Once upon a time, or, at least long enough ago to place this story conveniently beyond memory, there was a woman residing in a nondescript, coastal hamlet, who found herself, in the words of her therapist, at a moment of existential uncertainty. Her priest said it was a crisis of faith. She had hoped to blame her ennui on general neurosis, which at that time was still considered a disorder in the DSM- as opposed to now, where it is apparently just a figment of our imagination. Maybe she just needed a vacation. Perhaps mentioning the conflicting voices and opinions bouncing around in her head might get her a one-way ticket to the land of marshmallow walls and daily cocktails. The problem was, the voices were not imaginary. They were real; real people with real advice, with really no idea how empty all of their good intentions made her feel. All this woman knew of was the vacuum in her heart, or soul, or whatever that entity is called, the one that’s immune to Lithium. It was at this point that she had a vision, perhaps created out of the desperation of her spirit. She sold her home, her car, and all other material belongings, and purchased a boat large enough to fit her family and friends, or at least those that she was able to convince to set sail.
As her party sailed across an ocean that- keeping in mind her nautical naiveté- seemed never-ending, they began to notice other sailing vessels floating into view. Rafts, catamarans, yachts, there was even an ocean liner, as if hundreds of people were on a cruise that took a decidedly spiritual detour; and upon seeing all of this, the woman thought to herself, practically simultaneously, that these strangers were nothing like her, and yet, everything like her. Finally, the blurriness of the horizon gave way to a revelation: an island in the distance.
At the very moment that she set foot upon the island, the woman was consumed by an uncontrollable urge, almost as if a part of the landscape was beckoning to her like the call of sirens, fatalistic in its inevitability. Her journey was a solitary one. She traveled over rocks, hills, plains and forests that, like the ocean before them, seemed never-ending, and the voice that called out so strongly before was now merely a whimper, drowned out by the sounds of her own fatigue. That was when she began to notice that she was, in fact, not alone. Several other wanderers seemed to be walking on a similar path to her own. Immediately, her steps became lighter. Every single one of them knew not where they were going, but something in the deepest recesses of their psyche revealed that they were being led by a desire more powerful and truthful than any other influence; perhaps this was the reason for leaving their respective lands in the first place. And in one moment of synchronicity, they stopped.
The woman knew she had reached her destination, though as she scanned the faces of her fellow travelers, she saw only a few of her loved ones. She could not know this at the time, but upon reaching the island, the settlers had unknowingly divided themselves into four distinct groups, exploring terrain as disparate as the groups of people that discovered them: rolling, wide-open plains, lush hills and grasslands, rocky mountain peaks, and tropical rain forests. Each pilgrim felt that the place that they had discovered held something true, and that the void inside them had been filled. And yet, they refused to just abandon their loved ones. They decided that they would all work together, every single pilgrim, to create a better civilization than the one they had left. However, so that they would never forget their own path of discovery, each group built a place of sacred beauty at the site- their site- and vowed to return every day as a spiritual reminder.
That night, upon reuniting with her friends and family, the woman was profuse with enthusiasm. She wanted to describe to them all she had seen and felt, and to lead them there so that they could discover it for themselves. However, they too had stories to tell, tales of great adventure and mystery. It was then that the woman realized that those closest to her would never be able to visit her sacred space, and she would never visit theirs; and this, surprisingly, gave her a sense of peace.
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