In the skies above the ocean sat a cloud to dwarf the heavens. It was light grey, dark in patches, and occasionally flashed bright during a late summer’s eve. It drifted slowly, but never left the sea unattended. It stood dark and tall between the rays of the sun, and the wide, ponderous deeps – which were always blue, and surged in countless waves.
The cloud was truly a matrix, giving birth from time to time to tiny raindrops condensing from its vaporous mixture around airborne dust. The cloud’s countless billions of watery children joined in blocking the light, making it an immense band of gray in the sky.
Once, one of these drops was born to its lofty life with a question: What am I? Why am I here? He was no different from the others, no less humble in his origins or simple in his needs, yet he burned with this question. Day after day he would ask it, but no one answered. “We are here just because”, they would say; or, “This is how it’s always been.” But the question would not leave him.
The other drops grew in size over time, adding infinitesimally to their moisture, still centered on the speck of dust that generated their being. Whole societies and echelons were created – of course based on the size and disposition of one’s water.
The questioning raindrop also grew, but could not see a reason for it. Everyone else was doing it, so he did it also. After all, loneliness is sometimes worse than a burning question. Most of the drops were quite proud of their size, and boasted their dimension. They formed hierarchies among themselves, and constantly compared their growth to others’. In an airy kingdom of liquid beings, certain raindrops reigned supreme.
At times – indeed, often in certain seasons – whole colonies of drops would give up their competition and drop suddenly from the sky. “Jumpers”, they were named. It was seen as a terrible madness that must be contagious. The rest avoided sharing their demise with much fervor, refusing to associate with anyone who had even known a jumper. Society was a precious thing, and well worth preserving.
About the jumpers, the questioning raindrop wondered most of all. Where did they go? What became of them? He considered these questions deeply and long, for days and hours on end, not noticing how heavy he became, how gravid from all these weighty thoughts.
The other drops respected and feared him both. It was said those who grew too much or too fast were bound to fall. Although his social standing was impeccable, they saw the look of a jumper in his eyes. So he avoided their high society, and kept to himself among the drifts. He was a stranger to his own family, and hardly spoke to anyone. Since he tended to follow the air currents, without thinking about it, they began calling him the wayfarer.
One day, when the sun shone especially strong, and his wandering had led him to the bottom of the cloud, the wayfarer caught a wide, blue glimpse of something wonderful. Gleaming with light, he couldn’t understand what he saw. It stretched as far as the drop could see – which was considerable – and seemed alive with a strange purpose of its own. What was this thing, which the wayfarer had never heard mentioned before? Could this be involved with the fate of the jumpers, a sort of graveyard they added to over time?
Moving to the bottom of the cloud for a better view, the raindrop peered as intently as he could – but made out nothing more. It was a mystery, and would remain a mystery. But faintly, so faintly he could barely discern it, he felt something reaching back from the expanse, seeming to echo his regard. So faint it was, at first he thought he’d imagined it. So he tried once more, gazing for long minutes into the myriad waves – and again felt an unquestionable sense of response. Further, it was not an indifferent feeling, but one of profound understanding and regard. It compelled him to look deeper – if only to know that feeling one more time.
Soon the drop spent most of his days contemplating this great, wide thing of a sea. His friends were forgotten – and soon forgot him. Society abandoned him. No matter the weight of his water, a drop with so little respect deserved none in return. They turned their back on him, but he did not notice. He thought, and prayed, and reached out with his being to that wonderful thing below – and each time felt it reach back. There was a bond that formed between them, a connection, and every day it grew stronger.
Then one day the drop noticed that nothing held him back from the sea but his own willingness to remain apart. Every drop was suspended in the cloud, but how? They had grown by attaching water to an insignificant grain at the core of their being, carried there on the winds. It was the insignificance of their size keeping them aloft, bearing them and all their water across the mysterious realm below.
So the wayfarer resolved to balk this mindless following of air currents, and started to move downwards, toward the sea. Of course, everyone else could see what was coming. They hurriedly moved apart, lest they be contaminated by association with a jumper. And because they moved, he was less attached to the general flow, and found it even easier to move downward. At first slowly, then imperceptibly faster, then faster. The other drops hurriedly shunned him, and he fell still faster. Then he truly began to fall.
In the society of his birth, they bemoaned his “fall from grace”, as they called it. One so promising had violated all the responsibilities of his potential. He had failed them all.
Soon velocity tore him from the cloud, and he was in truth a jumper. The wind whipped past his fragile form, shaking him and straining every fiber of his being. The wayfarer grew frightened, and wondered if he could survive the journey much longer. As well, the home he’d always known started to recede behind him, at the same time that the great blue rushed up beneath. The air brightened, and was soon full of light. Vast, strange beings sped past, while still he gained speed. Soon he was completely stretched out, and felt the essence of himself ripping apart. Again he prayed, but this time it was for firmness and steadfastness – for the courage to endure the journey.
The wayfarer raced to his destiny. At a certain point his speed changed, and right then he knew he would survive. Although the forces were tremendous, they grew no worse. The constant pain became familiar, and he learned to understand it – even thrill in the new depths of feeling they allowed. The cloud become a distant thing, and the ocean a huge, immense plain. He could feel its beckoning now, much stronger, and its powerful love and pride at his progress. Could he have, the drop would have willed to go faster – even allow his being to be torn apart – just to reach that loving presence a moment sooner.
As the ocean rushed up to meet him, the drop’s mind and heart filled with a grandeur that can never be repeated – and he fell headlong in love with that great being of the sea. He forgot himself, and offered his own soul in admiration for its massive waters. Whatever the society of clouds, if truly they value a drop’s weight, they should esteem this fathomless Being beyond all measure. How strange they did not seek its fellowship, or race down, as he was doing, to find it.
In the final moments, just before all consciousness was lost – to be replaced by a consciousness broader and more profound than any a drop could conceive of – the wayfarer wished to give a token of his love to the sea. Because he had nothing but water – and the ocean knew all there was of the mysteries of water – the drop try to reach his arms wide, and however feebly he might, to hug the wide width of the sea.
With puny arms flailing in the wind, and an eagerness far greater than his form, the wayfaring raindrop offered his arms to the Ocean, and was straightaway consumed by an embrace that taught in an instant all there is to know of love. For in the end, the drop had found his answer – the same answer – to every question he had ever thought to ask.