You’ll always sound wise when you parrot a wise person.
You’ll always sound smart when you repeat smart words.
You’ll always sound deep when you imitate the deep people of the world.
But when you do, there is always a part of you that knows that whatever wisdom you parrot isn’t yours. That, really, the only wisdom required out of you to say it was the wisdom of a parrot. And how smart can you be if you just memorize smart things to say? And how deep can you be if you never went deep within yourself?
Part of you knows this is wrong, this is fake, even if it is afraid to see it.
So you imagine a life in which you lived the opposite way.
One where you said, “I am not wise.” And you lived it.
You said, “I am not smart.” And you accepted it.
You said, “I am shallow.” And you knew it was okay.
And then you searched for wisdom.
And you learned the smart things of the world, trying to make them part of you, so that a bit of intelligence could enter your being.
And you dug into the depths of yourself, jumping into it like a cold pool. Hardly able to breathe at the intensity of it, you reach out and start discovering hidden treasures, treasures you can bring to the surface.
And the people looked at you. Dirty, grimy because of how far afield your search for wisdom took you. A confused, dumb look on your face, because the more you learn the more you realize you don’t know. Soaked from head to toe because of your deep-soul diving.
And they’d think to themselves they’ve never seen someone less wise, less intelligent, less deep. You’re just a wet dirty fool as far as they can see.
Would it bother you?
And maybe you’d try and take a shower. And dry off. And try and remember the smart, confident looks of the smart people of the world, and mimic them. Maybe buy a smart person mask to be safe.
You’d walk around, realizing that maybe it wasn’t worth it, it wasn’t worth it to get grimy and wet and stupid. That you missed the people looking at you with admiration, with acceptance. It’s lonely in the depths of the soul and on the roads of true wisdom.
You’d go to soirees, to fancy parties where the wise and the smart and the deep congregate. Now that you’re cleaned up, you’d be allowed back in. You’d dress classy, you’d memorize all the smart and wise and deep lines of the ones who everyone around you agrees are smart and wise and deep.
You walk into the party. The room is full of mirrors. Everywhere you look, everyone looks like you and it’s hard to tell if they are you or they’re wearing the same outfit or if they’re a reflection in the mirror.
You start to speak, you start to say some of the wise words you memorized. And as you say it, you hear the words come from another person. And then another. Was it the reflection? Was it that they heard the wise words and wanted to imitate them so they, too, could be wise? Was it just you, just you, repeating yourself so much you don’t even know when you’re actually speaking?
You walk around and you see people making love to themselves. Two people, three people, all of them kissing each other and in love with themselves and each other, and there isn’t a difference. You see a person rubbing themselves against a mirror.
This was your life before, you realize, but suddenly it looks different, and it looks constructed by someone other than you, like a big trap, like a big mirrored, echoey, shallow hole that everyone you know is stuck in.
What changed? This used to feel good. This used to be right.
You take off your mask so you can see better.
You look in the mirror. And you see your face. Trying to understand what’s happening, it has that confused look it had when you went on your search for wisdom, when you dove the depths of yourself.
The mirror cracks.
You look down at yourself, at your fancy clothes. They are made of cheap material, you realize. Material made to have an effect on the observer, but that will fall apart the moment they’re challenged by the outside world.
A tear forms on your shirt. Your pant leg rips apart. Your hat dissolves around your head.
You are getting dirty, and your face looks stupider than ever.
As the mirror cracks and your clothes tear, you look down at where the mirror meets the ground. The ground isn’t steady anymore. You realize it never was, that you had been walking along it, that everyone around you was walking along it, as if it was some real, strong, true floor. But like your clothes, it was a loosely constructed wooden material that was built only to give the impression of personal safety.
And it starts to crack too. Right under your feet. In the cracks, you see the color blue, the clearest, brightest blue you’ve ever seen.
You recognize that blue, you saw it recently. You saw it in the depths. But it wasn’t this clear, it wasn’t this beautiful.
Because it was never so close to you. You thought you had to go out to search for it, but it was right there, right underneath you all along.
The cracks spread, go deeper and further. Your feet loose purchase for a moment, then you steady yourself and you look around. All the people around you, the ones you thought were evaluating you, the ones you had dressed up, you’re seeing them break apart into a million pieces.
What’s happening to them, you worry, where are they going? As you look closer, you see, though, that they were all part of the reflection, that they were all you, that all those expectations of what you should look like and how you should live, they came from the reflections in the mirror, the perceptions of the outside world you had only held within.
All the people disappear as the mirror breaks apart and lands on the ground, finally putting a million cuts into the wooden floor, so that the cracks below you are now unsustainable and they spread apart, spread outward where the mirror had been artificially holding your ground together.
As you fall, you see the wood dissolve into the water, and you realize that it, too, was no more real than the mirror or the people or the reflections.
You are in the water. You look down into it, and you wonder why it’s dark above you and light underneath.
And you realize that the search for wisdom, the search for smarts, the search for the depths within, it was always underneath, not above or around or in others.
It was within you.
And suddenly you don’t even feel wet, you don’t feel dirty, you don’t feel stupid.
Because you know that such feelings, they are also the surface, they also don’t define you, they never did.
And so you dive. You dive deeper and deeper, you dive with no idea what you will find and who you will meet and how you’ll get there.
But you know that’s where the light is.
And so there’s no other way to go.