Illusion / Delusion

In a bedroom, first light shines through closed windows– a morning sun. There is a bed, upon which lies a 17 year old girl. She moves lightly. Beside her is a diary. It is open. The diary is empty, except for two entries, dated Tuesday 13th October and Wednesday 14th October. The handwriting is neat, though not without a few smudges, with the handwriting slightly cramped on the second entry. There is stillness in the air.

Tuesday 13th October

 Most people have an epiphany that lasts moments, maybe a few minutes if they are lucky. Mine lasted for one day.

Yesterday I woke up and immediately realised that today would be a day like no other. I could practically feel the beauty of the world pressing in my windows. This was no random feeling of wellbeing, rather I felt like I had suddenly realised why people paint pictures of trees, children and other every day objects and call them beautiful.

School was like any other normal day, except that I was able to realise all those things I wanted to. Those decisions that you make subconsciously were tangible and apparent to me. I participated in class as normal, but this time with the knowledge that this was not all there was for me.

Teachers spend years telling you about your potential, how you can become what ever you want, how you can grow and blossom into being a beautiful, articulate person. Today was the first time I believed it. I saw that those millions of tiny things that add up over time do matter, but that the beauty is that we don’t realise we are deciding.

I have the freedom to choose not to participate. In those classes, I saw many different futures laid before me – I could travel, I could study, I could work. Equally, I saw the less conventional ones, leaving school, becoming an artist or even choosing to become a young single mother so that when my daughter grew up I would be close enough to her age. They were all there, and while the possibilities were not endless, there were enough for me to feel genuinely excited. 

I realised that the beauty in life is choosing when to participate – sometimes you need to step back, but today I was fully involved. I could sense something special about the paths I could take. It did not matter that I did not know which one I would go down, but it did matter that I realised that each one would bring its own challenges, troubles and beauty. It was exhilarating.

Even in the evening with my parents, the usual conversation over dinner inspired me.

I was able to see my parents for what they were. I was able to see them as two wonderful people who had committed so much of their life to raising me. But I saw beyond that. They too had their own lives with their own paths that they were on.

My mother had many ambitions but so little time; my father had ambitions too, but so little money. I realised that my parents were just like me, only a little further down the path. Indeed – I felt almost as if they were on the same path, just disappearing over the horizon, almost out of sight but not quite.

At 17, I feel for the first time alive. The excitement I feel is refreshing. I have many choices to make, and no doubt some bad decisions. However, I know now that these decisions will only reflect my disposition at the time and I will embrace the outcomes with an honest positive attitude because there is so much still to see.

There is no illusion here – the potential laid before me makes me, for the first time ever, feel truly alive and able to be part of a wonderful world.

Good Night – may the next day bring with it life’s great challenges

Wednesday 14th October

The challenges I faced today were all part of the path. The path throws random events in our way. Overcoming them is meant to be rewarding, and it is in some respects.

All the distractions that we face on a daily basis do nothing to contribute to the ultimate beauty of the world. These distractions serve only to distance our appreciation of the over all beauty. Peel away the distractions and you get closer to the beauty.

Then again, why do we want to? Why chose to remove the distractions? What is there to see beneath them?

Yes there are horrors in the world, but there are also reasons not to proceed. We feel we can choose what to do, but we can’t.

The only choice we truly have is to whether or not distract our selves from reality. And the reality is the fact that the world goes on without you. People go on without you.

Listening to my teachers made me realise that they were training me to participate in a world that prizes distraction over understanding – jobs, entertainment, socialising – they all serve to obscure clarity.

And I am sick of it. I don’t want my reality hidden. So today, I looked deeper – I looked at the great below.

I saw that the great below was nothing but a shallow, cruel existence. There exists a dispassionate procession of simple facts. There is no absolute purpose of the world, so to give us purpose, we invent distractions.

I can chose not to participate in the distractions, but the maddening thing is I cannot chose not to participate in the true reality, save for one option.

I have to have the ability to chose – today I realised that the last ultimate choice is to choose not to participate.

I have reread my entry for Tuesday, and maybe things would be different if the two days happened in reverse order, but I am resolved.

There is no point, only distractions. This is not delusion – this is a realisation. It is a realisation I feel fortunate to have made – I can leave the world of my own volition. I am a beautiful person, but only on the surface. To the great below, I am a nothing, and that is all that matters.

Good Night – may the next life bring greater challenges.

As the first light streams through the windows, the young girl breathes once and then no more. The knife drops to the floor, the bed sheets stained through with blood. The diary lies still, before the pages flicker over to the next day.

Miles To Go

The woods are lovely, dark and deep…

Walking home never bothered James much – he always enjoyed the moments of isolation at the end of a day. Working as a barista did give James plenty of time to think, but he always appreciated being able to escape from the people during that half hour walk home.

As ever, James had two choices. The first was to take the main road towards his small flat, the faster route for sure, and do his best to ignore the cars, the people and the lives that were going on around him. The second route was more indirect – a short walk uphill, cutting through the Belfast Castle’s grounds. This route added a good 20 minutes onto his journey home, but apart from the occasional hill walker; he was unlikely to run into anyone.

‘It all begins with choice’, James thought to himself, smiling & echoing the line mentioned in one of his favourite movies. James turned right and walked up towards the castle grounds. He glanced at his watch, November 21st, 707pm.

It was raining, as it usually does in Belfast at this time of the year. James never minded the rain – he often found it relaxing, even purifying after a days work. Walking up the hill, leaving the city behind him, his CD player blocking out any residual noise, he smiled to himself and toyed with his mobile phone and keys in his pocket of his coat. The wind ruffled his shoulder length, dirty blond hair – tied back into a pony tail.

As a person, James was prone to daydreaming – his girlfriend often told him so. However, she often mistook his day dreams for someone who could not concentrate – even lacking in true ambition. James would have told you this was unfair. Indeed, he could focus, but he found letting his mind wander was his way of mental exercise and it allowed him to explore all those thoughts and emotions that he enjoyed.

He approached the gates to the Castle and waited to cross the road, his black jeans and coat rendering him barely visible in the jet black night. He looked up and noticed that it was a perfectly clear sky. Before crossing the road, he glanced at his watch – 713pm.

He’d probably be home by 730.

James crossed the road and stepped over the threshold to the castle grounds.

Looking around, the first thing James noticed was the Castle looming over him, silhouetted by the numerous flood lights. This stood high up, off to his right, nestled in the foot of the hill. Once a proud sentry looking out over Belfast Lough, the docks and the city, it was now two things – part tourist destination, part restaurant. He sighed, thinking that so many things were transformed into tools of distraction.

James took the left hand path and walked steadily uphill, first on the public footpath, then taking the slightly muddied track that eventually wound its way round to the castle, but for now just meandered upwards. The trees gradually grew thicker, the path steeper and he turned off his CD player. He stopped. Utter stillness and silence, except for the trees swaying slightly and his breathing greeted him. This silence, he thought was nature at its finest – pure and beautiful.

He looked around and could just about make out the details on the tree’s large stumps – the moon penetrated the canopy slightly. It was dark, deep and beautiful. It never failed to amaze him how just 5 minutes off the main road there was this other world, fragile and transformed by people, but still retaining its original natural charm and beauty. He often felt overwhelmed by it. He looked around and saw the near by rock that marked the next diversion of the footpath, and sat down.

Directly ahead of him was the path to his house – to his distractions and life.

To his right, the path into the mountain and the woods.

To his left, the way he came.

It all begins with choice’ he thought again. He glanced at his watch – it was 717pm.

James stood up and turned to the right and began walking, slowly at first, gradually getting faster.

He turned on his CD Player.

He thought about, first of all, his girlfriend… He thought how much she meant to him, about how he couldn’t explain it, but how he’d felt like he had always known, from the first second, that he thought they’d be together. He knew that he hadn’t always been able to be honest with her – that he caused several of their fights due to his own coldness (or was it… being too dramatic?)… he knew, all at once, those things he wanted to tell her but never knew how… how he had sometimes struggled with his own past, with her past but ultimately all that mattered was the future…

He realised that he was not just a distraction to her – he realised that he mattered to her, and she to him. He had, for the first time in his life, no hesitations…

James sped up, running now – he could hear the wind whipping around him, his pony tail now totally undone… he thought about his family, his life and how he had perpetually disappointed his parents – but realised that he hadn’t disappointed them as such.

They just wanted the best for him – he realised that they were just disappointed that hewasn’t happy, not that he was who he was…

He thought… about the people he cared about the most, his close friends, how he hated that he could never really understand why he needed them, how so much of what they said and did was superficial…

He realised that this was the point of friendship – they give your life meaning through just being there for you – reflecting all those things you don’t like back on you. They care for you, judge you, give you company, but they don’t do it unrequited – they need that judgement back. He understood that, they ask for advice because they need it back at some point – it was beautiful… and honest.

He ran, at full pace, sweat soaking his back, the rain beginning to seep through his coat and jeans. He was now high enough in the mountains to be able to look over Belfast. He thought of all the pointless lives, mindlessness of the distractions…

Yet what he saw was a city beautiful in its night time intensity. He understood that all the distractions that he took for granted were there, not to distract him from the monotony of life, but to share with those people he loved. It was in sharing that that he could realise the importance, and value, of being alive.

Sometimes, he thought, as his heart pounded, it took isolation to see this.

With feet pounding on the uneven surface, he turned a blind corner and realised that, only in the isolation of the woods could he understand the truth – sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to turn around…

Slowly, despite his quick pace, the castle came into view. James turned his music up – and gazed at the castle- it gazed back; judging him, with a cold intensity.

The castle reflected everything he felt – created for one purpose, now nothing but an idle distraction and pointless existence in the world. The Castle hung for a moment, standing against the night sky like a cold beacon.

He ran… ran until his muscles burned and his veins pumped battery acid… and then he ran harder…

His clothes were totally soaked through – sweat mixed with rain water, his hair was plastered to his head. He was being cleansed, both by the rain and intense concentration that the run had given him – it was if a cold fury had forced him to push & punish himself.

James sprinted past the castle, turned right and ran down the hill, the Castle looming behind. Instead of being judged by it, he turned his own gaze inward…

James realised, that the only person who can truly judge him is himself – and that this was the first step to freedom.

He realised that he was not merely the sum of his choices – he was much more – he was his potential. He was everything he could become but never would. He was, all the thoughts he had but never followed through – in essence, he was a human, but he was also an independent being who sets his own standards of success.

James realised that his job did not define him – nor did his own self loathing that he sometimes had when he looked backwards at everything he had, and had not, done.

Instead of realising what he was not, he realised what he was.

He realised that he was someone who could love people, someone who could share things, someone who had the chance to make mistakes – and then make up for them. He realised that the beauty of his own existence was not in succeeding, but having the opportunity to fail and succeed.

James ran. He looked at the entrance to the grounds, for the second time this evening having done a full loop of the grounds, the castle well behind him.

The woods are dark, deep, lovely and he was about 30 seconds from his starting point and yet he felt like there were miles to go.

Running, maintaining the steady sprint and not tiring, he was on the last approach to his starting point and he realised one last thing.

James realised that he was not alone. He was not alone in the world – despite not always being able to express himself, he was not alone. He was able to see the beauty of life for what it was, and where he fitted in.

As he ran up the final hill – tears now mixed with the rain and sweat. James looked upon himself, sitting on the stone. Looking up the path that he had just ran.

This time, there was no choice. He had ran the path and realised that it begins with choice, but ends with decision.

James looked stood up and looked at the sky, thinking about all the things he had realised. There was only one decision for it – he looked straight down the path towards his house and his own life.

There may well be miles to go.

The woods may well be dark, deep & lovely.

However, he realised that this time, when he ran through the woods, he would be doing it on his terms, only being judged by himself, making his own decisions.

He walked down the path, towards his life, not afraid what was behind him.

End