Some wander for its own sake
Some are lost, some driven.
Starfish have five tentacles. Everyone knows this. What is the reason why I would even mention this? And this is the way it always has been. From the very beginning, long time back in the past, they always had five tentacles. They did not start with only one and then two, and later three, four and five. No, they had five, since ever, always.
It is normal. No starfish would ever look at another starfish and start counting to see if they had five tentacles or not. Why would one do such a silly thing? Five it was, five it is and five it will always be. Why would anyone even mention this?
Why five, you ask? Now, that’s a better question; much better in fact. The least to say about five is, it is beautiful. All good things come in fives. The petals on the flowers, the beautiful ones, of course, the magic star one can draw in one go… you hadn’t noticed this?
In Oriental medicine, the five elements are called fire, earth, air, water and wood. And what about the five primary colours? You say, there are only three? How could you forget black and white? This cannot be just a mere coincidence. Ah, and one more, five is a primary number. Primary, top, select.
To cut a long story short, five is fantastic, and it is right and proper that starfish have five tentacles. How even, harmonious, well balanced and beautiful they look.
The other good thing with having five tentacles is, you always know where front and back is. How? When you move, only count how many tentacles point in the direction of your motion. If it is one tentacle, you move forward. If it is two, then you go backwards. It’s all straightforward and convenient, and every starfish knows this from the moment they are born. No starfish really thinks about this fact.
I am aware of this story going on already for quite some time, and it may appear as if it has not started, yet. Forgive me. This prologue I deemed essential, so that you may fully appreciate what follows.
This is the story of Cedric Mauritius, a starfish, of course. Cedric was at the upper end of his adolescent age when all beings are known for wanting to explore things for themselves, a time when they display unusual behaviour. Male starfish, in particular, tend to take more than average risks and try to prove to themselves and the world that they are better than others. They want to demonstrate this fact openly and for all to see while all other starfish kept themselves busy with eating, digesting, digging and chatting.
Cedric had noticed that sometimes the ground would move back and forth. Usually, the ceiling of the world would be smooth, but when the ground moved, the ceiling had fast moving grooves with white foamy lines at the farther end.
Cedric had a sharp eye and pondered on such findings.
At night, he would not snuggle deeply into the sand like all the other starfish, but let his eye stick out and gaze at the ceiling of the world. Sometimes, it would be only black, dark black interrupted by sudden, grey, dashing streaks. And sometimes this black would sparkle with glitter.
Some of those sparkles were so bright that they would emit sharp beams. They were round but irregular and always erratically change their shape slightly. Fascinatingly, they would write magic symbols on the sand. What did they mean? What did the sparkles at the ceiling of the world want to tell him?
Mesmerised over the miraculous performance he often fell asleep.
Early on his discoveries, he had tried to discuss his observations with other starfish of his age. Most of his friends started having an absent look in their eye as soon as he began with the phrase: ‘Looking up at the ceiling of the world.’ Some would interrupt his story with excessive laughter. Cedric felt embarrassed and kept things to himself.
Only a few would ask: “What do you mean, looking up at the ceiling of what?” This made him realise, they did not look up. Why would they not? Don’t they know that their eye is mobile enough to look upwards? Perhaps, Cedric concluded, they are so busy with activities in their two dimensions, so they don’t consider the existence of a third, let alone their ability to see it.
Only once more he asked an old starfish who appeared to him very knowledgeable. He listened to Cedric. Therefore, he hoped the old starfish could explain it all to him. However, at the end of his story, the old one only mumbled with a mild growling undertone in his voice: “Starfish sleep well, and, completely under ground.”
Cedric was very disappointed and wondered if the old starfish had even listened to his story. From then on, he kept his observations and discoveries to himself.
Cedric loved dreaming, mainly daydreaming because then he could create and change the content and flow of the dream in whichever way he wanted. Maybe not quite, because occasionally his mind would intrude and criticize that a particular part would be silly, irrational, impossible and altogether a waste of time. Initially, this would put an the end to dreaming.
However, when his mind was busy with other matters, he could dream unhindered. Then he would return to the real world refreshed and optimistic. ‘Playing with reality’, Cedric called it. Ordinary starfish life he often found tedious, while dreaming was uplifting.
One day, his dream had started only a few moments ago. He dreamt about flying high, at least halfway up to the ceiling of the world. Suddenly, his mind barged in rudely, exclaiming determined comments about the ridiculousness of all this.
Keeping his calm, waiting for his mind’s accusations to sedate, Cedric quietly replied: “Have you noticed that dreaming has promoted our wellbeing?” Without any further comment, his mind withdrew. From then onwards, Cedric could sense his mind observing his dreams, sometimes and quietly he agreed to the benefits of such activities.
Daydreaming has other profound effects on one’s future. Cedric did not know about this. Later in life, he was still dreaming then, he would remember the times of now and smile.
One day, Cedric had left the colony to go exploring the broader realms and a bit beyond, perhaps. Eventually, he had never travelled this far, he arrived at a rock. Then, he did not know it was a rock. He thought it was an unusual formation of sand. Because sand was all, he knew… we always see things for what we know. He had never seen anything like it before in his life.
He did not even know the word: uphill or steep. He gathered all his attention to tackling this new type of ground. He was especially careful to have as many of his suction cups as possible securely attached to the surface before he released those on the tentacles he intended to move.
He began climbing up, going forward, obviously. His eye was firmly fixed on the ground in front of him. Under normal circumstances, one does not focus on the actions of tentacles at all. Therefore, it was no surprise that he gave moving forward more attention than ever before. To his startled astonishment he noticed, he could see every detail even those very, very close to him.
There was a staggering turmoil erupting in his mind. He should not be able to see things this close. His close-up view was not obstructed by a tentacle! When moving forward, it was supposed to be blocked by a tentacle. And absolutely clearly, it was not. Calamity, disbelief, confusion and shock chased each other all over his mind.
Was he going backwards? That’s where one expected to see two tentacles! Certainly not! Was the concentration of exploring new territory fooling his mind? Possibly. He had stopped moving and focused all his attention on solving this dilemma.
The problem was, with one eye only, one could not look backwards when looking forward. Therefore, Cedric gathered his senses inwards and out into his tentacles. This action was quite natural for him because when one has only one eye and more than only one tentacle needed attention this inner guidance was very practical.
Now he turned his awareness in his backwards pointing tentacles. There was a distinct indication of two tentacles at the rear, the way it is supposed to be. However, how could this be possible? Two in the front and two at the rear? This was against all common sense and knowledge. On the opposite side of one tentacle, there were always two and vice versa. This was pure and straightforward logic.
He closed his eye and slightly bewildered he turned all of his attention more deeply than ever before into all of his tentacles. Applying his internal tactile feedback loop, he counted slowly, beginning with the two in front: Two, three (the one on the right), four and five at the rear. Then his mind went into a panic and withdrew its service.
Cedric was shaking in spasm. Indubitably, there was a tentacle on his left side, in addition to the five, he had already counted. Falling unconscious came to rescue, preventing severe damage to his troubled mind, struggling to comprehend.
He was still clinging to the rock when gathered his wits again. What had happened? he wondered disorientated. Slowly he remembered the extra tentacle on his left side. Still, in substantial disbelief, he guided his awareness into this tentacle to test its function.
He could move it at will. He could feel all the little suction cups and sensed the roughness of the rock surface. There was no doubt, he had to accept and come to terms with: this tentacle was part of him.
Counting clockwise and anticlockwise, starting from all the different tentacles, the result was always the same, every time. After arriving at five, there was always one additional tentacle left. Not all the time, actually. Once he counted up to seven, which almost made him faint again, however, he realised, in his distress, he had counted one tentacle twice.
Since Cedric seemed to have avoided a certain word up to this point, one could ask whether the number six existed in his vocabulary at all. Of course, it did. When he counted the many suction cups on his tentacles, their numbers always ended up somewhere between 58 and 63. There may have been equal numbers on all his tentacles, and he just miscounted them; which can easily happen. However, there never had been any concern about this inconsistency. Whether there were 58 or 63 little suction cups at each individual tentacle did not really matter.
Hence and eventually, still hesitating, he admitted to himself: I, Cedric Mauritius, have six tentacles. Even though, he still felt slight disconcert. Now his mind asked about the meaning of all this, and the consequences, not of having six tentacles, because he had them for all his life, but knowing it now.
Why has no one ever told him about this grotesque irony of nature? What if ever anyone would have noticed? Have they ever noticed? Why has no one ever noticed? What would have happened? Sure this is all about the past, which cannot be changed, however, what about the future, what if anyone would ever discover it then? What would their reaction be?
He remembered rare situations of his early childhood when his parents did not allow to go out playing when there were only a few children around. Had they noticed his abnormality? Had they tried this way to prevent other children from seeing it, which was more likely in a smaller group than in a larger? Why did they never tell him?
He was still hanging on the rock. He sighed to himself: At least one thing has not changed. I have not fallen off this steep surface. Yet, his mind kept on asking relentlessly. Why did this happen to me? What bad karma must I have collected in my past life, so that I would deserve ending up so malformed?
Can I still consider myself a starfish or am I a hideous monster? If someone would see me, would they be scared of or laugh at me? What unimaginable response would his abnormality cause?
Yet, the good thing was that going through the terrible shock of self-discovery all happened here and now, far away from the colony while no one was around.
Cedric was still holding tightly to the rock. There was no need to rush while hundreds of thoughts, eventualities and scenarios cascaded through the neural pathways of his little brain, so fast, the fluid in his synapses almost boiled. Even though, his mind continued producing more eventualities with an ever-increasing vividness.
The incessant bombardment numbed his senses, and amongst all the chaos he found peaceful silence. It lasted long enough to remind him of some urgent practicalities. The dark time would start soon, and he was clutching to an unusually shaped ground (the rock face). Definitely, a very unordinary situation to spend the dark time in.
He was in no condition to climb further up. And even if he were, there was no way telling for how much longer this type of ground would continue before it would level in a sandy patch where he could dig himself into. If it ever would level out again, at all.
Sure, there were innumerous times when he had stuck his eye above the sand, watching the dark ceiling of the world. But this was different. This was the first time in his entire life when most of him was not submerged in sand during the dark time. And on top of this, he was clinging to this strange ground.
Luckily, suction cups can hold their suction without any muscular effort, and, they also reconstitute any loss in suction, involuntarily. Still, some added caution would make Cedric feel more comfortable.
Looking around he noticed a small protrusion from the funny ground, about three tentacle length away to his upper right. This would provide him with some extra support. Slowly, he made his way over there.
He rested his central body on the top of it and letting his two hind tentacles extend downwards either side. While he moved over there and after he had settled into his new position, he caught himself thinking several times, how advantageous it was to have a surplus tentacle.
While being occupied with finding a resting place the ceiling of the world had turned dark. His mind had slowed down, finally and inevitably; being exhausted and tired had its effect. Now he noticed that he was hungry; he had not eaten since he had approached this strange ground. He scouted around with his tentacles around to sense for some edible substances, like a bit of moss, algae and tiny animals. Munching along, he noticed that the food tasted more pungent than what he had been familiar with on the flat, lower grounds.
While filled with the satisfaction of a full belly and before he fell asleep, one clear conclusion solidified in his mind. He would never return to the colony. Never. This being settled, be dropped into a dreamless sleep.
The next Day
The ceiling of the world was still glittering a bit when Cedric woke up, unusually early. As he was looking up, an orange glow slowly cast across the ceiling, and the glitter vanished. His unaccustomed sleeping position may have shortened his sleep. Or maybe, an unknown mild excitement about what this day would bring?
First, he remembered, he had been out on an exploration. And, there had been something significant. Then, like fanfares, it echoed through all corners of his mind: I have an extra tentacle.
This time it was far not as confronting as yesterday … yes, five tentacles plus another one. And much more relaxed than yesterday he announced to himself: I, Cedric Mauritius have six tentacles.
Digesting emotional shocks make you ravenously hungry. Last night for dinner, he had harvested all food stuff around his current reach. He had to move to another feeding ground.
As soon as he started moving, he noticed again how practical it was to have an extra tentacle, in particular, when climbing, an activity starfish are not familiar with. Having oneself safely attached with five tentacles, having an extra tentacle free to move without infringing on one’s security was very handy and incredibly comforting.
Moving around and eating simultaneously is common starfish practice. This is obvious evidence, contrary to current worldview, starfish can multitask for millions of years. Cedric falling back into this habit while climbing showed that he had become more used to this strange way of moving. He even enjoyed the different taste of algae and the tiny slugs.
Momentarily, he was faced by the challenge of an overhang in his way. Being in a positive frame of mind he moved on, and, he managed quite well with the hanging upside down situation.
There was a slight confusion. All his life, the ceiling of the world was opposite of the side with his few hundred little suckers. Now all were on the same side, ceiling and suckers.
After this achievement, he rested for a while. Thinking to himself, he pondered on the many common beliefs he had proven wrong during the last twenty-four hours. This just shows you. And the more he was in this frame of mind, his confidence grew and Cedric was prepared to accept the change of his very nature… namely of having six tentacles.
End of Part 1