Boundaries

     
 
The Timekeeper asked me about an ethnic group going through adversity on an international scale. It was out of character for me to tell him I did not want to find out. When he asked me why, I said:

“Because there is only so much we can do with what we know.”

The Second Flight

When the second flight also got lost at sea, a fellow witch did the very thing that I refused to do. And fortified my distaste for novelty magic.

 How could she have ignored it? I don’t blame her. I get it; the temptation is too great.  It’s impossible not to be curious; to not want to “take a look”.

 My voice grew less playful and more panicky. I begged her to take her inner gaze away from the sunken flight. She kept sharing the details she sensed in her scry. The more vivid she described, the less inclined I was to attend her and what she was doing.

 At some point of her description, I snapped. I got downright condescending and rude.

I was ashamed of myself for a while after that. I could not pardon my attitude until I tried to understand why she was could not resist.

I had to make up her story.

 First of all, she’s new at it. Yes. It’s hard to not want to take a look. As hard as it was to ignore the den in the desert. But after that one time, after that one glimpse, I had learned my lesson and have gotten very careful with scrying.

 The young witch, though, did not stop at finding the vortex of misery. She delved deep, and did not leave out a single detail to describe to my horrified ears.

You know that threshold for sensitivity escalates? Like, if you've been in a working out a while, lifting 5 kgs won't hurt so much. That if you you've been comfortable for most of your life, your empathy dulls. And the idler you live, the more creative you get.

So my friend, the young witch, had an upbringing that gave her a taste for vulgar cruelty. She had a taste for watching dead bodies the same way that gossip hens take delight in feeding and elaborating and exchanging the cruelest rumors.

 This young, cruel witch had no sense of how it felt to be poor or defeated. The threshold of her sensitivity had been numbed by the years spent in comfort. She was innocently indulging in the same magnetism that “horror from a safe distance” would offer.

And she had not been crushed by the terrors that arise from behind the shade. Not yet.

The First Flight

When the first commercial flight got lost at sea, it stayed lost for weeks and weeks. You might have heard about its uncanny story. It wasn't  just one person in a specific hole. But a whole fleet of crews and passengers lost somewhere in the vast oceans.

 My mother likes Facebook and takes her news from there. So one day, she asked me where the plane was, or if I could scry its presence.

I told her I could. But I wouldn’t.

After scrolling down her timeline, she asked me again to take a look. 

I showed her the image of vortex of grief. If I scried this lost plane, I said, I would have to enter that vortex, at the center of which is the lost plane. At the center of which hundreds of dead have spent their last living moments in hopeless dread, and thousands of their living relatives fuel it with grief. Can you imagine what I would have to go through to appease a mere curiosity?

Just describing the vortex made my skin tingle. The terror from the desert had clawed its presence in every shade and darkness, in every bend my mind carelessly wanders. Even more so when I am aware and conscious of my thoughts. For all its faults, ignorance is easier to forgive than intentional trespass. 

My mother scrolled down her Facebook timeline and said, “Aren’t you curious?”

No. And I told her my story with the den in the desert.

Scrolling down some more. “But can't you help find that plane?”

And then what, I said, inform the authorities that I scried the plane’s position at sea? Even if covens of witches got together to accurately locate the plane’s location, it would still sound queer. Not to mention that it would start a modern terrorist- affiliated witch-hunt.

“Not even a tiny, teeny, weensy, bit curious?”

Sighing, I clasped my palms together and closed my eyes. How about this, mom, I said, I’ll take a look, but I will take you with me to see all the details. Touch the decomposing bodies in the dark waters, feel the echoes of their dying throes, and dive into the depths of their grief. After that, you and I can have tea with the despair of helplessness and the absence of concrete, remedial action. Wanna?

Mother shook her head, unplugged the internet, plugged up her ears and shut her eyelids tight. Not another word was offered concerning that sad flight.

The Terror in the Desert

Few years back, a five years old girl fell in a dry well somewhere in a desert in the Middle East. The rescue team could not reach the poor girl. They could not even establish contact with her. They knew she had fallen there, but they could not locate her exact depth to pull her out. 

After about a week of trying, the authorities presumed that she was dead and took permission from the family to close up the hole.

Understandably, the girl’s family resisted. They kept hoping they might at least retrieve her body for closure and proper burial. 

A querent (who knew I had just learned to scry) asked me to take a look on the girl’s whereabouts. 

I was getting ready for bed, flat on my belly and home alone in my house in Jakarta. The barriers were thin enough and I was so new at scrying that, without second thought or preparation, I immediately agreed to scry the girl. I closed my eyes, and dove into the Betweens.

The barriers between the worlds in Indonesia are so thin that even newbie witches and weakling demons can cross through. The Equatorial region is a geographical embodiment to what Wiccans describe in the couplet: “As above, so below”. The Equator is smack in the middle of the planet. It’s easier to go back and forth the Betweens from Indonesia or Brazil than, say, Australia or Mongolia. The further away from the equator, the thicker the barriers become. Consequently, the thicker the barriers, the harder it gets to travel between the worlds. That is, the further we are from the Equator, by North or South, more power and knowledge is takes the cross the barriers.

A dark world opened up to me. I had jumped into a den of lordly demons who were as ancient and cruel as the desert. They noted my presence, turned their attention toward me, and screeched a bloodcurdling cry of war. 

A frosty current of fear ran down my back and pinned me to my bed. Shivering with terror, I opened my eyes, fumbled to turn on the all lights. Turning up the music player's volume, I huddled into a ball under my blankets. Their rage filled up every part of my room, every part of my awareness with dread and defeat.

I texted my querent what I felt and saw. I told him that the demons saw and followed me home. The thick barriers they have crossed over could only mean that they were of a powerful class of demons. And they were pissed.

It took me a while to recover. It was reckless to go under with my attitude. It was stupid to travel without preparing for the culture. It was idiotic to not consider the culture of demons residing in an environment as harsh and uninhabitable as the desert.

The Desolation of Pity

When the Timekeeper asked me about an ethnic group in the news, I could have answered with a quick research. I could have explained it to him the plight of those people in simple terms.

But between the den in the desert, the planes lost at sea, and the shame of watching someone indulge in purposeless magic, I had enough reasons to keep my senses clear of global disasters. Unless a member of my close society was involved, I find it distasteful to dig into hard selling news. Unless there is a line of action to follow the digestion of hard news, I wouldn’t bother.

It may sound callous, but we're not made of infinite resources. All emotions, pity and curiosity can evolve into a banality. Even the best of intentions can turn into passive cruelty in when effective action fails to follow. For, only concrete action has the power to soften the shattering blows of emotions.

To follow up with action, we need to be aware of as many angles of a story as possible. It's a lot of work just to figure out what to fix first. That process, the process of finding out about others, will lead to more discoveries about ourselves. The more we know about ourselves, the less certain we’d be in the potency of our roles in the world.

Hence, by the time we know full stories, the story of all sides involved, we would rarely have room left for pity – for emotions. At best, we would be more aware of the pitiful things in ourselves, and be driven to actively do something about it. At second best, we would refrain from causing others anymore harm.   

Because there is so much we can do with what we know.
 
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