A path is made by those walking on it.
Chuang Tzu (c. 369 — c. 286 BC)
Triangulum with Three Flashes of Lightning
The thoughts of Alberto Shimada, the second lieutenant of Excelsior
“If you could be someone else, who would you like to become?”
“I think I’d like to change back into myself. As of late, I often sense that my life is confined to the shadow of someone else’s dreams.”
“Yet, being yourself can often be a challenge. I don’t even understand well what this means. Can you define the idea of self? Can you explain what the self is?”
“You have just asked me about imagining being someone else, and now you’re saying you don’t fathom the idea of self? Why has everything to be so confusing? I, the person here, thinking and talking, the one who is within this body should be me, the ego, the self.”
“Then, if the one within your body, seeing, hearing, talking, thinking is you, how can you say you’re under the impression of being someone else?”
“I might have been myself in the past, but at night, soon after I go to bed and fall asleep, I dream of other worlds and people. And sometimes, more often than I wish, I dream of being a different person. Then, when I wake up from my dream the next morning, how can I trust I’m still the one who went to sleep? Furthermore, if I’ve got lost along the way and someone else is here in my stead, where am I now?”
“How can you know you’re not the same person? Anyone who has a mind and a heart, sees and hears, feels and talks within your body has to be you. It doesn’t matter whether you believe or not that you have a certain name and age and status. When you dream you are someone else, it is still you who sleeps and lives the other life in the realms of Morpheus. On those lands of phantasy, you can be more than a mere human. You can expand. Why should you limit your perception and existence to the willow shell that is your body?”
“Yet, is it really me the one who wakes up in the morning? How can I know? How can I be sure the life from my dream is not the real life? Maybe I’m dreaming now, and everything around me is only an illusion. Yet, I still feel that between dream and reality, between the one who dreams and the one who is dreamed of, there has to be a subtle difference. Nonetheless, dream and reality look now like two mirrors reflecting each other. Or, even better said: like a single mirror reflecting itself. How can I tell which one is the mirror and which one is the reflection?”
“You wish to find out which one is your true self? Then, in silence, you have to shut down the doors and windows connecting your mind and soul to the outside world. Light, sound, heat, or cold should not bother you. Then you can listen to what your heart is saying. When you can hear your heart, you are the mirror; when you can’t, you are the reflection. Yet, don’t forget: sometimes the mirrors can break! When this happens, you will see how the ego itself is an illusion, an illusion within an illusion. And when you reach this level of understanding, you can become anyone you like.”
Seraphios — Dialogues at the Edge of Time
A wet wind is blowing onto my face, cool and refreshing. From the rhythmic splashing sounds of the foamy waves, echoes are sprouting, ethereal and impermanent. Their music is pouring inside my ears like a delicate whisper.
My lungs are slowly moving up and down like a pair of wings, breathing in and out the glorious dance of the atoms that make up the air of my world. At this moment, the whole Universe is breathing in and out with me. In and out, inside and outside. From the slow beats of my heart to the Moon, the Sun, and beyond, there is no real distance anymore.
Soon, the flow of time reveals itself to be as illusory as the manifestation of space. This inner mounting flame is pushing open my eyelids. The light from outside pours in, filling my soul with eternity. Each breath feels now like a new birth of myself, like a cyclic return into existence. Everything is one, and one is everything.
Too many ideas and concepts are already roaming wild through my mind. Too many thoughts are flooding my perception. Some are familiar, but other seem to come from far away, as if they belonged to total strangers, mirroring me and mirroring themselves. Something doesn’t seem quite right. Have I been somewhere else before? Or, perhaps, have I been someone else before?
In the beginning was the light. Can we go back to the beginning? Can we return to what we used to be and become as pure as the light again?
The sound of water.
Mother Nature has put on golden colors everywhere in and around the city. But the metropolis, as well as the continent, were left behind two days ago. Now only the ocean, an endless expanse of blue-green liquid with a faint salty odor, is stretching all the way to the horizon, wherever I look.
Standing on the deck of our fast brig, I can sense it’s autumn even here. Something hard to define makes me think of falling leaves. Is it the scent of the sea? Or could it be the fragrance of the wind? I turn my eyes up. A flock of fluffy clouds is towering high above the ship’s masts as if they were watching us. From the east, a pale, almost sick-looking Sun is shooting shy arrows of light.
The breeze blowing from the stern is pushing us with constant speed towards our destination. The tall prow cuts the waves with a slow rocking motion that generates a tender hissing sound. Here I am, on this beautiful morning of October 13, 1794. I’m in charge of the weather observations and the duty shifts of the crew.
Our vessel is sailing towards the Southern Islands, transporting weapons and ammunition. In addition, we’ve got a squadron of thirty soldiers as passengers. The soldiers will replace the current garrison in charge of the fort built there more than a century ago. These three tiny islands from the Tropics are locations of significant strategic importance for our navy. They oversee the main routes of an increasing number of ships that travel from our country towards exotic and commercially profitable shores from the Southern Hemisphere. My second mission in such far-away waters has just begun. A journey from autumn to summer and back.
The hours pass quietly. While I fill my logbook with notes, the wind is pushing our vessel with a speed of seven knots. If the weather stays the same, I should expect Excelsior to reach her destination in about eight days. But will it stay the same?
When I check the horizon with my handheld telescope in the early afternoon, I notice dark clouds gathering far away to the southeast. They’re spread over a large area and are set to cross our path. Changing the course to avoid bad weather could mean arriving at least one day late. We are most likely going to run into a storm during the first hours of the evening.
The captain is in his cabin, looking at the maps. I inform him immediately about the oncoming storm. We both return to the deck and begin the preparations for the soon-to-be unpleasant encounter. The captain wants to minimize any delay caused by the elements. He plans to take advantage of the cyclone, using it to shorten the journey to the Southern Islands by about one day. He also wants to test the efficiency of the crew. We have many new hands on board, and this storm is an excellent opportunity to check their skills.
The ship changes course to south-south-west. With no lee shore anywhere near our route, we plan to partially skirt the storm, using the strong winds that blow towards the south on the west side of the cyclone. Excelsior will keep sailing at full speed, gradually reefing her sails as the wind gets stronger. Hence, many sails will stay up and running almost until the storm is ready to strike. Our crew is large enough to take care of them in time.
Late in the afternoon, dark-gray clouds begin to fill the sky. The ocean becomes agitated and foamy. Legions of malefic spirits seem to be dancing on top of the ominous white waves. They are doing the final preparations to ram hard into our ship’s hull and do as much damage as they can. Some sails are still up, although many are reefed now. They’re pulling Excelsior southward with a speed of about eleven knots. The daylight is fading. The celestial tanks hanging above us are ready to explode and flood our vessel with a torrent of rain.
text & artwork by Marian C. Ghilea