Somewhat discouraged, John and Edith move forward through the lightly forested area. They had helped the roaming tribe after the brutal robbery by local bandits, taking care of the wounded and collecting their belongings. The strongest men and women had slowed down the attackers, so that the rest could safely escape. There were quite a number of injuries, but without further serious consequences. The tribe leader apparently knew that bandits just looked for the goods, and avoided killing or serious injuries. That would only lead to vendettas and a pursuit by the authorities. The tribe lost some stuff, but fortunately nothing that couldn’t be replaced quickly. They gratefully accepted the help of John and Edith, but their proposal to move along together was kindly refused. John knew that these tribes are very much in themselves. Edith, however, was a little disappointed. The next day they moved on, knowing that they can not be caught by surprise from behind as the tribe follows them on a short distance.
After a few hours of tacitly walking, John and Edith suddenly hear the soft tones of a flute. It sounds a bit unreal after their experiences the day before, and astonished they look around. To their right they see a small path that seems to lead to the sound source. Ready for a break, and curious about the musician whose music dispels the heaviness from their minds, they decide to take a look. The path rises and changes into worn-out bare stone. A moment later a high rock wall appears before them, while the path branches to the left. Further on they see a clearing, with on the other side the flute player who, while looking at them cheerfully, continues his tune. In the wall John sees the dark opening of a cave. Apart from the remains of a fire, there is little to see. Next to the hermit, because according to John that’s what this man is, there are a few stones and trunks to sit on.
Amused, with a hand in her side, Edith watches the flute player. Despite his peaceful appearance, he still looks lively. Edith can not see any emotion or value judgment in his glistening eyes. Apparently he is doing well. The pieces of fabric and leather hanging around him hardly succeed in concealing his large figure, obviously something he absolutely doesn’t worry about. Yet no wealth can be found here. It seems as if all worldly values have vanished.
The flute player finishes his tune, and beckons them closer. While John and Edith are looking for somewhere to sit, he introduces himself as Will, and offers them something to drink. The fresh water tastes good. Will says, with a quick gesture in the direction they came from: “I have seen how you helped those people. Just like you, I could also hide myself in time for those robbers. Not that I have anything to fear, I possess nothing of value. Some of them I know from the old days, when they were children. It is unfortunate that they have chosen this violent way. But well, everyone is finding his own path, right? ”
John is a bit irritated. “Why don’t you report that to the authority? Then they’ll be arrested and punished! ”
“That makes little sense; those gangs will continue to exist anyway. As long as I know them, I may be able to influence them if it is really necessary.” Will sees the disapproval on John’s face. “I understand your feelings. But people will always join some group because they feel safe, or because there is more certainty about food and drinks, or simply because their partner was already connected. And there will always be different groups. Those who make something with their hands, such as peasants and artisans, those who try to take advantage of it, such as merchants and landlords, and those who take it away, like these gangs or armies from other countries. I do not change anything about that by denouncing two petty thieves. As long as their balance doesn’t end up in death and destruction, they must live with the disapproval of the rest of society, and the culture of violence and power in such a gang. They are always free to leave if they really want to. ”
Edith wants to know something else: “Could you have warned the tribe? And why didn’t you help us yesterday? ”
Will smiles. “In other words, why do I stand aside? Well, that’s my chosen life. Here I live from what nature and a casual visitors make available to me. THAT world is not MY world anymore. ” Edith wants to respond, but he’s not yet ready. “I tried to warn those people. But they don’t care much about hermits like me. Probably they thought I was too silly to be trusted, although I think their vigilance was increased, leading to less serious damage. But we will never know that, and it’s not important either. When I saw you so busy and efficient after the fight, it did not seem useful for me to also show up. Especially because they already were suspicious before. ”
John understands it. “Just like us, you decided to wait safely. Joining in with it wouldn’t help, and probably would give more problems. That may seem cowardly, but is perhaps the best thing you can do in some situations. By taking care of yourself, you will also be there for others later when it really matters. ”
Meanwhile, John lets his thoughts go fleetingly over the whole situation. Will does not look like a hermit with its convex beer belly, but otherwise this place carries all the signs of lonely habitation without urban influences. If you isolate yourself from the rest of the world, it’s also logical not to try to prevent such a conflict on your own. On the other hand, Will doesn’t bother to hide his existence. Good, his place of residence is not easy to find from the main road. He and Edith needed the flute tones to determine the direction. And that surprises him now: it seems as if Will has deliberately lured them both. In itself, that wasn’t necessary. “Why did you lure us here with your music? ”
In an approving gesture, Will puts up his right-hand thumb. “Sharp mind! I like that. You don’t have to be suspicious. I thought you looked a bit dejected after yesterday. A compliment seemed quite appropriate! ” Will packs his instrument into a carrying bag, almost unfortunate, as if he’d liked to have played a bit more for his guests, and takes a sip of water. “What you did there was a fine job, and you also respected the wishes of the tribal chief by not insisting on traveling together. Apart from that, I’m also curious where a single couple like you is heading for! ” Will looks at John and Edith, waiting. Edith doesn’t have the reserve or suspicion of her partner, and has no issues with someone trying to make them talk. So often she does that herself, curious as she is. She quickly summarizes that their journey is a quest for new experiences and life lessons because at home it all became too predictable and boring. That they leave some family and friends behind, but don’t have a problem with that. Will nods appreciatively while she talks. When she’s finished, he adds: “There is so much to discover, so much a person can enrich himself with. For this you have to let go of things every now and then and do not attach to property and trusted people too much. I hope that, after what you have left behind, you will not be tempted to commit yourself again to the new situation. That you keep looking for other experiences. ” After a while he resumes his monologue, while John and Edith listen attentively. “People always try to connect in groups, and in return get safety and security. Life is not easy always or for everyone. The annoying thing is that after a while such a group dominates your own person. You find yourself doing things that are good for others, but not for you. You will unconsciously ask questions about what makes sense and which rules and standards really matter. Most people chose to stay happy in their situation, because changing it costs a lot of energy. You have chosen to travel. I became a hermit. ”
John sees all kinds of stereotypical images of hermits come to the surface, but Will doesn’t seem to answer any of them. “And what do you do, all day, besides fulfilling the normal physical needs? Meditation? ”
Wil chuckles for the prejudices around his lifestyle. “You mean whether I take as good care of my mind as I do with my body? Yes of course! But in a different way than you might think. For me, meditation is the ultimate form of detaching yourself from addictions. Thoughts that used to tease me as a merchant I now leave out. Feelings of sadness to such a robbery and compassion with the wounded are no longer relevant. Stimulants like alcohol and smoking no longer determine the rhythm of my day. Through meditation I live in here and now, with everything I encounter. Meditation is no more than consciously experiencing every moment, ” Will moves his hands as to indicate consecutive phases, “and recognize the truth behind the truth behind the truth. You don’t have to be in a state of lucid dreaming while in a painful sitting position for hours. Then you miss too much of the life around you. ” He sees Edith’s confusion when he talks about truth. “Truth always has multiple meaning levels. With the same flower the truth is given for one by color and form, and for the other by the smell. We often talk to each other about our own, personal perception of reality, and then forget that someone else can and may have a different view! That is the cause of many misunderstandings and quarrels. The truth is like an onion with many peelings… To deal with it properly, you have to penetrate the core layer by layer, and only then communicate with others about it. That peeling off is an important aspect of meditation. And the best method to do so is to simply use all of your senses. You’ll notice that what we usually define as truth is just a minor and weak reflection of reality. ”
“Are you a kind of teacher or something? “Amused Edith looks at John, who is lost in thoughts again. “We used to have a friend, Joseph, and he also had that kind of wisdom. Only we never saw him meditate, or anything like that. “And then, with a sudden insight: ” Joseph had learned not only to look, but also to see! ” Her curiosity has not yet been satisfied. “How long have you been a recluse? You used to be a merchant, so why did you isolate yourself? That was not really necessary, was it? ” Will doubts for a moment, but then seeks a comfortable position to share his story.
Learn to watch to see.
Will talks about how, as a carpenter’s son, he was fascinated by the life of the merchants who came to their homes to inspect and buy his father’s work. The freedom was appealing, especially because of the financial buffer that always seemed to be available. Only later did he have to experience that there were also risks, and that a merchant could also lose money. But as a young man, he felt attracted by all traveling, with the opportunity to meet many people. He apprenticed himself to one of his father’s customers, an already older, childless man, who quietly taught him all the tricks of the trade. And Will was good at it, considering the prosperity growth of the business. Five years later, however, a fatal accident snatched his teacher away from life, and Will continued the business. To compensate the lack of a partner, he agreed to collaborate with a young and ambitious woman who next to a pub also ran a store. Thanks to Will’s trading efforts, this store quickly gained a good reputation due to the variety of products, in addition to the local specialties offered. Then unfortunately things started to go wrong.
“As a trader I knew how to deal with lots of different people. Only a small part of the trade ended up in the store; the majority of my earnings were in larger-scale projects. My partner, of course, mostly stayed with her business, and therefore she could not properly assess the wide world’s opportunities. I found out too late, but because of that she felt very vulnerable. ” Will stares a bit ahead, as if the whole scene is alive again. “At first I thought we might get married and have children. She did not have that infatuation yet, but I was convinced it would grow as soon as we were successful as a couple. I have learned through injury and shame that she actually is very narcissistic. All our success always was because of her, and I had only helped. Whatever I came back with, no matter which success I achieved, there was always criticism. Conversely, however, she could not tolerate any remark about her work. Eventually it led to regular discussions and differences of opinion. She also had to be praised for whatever she did, no matter how insignificant. She gained that attention actively, by making everyone aware of her actions and feelings. People in the city know her, so everyone just said ‘Toppie! Well done! You’re really great!’, and then left the store as quickly as possible. She didn’t notice that. If at all she said something good about someone else, it was always with such a sarcastic comment that it had cost her money, or that with her help the result would have been better. Although she used to put herself in such situations, in her world view others always claimed her attention, so that she never had time for herself. It took me a long time to recognize that only one feeling matters to her: being important and indispensable, be thanked and loved by everyone, while it feels like a granted favor if she shares an occasional positive judgement. She has no idea how others really look at her, and I don’t think she is open to that either. Now that I look back, I know that such a person actually begs for attention and needs help. But at that time, this bloated self-image struck me so badly, that I just took off without a penny and left everything behind. ”
“I then experienced a period of misery. Doubted to myself, to humanity, to the meaning of life. Luckily there were a few acquaintances who understood how the fork was sitting, despite the opinion of my ex-partner, and in the beginning they helped me with food, shelter and the most necessary things. I gave them some business advice in return. During those days, weeks, I thought a lot about what I had seen and experienced, and I noticed that I was getting more and more distance from daily life. It was as if I looked at everything from a hilltop, and more and more learned how all things fitted together. I also became aware of the futility of repetitive games people play. I think that was when the idea of becoming a hermit began to mature. It has taken a while, and in the beginning I mainly traveled around. After a while I returned to my homeland, and settled here. Life is good for me. Sometimes someone comes along for a chat, some advice or just to bring a tool. Usually I’m simply here in the area, working on the truth behind the truth, behind … “. Wil falls silent. John and Edith know there’s no need to say anything. They recognize much of what Will told them as a reason for their own trek. They don’t know such a self-centered person, but it’s shocking to see how someone’s unconscious behavior is so disastrous for another. Without saying anything, Edith takes some bread and cheese from their knapsack, and divides it. In silence they enjoy the lunch together, in the shadow of a warm afternoon sun.