Far From Home
by I.M. Acher
by I.M. Acher
Hillel and Shammai were the greatest Zen Masters of their day. Students used to come from all over the world to learn from them. Shammai had the higher IQ of the two, and his academy was more prestigious; Hillel, however, was more open-minded and willing to educate all who entered his doors.
A student walked into Shammai’s academy. He asked “Rabbi, how can I find inner peace?” The master asked the student to pass him a candlestick holder. The student passed the master his candlestick holder. The master asked the student to turn around. The student turned around. The master then forcefully smacked the student upside his head. “There,” said the master, “do you feel it now?” The student walked out of Shammai’s academy and never returned.
The same student stepped into Hillel's academy. He asked him “Rabbi, how can I find inner peace?” The master asked him to pass him a candlestick holder—one with a lit candle. The student hesitated, scared that the master would smack him. The master then said “watch me very closely.” He then blew out the candle. “And that,” the master said “is how you find inner peace. Everything else is overpriced snake oil. Now go in peace.
Jonah woke up the next morning. Just like every other morning. It was 10:00AM. He had no job. He had nowhere to go. The leftover pizza in his fridge was beginning to go stale. He was almost out of money to buy some more food.
And yet, the fish-man he dreamed of bade him to go to Ninvus.
I mean where is Ninvus anyway? Perhaps had he paid attention during social studies class, he would have remembered.
But as he turned over, he saw a clean looking slip of paper on his nightstand. It was the one slip of paper that didn’t have food or beer stains all over it.
The slip of paper was a boat ticket to Ninvus. He doesn’t know how that ticket got there, or how he even paid for it. But he figured he had nothing to lose staying in Nod. Might as well take a vacation in Ninvus.
The fish-man got the ticket for Jonah. How the ticket made its way to Jonah’s nightstand is a mystery. After all, the fish-man doesn’t have prehensility. Also, since when do fish-men have money? I guess we are just going to have to suspend our disbeliefs for this one and assume that the fish-man was capable of some form of magic that we can’t possibly explain.
The wharf of East Eden. Some say that Eden was once Shangri-La (before there even was Shangri-La). If Eden ever was anything close to paradisiacal, those days were long gone.
Never would you find a more wretched hive of buggery. See, Eden was a place where everyone did “the right thing”—or at least what The Master said the right thing was. But they never questioned The Master. They devoutly followed His words. And the Master did not reciprocate.
He promised them a good life
He promised them pleasure
He promised he’d kill the Leviathan and they’d feast on his flesh
He promised that one day they’d never have to do work again
He promised the world, he delivered a goose egg.
This is why I would never live in Eden. I would never fit in. I have never met The Master. I’m not even sure if The Master is real. But given their blind faith in The Master, He is very real to them. And I could never suffer a neighborhood where people don’t think for themselves.
Jonah arrived at the wharf. He had one ticket to Ninvus. But he didn’t even want to go to Ninvus. He didn’t want to be in Eden to begin with.
He went to a local bar. But this was Eden, so the bars did not serve alcohol. Not that The Master ever literally said not to drink alcohol. But his followers still managed to find ways to make it verboten.
So he sat at that bar, sober, pensive, and wanting to get a fix. But nowhere to get a fix in East Eden.
Jonah just wanted to go home.
The fish-man should have known that Jonah was not going to go to Ninvus. For a fish-man with a lot of foresight, the fish-man sure seemed to miss plenty of important details.
Hillel was walking by a river with some students. He saw a skull floating by.
“See that skull?” the master asked. “That man drowned because he drowned someone else. And the person he drowned also drowned someone else And the person who drowned him will also be drowned.”
Most of the students stroked their beards and nodded in acquiescence.
One student was not satisfied.
Little Doubting Tommy asked the Master “and who started the vicious cycle?”
The Patient Master responded “No one. The cycle is about as old as the great deluge itself, where many myriads of myriads drowned.”
“But Master,” said Tommy, “a watch does not wind itself.”
The Master stroked his beard. “Son, that is because you have not seen the most perfect watch ever made, so perfect it does not need human hands to wind it, it never needs repair, and it never runs out.”
Doubting Tommy still wasn’t sold. “Master, where can you find such a watch?”
The Master shouted “fool, do not question the wonders of the world. When you have seen the things I have seen, you may begin to formulate your questions correctly.”
Doubting Tommy coolly responded “but sir, have you ever seen such a watch?”
Nonplussed, The Master said “no I have not. But if you have enough faith, it just might be real.”
But Doubting Thomas was not finished. “And when will the cycle end?”
To this, The Master said “it never will. One day, there will be no one left to drown. And then, it will be too late.”