We walk around the world empty, looking for things with which to fill ourselves—this is what is implied by the imperative for ‘fulfillment’. Culture means that an individual does not have to look very hard, but only needs to decide ‘This, and everything which comes with it, is for me’, or that it isn’t. For the one who rejects their culture despite what they will lose thereby—community, tradition, duty or sense of purpose—they turn to the greater world wondering, ‘What else is out there, in store for me?’
These individuals are like the tips of unfurling branches on a tree, reaching farther than the branches that are further down, or closer to the trunk.
Or, do these individuals appear like floating lanterns in the night, the glow of the little flame casting dim light upon a countenance otherwise shrouded in shadow, and upon the outstretched arm holding the lantern out in order to see just a little bit farther, hoping to find—what? Another small glow in the night, flame and flame brought close, naturally merging into one, slightly larger, able to see slightly further.
“Where did you get your flame?” one asks the other. “I haven’t seen another in—well, I lost count of the days.”
“It is the same with me,” the other replied. “This flame I got from a burning bush.”
“What set fire to it?”
“I have no idea. But where did you get your flame?”
“I stole it from those who pretended to be gods; those who had cultivated a little patch of dirt and claimed their territory encompassed all of the eternal, like they did not care for what else was left out here.”
Excited, the other asked, “Have you found something?”
“There have been rumors, but nothing concrete. Nothing so solid as you before me now.”
“Rumors. And shadows. It may be that we are in a palace, but with flames too dim and too few to see.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“If I did then I would have to ask you to stay with me. But there has been another question I’ve been wondering, with time to my thoughts. Namely, I haven’t been able to decide whether to meditate upon the flame, or what the flame might reveal. With two of us I feel the question must be answered, for when another shows up and we consider bringing them into our design.”
“Haven’t you already answered that question? You wonder about the palace, no?”
“Yes. But out here there is so much to wonder about. There is something to be said for the light itself being the cause which would have us remain together. One does not need to know for what end, and it is not necessary for two to know, either. Three, on the other hand. . .”
“Ah, I see. There will come a time when it might be easier for us to go our separate ways.”
“It would be easier, if we are not ready to make the decision. Then again, there may be nothing else out here, for us. Depending on what we decide, it may even be best to return to the respective places we left, with renewed strength gained from our answer.”
“There is nothing for me back there. Even if I find nothing out here, I would rather build a palace myself, with my own hands.”
Where the two met was a realm of shadow outside all that is known, but their meeting could only have happened if time did not exist, out there where they were, beyond culture and tradition, duty and a sense of purpose. And there must not be any history, out there, and for the same reason; they must have suspected this, otherwise why would they not bother to ask each other’s name. Both returned as the other suggested, though, didn’t they? Or at least word of them returned, their names in our small world destined to be passed around like rumor.
I must stop here. I did not know what I would find out in the greater world, but what I have found necessitates much reflection. Forgive me for the lack of conclusion; the problem is I still don’t know where I am, to have witnessed these two meeting. All I know is that I am sure I am in the only place where it’s possible. I will send word if, in the end, I find I cannot return.
I so want to walk up to them, and to be that third person they wondered about. Then again, who am I, to think I could do that?