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🦋 Once Upon A Time
The beginning of every journey
Some journeys are physical, some metaphorical, or both. There might be more types of journeys. Not all are long or arduous or teach us something, though those are the ones that get written about. Many people are excited about journeys, and not everyone is plagued by uncertainty, analysis paralysis, or procrastination. Because of the difference in individual thresholds, circumstances, life situations, personality, etc., our experience of both uncertainty and the journey is variable. And for some of us (I include myself here), our life experiences leave us not wanting to go through the further tumult of any kind of journey. But I hope we can talk about it, share stories, see new perspectives, and have a lot of fun.
Back in the 70s', when I was very young, my family lived in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. One of my favorite memories from that time involves small to medium-sized stores that functioned as circulating or lending libraries. Their collection included books in Indian languages as well as a lot of books in English, predominantly fiction. You could join the library and borrow a book (or many) for 7-10 days at a very affordable price. I wish I had a picture to show you the tightly-crammed shelves of books. Many books had a plastic cover to prevent tearing, and some had the spines reinforced with stitching or completely new binding. Instead of one comic, you might find a bound version with ten comics. 10! It was like winning the lottery because you got ten for the price of borrowing one book. Almost all the books showed signs of extensive use. Whoever said paradise must be a library was right, and I always felt giddy with excitement when we stopped at one of these stalls on the way back from the vegetable market. It meant I had books to read (or for someone to read to me) every day of the week.
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Reading novels at any age can be an escape, a temporary journey into oblivion. It made me think while we may readily associate the word 'journey' with a place or a destination, it also has a relationship with time. The etymological origin of the word journey is related to a day's travel or something that involved a day. So, there’s an old association with time. But there’s another journey-time connection we can trace through a story. (I just wrote this yesterday and I hope you enjoy it.)
Once upon a time, there was a small village, and you're only hearing of it because it was the last stop for travelers before they headed into the Indigo Desert. It was a shabby village with run-down houses and one narrow street.
One day, a new traveler arrived, drawn by tales of the riches of the golden city on the other side of the desert.
"I've heard there are amazing opportunities in the city for smart people like me,” the traveler boasted. "I'll rest here for a few days before crossing the desert."
A wise decision, the villagers told him, because the Indigo Desert, though not very large, was a mysterious place, and you will need your wits about you.
"I know the sand is dark blue," the traveler scoffed derisively, "but that is just color. And it's only a day’s journey to the city."
The villagers looked uneasy. "You have to cross it during the day," they cautioned him. "If night falls, you won't know where the sky ends and the sand begins. You might end up walking on air!"
Everyone in the room shuddered at that, even the traveler. But that wasn't all. There were stories the villagers had heard from other travelers. They whispered about the brutal sandstorms that stripped the skin from bone and the beguiling, glowing mirages on the dark sand that drew you to them like desert sirens. But there were also other rumors: of beautiful oases with magnificent date palms and the legendary sweetness of the Indigo dates. Why, if you could scale the tree and pluck the precious dates, a small bag would fetch you a fortune on the other side, enough for you to live in comfort for many, many years.
And therein lay the mystery of the Indigo Desert. If you could pick the right day, your path into the desert would lead you straight to the date palm oases. Pick the wrong one and you… It was the traveler's turn to look deeply troubled. He wondered if he should stay right here in the village, though no houses were available. There were no opportunities for him here, but he would be safe from drowning in beguiling mirages or being caught in the darkness of a blue sandstorm. But then again, what about the fascinating dates? What then?
Days passed, and the traveler kept delaying his journey. He didn’t know if today was the right day. If only he could be sure. If only he could fast forward to the part where he had crossed the desert and emerged onto the other side. The traveler imagined walking through the crowded marketplace just in time for dinner, two bags of the much sought-after dates tucked safely in a pouch under his thick shawl. Even as he wondered about the best place to find buyers in this new city, people started to follow him. The sweet dates were perfumed, and people could smell them from afar and their mouths watered. They shouted out prices, trying to outbid one another. The traveler thought about how he would sit down to dinner, four bags of gold coins tied tightly around his waist. How he would regale everyone with stories of the desert. The deep, dark blueness of the sand and the undulating dunes. The 80-feet date palm he scaled. Oh, if only. But then again, what if…
Obviously, this is exaggerated as only a story can be. But I think you can see that other connection between journeys and time: since human beings crave certainty, many us want to fast-forward time (and the uncertainty of the journey) and move into the future where we are happier or safer or any other thing we crave. Or, we might find it easier to set off on a journey if we could have a guarantee of a happily ever after (best mirage ever!)
“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”
― J. Krishnamurti
For the purpose of writing on this Substack, I’m starting at the beginning of a journey, in the Ordinary World (from Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey). You might have already recognized the village as the Ordinary World. Every journey, whether physical or metaphorical, begins from where we are. It’s important to keep in mind not everyone wants to leave the Ordinary World. For those of us, getting here might’ve been the goal.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what constitutes an Ordinary World, and thoughts on journeys.
I’m making this up as I go along but if you have any suggestions, insights, thoughts on journeys, would like writing prompts, any or all of the above, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you and to all the new subscribers, hello, and welcome!