The other day I read After Dark by Haruki Murakami. It’s a short novel of intertwining encounters set one night in Tokyo between the hours of midnight and dawn. It is very dialogue driven with moments of captivating surrealism. I’d definitely recommend it.
A conversation that stood out to me was when one of the characters recounts a myth about three brothers who washed up on an island in Hawaii. I couldn’t find it online so I assume Murakami himself made it up. It went like this:
“Three brothers went out fishing and got caught in a storm. They drifted on the ocean for a long time until they washed up on the shore of an uninhabited island. It was a beautiful island with coconuts growing there and tons of fruit on the trees, and a big, high mountain in the middle. The night they got there, a god appeared in their dreams and said, ‘A little farther down the shore, you will find three big, round boulders. I want each of you to push his boulder as far as he likes. The place you stop pushing your boulder is where you will live. The higher you go, the more of the world you will be able to see from your home. It’s entirely up to you how far you want to push your boulder.
The three brothers found three boulders on the shore just as the god had said they would. And they started pushing them along as the god told them to. Now these were huge, heavy boulders, so rolling them was hard, and pushing them up an incline took an enormous effort. The youngest brother quit first. He said, ‘Brothers, this place is good enough for me. It’s close to the shore, and I can catch fish. It has everything I need to go on living. I don’t mind if I can’t see that much of the world from here.’ His two elder brothers pressed on, but when they were midway up the mountain, the second brother quit. He said, ‘Brother, this place is good enough for me. There is plenty of fruit here. It has everything I need to go on living. I don’t mind if I can’t see that much of the world from here.’The eldest brother continued walking up the mountain. The trail grew increasingly narrow and steep, but he did not quit. He had great powers of perseverance, and he wanted to see as much of the world as he possibly could, so he kept rolling the boulder with all his might. He went on for months, hardly eating or drinking, until he had rolled the boulder to the very peak of the high mountain. There he stopped and surveyed the world. Now he could see more of the world than anyone. This was the place he would live—where no grass grew, where no birds flew. For water, he could only lick the ice and frost. For food, he could only gnaw on moss. Be he had no regrets, because now he could look out over the whole world. And so, even today, his great, round boulder is perched on the peak of that mountain on an island in Hawaii.”
The moral of the story being:
“If you really want to know something, you have to be willing to pay the price”
The story resonated a lot with me. I am currently pushing my own boulder through life and I have no idea where I should stop. There is so much to see and do on this earth. So many people to meet. So many experiences to have. But I am very aware that with great experiences comes great sacrifices.
How many relationships and experiences am I missing out on by not exploring as much as possible? But on the other hand, how would my current relationships suffer if I keep pushing my boulder to the highest peak? I am sure there is a very sound argument to be made in favour of quality over quantity.
Are the lives that are chosen by the two younger brothers the most sensible? Surely nobody wants to go all the way to Hawaii to stay alive licking frost and eating moss. However the eldest brother couldn’t curb his curiosity to see as much of the world as possible, no matter how big the price was he had to pay.
Is life about expanding the interval or just doing one’s best to enjoy it? So many questions I know! But I’d love your opinions on this subject.