Friday, December 18, 2015

There's a Japanese folk tale about a young man in a village who kindly saves a sea turtle from child tormentors. The sea turtle reveals herself to be aquatic royalty and as repayment for saving her life, takes him to her underwater kingdom where he is lavished with gifts of gold and jewels, with plates piled high with gourmet food. He enjoys endless revelry and entertainment among sequined fish, graceful eels, and fluorescent jellyfish. 

After some time passes, however, an ache in his heart points his eyes upward. Even marine magic can't compare with Home.

With a grateful farewell, the man returns to his village. But it is unrecognizable. There are houses where there was none mere hours ago, the newly built houses are now decrepit, and his own house has been replaced with a lush field.

A man he has never seen before passes him on the road. The exasperated man asks the stranger about his family home. "Never heard of them... Oh, but I've heard that name before. Yes, there is a legend--a man by that name disappeared one day and was never seen again. That was over a hundred years ago." He shrugged and kept walking.

The man went back to the sea and sat at the edge of the water. He caught his reflection and saw white hair, grizzled skin, and translucent, empty eyes. He held his face in his hands and cried.

My question is, should the man have stayed with the turtle's kingdom? Every day would have been luxe and light and pleasant. Is it our attachment to "home" that kills us? Once upon a time, to be nomadic was to survive. The man's mistake was going back, instead of going forward.