The World Beyond the Trees

You few ride for days in a small boat, the sea pushing you effortlessly around this vast space of open desolateness. Your lips crack and peel from dehydration. Your head spins consistently. The ocean around you rotates a complete 360 before resetting in a split second and beginning its rotation again. You fade in and out of consciousness.

 

Then the sound of wet sand under the boat’s bow. You quickly raise your head find a vacant beach. Your fellow travelers and you are nude, but you feel no shame. You feel refreshed. The others storm the beach with excitement and urgency, calling out for any nearby human inhabitants. The smell of lilacs and honey fill the air. Slowly, one by one, they disappear through a barrier of trees. You follow with hesitation. Peering through the trees with awe, your experience of the world beyond becomes gradually clearer with every carefully placed step. These wonderful new colors, shapes, and smells… What is this place?

 

You awake again on the boat, feeling tired and well worn. Another on the boat begins, “I just had the strangest dream…” The sound of her voice is startling. It feels like days since anyone has said anything, “…empty beach…naked…flowers and honey…”. The experience was identical to yours. But then she begins to describe the world beyond the trees, “…like nothing I’ve ever seen” She searches for the words. You empathize with her inability to find the words. But then, “like…red…squares…the smell of sweet meat…” Another traveler interrupts her, “No! It was purple circles and the air smelled like a meadow after rain.” A third interjects, “It was green triangles and the air smelled of fresh fruit.” All of these accounts seem to cheapen the experience for you. These colors and shapes and smells were indescribable. To lessen the experience to these brief accounts is blasphemous. Moments after this disagreement erupts into a loud argument among the others, a ship appears in the distance. One by one each traveler is silenced by the sight.

 

Aboard the ship, the travelers begin recounting their experiences to the crew. Each telling is unique, but inspires optimism and faith among individuals on board. Still, you feel  uneasy about these different tellings of what seems to be a collective experience. How can they use those words to describe something so much more? How can they assign attributes of our world to something clearly beyond it?

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