I pick up the shovel and sink it into the ground. After digging a hole, I bury myself. Now I stand at my grave shedding tears at my own death. All my dreams, quests, and achievements rest beneath the dirt with me. I look around, but there is not even a single soul in the entire graveyard, only tombstones jutting out of the ground and rainwater dripping from trees. There is a long deathly silence. I have never felt so alone before.
I leave some flowers at my grave, say the last prayer with closed eyes, and leave.
I walk for months, crossing rivers and mountains, and approach an oasis in a desert. It is late in the afternoon. The sun is casting black shadows on deep orange dunes. My donkey and I trudge through the sand. Just before a village, the donkey refuses to go further. I pull him to a gutter so he could drink some water from it. He gives a sniff, but instead of drinking, he pees in it and then goes to stand in the shade. I leave him there and enter the village. I visit many healers. Then, I meet a stranger who asks me to follow him. As we walk through a maze of narrow streets, I see sad-looking women and children staring at us from behind the windows and half-open doors.
We arrive in front of a clay house. The stranger tells me to go inside while he remains outside. I go from one room to another, but all of them are empty. In one room, I see a Dervish kneeled on the ground. Shafts of light coming through the holes in walls are shining his long hairs. He is wearing colourful beads around his neck. His eyes are closed.
“Why are you here?” he asks.
“I am searching for a cure for my disease.”
“But there is no cure for death.”
“What is this longing?”
He leads me to the top of a mountain protruding out of the desert like a pyramid. Many dervishes are dancing in a circle to the beat of a drum. “Is it the dance of death?” I wonder. The dervish takes my hand, and I start dancing. The dance intensifies as the night grows darker. All the knots begin to untie as we move from one level of ecstasy to another. No longer are we aware of the limits of space and time. At the height of spiritual euphoria, he whispers, “life is a struggle to find happiness or truth.” As the dawn breaks, dervishes walk through a door frame one by one and disappear. As I cross it, I find there is no ground behind. I begin to freefall, twisting and turning, endlessly.
It is a fresh morning at Semuc Champey in Guatemala. Soft morning light is shimmering on the surface of the crystal clear water pools. A stream of water is gently cascading through a series of stepped natural pools in the forest. As I float in the calm turquoise water, my mind begins to wonder. “Am I in a paradise after death? If yes, then why am I alone here?”
The forest is echoing with the chorus song of cicadas. Inside the pool, I see small fishes swimming next to me. I dip my head in the water and hold my breath for as long as I can. Soon I am out of breath and have to come out of the water to breathe again. I must be still alive. I slowly remember everything, how I reached this place after an arduous bicycle journey yesterday. It isn’t a dream, and although it is a paradise, it is not from the afterlife. I think about the poor donkey who would have surely loved to drink the freshwater from these pools. Then I recall what dervish said to me about the quest for happiness or truth in life. Do I have to choose between the two? Do happiness and truth go in different directions or merge at some point?
Will my journey lead me to some truth one day? And if I become true to myself, would I become happier?
These are the questions, only a dervish can answer!