There is a place I know, an in-between sort of place, where you are anywhere, anytime. They call it the Crossroads. Have you been there?
On the day you arrive, and you always arrive just when you most need it, the mist rolls in and fog folds over you, blanketing your journey there and closing up behind. A gentle thud suggests your arrival as the boat you’ve been travelling in presses close to a dock. The man at the back, nameless, expressionless, looks on disinterestedly as you gather your bags and awkwardly climb out of the boat, then pulls away from the dock without a word. The mist and fog swallow him up; the dock you have been stranded on looks out onto nothing.
With a long, drawn-out sigh, carrying the suffering of many years of existence, you turn away from the water. That’s when you see it—Paradise.
Some people never arrive. Lost in the everyday, the mundane, caught up in the drama of this or that, they never think that the journey outside of their own minds might be worth it.
Timeless, only a shifting of the light suggests there might be a sun somewhere. The days are endless, or perhaps over in just seconds, every day the same. Beautiful. Dreamlike. It’s Paradise, after all. You imagine there is nothing out there beyond the fog.
Boats bring people sometimes. You watch as—dazed and frightened, though they instinctively try their best to hide it, both from you and from themselves—they step out onto the dock. The calm lapping of water, songs and calls of tropical birds, lush vegetation and luxurious flowers greet them. You watch as a sense of ease and relief dawns on their faces. Such innocents, you think fondly, already a veteran. As they explore the Crossroads, marveling at each hidden grove, each hot pool, and each nook perfectly designed for rest and rejuvenation, you see that relief change to peace. It’s Paradise, after all. Daily song and dance softens their hearts. Smiling faces take care of their every need. Knowingly or unknowingly, people come to practice the art of doing nothing.
There are whispers, though, dangling among the leaves, carried by the wind, and held by the waters. Whispers that say there is a place far greater than Paradise. Whispers of a place whose name is more of a sigh than a sound, a full exhale. When forced to create a word out of it, you might call it Heaven.
But where is it? And how to get there? You close your eyes to that thought as you focus on your meditation here. You’re in Paradise, after all.
But you can’t stay here. You must descend through the mist from time to time. It’s Paradise, but no one can stay indefinitely.
It happens one night. A faint glimmer overhead and you see a star, then two, and then four, foreign, alien to this mist-shrouded haven. Then a crescent smile of a moon. And, across the waters, faint patches of pinpricks of light, suggestive of a world beyond the mist, suggestive that the other life wasn’t just a dream. You know that soon it will be your time to leave.
The fear, the worry, the doubt try to nudge their way in, but the softening of your heart during your time here leaves no hard edges for them to latch on to. Still, you wish you could stay here. It’s Paradise, after all. It’s so easy here.
Some people never leave. The boat comes for them and they hide under their covers. They wait anxiously until it leaves and then breathe a sigh of relief and imagine they’ve escaped the inevitable.
But the boat always comes back. Paradise is a crossroads, after all, not a home. Gently or forcefully, the boat will come back for them. Without fail, knocked out of their hammocks or pushed off the docks by a violent wind, people make their way back to the boat, back to their lives.
One day, the boat comes for you. With ease and grace and a long-suffering sigh, you throw your bags into the boat and step down off the dock. The fog lifts as you bump through the water to the lights, the noise, and the color ahead. The people. The messiness.
You understand why people would want to stay. Paradise is enough for them. It’s perfect, after all. But it’s missing the point.