair wage; if I will call it thus. Some of us weren't really happy, cause their wage can't fend for them and their family. We could hear the foreman shouting at the roof of his voice, "make it early folks, tomorrow is another payday!" As he rode pass us to the town'
'I saw my wage as an earnest one, "at least I have something to feed myself with", I mused as we trekked to town with the evening sun setting at the horizon.'
'Getting home wasn't easy after an exhausting and stressed-out experience at the farm. We had to take a lengthier and deserted route home, cause persons were running towards us, warning about a robbery that was taking place in the carriageway'.
'We got home, prepared our evening meal and made it to bed after dinner. "Brother, what do you say about our present condition?", "what of it?" I replied. He got up and sat by the bed, "can we raise a family with our present wage scale?". I adjusted myself, but my eyelids were heavy for sleep, "we have to be hopeful, who knows luck might come our way" I answered folding myself. "Luck indeed", are the last words I think I heard from him.'
'We continued on our modest way in the farm, which lasted for weeks I could remember. One day, as we were about sleeping after having our evening meal. He asked me again, "brother, don't you think we should go out to the streets and find a better means." I looked at him and asked, "what do you propose, brother?" He paused for a moment, drew a deep breathe and replied. "I know a park in the city centre, where fair ladies come to spend their evening on a hot day. Theirs is a negligent lot, who leave their purses and valuables at will. We could cart-away with those if such opportunity arise."
'I looked at him, the determination in his eyes, I paused for a moment, wishing I didn't hear those words from this stranger I'd call a brother. "Don't you know a thing about morality or virtue? I know we barely survive here, I know we live like animals in this hell of a house. But ours doesn't end here, in this reality, this life. We're heading to a place; wealth and materiality are one of the means to convey us to our ethereal end, but it sure is not the end. I won't engage in such dismal act, they debase a chaste soul like mine".
"You talk of chastity, of morality and all the virtues. But know this; morality doesn't belong here, this is hell if you have forgotten! Hell brother, and you have to act like you're in one!" I saw the seriousness in his anima, I saw the decidedness in his voice, then I told myself that I will leave before the first cock crow'.
'Leaving my friend, or rather a "brother" wasn't an easy decision, but I left before he could notice. I walked the unfriendly streets of Agora, with nobody to call friend or family. None could notice my anguish; just strangers passing and barely looking out to see if they could save a brother, a one of their kind. I looked up to heaven, and felt certitude in my condition. I knew this was life; holding on even when you're despairing, putting yourself together. Then I decided that I would go to any monastery and spend my remaining days there.'
'Master, what is a monastery, do they take people like me?'
'A monastery is a place where people renounce their social life, family and friends and focus and meditate on the Divine. It is a place of self-realisation, and yes if they could take a low-life, a dejected and rejected person in me, why not you, son?'
'I found one at the eastern part of the city and asked to be admitted which they willingly obliged. I was given a cloak, showed a room, with a bed and some books to meditate on. I choose a life I was proud and ready for, a life of chastity and humility.'
'Staying in a monastery was a thing I never regretted, yes, cause in my humble room I found myself. I saw the real reason to life; meditation and writing took my days'.
'I helped some Friar monks till the soil in a garden in our chapel; which I was of the Carmelites Order. Days and months passed like hours to me not noticing; how could I, when I was fully engaged and loved it there?'
'On this particular raining Tuesday morning, after exhausting myself of a new book I was writing since two nights; an exposé on religion and some of its unwholesome practices. I slide open the drawer on my desk, to return the material I've written thus far. I saw a necklace my mother gave me on my fourteenth birthday. A present that only survived the ordeal I went through the day I was on my journey to freedom; if I should call it thus'.
'I took it out, dusted the pendant; a picture engraved pendant that had a picture of her and myself inside. I held it close to my bared chest, with thoughts of home filling my mind. I could no longer concentrate cause of the emotions it drew with it. "Should I go back home and see my mother and childhood friends?", I contemplated. "But they will be all old and nearly ninety by now; my mother will be long dead and buried. She will not forgive me for not being by her side on her death bed. I cannot go, and besides I can barely move my weak bones, talk more lightening a horse or carriage", I told myself. I dropped the thoughts of ever seeing my home country again'.
'Put my both hands on the mahogany chair and desk I was sitting with, so as to gain support; to rise and go out of my dorm. I heard a click sound, like something breaking. Adjusted myself better, tried again to get up, my legs heavy from the long hours I have sat down'.
'My hand slipped from the desk edge cause of my weak grip; I saw myself floating like a tree moved by a whirling wind. Heard this thunderous sound and lightning flash in my eyes. Tried to move myself from my new position, I couldn't; and felt excruciating pain each time I tried moving my limbs or hands'.
'Water wetting my back and whole head, with a smell like blood. Each time I tried uttering a word, I couldn't cause there was no energy in me. Felt my heart beating like a stopping engine. I held strong, taking deep breathes, but each time I tried breathing, felt liquid clogging my lungs'.
'Felt my heard turn to my right side. "Brother, what is it?! What is that loud sound we just heard!" and banging on my dorm door. Not long after these questions; I heard a loud sound, like a door being knock open, and voices shouting, "go call brother Cletus! He is down, he just fell off his study desk!" I didn't know if it was me they were talking about, cause I could only see moving feet; four if I could guess right now.'
"Brother, steady his head, raise it a bit and apply pressure to his chest, so I can clean the blood and bandage his head". "No, it cannot be bandaged, the cut is too deep; it can't hold, blood is dripping from his ears. He can barely breathe, and I cannot feel any pulse from his heart". "Ok, let's put him on the bed, Brother John, go and get those pillows, so we can place his head properly". "One, two, go!" "Easy, easy brothers!"
"Close his eyes, he is dead, there are no pulse from his carotid arteries". "No, he can't be, I just saw his legs twitch!" From another voice'.
Who is this 'he' they are talking about? But I am not dead, I can hear them talk, I can see their legs; but their faces, I cannot see their faces. 'Maybe I am dead indeed. But what is death when I can feel myself float, like a balloon?' I thought, cause this was all I could do in my new state; think.
'Then I stopped seeing light or legs like I could before, 'maybe they've closed my eyes', I told myself'.
'Master, master!! I can hear the sound of train, it's fast approaching and...'
'Yes, yes, we should go welcome my friend then. Ok, go get the carriage ready while I go to their lobby.'