Once there was a traveller who walked halfway across the world. Each time he got to where he thought he should have been going, he looked back too see shadows of his former selves following behind, and he felt very satisfied because he seemed stronger and wiser than before. Pleased, he pressed on through deep valleys and across wide plains until one day the trees and the people began to look familiar again. A scent drifted toward him on the wind, and it made a long forgotten part of him stir and swim. He followed it to the footsteps of a ramshackle house where he saw a woman bent over a pot, stirring it. She was humming a song he’d heard as a child, a song his mother had sung on long blue evenings.
Every river finds the sea,
Every leaf drifts to the ground.
One day you’ll remember me,
But my shadow won’t be found.
The strains of this turnkey song opened something inside him. He realised that he’d walked all the way around the world in his lifetime, only to end up where he’d started – decades older. The shadows of himself that had been following him across the world caught up to him then. They seemed to descend upon him all at once, the grace and the arrogance and the futility of them pressed down on him with equal weight. He could see the sum of his life’s suffering and striving, and it was beautiful and holy, but utterly ephemeral. And realising this, he soon died.
Back and forth for eighty years
Some were sweet, a few were bright.
Tell me were they worth the tears?
Tell me how to face the night.