within you and without you


“…and when you talk about happiness, well I look to the fool on the hill
Who is picking flowers, blowing bubbles, rolling ‘round with Jill
You see, I am no finagler, but the concept's gone awry
And I see much too much redemption in my slice of American pie
I walked barefoot by an ocean and a snail said to me,
"If I was a human being, then would I have quality?
I said, "I do not know the answers, and I just don't know what's right,
And I may only have the questions, I may never see the light…"
I am no siddhartha, but my soul has gone awry
And I may never reach nirvana in my state of American pie.”

“Why” no longer mattered. I had given up conscious search for the answers to questions that had plagued me in days gone by. There was something different in the air that morning, though I couldn’t quite place it. I had no destination in mind as I walked down the lonely stretch of beach. It was an aimlessness I had always claimed to want, though it seemed a frightening concept to others. For them, to have no destination or goal in life was unthinkable, as it seemed to negate life itself. I however, had long concluded that it was but a stop on my journey to the much-glorified quest for peace of mind. Yet it would be a lie to say that I thought the search for serenity easy. I was afraid, largely of discovering that the search was infinitely more enjoyable than the find. Today, I was just happy walking.

After walking alone a while, I came upon the first semblance of civilisation. A young man crossed me on his daily run, smiling politely as he caught my eye. A child further down the beach busied herself in the judicious construction of a sandcastle I feared would remain unfinished by the turning of the tide. Strains of music wafted by, riding on the wind which blew through my hair. Humanity never comes in small doses, I mused. Occasional visits, however, were necessary, and admittedly not an entirely unpleasant prescription.  Solitary confinement, voluntary as mine may be, did get mundane sometimes.

The waves broke softer as my feet walked me toward the music. ‘The Banana Boat’ was my favourite shack. It was far enough from the conglomeration of others on the beach to attract none but the wandering loners and the occasional adventurous family. Admittedly, its location did not speak much of the proprietor’s business acumen; yet, the food and music were much to my taste. More often than not, on days when my books and poetry did not succeed in dissuading me from venturing out, I would satisfy myself with a quiet meal here. The library of an odd hundred books or so still succeeded in coming up with novel surprises. It was kept updated by the more frequent diners who would exchange their own books for any that interested them in the small collection here. Not much attention though was paid to consistency of subject matter. So much so in fact that I had once considered enrolling in a correspondence course in French to get myself acquainted with the astonishingly fast moving section of books in the language, many of which were by familiar authors translations of whose works I had read.

I sat down at my favourite table and bided my time between Emanuel’s sincere ‘G’morn’ and his finding time off staring at his toes to amble over and take my order. In my initial visits, I thought him rather obtuse, till I realised he was simply shy and took as much time making acquaintances as he did with the few other things he cared to. He was in actuality quite intelligent and kept himself occupied with the books in the library. On one of my rare evening jaunts, I discovered that apart from being an avid reader, he was also an expert surfer. Surfing was one of many skills possessed by a majority of the locals which I had sadly never found the desire to muster up enough of an inclination to pursuing as a hobby.

This morning, with my Apple Pie and honey, Emanuel chose to serve, in a highball glass, a concoction he claimed was his own creation and happily decided that I must be the first to try. He called his experiment ‘No Man’s Cocktail’ and was willing to disclose that it contained “two parts Bailey's Irish Cream, one part Frangelico, half a banana and half part cream over crushed ice”. With a wide grin on his tanned face and in a comically hushed tone, he spoke also of a secret ingredient, which I suspected strongly was simply peanut butter.

As I delighted my taste buds with the apple pie and cocktail, I allowed myself to admit that this was undoubtedly Emanuel’s best creation so far. I revoked also the decision to no longer be his guinea pig, which I had made last Friday when he thought he had discovered ‘Foster’s Beer Flambé’. The music was undoubtedly another reason I enjoyed my visits here. As I consumed the last crumbs of pie, a track I recognised from old as the soundtrack to M*A*S*H began playing on the contraption Emanuel delighted in calling a stereo system. I mulled over the words,
‘Through early morning fog I see,
Visions of the things to be,
The pains that are withheld for me,
I realize and I can see...’

By the time I allowed myself to get up for a dip in the ocean after what was assuredly my best meal in memory, the song was drawing to a close.

‘A brave man once requested me,
To answer questions that are key.
Is it to be or not to be?
And I replied 'Oh why ask me?'
'Cause suicide is painless.
It brings on many changes.
And I can take or leave it if I please.
...And you can do the same thing if you choose.’

The waves slapped me higher as I waded deeper into the waters mirroring the sky above. A strange combination of the reflection and the clear water made it difficult to ascertain the horizon as I swum towards it. Beyond the waves now, I could hear the surf break on the beach as I lay back and contemplated again questions I had not asked in the many years since I had chosen to become a philosopher’s disgrace. A glimpse of some undiscovered reality bubbled a thought in my mind as a cloud passed overhead. The bubble burst and I dived into the ocean within.