Once there was a Villager who found himself in the outskirts of the Dark Forest. He felt Sadness. Things were not going well for him and this made him grumpy and discouraged. He moped about there for several days before he turned around and realized he could see the Peaceful Meadow through the trees. He remembered the calmness of the meadow and felt encouraged. Looking beyond the meadow, he could see the Abundant Village and his heart was warmed with the fond memories of the love and joy that awaited him there. He made the decision to leave the sadness and return to the happy village.
On his way he met a second Villager. Have you also been in Sadness, he asked? No, said the second villager, I’ve been in Grief. It is much deeper in the forest and I was there many months because I experienced a great tragedy. Wow, said the first villager, did you see the peaceful meadow and decide to leave? No, said the second villager, I was blinded by the grief and it was a long time before I could see at all. When the grief finally began to lift, I was too far from the meadow to see it. But I could look up and see the stars through the tree tops and so I used their light to help me find my way out. The two villagers were relieved to be heading back to the comfort and safety of the Abundant Village they knew so well.
Soon they encountered a Pilgrim. Hello, they said, were you in Sadness or Grief? Neither, said the pilgrim, I was in Depression. I was lost so deep in the Dark Forest, I got stuck there for years. Wow, said the second villager, why didn’t you look up and see the stars so they could guide your way? The forest was too dense, said the pilgrim, I could see no stars, all was black. I fought on through the darkness for years and years, always holding on to a tiny sliver of hope that I would find a way out. I saw many Orphans who had given up hope and sat where they were.
Oh my, said the second villager, how did you finally find your Way? Eventually I found a River and I was able to follow it here, said the pilgrim. Are you happy to be so close to the peaceful meadow, asked the first villager? I don’t know, said the pilgrim, I’ve been lost so long I’m not sure I even remember a peaceful meadow. But surely, said the first villager, you are happy to be heading to the Abundant Village? The pilgrim looked doubtful. I’m not sure there is a home for me there anymore, he said. Of course there is, cried the villagers! Come with us and we will help you find your home in the village.
The three of them continued on their way, but soon encountered another Pilgrim. Have you been in Depression too, they asked? No said the pilgrim, I’ve been in Serious Depression. I think I’ve been lost in the darkest realms of the Dark Forest my whole life, struggling out of pit after Deep Pit. It took me decades to leave the pits behind and find the river. It was so dark and there was so much pain. I fought and fought because that was all the hope I had. It’s amazing that you fought so hard for so long, said the first pilgrim, with deep understanding.
I had a travel partner, said the second pilgrim, with tears. He didn’t make it. He committed suicide in the depths of the deepest pit. The villagers gasped in horror! What, they said! How selfish, didn’t he think of his family? Didn’t he think of you? The second pilgrim was too mortified with pain at the insensitivity of the villagers to speak, so the first pilgrim spoke up.
It wasn’t selfish of you to feel sadness for several days, he said to the first villager. It would have been if you had pined away there a long time. Sadness is a normal human emotion, and healthy villagers know to turn around and see their way out to the peaceful meadow. And it wasn’t selfish of you to feel grief for months, he said to the second villager. Even though you isolated yourself and neglected duties, you were experiencing a necessary release of negative emotions around tragedy. As a healthy villager, you were soon enough able to see the stars and make your way out to rejoin your loved ones in the Abundant Village.
If I could have seen the peaceful meadow or the stars, I would have chosen to leave as you did. But there was no meadow and there were no stars, the river was very hard to find and I am not a healthy villager. Was it selfish for me to be lost so long in the forest? It was not a choice. Would you reprimand a paraplegic for not helping with the dishes?
At this point the second villager spoke. You cannot know the horror of a deep pit unless you have been in one, and I hope that this is not something you will ever experience. Getting out requires feats of strength and courage and anyone who has emerged from a deep pit has endured more than you can imagine. Sometimes, it may be only the thoughts of our loved ones that help us do so.
After a long, deep breath, the second pilgrim continued, choking back the sorrow. In the moment that my friend killed himself, he had no loved ones to think of. He had no self with which to be selfish. He had only pain. All encompassing pain, bigger than his past or future, bigger than his memory, bigger than his family and friends, bigger than his ability to think. There was nothing but pain, pain he endured for every single last second he possibly could until there was nothing left for him but to make the pain end.
The villagers were moved by the story of the pilgrim and felt deep empathy. Come, they said, let us bring you to the peaceful meadow where you can rest and heal. We will go back to the Village and gather Warriors to search the Dark Forest to its deepest depths. We will help the pilgrims lost without a river, the orphans who have given up, and those despairing in deep pits. Together we will fight to take away the power of this forest, and to free the prisoners so long lost there.