“ Nobody can build the bridge for you to walk across the river of life, no one but you yourself alone. There are, to be sure, countless paths and bridges and demigods which would carry you across this river; but only at the cost of yourself; you would pawn yourself and lose. There is in the world only one way, on which nobody can go, except you: where does it lead? Do not ask, go along with it.”
As a spin-off from the post yesterday, i share another of Nietzsche’s philosophical nuggets. For some reason the quote above is intertwined in my mental universe with two other random threads.
The first is a dialogue from that much-watched-and-loved old TV series ‘Star Trek’ that had struck me as pretty profound even when i first saw the episode (some may laugh at the thought, but sometimes you do come across gems even in popular culture!!) In that particular episode, one of the many alien species the Enterprise-crew encounters, talks of the loneliness of the human condition. The full episode is a hazy memory, but i do remember that the alien who lacks a physical form is for some reason sharing the body of everyone’s-favourite Mr Spock. (Have to acknowledge here that thanks to Google i found the name of the episode which is, ‘Is There No Truth No Beauty’ and also the actual quote!!) The combined entity remarks:
“How compact your bodies are. And what a variety of senses you have. This thing you call…language though – most remarkable. You depend on it, for so very much. But is any one of you really its master? But most of all, the loneliness. You are so alone. You live your lives in this…shell of flesh. Self-contained. Separate. How lonely you are. How terribly lonely.”
Truly we are alone in that sense, all by ourselves with our thoughts of our experiences, of our doubts and fears, of our feelings and emotions…all whirling about in a space no one, however close the person may be, can ever penetrate.
The second thread is a parable my mother-in-law often shared and talked about, a simple story that illustrates a universal truth…for each one of us, the trials and tribulations we face are ultimately ours alone to deal with. You can’t pass it on to another nor can you fully share someone else’s The tale was about a man who was so overwhelmed one day by his unending problems, that he went to his ‘spiritual-guru’ and implored him for help. He recounted his entire litany of woes from issues relating to his family, his business, even his health, to his master and asked for some solution that would ameliorate his suffering. The benevolent guru took pity on his sorry state of affairs and since the man was one of his devout followers, told him that he would relieve him from his ‘bundle of sorrows’ but it could only be a temporary measure for a week. All he had to do was leave his ‘bundle’ in a huge room that was lined with countless other such packages. The master asked him to go and enjoy his carefree life for a week and then come back. When the happy soul returned after a week all buoyed up and smiling, the master instructed him to go back to the room and pick up any one ‘bundle’ which he felt was lighter than his. The man went in and after many hours came out saddened but much wiser. ‘O Master!’ he said, ‘i have picked up my bundle again for it was the lightest of all. The sufferings of others seem so much worse than mine. Henceforth i shall never complain for i have now understood that my burden is mine alone and to lighten it all i need is the strength to bear it with grace.’
And so we live out our human existence hovering between two realms…an outer and an inner. The outer world of sensory perceptions is crowded with others~people, places, objects, experiences. Here we are ‘social’ beings forever in communication. The inner universe is a solo, alone space hidden from the prying eyes of others. It’s a storehouse of our secrets, our sentiments, our memories. And here we are not social but ’solitary’ beings, internalising the outer experience and struggling with our own inner demons. To be a master of that inner domain is to master the art of equanimity and being at peace with the world and yourself.