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25 May 2016

(Alnnasik) الناسك

The hermit

Photo by Marta Santos
Once upon a time there was a hermit sitting at a crossroads.

He was not a very old man, just old enough to have whitened hair and beard... but still young enough to be able to carry on his back a big rock which accompanied him day and night.

The hermit was looking at the path on the right, western side, and sighed. To the eastern side, he was looking at the path on his right and sighed again.

An owl and a snail living in the place had been gazing at him for several weeks, till they finally decided to speak to him.

In a dark night when the moon had fled from the skyline, the owl started a conversation with that man, choosing the moment he seemed to be completely lost among the stars he wistfully watched.

"You have been dwelling in these settings for thirty nights. What is it that makes you stand for the bitterly cold nights in this place, that makes you bear the suffocating heat and the rain without putting you out from here? Is there anything you are looking for?"

The man, sitting on the grass, slightly moved away his body sized wrapping hood from the mouth and uncovered it.

"Time ago, I was looking for something. But I am afraid I have forgotten what it was."

The hermit, still lying, turned back to conclude his answer. However the owl, buffled, continued the conversation.

"How can a man forget what he is looking for?"

The man remained silent for a while, doubtful. Then he decided to pronounce his thoughts.

"It is difficult to explain. It was something very important to me. In fact I have gone through fields and desserts to be able to find it. But one day, for no reason, this stone appeared on my back." The hermit pointed at the rock standing beside him. "Since then, walking became a harder task for me. Days became a hard, restless struggle to move on, and little by little my steps slowed down. Till I reached this crossroads and did not know which one I should take to continue my search. The weight of the rock was unbearable and I had to sit and take some rest. I have been thinking over which one I should follow since then."

The owl bended its feathery head.

"And you have not decided yet?"

The man sighed.

"Every morning I will lay the heavy rock on my back. Then I look into the path on my right and I consider it to be a bad idea following that direction. After that I look into the path on my left and I judge it madness following that way. The rock becomes heavier and heavier and I just keep waiting for the dark night to return, to be able to discharge it from my back and lay it on the ground by my side while I sleep."

"And why don't you get rid of that rock? Leave it in this place and go ahead with your search. Whatever path you choose, to the right or to the left, will take you somewhere. But if you do not make a decision, you will stay here forever, absorbed, full of doubts."

The hermit sit up. Lying sit there on the ground, he started to caress the stony block.

"I have been carrying it for a long time. It has become my partner in the road. I don’t know what it is like to live without it anymore. I think I will not be able to reach any place if I don’t carry it."

"You will never reach any place if you continue carrying it with you." The owl muttered more for itself than for the hermit, who remained abstracted watching his heavy rocky companion.

The owl left flying away and the day came, after a few hours. With daylight, the small snail emerged from the grass. It had been silent listening to the nighttime conversation between the bird and the man.

"Maybe I could help you." The tiny gastropod whispered. The hermit, already carrying the rock on his back, had to make an effort to guess from where the voice came.

"Why do you say that?" He asked.

"I have been listening to your conversation with the owl. I am also carrying my house on my back." The mollusc continued to say. "But my case is different. I have chosen a light house, which is useful for shelter when the weather is not good. It also protects me and helps me in the way. But you are carrying a stone which doesn't help you at all. It is destroying your back with uprising cruelty every day, it doesn't let you walk and doesn't stop the rain, the snow or the heat from exhausting your insides. Tell me, which goals did you acquire since you are carrying that heavy load over your shoulders?"

The hermit watched the horizon with empty eyes. He knew he had obtained no achievement since the rock was accompanying him. Only looking to the right, at dawn, and to the left at sunset… and sighing.

"Nothing would change even if I layed it on the ground and left it there abandoned. I don't know which one of these two paths I should follow."



"You have to try." The snail insisted. "Leave the rock on the ground and try to choose your path then."

The man hesitated. He looked at the stone, he felt so close to it that he could not leave it. He looked at the snail and the curiosity to know the result of following its words was stronger than his own will.

Then he laid it on the ground.

The freeing and releasing of pain he felt at that moment were colosal. He watched both paths, and both looked wonderful to him. He chose the one on the left and started walking. If finally one day he discovered it was going nowhere, heen he would return to the crossroads and would choose the path on the right.

If the blame we carry is light, it may help us continue our way in times of turmoil.

But the blame, when it is heavy, becomes a stone which conceals the understanding and stops us from moving ahead.


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