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9DF6C27B-1BF6-4BED-949F-40F4B6360333long time ago, in India, lived a man named Admita. All his life had been spent in a harsh and hostile desert, surrounded by sand and dry, swirling winds. He led a life of wandering without help or hope on this desolate land. He had well heard of stories that described places of lush greenery and great beauty, where valleys, forests, meadows, rushing streams and great rivers were home for countless animals, where mountains stood above deep blue seas, where the sun was warm and friendly and the air ever filled with a cool and gentle breeze. He did not believe that such places really existed, but in front of so much loneliness, sorrow, and adversity, he could not help thinking about it and hoping to discover this wonderful land.

One day, one hot, scorching, blazing day, when winds were competing to torment the atmosphere, he thought that truly his last hour had come, for there was no hope of ending the killer storm. Suddenly, in the midst of swirling sand grains, he realised that he was standing right on the edge of a vast, profound precipice. He saw that there was a green carpet on the floor down below; he sniffed the air that was sweet and he could hear thousands of sounds, whispers, and cries of great beauty. “Surely,” he thought, “it must be that marvelous land that the stories mention.”

As he lost himself in contemplation, a powerful gust of wind seized him and almost knocked him down the precipice. He regained his balance and stepped back, realizing the danger. Falling was the surest way to reach this beautiful land, but what would be the point since he would no longer be alive to enjoy its delights. “I must live!” he thought as he panicked. And he hurried away from the dangerous cliff.

The storm had calmed down, and for a moment he felt almost happy. “I have seen it! I know it exists! I will in my turn write stories to inform others. It must be done! I must also find out how to reach this delightful place, there must be some path leading to it…” Suddenly, he worried again: “I must live! I must live because I know it will be a long and arduous work to discover the door of this wonderful kingdom.”

Meanwhile, the winds in the desert had increased in strength and the sun was burning again. He was afraid of this terrible desert and realized that he would not live very long under such conditions.

Some time later, as he was still wandering aimlessly through this hostile universe, he saw a tiny dot in the distance. He thought it was strange because during all his life here, he had only seen a barren horizon in all directions. Intrigued and hopeful, he made his way to the mysterious dot. As he got near it, he became very tired and frightened. He had given so much energy trying to reach this point that if this mystery did not reward him in any way, he would surely die of exhaustion and despair.

Thank God! What a relief! It was a tree! A big simple tree in this huge, lifeless desert! He thought, “This is it! A place sent by God for me! It will be a perfect shelter against the sun and the desert winds. I can regain my strength and study the different ways to reach the beautiful land that I saw at the bottom of the precipice.”

For many years, Admita remained in the shade of the big, friendly tree. He thought that after all, it was not a bad place and that if he could not find out how to reach the dear country, it was not so bad. And he became very attached to his tree.

However, after many years spent in the relative tranquility of his shelter, protected from the oppressive heat of the desert, his enthusiasm and happiness diminished. He became annoyed by the many insects that the tree, quite unexpectedly, harboured along with him, and he sometimes felt lonely and tired of his inertia. Now accustomed to his comfort, he could no longer resolve to leave and face the desert again. Still, it was boring to stay in this one place, with that same old tree.

On top of that, the tree, once a year, lost all its leaves and Admita was again exposed to the sun. Each time, he was impatient to see the tree recover its leaves again, and gradually, he developed with him that peculiar relationship which is that he became more and more attached to the tree, while starting to feel dissatisfied about being in its shade.

Occasionally, he worried and wondered how he could ever discover the beautiful land, because by remaining in the comfort of the tree, he now lacked the strength necessary for his search. His mind was tortured and he remained there, holding on to the tree, for many more years.

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Albert Bierstadt, Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains (Washington, Smithsonian American Art Museum)

One particular night, Admita had a dream: As he was taking a nap under the tree, he was disturbed by a thundering noise. He got up, intrigued, and tried to guess where it was coming from. To his surprise, he realized that the sound was coming from everywhere around, and that it was getting louder and louder. Already, the earth began to tremble under his feet. He became more vigilant and watched the horizon with great attention to see if anything was coming.

To his horror, he realized that the horizon seemed to be moving in his direction, coming closer and closer as if nibbled from everywhere around by thousands of invisible mice or other rodents of that sort. As the edge was still at a comfortable distance, he ran away from the tree to observe the phenomenon.

O Marvel of Marvels! At the edge of the desert, down below, he could see immense expanses of forests and meadows. The beautiful land was here again. He lost himself in contemplation for a moment, but was quickly brought back to the problem. The desert in which he had been living for so long was now reduced to a round plateau at the end of which a very deep precipice was giving way in all directions to exquisite expanses of hills, valleys, and rivers of great beauty.

He ran back to his tree. The desert, nibbled little by little, was now reduced to a peak of 3000 meters high and 20 meters wide, which precariously stood above the green ocean of the beautiful wild land. He thought, “This is the end! I’ll be engulfed by the precipice!” Then, the tree began to crack here and there. Meanwhile, he had already jumped to grab a branch and clung to her over the mighty void. There was now no place on the desert where to stand. He clung to the tree with all his strength but its roots were now hanging in the air and in a second, the whole edifice collapsed.

He closed his eyes, abandoning himself to the fall. He felt the shock of his body on the foliage, then other shocks, lighter ones, before finally rolling on the ground… “I am alive !” he thought, “Thank God! The trees have absorbed my fall!” Slowly, he opened his eyes. But he saw nothing! It was desert, hot, and dry… He woke up suddenly at the foot of his tree.

Admita thought about all this for a moment and became very annoyed: “While I was burning in the desert, I was afraid to jump to join this beautiful land, but when I saw a poor lonely tree, I clung to it; then I wanted to leave the tree and go to the desert again, but when the beautiful land came to me, I hung on to my tree again; I thought I would die at the bottom of the precipice, but my fall was absorbed and I was alive; I thought I had reached the land I had been longing for all my life, so I opened my eyes, but only saw a burning desert! All this doesn’t make any sense to me… I am fed up! I will leave this tree right away, look for the precipice and jump!

Again, he had to face this arid and windy place. But he could not remember where the precipice was. He searched and searched, and searched again, but could find nothing but a dry and inhospitable land. He thought of going back to his tree, but had lost it by now. For a long time, he lived and walked in the hot, burning desert. Sometimes, he remembered the lush green country with its vast seas and endless forests, but he thought he had been miraged by his exhaustion. He wandered many more years under the burning sun.

One day, one hot, scorching, blazing day, when winds were competing to torment the atmosphere, he thought that truly his last hour had come, for there was no hope of ending the killer storm. For as long as he’d been walking in the desert, this storm was the most violent he had ever seen. Millions of sand particles were being tossed by the winds. He could no longer see, and all hope of coming out of this alive had abandoned him. He closed his eyes, ready to die.

Suddenly, he knew! He knew it was there, in front of him! Faintly, in the depths of his mind, he had hints of sights and sounds and smells of a place he knew all too well. He did not open his eyes, and gave up all will of any kind, surrendering himself to the void of the mighty precipice.

Yet he felt something strange happening. The winds, which were so strong and shook his whole body, and the roar it made in his head, seemed to have quietened down. Some other sounds became clearer then, and he could even hear some birds chirping along. He was puzzled and timidly opened his eyes.

All around him was the most marvellous and exquisite nature, with beautiful trees, majestic and healthy. He found himself in the middle of a clearing where the grass was green and soft, and the air like a caress on his cheeks. “How is it possible?” he thought. “I am here! I am here in the middle of this beautiful land which I have searched for and cherished all my life, and yet, I have not made a single move!…” He couldn’t understand. There was no trace, anywhere, of the desert he had been living in for so long. Not a trace of it! He was completely confused.

Then, suddenly, like a gush of wind, the simple realisation struck him and sent shivers all along his spine!… He had been here all the time! From the beginning!… There had been no desert, no arid conditions for him to suffer from. All his life, he had not been anywhere else but here, ever! How could he have been so blind to it, to this most simple evidence! He fell on his knees with awe.

For the first time in his life, he felt profoundly happy, with boundless love in his heart;

And a profound, unshakable peace.

 

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Text by Alain Joly

Head illustration: Ulrike Mai / Pixabay

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