I walked amidst cool starlight, with a hot wind at my back, and a sea of sand with waves twenty feet high stretched out before me. Among snakes and spiders I walked, and mice with their clever cowardice. So silent was my desert that I could hear the very stars shining, and each ringing like bells so they filled the sky with a chorus:
“Here walks your shadow, begone he who is human hearted! The desert and its animals are his land, begone from this dessert of shadow!”
And though I had always looked to the silence in the stars for guidance, this time their words I could not heed; for all sins had I committed but become one with the shadow. And I knew to become non-dual, the two of us had to become one, and I had to drink and dine with him. With fear fueled courage I wandered the desert for an entire night, but no shadow could I find; only desert mice and their cowardly virtue. A snake had begun to slither at my side, as dawn broke, a night time companion who whispered to me:
“Brave are you who would seek his own shadow, even we snakes fear the shadow of a human hearted man, for our venom does not kill him, and runs in his veins in the place of blood. We even avoid his gaze, for even we snakes do not have colder eyes and colder thoughts than a human hearted man’s shadow.”
“Mistake not my seeking for bravery” I said to my poisonous friend. “Along side us both walks my terror, it is screaming even now in my ear, for I know all too well my shadow’s power to poison me, and you as well my slithering friend. Though should I embrace his venom, and make his eyeless gaze my own, even you would bow to me and never bite me, is it not so? And should I be wounded and you sink your fangs into me out of resentment of your bowing down, your venom would then heal me would it not? And in being your kin, the kin of snakes and poisonous creatures, is it not so that I would be welcome to live here, and dine with you at your table?” The snake hissed quickly in response:
“It is so, but why should you wish to live and dine in the desert with snakes and poisonous creatures? You are a man, not a snake, why should you wish for me to bow down to you?” My night time companion questioned me rightly, and I became lost in thought for a long while. The sun slowly began to rise over the silence of the dunes, and the snake being a creature of the night, hid away to a burrow in the sand. Though before he was gone, I caught its tail and said:
“Indeed, I am but a man, but a man with will to be among all, and to overcome and be all! I wish to live in all places and to dine with all creatures, for what is life without the variety of one’s friends?” At this and at the grasping of his tail the snake hissed and spat, angry at the firmness of my grasp and of my words. And as I let go, and it made for its hideaway, it said:
“You are indeed a man, but a stupid one indeed! Your shadow will eat you, and take your human heartedness for his own, thus it shall be!” I laughed lightheartedly at these words, for time I had not for the words of snakes, especially those who would hide from the sun. The sun had risen now to the height of midday, and still I sought out my shadow, but encountered no one but the desert insects; millions of ants going to war with one another not for food or shelter, no, but over a set of morals and false virtues! I was overcome by fascination and curiosity over these ants and their war, and watched them closely.
The first anthill had decided that all its ants were equal, even the worker and slave ants, and had killed their queen and fed her to her children. Great numbers had they of worker drones and few strong fighter ants. The second hill was ruled totally and with an iron fist by the queen, who wanted to steal the young of the other hill for her own. Few drones and slaves had she, but many fighting guards she had also. Malevolent and destructive was their war, so much so that I began to mistake the ants for men! I left them to their eternally unsettles differences, disturbed by the reflections of man I saw, with no need of a mirror. I came to the highest dune far above the desert and its animals infected by my shadow’s venom, but my shadow himself I could not find. I said to myself:
“He must be hiding the coward, so human hearted, so great I have become!”
And as I turned round in triumph to walk back out the desert the way I came in; there he stood in the way, amidst my footsteps.
“You have summoned me with your arrogance, you who would claim to be whole, you who would claim to be human hearted.” Hos voice was ice that froze the sand and the air, all animals hid away in terror and fled, and laughed at my imminent death. Even the great sun itself seemed more dimly lit in the presence of my great evil. His whispering voice knew of all evil, and dripped with venom and puss as it left his mouthless, formless face. Pure darkness and cold thought was he, and I froze in the presence of such calculated and wholeheartedly broken evil. His eyeless gaze fell upon me, and I felt all the world burning within his soul, nothing more would he have wished than to kill and destroy all notion of human heartedness; gone was my fear driven courage, replaced by the totality and absoluteness of my shadow. Though still, my wisdom did not flee, and spoke thus despite wanting to flee:
“I could not have summoned you, for you are already with me in every hour of life. I feel you when I meet with the weak, I hear you when I contend with the strong, and I know when I feast of the flesh of life. I hear you whisper to me ‘Kill them! Strike these sheep down for thinking they could contend with a lion!’ But you are no lion, my dear evil, you are a hyena. Scavenger and eater of death I name you! And so I repressed your voice, and how wrong I was to think myself different and above you, for now I see the strength of my limbs and heart come from you! I have deceived, lied, stolen, cheated, robbed, beaten; but never killed a man- though in meeting you now I know, I am most capable of dealing in death! Embrace me! So that we may become one!” I outstretched my arms and almost touched this shadow, a bit of cunning and fear gleaming in my eye. He filled the silence with his malice as he answered in a loud whisper:
“Truly you are decadent, you lamb! Truly you are stupid to think you are capable of dealing in death and embracing me, when still you feel in you bones that you and I are different! It was ME who sinned and dreamt of death in our most silent hour, it was ME who stole when we were starving, and it was ME who lusted after those unworthy of our love! Stupid I name you, for you are inhuman and good, see now how I accompany you and am disgusted by your false wisdom, your cowardice! You are too weak to fight me, he is so human hearted, too weak to stand the poison that runs in my veins! Your vision is clear, but not clear enough that you might see through the dust of my deceptions! For even my gaze makes all men’s legs quake in terror, and their hearts clench with fear! Be mine, and we will swallow the world with our misery and malice, whole peoples will burn in our pursuit of strength and of the ideal; for both you and I know well- you are not strong enough to resist my hellish flame! I know your darkest dreams, you who would claim to be whole hearted! I have seen your most evil lusts and coldest fantasies of carnage! I will embrace you and eat you, now become shadow!” We embraced, and the cold of my shadow froze my skin, and stopped my heart, anger clutched at my soul…and I became very angry. Such rage I had never known; but suddenly, my vision cleared, and in seeing my shadow’s cold, I could not help but begin to laugh!
“Why do you laugh in the face of evil!?” My shadow cried and leapt away from our cold embrace.
“Oh stop this charade,” I spoke through bouts of giggling, and suddenly the sun shone brighter. “You cannot eat me, for we are already one and the same! Just now I was filled with rage at my acceptance of your words but saw that without you, you who makes my rage, I could not have been angry at all! I laugh now at the foolishness of our contention and insults, for without my false goodness you could not be evil, and without your false evil, I could not be good! I laugh now at the both if us for being so caught in conflict that we could both not see we are one! I laugh at the depth of your good for being so honestly evil!” And my laughter rang through the desert as the sound of wind moved over sand, and laughed I did- so richly and maliciously! My shadow hissed at my laughter, and lunged into another cold embrace, an attempt to eat me. His poison sank into my veins and flowed with my hot blood, and we embraced as two brothers do after a long time of not seeing each other. Though, my cunning had bore fruit, and while clutched in an embrace, I plunged my dagger into my shadow’s back. Laughing and dying, my shadow whispered:
“You see, you have become worse than me, and so have conquered and become me. You were more evil than me, all along.”
“And you were more innocent and good than I, all along.” I smiled as he fell to the ground, and he turned to ash in the sand. And his eyes and eyeless stare became my own, his venom mixed with my blood and strengthened my veins, and I fell to my knees and bellowed with renewed strength in my voice:
“Behold! I am become the shadow of death! I am become the desert and the snake and the spider! I am the cold that freezes, the heat that burns, I am become all of man’s evil, so that I may become non-dual, and truly human hearted!” And all the animals of the desert bowed before my evil might; and later that night I ate and drank with snakes, and warred with the human ants, for what is life but the pleasure of the deep good, found on one’s own evil!