Into The Fog
Naizhan belongs to an ancient tribe, and occupies a privileged position, being the grandson of the king of the tribe. His grandfather had named him Naizhan when he was 90 days old, and thus had declared him to be ‘the warrior hero’. Naizhan had been brought up by his grandfather, who had taken him under his wing at the age of two, when Naizhan’s father, the king’s son, had been killed in a hunting accident. Naizhan was now the heir to the throne, and had grown up in the lap of luxury. The islands ruled by his grandfather were breathtakingly beautiful, and luxuriant with flora and fauna. The tribe was happy, living in harmony with each other, under the watchful, but kind, rule of their king.
There was only one thing that the tribe feared. Some miles away from the islands, in the middle of the sea, was a very thick bank of fog. Strangely, the fog had never lifted, and though none of the tribesmen had been able to see what lay beyond the fog, the tribesmen knew that whoever attempted to enter the fog, would not return. The ancients of the tribe spoke in hoarse whispers of the foolish warrior who had ignored all their warnings, and had attempted to enter the fog many, many years ago. They recalled that a few moments after the warrior had entered the bank of fog, there had been heard a tremendously loud sound, which had struck terror in their brave hearts. Had it been the roar of a monster? The thunder of the gods as they punished the warrior? They could only guess. Since then, the king and his ministers had declared that whoever wished to enter the fog bank, would do so at their own risk, but that they could neither be helped or aided by anyone. It was further commanded that in order to ensure that others were not tempted to do the same, no one was permitted to watch them go. The only ones exempt from this rule were the king, permitted male members of the royal family, and two senior most ministers.
Naizhan had a not-very-clear memory of someone having attempted this when he had been very young. He recalled that it had been an old, dying man, who had, since his youth, been considered a maverick by some, and a mad man by others. This man had declared that he wished to enter the fog because, he reasoned, he was going to die very soon in any case, and desired to see what this fog really was. Due to his very old and infirm state, the tribal medicine man was allowed, by the king, to be present when the old man left, and watch him go. Young Naizhan had hidden behind some large rocks, and had witnessed the scene. He had seen the small, lone, canoe, and the old man straining to paddle. At first the boat moved very slowly, and soon the doctor had turned around and left the shore. Naizhan was alone. He waited, even though he feared the punishment he would have to face if were caught breaking the king’s command. Some of the memories were hazy now, but Naizhan remembered that he had seen the boat suddenly gain speed, and then disappear into the fog. He had heard that thunderous sound, and for many weeks Naizhan would hear that sound, and wake up sweating. But, somehow he knew that these were not mere nightmares.
Naizhan had just celebrated his 50th birthday. He was happy with his life, but something was missing. His wife had died two years ago, and his sons were living with their wives in their own homes. Within him was an empty space that demanded his attention. Within him were questions he had never dared to voice to anyone, but which often kept him awake at night. Naizhan wondered from time to time, “What is this restlessness when life has given me so many privileges?” Deep within, Naizhan knew the answer. “I have to enter that bank of fog.” But he would quell this thought as soon as it arose. He had a responsibility to his grandfather, who had nurtured him, and taught him, and respected him as his heir. “My grandfather is very old, and I have to take over as king. If I go into that fog bank, I know I shall not return. What a betrayal that would be. How can I cause my dear grandfather so much pain?” With each passing month, the struggle intensified.
Naizhan shared this with no one. He hoped that with time the battle within would abate. But this was not to be. In fact, just the reverse. One day, as he sat by the water’s edge, he felt as though the ocean was talking to him. “Once you are king, you shall not be able to do what your soul desires. The time is fast approaching when you shall be king. Naizhan, you must make your choice now.” He also heard the wise words that his grandfather had drilled into him when he was a child, and though he knew that the king had not been talking of the fog at all, the words seemed to fit this moment perfectly. “Naizhan, remember you are limited only by your limitations. You can go only as far as your fear shall allow you. Challenge your limits.”
Naizhan made his choice.
He did not tell a soul.
Two days later he walked to the farthest point of the main island, an isolated place, and began to carve out a small canoe. It took him many days because Naizhan could not be absent for long periods, and chance his grandfather or his sons asking him questions that would require him to lie. Often tears would stop him from working, and many times he came close to hugging his sons, and his grandfather, and asking them for forgiveness for what he was about to do.
One day the canoe was ready. Naizhan did not sleep at all that night. He walked all around the island, as though willing himself to remember every single detail. He stood outside the homes of his sons, and prayed deeply for their wellbeing, blessing them with all the love he had in his heart. Silently he stood for several minutes by the bedside of his grandfather, tears streaming down his face. He asked himself, “This is so painful for me. Do I really want to do this?” Naizhan knew that the answer was ‘yes’.
When dawn began to break, Naizhan pushed the canoe into the water, too pained to look back even briefly, and began to paddle towards the bank of fog. When he neared the bank, the boat began to move quickly, and Naizhan did not need to exert any effort to row. “I’m caught in a current. The current is taking me towards the fog. Finally, I shall know.” Naizhan was excited. Excited, but also scared. “Maybe the ancients are right. Have I been stupid? This current could pull me into a deadly whirlpool.” Naizhan could not fight the strong current, and the fear in him rose sharp and acrid. In this moment all he wanted was to return to the safety of the island. But, he knew this was not to be.
Thick white fog surrounded Naizhan. He could not have seen his hand even if it had been in front of his face. There was nothing around him but the blinding fog. It seemed as though he could not breathe any more. Then suddenly he heard that familiar clap of thunder, and there was bright light all around. The fog had vanished. He was alive! The sea was a beautiful blue, and on the far bank he could see thousands of people cheering for him, yelling in celebration, urging him towards the shore.
One more warrior had returned home. One more victor had challenged his limits.
Only now did Naizhan look back. He saw nothing, but it seemed that out of the fog he heard his grandfather's voice, “Remember, you are limited only by your limitations. You can go only as far as your fear shall allow you. Challenge your limits. Conquer yourself.”
(Inspired by a parable of Kryon)