The fifteenth day of the crossing – sailing on no water

Daybreak. Seated on the sand with a cup of fresh coffee in my hand, I watched the caravanner training his hawk. It was fascinating to see that the bird would always return with a prey, despite the aridness of the desert. The keen eyes of the bird could find something where unprepared eyes saw nothing. As soon as the hawk alighted on the thick leather glove the caravanner wore on the left hand and forearm, I stood up to prepare myself for that day’s crossing. While I was putting the saddlebag on the camel, I listened to the small talk of a group of traders who were also in the caravan, on their way to the oasis. One of them, quite young, said he expected soon to be able to buy a nice house in a pleasant district of Marrakesh, and then he could propose to his girlfriend. He added he needed a good place to raise the kids they planned on having together. Another said he hadn’t taken time off for a long time; he was tired and needed to time to rest. However, he could only go on vacation after opening a rug store in the city’s central market, an endeavor he had dreamed about for a long time, to be able to provide their children with a good education at fine schools. A third merchant, an older man who also participated in the conversation, said that despite owning a number of stores, he also hadn’t taken time off for a long time, and when he did, he intended to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He was waiting for his son to return from abroad, where he was studying at a university, to take over the family business. He claimed he did not trust anyone else. Once everyone was packed, the caravan got set to leave. Much to my surprise, who aligned her camel to mine was Ingrid, the astronomer with whom I had had a falling-out the previous day. Her being next to me made my heart happy. 

Soon we started to talk. I told her the conversation of the traders I had overheard and said how baffled I was by the fact that people are always waiting for a future event in order to do what they believe will make them happy. She asked me what I would do when I returned from the oasis, after meeting the wise dervish (who “knew many secrets of heaven and Earth”). I told her this is difficult to say, because I had no idea of what was going to happen. I confessed that deep down I expected to do something that would transform me. Ingrid asked if I needed to be with the wise dervish to change the course of my life, if I so wished. I was bothered by her questioning. I told her I had already undergone pivotal transformations in the course of my existence. I also revealed that I had a medical degree but had abandoned my practice to work in advertisement. I added that I had done this when I realized my gift was not to heal, but to create. I also said that I had been sad and lost at that time. Getting to know the Order had been essential for the changes I had to do. She disagreed. She said that the changes should be ripe within me, even if subconsciously. The experience of being in the monastery just made it easier for them to flourish. Ingrid said that just like the conversation of the traders, waiting for an event to make the changes we deem necessary was a mistake. I reasoned that we are not always able to do what we want, and that yes, sometimes we have to wait for something that is beyond our reach.

I asked her what she planned to do when the caravan returned, after having studied the constellation she wanted to, visible only from the oasis. The astronomer said that if her suspicions were confirmed, she would write a paper about it. And she would keep on teaching. She would apply for a teaching position at the university as soon as one opened, for which she had been studying hard. I said that, like all people, she also expected something without which she could not carry out the changes she intended in her life. Ingrid disagreed. She explained there is a difference between situations that are beyond our choices and those that are within our reach, but that we delay because of fear, selfishness or ignorance about one’s own power of transformation. Understanding when we are before one situation or the other was an act of wisdom. And of courage. 

I argued that she was being contradictory; the astronomer denied. She then told me she started her professional career as a researcher at the observatory of her town. She followed a study plan the coordinator of her team had designed. After a few years, she felt her job had become boring, because it was limited to confirming knowledge already consolidated by science. She said hers was an important effort, as all work is, but it was not her gift. Her gift, she added, was to discover, break new ground and then share the new knowledge. This what motivated her, what made her jump out of bed every day and made her life exciting. Hence, resolved about the transformation she had to undergo, despite the contrary opinion of some people close to her, she quit her job at the observatory and went on a trip to Antarctica, to observe a particular nebula visible only from the South Pole. Once she was back, she sent a paper reporting her findings to a scientific journal. After a few months, despite the uncertainties, there was no regret. Her heart had told her she had done the right thing, going in pursuit of her dream. The article was published and was well-received. Because of that, she had been invited to join the faculty of a university, where she now taught. She added she loved teaching because it allowed her also to do research and disseminate knowledge. I said she was lucky, because she could be unemployed, undergoing severe hardships. She shook her head, agreeing that yes, that could have happened. However, she accepted the risk and its ensuing outcomes. There was a risk of things going wrong. However, the chance of being happy and living her dream through her gift was also a possibility. So, she made her choice, and she did it because she wanted to change the course of her existence. There is always a possibility of choice, almost always far from the ideal conditions of existence, when one wants to transform their own life. However, the ideal conditions are not in the world, but in you. She explained that because this was an internal change in a sacred place, no one except yourself can do it, or prevent you from doing it; better yet, you have permission to create whatever you want, as much as you want.

Even though somehow Ingrid’s words had disturbed me, the conversation was interesting. Until that, much to my amazement and without believing what my eyes saw, the caravan came across a ship stranded in the middle of the desert, thousands of kilometers away from the sea. The caravanner said we would make a stop at that point for a brief rest and the light meal we used to have in the middle of the day. All the members of the caravan, even the more experienced ones, were astonished with that unlikely sight. I heard another traveler who went often to the oasis to visit relatives that, in the previous year, they had found the ship in a different spot than where we were now. This fact, according to this traveler, was a proof that the ship was not stranded, but kept sailing, even if not on the water. “Mystery” was the most spoken word at that moment of wonderment.

We took dozens of pictures of the ship, so that no one put in doubt the story we would tell back home. I mentioned to Ingrid that even with the pictures many of my friends would not believe our report. The astronomer smiled and said that it was hard for she herself to believe her eyes. Then she said she was hungry and was going to grab something to eat. Alone, I moved away to take a picture from a distance, a broader, panoramic view of the ship, when I came across the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes sitting on the sand, silently, watching everything from afar. I asked if I could come closer. She nodded in permission and, with her chin, pointed to where I should sit, next to her. We kept watching that absurd ship for some time, until I asked her if she knew anything about that mystery. The woman explained: “The ship is part of the legends of the desert.” I said that was a fictional story, whereas the ship was in front of me; it was real. Without paying heed to my comment, as if reality was ordinarily colored with the paints of the unreal, she continued: “As the legend goes, there was an intrepid sailor who, from a young age, was embarked on this ship. His dream was to travel to a faraway port, called Morserus, because of a dream he had one night. According to the dream, upon disembarking in Morserus, he would find fortune and the woman of his life. There, he would find the happiness he longed for. Because he was just a mere sailor, subject to the orders of the captain, he could not sail to his desired destination. With the passing of the years, he became the ship’s captain. He could then sail to where his dream had indicated he should go. However, he now had other, more important responsibilities. He either had a cargo he had to deliver at some distant point of the planet, or the weather conditions were unfavorable. There was always the risk of fierce storms and sinking. Time had passed. This captain kept the ship undisturbedly sailing on the seas of the world as much as his existence allowed, but he never reached Morserus.” 

“He never knew what awaited him at this enchanted port. Even though he kept this dream to himself, he never forgot it. He gave himself the excuse that he had never had the suitable conditions to travel to his port of dreams, and convinced himself that dreams are nonsense, for those who do not understand life’s responsibilities. He prided himself on being a serious man who abided by his duties. However, without understanding why, little by little his joy withered, be became grumpier and grumpier, and at each passing day life was losing some of its zest. He became pessimistic. Not standing the bitterness of the captain, the crew abandoned the ship. Alone, the captain sailed to another world.”

I interrupted her to say it is not wrong to be responsible and carry out one’s duties. I added that, in esoteric terms, life does not happen when one reaches the port but during the journey. The woman nodded in agreement: “Yes, this is true. However, dreams are essential, they excite the soul. Duties and responsibilities do not annul dreams, just the opposite, they set the dreams in motion. It is not enough only to sail, one must know the destination; it is not enough just to undertake a journey, one must know its purpose. Or else we will be adrift and will never reach the port.”

I argued that, many a time, dreams are but delusions. The woman agreed with me once again and explained: “Delusions are about desires of greatness typical of a dominating self. The dreams reveal all that is essential for the soul to be liberated. To distinguish one from the other defines the course we will set for the ship, if it is towards Morserus or if we will navigate in circles.”

I remained silent for a while looking at the ship. The woman with blue eyes was right. Among the many toils of existence, it was necessary to find room and time to live our dreams. I told her it was a beautiful legend, which contained a fine lesson, but it is one not easy to accomplish, either for lack of conditions or courage. The woman smiled in face of my hurried conclusion and said: “The story isn’t over. Do you want to know how it ends?” I said yes and asked her to continue. The woman obliged: “When he reached the other world, a place next to the stars, the good spirits brought the captain and the ship back. But now he has to learn how to sail on no water, through the sands of desert, to learn that each one sets their own conditions to pursue their dream. Only then, one day, we will all reach Morserus.” 

She looked deep into my eyes and added: “When we go in pursue of our dream, we are in sync with our soul. Our soul is attuned with the soul of the world. Then it shelters, protects and illuminates us to that we can sail to the destination that is waiting for us.”

I looked again at the unlikely ship that had sailed on the desert, enchanted with the details of the legend. When I turned to talk to the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes, I smiled to myself at the situation that kept repeating itself: she was no longer at my side.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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