What truly terrifying
is not the terrifying,
but the absence of mindfulness.
Many years ago, during one of those aimless holiday night rides with a biking buddy, we zipped up and down a popular stretch of a nearby beach. We were cycling along, chatting randomly. Without talking about it, among the other cyclists and folks strolling, we had both seen an inconspicuous guy in a standard grey army-coloured tank top with black shorts, who was jogging also to and fro in the area. On hindsight, though we reversed now and then, he was always kind of somewhat around, though all we saw was always his back, with him some distance in the front.
At one point, we cycled on in only one direction, towards the less busy end. Unmindful as we were, we did not exactly notice or mind that the stretch we were riding into had become increasingly dark. It was where there were more couples on benches, chatting and snuggling – there precisely for privacy, away from bright street lamps. There, the lights seemed further and fewer. Perhaps more malfunctioned, but being popular with lovers, complaints for repair were few?
As we cycled on, relishing in use of the less crowded track, we went faster and faster. And there he was again, the jogger who seemed as diligent as us. We were not exercising though; just whiling time away. Gradually, even the pairs of glued silhouettes lessened. It was getting deserted, but we went on. That guy was in front anyway, pounding the concrete, while kind of paving the way for us. Peddling on abreast, in an ‘automated’ mode, we ran out of things to chat, and were just cycling.
Suddenly, I looked ahead, and what seen froze my blood. I was speechless but had enough presence of mind to point ahead in terror. My friend saw what I saw too. Without discussion, we jammed our brakes in panic, awkwardly half-carrying our bikes and half-cycling to make a sharp turn, as we sped back to where we came from… in cold sweat. We did not stop until we reached the centre of human activity again, with many other beachgoers. What we saw was not a ghastly sight at all, that was nevertheless inexplicable and terrifying.
I had pointed to my friend, at the ‘oh so familiar’ jogger… who was jogging straight on… into… utter darkness. It was the area where there were no more street lamps – not even in the distance. In the last reaches of the last lamp’s light, he could be seen running on… into this pitch black… still with his usual gait, as if non-chalantly, with it being absolutely no bother at all. That was what made it spine-chilling. Who in his right mind would do what he did, unless he was no human, with literally dark intentions, maybe to ‘guide’ (i.e. trick) us into the darkness?
Decades had passed since this supernatural scare, before five potential lessons finally came to mind, to make it a worthy true story to share. First, we should never follow anyone blindly, even if he or she seems ordinary and harmless. Second, never follow many unquestioningly either. If it is easy to fall prey to blind adherence to a ‘familiar’ stranger, it is perhaps even easier to follow the crowd, by wrongly trusting others with herd mentality, thinking they must have ‘wisdom’ of the masses, though history repeatedly warns us of ignorance en masse.
Third, be wisely wary too, taking even greater caution, instead of taking even more for granted, when it comes to what and who seem to represent ‘authority’ and ‘discipline’. (Recall the military attire.) Again, the annals of history speak of many such cautionary tales. Fourth, be ever mindful of who or what you follow, consciously, and more so, subconsciously, thus unmindfully – be it a leader or another ‘fellow’ follower. The most seemingly ‘worthy’ blindly followed might be the most insidious. Fifth, the darkness can be seen as a metaphor, not just for dangers of the physically unknown, but the spiritually black hole of delusion too, a mental dimension difficult to escape from.
What truly consoling
is not the consoling,
but the presence of mindfulness.
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