Chris had filled up his tank. Now he was sitting in his car again and shivering. It was one of those windy and wet spring mornings that make people think more back to the rigid cold of winter than to the imminent reawakening of nature. The sky was clear with the light of the stars and the pale glow of dawn loomed on the horizon. Chris had to leave early. He still had a long way to go. He carefully placed the coffee he had bought at the petrol station shop in the cup holder next to the steering wheel and laboriously and erratically tried to set his destination in his car’s navigation system. Chris had slept badly and was not quite awake yet. He was not feeling well. The radio was blaring the weather report, adding to his stabbing headache. He thought he could remember that the radio had been set to a moderate volume when he left the car. Apparently it had decided on its own in the meantime that the weather report was not to be overheard under any circumstances. Chris took a pained glance from the navigation screen at the unmanageable number of buttons that plastered the dashboard and steering wheel with puzzling functions – and gave up for the moment. It wasn’t that easy to turn off the radio now. He had only had the car for a few days and was not yet familiar with its technology. It seemed to him that with each new car it took longer to grasp the new features and controls. ‚First the sat nav.‘ he said to himself firmly, trying to muster all his concentration against the droning weather announcer.
At that moment there was a knock on the passenger door. Chris, jolted out of his painstakingly gathered concentration, pulled up startled and peered through the side window. A man was standing there, smiling benignly at him through the window with his upper body bent. Chris‘ fright turned to displeasure, for by all appearances this man wanted to speak to him right now. His mouth became a line as he looked at the strange man, so that he could in no way miss how inappropriate his appearance was at this moment and how much trouble he was causing Chris. Perhaps the man had already said something, but with the shouted outlook for the next few days, his words would not have been able to get through to Chris anyway. Chris was unnerved. Now he had to change his plan after all and give priority to noise control. He raised both hands with his palms to the stranger and signalled that he should be patient for a moment. The man seemed calm and understanding. Chris pressed buttons with inexplicable symbols and abbreviations, turned dials and at some point the word „radio“ appeared in some display. Determined as iron, he now pressed a button with a symbol and an option that seemed appropriate in the fog of his increasing headache and – the radio was off! Silence! For a brief moment, Chris himself was stunned. Then, accompanied by a soft whistling in the ears, quiet triumph set in. ‚There you go!‘ The triumph didn’t last a second. It was followed by the anxious question: ‚What happens now with the next weather report? – I really need to look into this and get it right!‘ The man! Chris found the power window quicker. Cool, fresh and still morning air flowed into the interior of the car through the open side window. Immediately Chris felt a little better. „Yes, please?“ he asked almost kindly.
The man looked at Chris with friendly calm and in the look of his pale blue eyes, reflecting the light of dawn, was full understanding of Chris’s current condition and friendly sympathy for his early morning struggle against the machine.
„Can you give me a lift?“ he asked kindly. Chris’s implied smile slumped. He had known it after all. A hitchhiker! Chris never gave anyone a lift. Not on principle. The imponderables were too great for him. If it wasn’t right between him and the hitchhiker, there might be a tense silence for hours while they both stared wordlessly into the landscape. Or the hitchhiker was a chatterbox who could hear himself talking non-stop. Or he was morbidly curious and kept asking Chris questions the whole way. Not to mention other scenarios. He always felt like a victim in these moments and tried to avoid such situations as much as possible. So part of Chris was angry and disappointed because the stranger had kept him from his real plans with such a useless question. But in another part of him, despite all prejudices, something connected with this man. It was perhaps his voice. The stranger had a voice as warm as summer and as wide as the land. It was like a mild wind sweeping across the plains. Steady, wide and without resistance or turbulence. „Where do you think you’re going?“ Chris heard himself ask growling from far away. „East.“ said the stranger. „To ‚east‘? Well, to ‚east‘ I guess I’m going somehow. You’re in luck. Okay, get in. You can put your bag in the back.“ Chris couldn’t believe his own ears. Maybe it was the longing for summer and the warming power of the sun, for the wide plain where the wind could roam broadly and without obstacles, that drove Chris to this decision, which was surprising even for him. But even if it was so: Chris was not aware of his motives. „Thank you.“ said the stranger, smiling as his oval face, dark from the sun, settled into myriad wrinkles of laughter and blinking. He put his bag on the back seat and got in. Something in Chris suddenly felt betrayed again. He felt manipulated and treacherously calculatingly forced by a sweet voice against his will to do deeds that were not to his advantage, but only to the other person’s advantage. The stranger fastened his seatbelt, adjusted himself in the seat and straightened his light jacket. „Towards the sun!“ he said mischievously and with cheerful determination, his eyes open to Chris as if he now expected a great adventure. Chris heard the words through the fog of his uncertainty, looked briefly at the stranger in surprise and then looked ahead into the light of the rising sun. Chris felt a vague feeling in the pit of his stomach and decided it was good. He smiled in surprise and delight and looked to his right at his passenger. „Yes. That’s right. Towards the sun!“ And his throbbing headache slowly began to subside.
Chris had taken the precaution of not turning the radio back on and the drive passed in silence for a while. Both men seemed to be going about their thoughts. Looking out at the landscape, which was eagerly soaking up the first warming rays of the sun after the long cold night. It was a good silence and Chris couldn’t even say why it was good. For as long as he could remember he always felt a pressure inside him, a nervous restlessness that never quite left him. It was unusual that he endured this silence in the confined space of the passenger compartment without any restlessness. He noticed it himself and wondered about the strange feeling in his abdomen that had set in since the stranger had taken a seat next to him early that morning. Chris did not yet know that it was peace he felt inside. He only knew that the calm serenity of his companion, the absence of any edge or corner, the absence of any sharpness or tension was in contrast to his otherwise mundane living environment where there was no stillness and certainly no serenity. ‚Holiday.‘ suddenly went through his mind and his eyebrows lifted very slightly and very briefly in surprise as he looked at the road and he almost even smiled a little. They drove like that for a while longer.
„Do you know anything about this?“ Chris interrupted the silence at some point and pointed to the multifunction display in the dashboard. Surprised, he realised that he had completely forgotten to programme the navigation system. No destination guidance was displayed. His companion looked at him questioningly. „I’m mainly concerned about the radio. I can’t figure this thing out.“ The stranger looked pensively at the controls for a few seconds. „No, I don’t know.“ he said grinning mischievously with merry eyes, as if he had just been told a small and subtle joke. There was so much vital force in his gaze that Chris almost felt uncomfortable again. But this awakening of his companion from silence was so soft and almost, yes, embracing, that the discomfort had no room and gave way to another feeling.
„You’re not that into technology. Are you?“ asked Chris, looking more closely at his companion for the first time.
„Well,“ the stranger said thoughtfully, „not really, sort of.“
„What are you, if you don’t mind me asking?“
„What I am…“
„Yes, you will have a reason for wanting to go east, won’t you? A destination. Do you have a job there? What is your profession? What are you? Only if you want to talk about it. I’m not really that curious.“ Chris smiled a little sheepishly.
„No, no, no problem. I’ve heard that question many times, but I still have trouble answering it. Or rather, answering it in such a way that the questioner is satisfied with my answer.“ The stranger looked through the windscreen into the distance. „I’d say I just am.“
Chris raised his eyebrows wide and pursed his lower lip a little. He cast a brief sceptical glance from the road at his companion. „You just are? What does that mean?“
„You see? My answer satisfies no one.“ the stranger said with a grin. „It’s not so simple. You, for example. What do you think you are?“
„Me? I’m in sales.“ said Chris as quick as an arrow, „I’m a salesman. And I’m a sportsman. Basketball player. And… I used to be a son, too. But my parents died.“
„How did you become a salesman?“
„I don’t know. I was studying when my mother died of cancer. Shortly after that, my father had a stroke. From then on, I had to take care of him. He could still do a few things himself and was still so mentally fit that I could never have put him in care. That was the end of my studies. After ten years he died. In the meantime, I had completed a further IT training course from the employment office. Then I had to do something. I don’t know anything about computers. Now I sell software for a medium-sized company. It’s already my sixth employer. Let’s see how long this one lasts.“
„And you say you’re a salesman?“
„I know what you’re getting at. You’re supposed to do what you’re passionate about. You should find meaning in your work and happiness and not just do something for money that is not good for you at all. I should have done something with sport. My friends always said I should be a sports journalist. That’s where my interests and talents lay. But it never happened. Maybe it will. You should never say never, right? That’s what you mean, isn’t it?“
„If you were a sports journalist now and were happy with that, what would happen if – for whatever reason – you could no longer do that job? And you no longer had a family and friends and a sports club and couldn’t do anything about it? What would you be then?“
„A lonely and unemployed sports journalist. No joking aside. If I had nothing left and couldn’t do anything about it, I guess I’d be nothing. A meaningless existence. I’d have to keep myself busy feeding pigeons or growing flowers or terrorising the neighbours. No. I would then be nothing. Then nothing would have any meaning. Then I could take the rope. – are you all alone? Do you mean by just being being alone?“
„No, I am not alone. What I was getting at was that in this society man defines himself by what he has and what he does. If he has nothing and is prevented from doing something, then he lacks a sense of purpose. Then he is suddenly nothing. This is what happens when only the external factors of life are considered. I look at my existence from another, a spiritual level. From this point of view, it doesn’t matter whether I do great deeds or just sit in front of the television or whether I have countless friends or whether I spend years alone in a room. The outside has no meaning in relation to my being. When I look at my spiritual existence, it is secure in eternity and infinity. There, everything is One. Therefore, I just am and this being is not bound by any external factors.“ San smiled cheerfully. „Which, of course, does not mean that I do not have to deal with the external factors. But they do not condition my being.“ he added.
Chris was silent for a few minutes and looked out at the road. To the right and left, wide fallow fields spread out until they touched the horizon.
„I have almost nothing as it is,“ Chris said quietly. Almost to himself. And then louder, „Are you in a cult?“
„No, not a cult.“ said his companion.
Chris continued to be silent. He was ‚generally‘ not used to such talk. ‚But such a talker. I knew it.‘ Chris began to feel uncomfortable again. His restlessness returned. It didn’t suit him to talk about things he couldn’t contribute to because he didn’t understand them. Immediately, a feeling of inferiority spread through him and the desire to be alone in his car again slowly began to grow. Reflexively, his gaze quickly went to the multifunction display several times. „Radio?“ asked Chris with a distinct brusqueness in his tone that revealed he held the uninvited guest personally responsible for his discomfort. A childish accusation, reflexively imputing intent – and therefore guilt – on his guest. „If you like, I’d be happy to,“ the stranger replied amiably. „I’ll have the news in a moment.“ said Chris „Or do you get all your information from your psychic level?“ Chris sounded snotty and there was a definite edge in his words. The stranger overheard the provocation and said half-seriously half-slightly laughing, „Yes, I suppose so! But I also listen to the news. Only most of it is not important to me. There is too much meaningless information, too many opinions. Too much of it confuses people. Makes them afraid. It doesn’t help in the search for truth.“ Chris left the radio off. He felt lectured and unease slowly turned to anger. ‚Soul. Truth. Fear. Why does he have to do this? Why can’t he say something that I can say something about? Why does he sit so high up on his steed and make me look like a little kid? I don’t want this anymore! I want to be alone. Alone to myself! Then no one will make me feel bad!‘ Chris was not one to think deeply. If he thought about anything more extensively, it was a glorified school time. Or the death of his parents. Both had the taste of the past. One was good and over. The other bad and with an effect that lasted into his present life. Guilt and blame in connection with the grief for what was irretrievably lost alternated. When he thought about friends today, it was the friendship he felt. Nothing more complicated or far-reaching. He had been a gentle and sensitive boy who now tried to just not go down with the necessary toughness. But he was not tough and simulating toughness cost him a lot of strength. He was not aware of all that. He was just full of fear. Now he wanted to be alone again with his simple thoughts, but he was not in a position to simply put his companion out just because he lacked the right enthusiasm for the news.
Chris was silent again and stared at the road. The stranger, however, didn’t seem to notice and continued to exude calm and equanimity. No peaks, no corners, no sharpness was noticeable from him. He looked out of the window and an observer could not have said with certainty whether he perceived anything at all of what was passing by outside. And the longer they drove and the longer Chris stared at the road in his thoughts of guilt and grief, the more the change became noticeable. Chris’s anger slowly ebbed away and the leaden thoughts that had been doing their rounds in their steely prisons found a way to escape and quite suddenly made off. The other feeling took possession of Chris again and suddenly he no longer wanted to be alone.
„My name’s Chris.“ he said abruptly, trying a winning smile that had enough power to put the fearful and angry feelings he thought were between them out of sight.
„My name is San.“ said the stranger, and though he had been looking out of the window all this time and would have given the impression of mental absence to outsiders, he was instantly wide awake and lucid when Chris addressed him.
„That’s a handy thing about that ’soul plane‘ you were talking about, San. No matter what, you’re never alone with it, are you? Always – secure was the word, wasn’t it? But about the soul, you don’t talk about it like that, except in church. It’s kind of embarrassing, isn’t it? That’s a matter of faith, isn’t it? I always have my doubts whether there is such a thing. A soul or a ’soul level‘ as you call it. Is it something you can learn? I mean, how do you do that with your ’soul side‘ and this ‚just being‘? Can you teach me that? Can you teach me what I have to do to see the world like that? It seems to be doing you good.“
„I can’t teach you, Chris. It’s not a trick you can learn and there’s no instruction manual. There’s nothing to do either. Quite the opposite. I can be with you today. That’s all I can do. And you can be with me today. That’s all you can do.“
„That’s all?“ asked Chris disappointedly.
„Yes. That’s all.“ said San „And it will be enough. It’s even more than is actually necessary. You will know everything.“
Chris didn’t understand San’s words and silently looked ahead again at the road. Then all at once he felt it. All weight and burden lifted from his shoulders. His head became very light and where the decades-old vice had just sat, a gentle spring breeze now brushed and caressed his temples. Chris smiled widely. An automatic reflex. A reaction to the easing tension. Actually, he would have laughed out loud but he was too controlled for that. Actually, he would have wanted to howl snot and water, but he couldn’t allow that either in the presence of the stranger. A glint appeared in his eyes and a single tear found its way out of his right eye and slowly rolled down Chris‘ cheek. Chris blinked and rubbed his cheek.
„Is it?“ he asked quietly, not taking his eyes off the road. „Is that ‚just being‘?“
„Yes. It is.“ replied San just as quietly and solemnly.
„I am happy. For the first time in my life, I am truly happy! I am no longer alone!“
„You have returned and are experiencing your wholeness. This is a sacred moment.“
Chris stared ahead and all attempts to hold back his tears were now futile. The glistening in his eyes increased and tear after tear rolled down his cheeks as if after a dam burst. His mouth was a quivering line. Chris pulled over to the side of the road and then it broke and he cried and sobbed like the last time he must have cried and sobbed as a small child. He cried with happiness and he cried with pain. He cried with joy and he cried with sadness. Chris saw everything in that moment. Everything bundled up in that one moment. The happiness of oneness. The security of eternity and infinity. And he saw the pain. The pain of all life and of his existence as an earthly creature in this soulless materialistic world. He felt deepest sorrow and pity for himself and for all the other driven and hopeless ones who have to stumble their way through time in blindness and fear in this world. And he saw happiness again. The knowledge that he, nor anyone else, was or will ever be alone. That there is not only hope, but that salvation is here. That salvation has already happened. That he and everyone else has always been saved. That there is nothing to do but – be. And Chris looked at San and laughed. Laughed from the bottom of his heart and in abysmal amazement at this feeling of happiness that he had never experienced like this before in his life. Chris laughed and could not believe what was happening to him.
San smiled at Chris with quiet and deep joy. He touched Chris on the forehead. „Peace be with you.“ he said and his eyes too now filled with tears of happiness. „You have experienced everything, my friend. I will leave you now.“ And San unbuckled his seatbelt leisurely and opened the passenger door.
„Wait!“ cried Chris, still quite out of breath and with wide eyes. „You can’t leave now! What am I supposed to do now? Help me on! I beg you! Help me on!“ San smiled at Chris as he opened the rear door and took his luggage from the back seat.
„You got all the answers.“ said San, leaning over to look through the passenger window at Chris, who was releasing his cramped grip on the steering wheel. „Don’t be afraid. All the answers are inside you. You just don’t know them yet. I, too, am always with you. You are never alone. Today you have become whole. Everything else will happen by itself. Drive on now. Take a break somewhere and then drive – slowly – to your appointment. See what happens. Don’t try to do anything now. Be. You’ve just learned what ‚being‘ means.“
„Okay!“ groaned Chris, half sobbing and half laughing with reddened eyes. „Then I’ll just ‚be‘ from today on. Let’s see what comes of it.“
„Goodbye, San. – And thank you!“
„Goodbye, Chris. – Drive on now.“
And Chris made an effort to tear himself away from San’s presence, started his car and drove off, waving first through the passenger window and then through the back window. It was a sunny late afternoon in spring and Chris could see in the rear-view mirror for some time on the straight road east, San, his little luggage slung over his shoulder and with the low sun behind him, walking slowly down the road. Then he was gone.
A day takes its course and comes to an end. It makes way for the day that will come after it. The sun will shine again on this one, but it will still be different.