There once were two brothers who lived together in a quiet humble house. They dreamed of greatness but accepted mediocrity. This did not concern them so much for they had humbly accepted their lot. One day the brothers were wandering the nearby lands, laughing together about the things that made them laugh. The elder brother kicked at the stones that lined the way. He talked to his young brother who barely listened. This didn’t seem to matter to the elder brother who just enjoyed the sound of his own voice. The younger brother was looking here and there thinking about the beauty of it all. He was particularly drawn by the blue sky above him and he looked up toward it and beyond it, trying to consider what unimaginable things lay there.
Eventually they stumbled upon a waterfall. They decided to take a bath in the bubbling water below. They took off their clothes and waded slowly through the surrounding pond. The waterfall was powerful and beat against their backs. As the water pounded down upon them a spirit emerged. The spirit had no colour the brother’s had ever seen before – it was shapeless and formless and floated in and out of their thoughts, appearing in their vision and then their dreams as if the spirit saw no difference between the two.
The spirit spoke to the brother’s in a language that neither had heard, nor even knew existed. It was the language that bound the plants and animals of the earth and the earth to the sun and other suns throughout the universe; a language that once connected all the people of the world, but had been forgotten long ago.
It was lyrical like a softly spoken poetry; like the cry of wolves and the gentle splash of ducks in a pond. The language was green like a volcanic lake and it smelt of the wind. It was soothing to the ear and the two brothers fell easily into a meditative slumber where all they could hear was the soft song of the spirit.
The spirit said unto the brothers “I am everything at once and thus I should say we… We that is the earth, the wind, and the soil, the forces of gravity and the power of light and the excitement of colour, and we the distant unknown lands and the universal spirit that binds us all.”
The brothers could only listen now, overwhelmed by the spirit as if intoxicated by fumes of hemlock.
The spirit danced before them like the flames of an ominous fire flickering towards the sky. “We have knowledge that you have only dreamt of, and we can grant you that knowledge if you wish to have it.”
Both brothers smiled greedily at the thought of knowing more.
“How do we gain this knowledge?,” the younger brother asked, for he had a keener sense of perception that his brother.
“You will not be granted knowledge in all things, but you can have the knowledge to live any way you choose,” the spirit replied, and the brothers nodded in agreement. “Imagine how you wish to be and you shall be there when you wake.”
The first brother had always dreamt of an exhilarating life, filled with companions and constant conversations. He imagined a life like this and when his eyes opened he appeared in a big city in a house brimming with friends. They all saw him open his eyes and they rushed forward to talk to him. A beautiful woman held him tight and rubbed her lips near his. He stood up, unsure why, and then spoke to the guests in a voice he did not know. It was filled with confidence and haughty smugness. “Let us drink beer and eat crusty bread and let us be merry together,” he said and whilst he spoke everyone seemed to pause and listen to what he had to say. This pleased him for he had never been able to captivate people with his words before. The guests excitedly took up his suggestion following him through a doorway and down a little corridor into a big open kitchen area. He was surprised he knew the way but the more he walked, the more the memories of this life flooded back into his consciousness. With a jolt of realisation, he accepted that all those around were true friends and that together, they had spent much time in such jovial pursuits.
The party crowded into the room and they all talked and laughed at once and all the guests seemed most thrilled when he talked. They hung on his every word, laughed at his every joke and they stood nearer and nearer until they surrounded him. He told them grand stories with unexpected surprises. They listened attentively and whooped and cried where it seemed they ought. When he stopped they begged for more. He teased a little that he would not, yet continued nonetheless.
The eldest brother had always felt a strong desire for friendship and company in his prior life and now he knew he would never feel that again. He felt more alive than he’d ever felt before. He had chosen well, he was sure.
The younger brother had a different outlook on his life. He had always enjoyed the sights and sounds around him. He looked and wondered of their origins and why they were as they were. As the spirit spoke to him and offered him any life he wished, he found himself alone on a quiet beach, dressed in loose-fitting clothes. His hair was long and his beard unkempt. He felt easy with the world as if he had always been so. He saw his place in the world around him and he understood the reason for his existence. He walked slowly to the beach and looked at the clear water and out towards the horizon. He felt the great power and the age of the Earth and he knew his insignificance. He saw the sublime nature of it all – The vastness of the Universe, the age of the rocks and the power of force and time. He knew that he could be in a dream, or not really where he stood but a mere brain in a vat with all his senses programmed in. The only thing he was sure made him real were his thoughts. He realised that everything that he thought was coloured by the subjective and for the first time he tried to imagine an objective.
He had arrived alone at this beautiful beach and he saw no-one was near. He could not even feel the presence of humanity and this comforted him, for he wanted to be alone with his thoughts. He wanted to think more and to consider the merits of his existence. He wanted to sit by the ocean and meditate for days on end. He wanted to understand himself completely and see his place in the beauty that surrounded him.
The younger brother had always liked to think and now he had ample time to do so. He was separated from people. People had always held him back by forcing him into unwanted conversation. He had no time for people, only time for thought. He held his hands up to the sky and danced around the dunes. He was filled with joy, and he knew that he had chosen well when the spirit had offered him a new life to lead.
The years passed and the brothers lived in their new lives. They forgot all about the old one they had shared. The older brother spent every moment of his life socialising. He had friends all around him and they made him happy. He spent time with girls and enjoyed this greatly. He even found love at times and this gave him a feeling of indescribable bliss that he had never felt before. He tasted succulent fruits that he had never tasted before and drank down goblets of wine, feeling euphoria overcome him as he did so. The moments of love and tenderness with his lady never stopped him from attending parties or going out upon the city with his many comrades for he accepted each invitation that came his way. His house was always filled with travellers and friends staying and living in different quarters, and each night they would sit and talk and drink wine and fill each other with warmth of company.
One day he found himself alone. All his guests had gone to other parts. His friends were busy in their own lives and his latest love had left for a weekend with her family. He felt strangely lonely and he didn’t like the feeling. He had grown accustomed to people being near and it always pleased him. He played around for a little and found himself feeling rather bored. He found a stick and toyed with it. Then he drank some champagne. Sadly it did not taste as good without company to enjoy it with. He did not like being alone with his thoughts and he tried to concentrate on anything that would take them away. He pretended he was in a play and acted out the parts of others that were regulars in his house. He put music on and sung loudly to the tune. Eventually, he left his house and headed to the city. He walked hurriedly and looked behind him as if running from an unknown foe; a dark figure, cloaked and dangerous that sought him without repose. He knew not what haunted him, and found himself running the cobbled streets filled with a fear of something he did not quite understand. He saw his destination – an old hotel where strangers met and drank and talked the nights away. For the many that frequented the place it was a second home, a place to tell a friendly ear of the fears that kept a man awake; a place to fall into a hazy slumber after a night of intoxication; a place to share a yarn and the warmth of fiery liquor. The older brother hurried inside and his fears receded beside the comfort of its wooden fireplace. He hastily ordered a drink and chatted with the barman for a spell and then fell into a deep conversation about the vast oceans with a nearby sailor. He felt relieved to be back, sharing the tales of his life with others, for that was always how he liked to be.
The younger brother lived his life on his beach. He spent most of his time in solitude and in silence. It allowed him to consider the grand questions that plagued him. He wrote down much of what he thought, and postulated. There seemed something very noble about questioning his existence. It didn’t seem to matter that he had no answers for this appeared not to be the point.
At first he had returned to a little fishing village to get supplies and there he would chance upon the locals. They were a friendly bunch. He did not like to talk too much and he would normally just say hello. As time passed he found himself wishing to see these people less. It was not that he didn’t like them, more that he didn’t understand them. They seemed so caught up in trivial pursuits, that he felt such communication strange and pointless. He knew his way was the right way, and watching the way the others lived made him realise that life should be lead in thought and reflection.
He decided he did not want to spend any more time returning to town. It gave him an uncomfortable feeling that he did not like. The younger brother began to avoid all contact and instead spent his time alone, meditating under trees and looking out across the water. He had created a whole lot of ideas and theories and he seemed to understand the way the world was connected and the way energy flowed between the life upon it. He knew that he was God for God was only the understanding of the world.
He did not waste his time on trivialities. He ate merely to live so that he could think. Eating was the provision of sustenance for the continuation of his life, it gave him no pleasure and he could understand why others ate together and used that time to talk of their futile lives. He ate only the coconuts that surrounded him, and he drank rainwater. He slept under a tree and he became thin. The sun tanned his body and his beard grew thick and unkempt. He spent his days in solitude and withdrew from the world of men, embracing the world alone.
The older brother lived out his life in the city and the decades crept upon him and sullied his face with wrinkles. He had fattened up with the years of drink and food and his face was red. Age was creeping upon him with every new day and he felt tired and wilted by the life he’d led. He decided to walk away from the city and see what lay there. He had never contemplated this before and he was surprised that he had not. He walked off the roads and found himself in amongst a luscious green field. He walked on and noticed the wondrous beauty that surrounded him. He saw the elegance of trees and heard the whistle of birds that flew overhead. He looked upon a butterfly and was entranced as it floated by. The older brother eventually tired of his walking and sat down in the shade of a great fig tree. As he sat he began to think about his existence. He looked back upon his life. He thought of all his friends and all the grand times he’d had with the people of the city and this filled him with excitement, yet as he lay down he knew that although many people liked him, they had begun to see him less. Perhaps the same jokes and charisma that had captivated their attention for so many years had faded. He felt he lacked a purpose. His life was full of stories and social interaction, but it was precisely this that left him without any great aim or purpose. He realised he had never had a goal nor even asked himself what he would like to accomplish in his life. As he sat and pondered this he wondered why he had never considered this before.
He looked around the beautiful hillside that surrounded him and the great tree overhead and he realised that he had stumbled much farther away from the city that he’d intended. The sun was low in the sky and he knew he must have been under that tree for much longer than he had thought, and for once he was alone and he could listen to his thoughts. His thoughts flew around his head with untamed aggression. He could not contain them. They filled him with madness for a moment and then eased off. His shoulders were heavy and his eyes defeated. He realised then that he did not know himself at all. He hung about the tree a little until his depression weighed too much upon him. He could take the silence and solitude no more. He cried out in despair and trudged back toward the city in search of something to fill the void.
The younger brother aged upon his beach in solitude. Time washed over him as it the water washed over the sand. One day he was walking amongst the fallen coconuts of his land. He wondered if by fate they were there to feed him. He believed in fate. It suited his ideas. He lived simply – a humble life without desire. As he walked a little further he came to a road, one he had not seen before. He heard a noise of talking and saw movement up ahead. He dived behind a bush so the people could not see. He watched as a family of locals walked past. The father was talking and his two young sons and youngest daughter were listening to his every word. The mother was a little behind and she was talking to another girl of about her age. They were smiling, their shiny white teeth glinting in the sun. The siblings threw rocks at trees and one another and they laughed with exuberant affection, filling with glee when the stones struck their targets.
The brother of this tale that had lived his life alone upon the beach was hiding in the bushes as the family walked on by. He felt a little sad. He didn’t quite know why. He saw the happy faces of the locals and knew that he had not smiled much for many years. He felt a strong desire to touch another being and to feel connected as the family seemed to be. He had forgotten the sound of laughter and the love of his brother. He knew nothing of women. He had felt euphoria with his pipe that he smoked on occasions but it only drew him ever inward. The family seemed to express themselves so outwardly that it caused him some confusion. He had a sudden pang of disappointment at his life and he resolved to rectify it. He wandered slowly to town, thinking that he ought to find some others that lived there and to talk to them and tell them all his thoughts and maybe they could drink together and laugh, and he could feel something that had been missing in his life, since a time before time where he had vague memories of a brother. He felt excited by this prospect as if a new life may be opening up before him. The younger brother saw the town up ahead. He thought of all the people he would meet. He tried to imagine their smells and the sound of their voices. He hoped they would like what he had to say. He wondered if they may have ideas he had never even considered. Suddenly he was filled with terror. What if they did not like they way he looked? What if he could not speak to these people at all? Maybe they wouldn’t understand him or they would look at him with disdain. He had no idea what he would say or even how to approach another being. It had been so long since he’d even communicated with another that it seemed impossible – a strain beyond his ageing frame. Anxiety overtook him and ravaged his bones. He shook violently. His heart thumped across his chest. He grew cold. His eyes were alert and darting here and there looking for the trace of any movement. He stood still and listened. He heard the sounds of the town ahead. He was drawn to it but unable to move towards it. His legs would not carry him any further. They refused him. His will was turned and he turned with it, away from the town. He paused and made one last ditch effort to reason with his mind. Fear had won the battle and he walked hurriedly back to whence he came, his shoulders slumped with slight dejection that he would never feel the warmth of people. He ducked off the road and into the bushes, and he walked silently towards his beach careful to avoid any people on the road.