– 9 – Imagine

If happiness is inside us, why did she feel so incomplete? Was a part of herself unknown to her?

She loved to live. She loved to wake up in the morning and greet the new day no matter how hard the previous day had been. Even the simplest and most insignificant moments were quickly rewarded with others of immense happiness.

Money was scarce and there was hardly enough to pay the bills. But that wasn’t her problem, for she had already lived well with less.

More than four years had passed without her realising since she had started work at the restaurant, Prague’s Favorite Flower. 

From time to time, she would like the smile of a boy. They would go out, have dinner, and enjoy the ups and downs of those who want nothing more than a good time.

She never allowed herself the risk of a well-spent one-night stand. Nor would she let herself go beyond what those moments truly were: simple and uncomplicated. 

That night, while listening to a song she knew by heart, everything seemed beautiful and perfectly simple. But it wasn’t exactly so. 

The small circle of people around her made her feel trapped. She needed air, and she needed it urgently. 

Stepping back and away from the lights nearby, and she looked up and slowly observed the stars, letting her eyes get accustomed to the darkness.

In the same way the sky began to grow, so did her soul; beautiful nights have this effect on beautiful people. Fortunately for her the oxygen continued to flow, but Monika had other concerns. 

Why did she feel so incomplete? The question was repeated over and over, until it was transformed into the biggest constellation in front of her. The distance from Monika to the star above her was in direct proportion to the emptiness she felt in her heart.

She had been raised in an agnostic home. And even after the fall of the anterior regime, she never had the curiosity to understand the reason for religion beyond what her degree had forced her to learn. Still, Monika felt a permanent dialogue with “something” outside herself, going on inside. 

She couldn’t dissociate one thing from the other. The “something” was also part of her. It was extraordinarily far-reaching and complete, always present, permanently emanating peace and smiles.

She could perfectly remember one fine summer day in the back seat of her father’s Trabant*. They were on a journey to a sanatorium somewhere at the Black Sea; a place with a strange, unpronounceable name, that made the day seem even more distant.

At a certain moment, Monika asked her father who God was. She had listened to her friends’ conversations in school and her curiosity was impossible to restrain.

* The Trabant was a car produced by former East German auto maker VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau in Zwickau, Saxony. It was the most common vehicle in East Germany, and was also exported to countries both inside and outside the communist bloc.
The name, meaning "satellite" or "companion" in German, was inspired by the Soviet Sputnik. The cars are often referred to as the Trabbi or Trabi. Due to the long waiting period between ordering a Trabant and actually taking delivery (in some cases years passed as scarce materials were obtained), people who finally received one treated the car gently and were meticulous in maintaining and repairing it. The lifespan of an average Trabant was 28 years.

Her parents were silent for a few seconds. It made her realise this must be a serious matter, since their expressions were similar only when the conversation was about politics or the ice hockey games of HC Slovan Bratislava. 

Father and mother exchanged looks as if trying to work out who should answer Monika’s question.

Josef, always pragmatic in his relationships with people, answered:

  • It’s complicated, Monika.
  • Maybe when you’re older we can talk about that. A girl of your age doesn’t need to worry about such things. To be honest, they are nothing but problems.

Her father’s answer was even more confusing than the conversations she had heard before. She made such a sad face that the always attentive and present Ata couldn’t help but notice it. 

  • My dear, God is like a voice that one hears but cannot see, just like the wind… You can feel it, hear it… but you cannot see it, you understand?
  • But if He is like the wind, why are there churches? The wind can’t get inside.

Monika asked in return, as if it was a tennis match and the ball hadn’t bounced on her side of the court before being volleyed back again across the net. In general, these plays were the riskiest. 

Her mother looked at Josef again and a slight smile curved the corner of her mouth. She felt proud to know that her daughter was so different from the many people she knew, people who were afraid to ask themselves questions like the one she was hearing now. 

This time, she turned to look at the back seat and – before answering – she looked straight into Monika’s eyes.

She paused a moment to reinforce the idea that what she was about to say was important and Monika should therefore listen very carefully. 

After being sure Monika was all ears, she smiled and said in a velvety voice: 

  • My dear Monika, God is only important for those who believe in Him.

Monika’s eyes grew wide. She couldn’t remember her mother ever having addressed a subject like that.

Ata continued:

  • Although many words were written about His existence, to me, God is as if there was Someone who is always awake watching over you.

 It was not just Monika who was listening carefully: Josef had switched his attention from the road in front of him to what was going on inside the car.

Ata went on:

  • That Someone assures that you will lack for nothing. He protects you during the darkest nights and sends you a light that makes all your ideas and thoughts beautiful, even when you are sad.

She stopped again, gave a bright smile and concluded.

  • If someday you feel this, you’ll probably have met God. Did that help?

Monika nodded, leaned her face against the rear door window, and closed her eyes, trying to fully understand what her mother had just told her.

The only word that seemed to make real sense amidst all the others was what her mother said about, the Light.

She loved to feel the sun on her face and when it was warm she was always in a better mood. As for the wind, she was more suspicious. While it was pleasant on very hot days, it could be scary during winter. And she knew it could even bring down trees and houses when it blew very hard. 

She felt as if she were flying. And though she had actually flown, she knew it would be exactly how she was feeling at that moment.

Maybe with a helping hand from the God, that was the sun and also the wind, it was possible to see outside the window, even with her eyes closed. The sunbeams passed in between the trees at the side of the road and warmed her face. 

As if it was a game of hide and seek in which God was found, she thought:

  • A blind person will always feel the presence of God.

She stayed in the same position for many, many kilometres until the sun went down.

When her memory settled, her thoughts returned to that night which embraced her at the Lennon Wall.

Maybe because a little further away a group was singing a Canon of wonderful voices, their sound brought her back to the present moment and to the doubts that surrounded her. 

  • Why did she feel so incomplete?

She appeared to have all she had ever dreamt of, but whenever she repeated that night’s exercise, she would take a step back to get perspective on her life. Everything seemed to be a dream – neither good nor bad – only a dream of someone living a life that is not their own.

At the very least, it was a bizarre feeling. She had decided to be happy but was realizing that she did not know what happiness was after all. 

It was as if she had read the travel agency brochure. She knew what she would find at the destination, what it was like to be there, but in reality she had never bought the ticket for the trip. Was it time to wake up?

  • Why did she feel so incomplete?
  • Was it time to get married? Have children? Start a family?

These were indeed scary thoughts, for she felt no maternal instinct whatsoever.

  • Why?
  • Was it the lack of a true professional life? 

She had studied hard to understand the problems and challenges of society. But listening carefully to her regular customers at the restaurant, but never reaching a satisfying conclusion by the time when they asked for the bill, was the closest she came understanding. 

Monika was an excellent listener and that made her the most popular waitress in the restaurant. Her customers gave her generous tips. And her colleagues, including the chefs, loved to stay and talk to her at the end of their shifts. 

  • Why did she feel so incomplete? 

She lived one day at a time, each moment with its own concerns. She strove to live effortlessly — in peace with herself and with the people who passed through her life. And though she had known moments of love and passion, sooner or later even they seemed condemned to the failure caused by the ruthlessness of routine.

She didn’t feel that should be her destiny. She didn’t want to give it much thought. And, of all the boys she had met, she had never missed a single one of them after looking into their eyes and saying farewell at the end of the night. 

  • Could that be the reason for the way she felt?

She looked up once again and her chin made her head bounce almost like a reflex; it was as if she was asking questions. 

  • So now what? What do you think?

Far away, the music had changed. Set against her question that hung in the air, it “If It Be Your Will”*, by Leonard Cohen, seemed the perfect soundtrack for that moment.

Probably another musician that could very well have written the famous Lennon song, had inspiration not crashed upon with the Englishman from Liverpool first.

The voice masculine almost made her forget the sublime voices of the Webb Sisters*.

Monika looked away from the heavens and at the small group singing, which was even smaller than she had thought. 

If it be your will

That I speak no more

And my voice be still

As it was before

I will speak no more

I shall abide until

I am spoken for

If it be your will

 

If it be your will

That a voice be true

From this broken hill

I will sing to you

 

From this broken hill

All your praises they shall ring

If it be your will

To let me sing

From this broken hill

All your praises they shall ring

If it be your will

To let me sing

Two small tears rolled down her face and were soon followed by another two. Then a river of pain mixed with happiness, and again with pain and happiness, came together to make that moment eternal.

Her heart was letting go of everything she had held on to year after year. It came out in the best way a feeling can be transmitted, with tears that wash everything, renew everything and let our eyes see exactly as they did the day we were born. 

Life had been held back by the defences Monika forcibly deployed around her heart, as she had to deal with hypocrisy and lies, the pillars of the society in which she had been brought up. 

Years later, she learned that the experience of that moment was similar to what the Catholics call, infusion of the Holy Spirit*, the Buddhists call, Bodhi** and the Hindus call, Moksha***.

(Yet the name is irrelevant when one experiences such a deep revelation. For those who readers who have already experienced it, no more explanation needed.)

* The Effusion of the Holy Spirit, according to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, is an experience that normally occurs in the sequence of a moment of prayer and through which the person acquires a new and refined sense of spiritual value.
** Bodhi specifically in Buddhism it means the experience of spiritual awakening reached by Gautama Buddha and his disciples. Sometimes, this is described as complete and full sanity, or awakening of the true nature of the universe. Once achieved, the person is released from the Samsāra cycle: birth, suffering, death and rebirth (see moksha). Bodhi is normally translated as “enlightenment”.
*** Moksha or Mukti refers, in general terms, to the liberation from the cycle of rebirth and death and to spiritual enlightenment. In the highest Hindu philosophy, it is seen as the transcendence of the phenomenon of existence, or of any sense of conscience of time, space and cause (karma).

When she looked at the sky again, she noticed that on one side of the heavens the new day was starting to dawn. 

First so subtly that she couldn’t be sure what was about to happen. And then, rays parallel to the heavens made the new day clear.

It was time to sleep for a while.

With a smile that made her face ache, she looked way up, to where the Creator of all should be looking down at her, and said with a conviction wrapped in an endless peace;

  • I’m not afraid of being happy! I want to be happy!

I want to live a full life. A life in which loving and being loved is as natural as breathing. One that is effortless, genuine and true, in which we need no extra reserves of strength to live each day. 

The wind seemed to have lulled silence to sleep. The search for happiness would become her daily life, and she was finally living her revolution, the true revolution. 

  • I will go wherever is necessary. I will do whatever is necessary. For only then I will know I have lived my life. 

When she left the street, she came across the first people going to work, and she felt like the most beautiful person on the street.

And she was probably right. 

 

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