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What Oldest Human
Didn't Know

One day, when time was young,

a child was playing by the bank of a stream.

The child jumped across rocks, threw sand in the air, and built boats from twigs and reeds.

The boats flew down the stream and tumbled apart in the rapids, but eventually one miniature boat slipped past the turbulent waters to reach the place beyond places.

In this place, there sits one person

named “Oldest Human”.

Oldest Human knew lots of things and had lived for a very long time.

But one day, the same day the child was building boats, Oldest Human took a walk.

Oldest Human only walked once a decade,

so this was a very special occasion.

Oldest Human walked as though

all things were made of air.

Briars parted with ease;

mud thickened and solidified; 

the grass took out scissors and cut itself; 

the trees lifted their branches and sank their roots into the Earth;

even the insects would quiet down

so as not to disturb their elder.

Oldest Human’s walk was slow and measured,

but full of grace.

If you saw them walk yourself,

you would be overwhelmed by the beauty and simplicity

of Oldest Human’s balance and poise.

As they walked, Oldest Human held out their hand

and reached for the Sun.

The Sun came down to Earth and asked,

“Oldest Human! Why do you beseech me?

What is your reason? Are you lonely or sad?”.

Oldest Human gave the Sun a painting of a field,

lit by the sunset, and replied,

“For you, my love”.

The Sun looked at the painting and rejoiced.

The two old friends embraced

and went their separate ways; Earth and Sky.

As Oldest Human walked through field and forest,

Time sounded their horn.


Day became night. 

Oldest Human again reached out their hand, 

now towards the Moon.

The Moon came down to Earth and asked,

“Oldest Human… What is it that you ask of me?

Why do you reach for my cratered visage?

Are you anxious? In pain?”.

Oldest Human just smiled, took out a small flute,

and gave the Moon a languid, unfettered song.


The song seemed to last forever.


Into the night…

__________________________ _ _ _ _ _

As Oldest Human’s lips left the flute,

silence permeated everything that could be seen.

The Moon said nothing until Oldest Human

lowered the flute and whispered,

“For you, my love”.

The Moon embraced Oldest Human

and they both cried from the beauty of it.

They looked into each other’s eyes

and went their separate ways; Earth and Sky.

Time sounded their horn again.


Night became day.

Oldest Human was still walking when they came to a meandering streambank made mostly of sand.

By the edge of the water, a makeshift boat

of twigs and reeds had washed up.

In an instant, Oldest Human had taken the tiny boat

and had made it into a canoe of good size.

They fashioned an oar from a piece of driftwood

and a magnificent Sycamore leaf.

Before Time could play their horn to mark the noon-hour, Oldest Human had embarked in the canoe.

The Summer wind blew Oldest Human’s hair into eddies

and spun the canoe in place.

Oldest Human laughed briefly.

Then they took a deep breath, touched the water of the stream and caterwauled,



The stream shuddered and boiled

beneath Oldest Human’s canoe, trembling.

The water seethed as Oldest Human

rapturously lowered the oar into the water.


The water jumped and bounced,

pulling the canoe upstream!


Oldest Human hunkered down and

gave thanks for the stream’s willingness

to move in the opposite direction.

___________________________________ _ _ _ _ _ _  

Now, all this time, the little child on the streambank had kept playing

and playing

and playing…

They had built slingshots

and wheels

and odd little pulleys.

They had caught frogs

and salamanders

and insects.

They had run from spiders

and centipedes

and the way-too-fast current of the stream.

They had done so many things

that they decided to just lay down.

When the only thing the child heard were

the sounds of the Earth and Sky,

the Oldest Human transformed the boat.

When the only thing the child felt was

the ground on their back and the air on their front,

the Oldest Human made the oar.

When the only thing the child knew was

darkness and sleep,

the Oldest Human climbed into the boat.



The waters shattered

and the child was awoken

by the clap of what sounded like thunder.


they jumped up and looked about wild-eyed.

In front of them,

climbing out of a strange boat, was an Old Human.

Oldest Human shook off the water

and locked eyes with the young child.

“You are like a person I once knew”, spoke Oldest Human.

The young child said nothing.

“You gave me a boat, so I decided to see who you were”, Oldest Human continued, “You needn’t fear me;

I am fear”.

The young child said nothing.

“Do not let such a statement scare you, young one.

I am also hope, and joy, and sadness,

and embarrassment, and love”,

Oldest Human confidently asserted,

“I know you do not see it yet,

but you are all these things as well”.

The young child said nothing.

“Please, speak with me youth.

I have been many days reading books

and listening to the world,

but I have not spoken in so long.

All I ask is that you talk with me”.

The young child said nothing.

“I have so much to teach! Please!!!

Take all of my knowledge; all of myself;

take the ideas that I know I will soon forget!

Please, just speak with me!”.

The young child slowly stood up,

raising their whole body in one smooth motion.

They opened their lips once, pursed them tight,

and, strangling their hands into fists,

uttered the words,

“What do you know about Death?”.

The Oldest Human smiled wide,

“Ohhh, I know about death.

I’ve seen it.

I know its contours.

I know what happens to a family, to a friend…

when someone dies.

I measured the chemicals running around in a person’s head when they die.

I read the holy books and listened to

the story of Lingza Chokyi.

I KNOW all about death!”.

The young child did not respond,

but simply walked closer to the Oldest Human.

They both looked at each other

until the child opened their hands.

Inside the child’s hands was a walnut,

rotted and filled with black maggots.

Then the Oldest Human saw the lips of the child move,


“For you, my love”.

The Oldest Human began to breathe heavily.

Their knees began to wobble

and their back began to ache.

The Oldest Human began to lay down.

Their skin became sallow

and their eyes became glazed.

The Oldest Human began to smile.

Their heart began to slow

and they closed their eyes.

The Oldest Human began to die.

As the Oldest Human’s breath became ragged,

the young child embraced the old child.

______________________________________ _ _ _ _



The Young Child spent two hours seated by the streambank, holding a memory.

Then they got up,

stepped into the canoe that they had built,

and traveled to the place beyond places.

The water had calmed and now flowed downstream again.

The voyage was easy,

and each time the Young Child

dipped the oar into the stream, they felt older.

When they saw a calm meander,

they beached the canoe and walked for awhile.

They came upon an old house,

weathered by storms and bleached by light.

They felt at home there,

so they stayed and began to read the many books

that somebody had left in the cupboards.

And the Sun and Moon circled each other in the Sky.

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