A Last Heaven on Earth

Eons ago, there was no Java nor Bali, for they were one. The inhabitants of the island worshiped the deities of old reverently. Among the gods were Dewi Danu, the patroness of Bali, and Raung, the personification of the volcano. The god pined for the goddess of water, but he was rejected as she saw cruelty in Raung’s eyes. For years he wooed Dewi Danu until she had had enough and separated herself and her people from the main island. This is how Bali parted from Java, and how Dewi Danu exhausted herself to the point that she had to incarnate to sustain her power. For generations she lived as a part of her people, not knowing her true identity. Her latest name was Layonsari. 

Centuries passed and Raung had grown desperate to find Dewi Danu that he left his territory, sacrificing a large portion of his power, to find the island of the goddess. He took along a lion-like spirit called Barong. Raung made his way to the shore and found a ship belonging to the kingdom Kutai. Desperate to find Dewi Danu, he murdered the entire crew after extracting the location from them and set sail there. When Raung arrived, the volcanoes on the island erupted and caused a massive disaster. Worn out from the travel, the wrathful god hid to recuperate and ordered Barong to seek information about the goddess. The spirit was also to kill anyone whom he considered to be suspicious. 

After the catastrophe ceased, Kalianget, the king of the island, checked on the condition of his people. At a westernmost village, Kalianget found Jayaprana, whose positivity enabled him to hope again in the deities. Thus the boy was adopted as the heir. Seven years later, Jayaprana was deemed worthy of the throne and told to pick a wife from the palace. The heir politely declined and instead requested to find his own wife among the people. So he traveled, and at the sacred lake to Dewi Danu, Jayaprana met Layonsari. It took quite some time for Layonsari to reciprocate to Jayaprana’s love, but when she did, the wedding was set up right away. On the occasion, Kalianget began to act strangely. 

It turned out that Barong had succeeded in his mission, collecting information from men and spirits alike. He had also committed several murders so cleverly that no one was suspicious. After making final observations on Jayaprana, Layonsari, and Kalianget, he had gone to report to his master. Now, having recovered a portion of his power, and blinded by his desire for Dewi Danu, Raung had enacted his plan by possessing Kalianget.

Not so long after the wedding, the possessed king ordered Jayaprana to investigate the mysterious murders at the other side of the island. Obeying his adopted father, Jayaprana ventured there and found Barong, who had been waiting for him. Finding himself against an otherworldly creature, he managed to tame Barong with his kindness and wit. With his allegiance changed, Barong told Jayaprana everything he knew about Raung’s plan and offered to take him to Layonsari as fast as he could. 

Meanwhile at the lake, Kalianget revealed himself as Raung and confronted Layonsari. She refused to believe at first, but after Raung explained their history, the goddess inside her began to wake up. Raung tried to take advantage from Layonsari/Dewi Danu’s confusion, but before he could lay a hand on her, Jayaprana arrived with Barong. Hence ensued the fight between man and god, but Jayaprana knew that he was no match to even a greatly weakened Raung. Bidding his goodbye to the tearful Layonsari, the heir and the spirit made a final attempt together to drown Kalianget/Raung into the lake. 

The water was still for a moment until a blast broke the silence. From the lake rose the possessed king, unscathed. He had slain both Jayaprana and Barong as they struggled down the water. However, the sacrifice of the incarnation’s true love had fully restored the goddess in Layonsari. Dewi Danu proceeded to overcome Raung and exorcised him from Kalianget, incapacitating him so devastatingly that Raung would never be able to wander off his territory again.

Having recovered from his possession, Kalianget started asking the goddess about what had just occurred. The deity explained to him everything as she started entering the water. The release of the goddess allowed Dewi Danu to resume her true form and protect the island with her full strength while uniting Layonsari and Jayaprana in the afterlife.

Considering himself and the island to be greatly indebted to all who made the sacrifices, Kalianget started an irrigation system called subak that is rooted in the worship of Dewi Danu. The king also immortalised Barong as the watcher spirit of Bali and built a monument for Jayaprana and Layonsari to commemorate their sacrifice of love. This is how Bali becomes renowned as a last heaven on Earth. All his legacies still stand until now.

A Dream at The Harbor – A Short Story

For a friend,

this is the point where we have to part ways,

boarding different vessels to our own destinations.

Still, before the tides come, there is something I have to tell you.

Heed these words of your comrade, for we may never cross again along the journey.

O my friend, do you remember our first encounter at this harbor? I still can imagine clearly your expression, covered by curiosity and optimism. You introduced yourself enthusiastically, but politely. You might did not feel it, but, when I shook your hand, I sensed a warm quiver pulsing through my body. I had a feeling that this friendship would bear an impact to our world, something amazing and useful for everyone. “Maybe our cruises and voyages will be remembered as legends,” I thought.

Can you recall of a storm in the midst of January, who knows how many years ago? On that night, cold and blustery, we were kept awake. In the middle of the foul weather, you gathered your fellows – our fellows – at the lighthouse, circling about a bale fire. The tempest that should have shaken and swept ships instead sparked our flame of fellowship. Friends turned to comrades. As we shared our dreams in the middle of the thundering storm, like the campfire that warmed our bodies on that chilly night, we ignited each other’s spirit and dream.

From that moment on, we worked very hard. Learning from the best shipwrights, we trained ourselves to build a vessel that can sail around the world. Every one of us had destinations and skills of our own, but we were united by the same intention: to show the people in every harbor we visit that life is not to be lived for ourselves; that life is meaningful if we can touch others’ lives and together grow to be better, for the glory of the Creator. We were like a body that functions well if every part works his best to fulfill a purpose. Do you remember about this analogy you yourself described?

Nevertheless, there is no human spirit that does not grow dull. Challenges appeared right before us. Too many things that we faced that it was almost impossible to recall it one by one. Our inability to learn to cox well tribulated us. A strong windstorm instilled fear in our hearts. We encountered too many great raging waves, as if they admonished that ocean was not a habitat for people. It could not be conquered by men, for the ocean was a presence as old and ancient as the Earth itself.

At first, you were still lively and supported all our morale. You motivated us with your inspiring words. One of your analogies I admired is about a dimming fire of passion that can be lightened up again if blown by wind. It reminded us of our destinations, the dream islands we wanted to sail to. Notwithstanding, you forgot one thing: a small fire can also be put off without any trace of existence.

Honestly, I started to worry when I saw an expression that appeared on your face for a second. You were practicing building a mast when I sensed hesitation from your countenance. Our fellows could have ignored other people’s behavior, but that not for me. I observed your wavering spirit, and from that moment on your condition got worsened.

We had ever since never talked, let alone attempted to realize, our dreams. You were often silent or acting foolishly on trivial matters that had nothing to do with your dream. There were no more speeches on passion or discussions about what we should do to master a certain lesson from a class, whereas you were our leader whom we counted on the times like this. You used to have everything none of us did: vision, standard, idealism, and, most importantly, passion and morale that convinced our comrades and me that you were the one we should imitate. A wise man once said, “A purposeless person is to be pitied more than a poor man.” Where did the great vision of yours flee to? Was he gone swallowed by the ocean, the person whom I admired?

I was grateful to be counted among the blessed ones, when I was gifted with the power to not give up. Could it be that all your qualities were granted into my hands? I tried to convince myself that such thing could not happen. Even now, I am still who I was: introverted, a terrible speaker, and set only on the dreams and tasks in hand. Unfortunately, without me realizing, I started to drift away from our fellowship. I thought we all changed, but to different directions. All our friends and you were busy with insignificant matters and were not wholehearted in preparing for our graduation exam: building our own ships and sailed on it from this port to the island across the strait. I tried endlessly and tirelessly to rebuke you and our friends to prepare the best for the exam. While practicing as excellent as I could, I attempted to inspirit our fellowship like I used to do. My effort was fruitless back then. All of you stood motionless and instead turned mocking me. Eventually, the preexisting distance really could not be abolished. Every one of us had decided of his own path.

And, the day of the final test arrived. Woods, nails, sandpapers, saws, and other materials had been provided sufficiently for each person. However, we could add parts of the ships according to the design we had devised. I observed only a few people who planned their vessels carefully. Most of us did not try with all they had. They included you, working on the ships with whatever there was. I guess that was what a fruit from a broken branch describes.

About two months from the beginning of the exam, all the ships should have been completed and ready to set sail. Dozens of sails were spanned, waiting for the cues from the masters. Some of the ships, including mine, installed a customized propeller at the stern. Others, on the other hand, relied only on the powers of wind and oars. The trial of Maiden Voyage then ensued. Several ships sank along the way, but almost every vessel arrived at the port in the island across safely. However, the average travel time of this test was very close to the normal limit. Fortunately, the fastest ships broke the record of the travel time of the exam, relieving the masters of their worry of lack of successors. The grandmaster declared all of us passed the exam and let us to sail anywhere we wanted with our vessels while representing all our teachers’ hope that we could learn more in our destinations.

Friend, here we are, at the harbor from where we would sail separately. Before we board our own ship and venture to the unknown, I have final questions and words for you. Listen carefully, for by these words we part. Have your destination changed from what you initially planned? What do you want from and in your life? Have you thought about the future thoroughly? Answer these questions to yourself, comrade, for our maiden voyage will soon begin. What our dreams and we will become, everything starts here, at this harbor. I bid you goodbye, friend. Hopefully at one point in each of our adventure we can meet again, and I pray that at that convergence we have realized our dreams.

Adieu, for now. Amen.

Sebuah Mimpi di Pelabuhan – A Short Story

It has been a while since my last post. During the hiatus period, I have been dealing with many things. Many, many exams; my high school graduation; and suddenly I am going to be a university student in a week. Nevertheless, I did finish a short story inspired by my high school graduation’s theme, “Maiden Voyage”. Since it is written in Indonesian, I will not expect non-Indonesian readers to be able to read it.

Yet, this is a tale in a harbor, written in combined first and second-person perspective, about maiden voyages and dreams. Enjoy!

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Kepada sahabat,
di sinilah titik di mana kita harus berpisah,
menaiki kapal yang berbeda ke tempat tujuan masing-masing.
Namun, sebelum laut pasang dan layar membentang, ada yang ingin ku sampaikan.
Dengarlah perkataan kawanmu ini, karena mungkin kita takkan berjumpa lagi selama perjalanan.

Hai kawan, ingatkah engkau akan perjumpaan pertama kita di pelabuhan ini? Aku masih dapat membayangkan dengan jelas raut wajahmu yang penuh dengan keingintahuan dan optimisme. Kau memperkenalkan dirimu dengan bersemangat, tetapi sopan. Mungkin saja kau tidak merasakannya, namun, ketika aku berjabat tangan denganmu, aku merasakan getaran hangat di sekujur tubuhku. Aku mempunyai firasat, persahabatan ini akan melahirkan suatu hal yang mengubah dunia, sesuatu yang mengejutkan sekaligus berguna bagi semua orang. Mungkin pelayaran dan perjalanan kita kelak akan dikenang sebagai legenda, pikirku.

Ingatkah engkau akan sebuah badai di bulan Januari, entah berapa tahun yang lalu? Malam itu dingin dan berangin kencang, membuat semua orang terjaga. Di tengah buruknya cuaca, kau mengumpulkan teman-temanmu – teman-teman kita – di mercusuar, mengelilingi sebuah api unggun. Badai, yang seharusnya mengguncang dan menghanyutkan kapal, justru memercikkan api persahabatan kita semua. Teman-teman berubah menjadi sahabat-sahabat. Kita membagi mimpi-mimpi kita dalam sebuah percakapan di tengah-tengah gemuruh topan. Saat itulah, bagaikan api unggun yang menghangatkan tubuh di malam yang dingin itu, kita saling membakar semangat dan impian masing-masing.

Sejak saat itu, kita semua bekerja dengan sangat keras. Belajar dari para pembuat kapal terbaik, menimba ilmu untuk membangun sebuah kapal yang berlayar mengelilingi dunia. Setiap dari pada kita mempunyai tempat tujuan dan keahlian yang berbeda-beda, tetapi kita disatukan oleh satu buah niat: memperlihatkan kepada orang di pelabuhan-pelabuhan tujuan kita bahwa kehidupan bukan hanya untuk diri sendiri; bahwa hidup akan lebih bermakna jikalau kita bisa menyentuh kehidupan orang lain dan bersama-sama bertumbuh menjadi orang yang lebih baik, demi kemuliaan sang Khalik. Kita bagaikan sebuah tubuh yang berfungsi dengan baik jikalau semuanya bekerja secara maksimal untuk memenuhi suatu tujuan. Ingatkah kau akan analogi yang kau sebutkan sendiri?

Tetapi, apa daya, tidak ada semangat manusia yang tidak pudar. Tantangan-tantangan muncul di hadapan kita. Terlalu banyak yang kita hadapi hingga hampir mustahil untuk dapat mengingatnya satu per satu. Ketidakmampuan kita untuk mempelajari cara mengemudi kapal yang baik menyulitkan kita. Angin ribut yang terlalu kuat membuat kita gentar. Kita menemui banyak amukan ombak yang hebat, seakan mengingatkan bahwa laut bukanlah tempat bagi manusia. Ia tidak bisa ditaklukkan umat manusia, karena ia adalah keberadaan yang setua dan sepurba bumi sendiri.

Pada awalnya, kau masih bersemangat dan menyokong moril kita semua. Kau mengatakan hal-hal seperti api semangat yang jikalau mengecil dapat tertiup kembali menjadi api yang besar, mengingatkan kita tentang pulau-pulau impian tempat tujuan masing-masing, dan lain sebagainya. Walaupun begitu, kau melupakan satu hal: api kecil yang ditiup bisa juga padam tak berbekas.

Sejujurnya, aku mulai khawatir ketika melihat sebuah ekspresi sepintas di wajahmu. Kau sedang berlatih membuat tiang kapal saat aku merasakan keraguan dalam air mukamu. Sahabat-sahabat kita mungkin saja tidak mengamati perilaku orang lain dengan seksama, tetapi aku tidak begitu. Kau mulai gentar, dan sejak saat itulah keadaanmu bertambah parah.

Kita tidak lagi membicarakan, apalagi berusaha untuk mewujudkan, cita-cita kita. Kau lebih banyak diam atau berperilaku konyol tentang hal-hal sepele yang tidak ada kaitannya sama sekali dengan mimpimu. Tidak ada lagi pidato mengenai semangat ataupun diskusi mengenai apa yang harus kita lakukan untuk menguasai suatu pelajaran.

Padahal, kau adalah pemimpin kami. Kau dulu mempunyai visi. Standar. Idealisme. Semangat dan moril yang meyakinkanku dan sahabat-sahabat kita bahwa kaulah orang yang patut kami teladani.
Seorang bijak pernah berkata, “Seorang yang tidak memiliki tujuan lebih menyedihkan dibandingkan orang yang tidak memiliki harta benda.”

Ke manakah visimu itu? Hilang ditelan lautkah, orang yang kukagumi itu?

Aku termasuk beruntung, ketika aku diberikan anugerah dan kekuatan untuk tidak menyerah. Mungkinkah semua kualitas dalam dirimu berpindah tangan kepadaku? Aku meyakinkan diriku sendiri bahwa hal seperti itu tidak mungkin terjadi. Aku masih seperti aku yang dulu: introvert, tidak pandai bicara, dan hanya terpaku pada mimpi-mimpi dan tugas-tugas di tangan.

Sayangnya, tanpa ku sadari, aku mulai menjauh dari perkumpulan kita. Aku kira kita semua berubah, tetapi ke arah yang berbeda-beda. Kau beserta sahabat-sahabat kita menyibukkan diri dengan hal-hal yang kurang berarti dan tidak serius dalam mempersiapkan diri menghadapi ujian terakhir: membuat kapal sendiri dan berlayar di atasnya dari pelabuhan ini sampai ke pulau seberang. Aku berusaha mengingatkanmu dan sahabat-sahabat kita dengan tanpa henti dan tanpa kenal lelah. Sambil berlatih sebaik mungkin, aku berusaha menyemangati kalian seperti yang dulu kau lakukan. Saat itu, usahaku sia-sia. Kalian semua diam tidak bergeming dan malahan berbalik memperolokku. Akhirnya, jarak yang ada benar-benar tidak bisa dihapuskan lagi. Setiap dari pada kita telah memilih jalannya sendiri.

Dan, tibalah hari ujian terakhir itu. Kayu, paku, amplas, gergaji, dan alat-bahan lainnya telah disediakan cukup bagi setiap orang. Namun, kita boleh menambahkan bagian-bagian kapal sesuai dengan rancangan yang telah kita buat. Kulihat hanya segelintir orang yang merancang kapal mereka dengan serius. Kebanyakan dari kita tidak berusaha dengan sepenuh hati. Mereka, termasuk kau, mengerjakan kapal dengan seadanya. Kurasa itulah yang disebut sebagai buah dari ranting yang patah.

Sekitar dua bulan dari hari dimulainya ujian, seharusnya semua kapal telah selesai dibuat dan telah siap untuk berlayar. Puluhan layar dipasang dan dibentangkan, menunggu aba-aba dari para guru. Beberapa kapal, termasuk diriku, menyalakan motor pendorong yang telah disesuaikan untuk kapal dan dipasang di buritan. Sebagian besar kapal, di sisi lain, hanya mengandalkan tenaga angin dan dayungan.

Uji Pelayaran Perdana pun berlangsung. Beberapa kapal tenggelam dalam perjalanan, tetapi hampir semua kapal tiba di pelabuhan pulau seberang dengan selamat. Meskipun begitu, waktu tempuh rata-rata ujian ini sangat tipis dengan batas normal. Untungnya, beberapa kapal yang tiba paling cepat mencatatkan rekor waktu perjalanan, melegakan hati para guru akan keberadaan penerus-penerus mereka. Guru kepala menyatakan kita semua lulus dan mempersilahkan berlayar ke manapun yang kita mau dengan kapal kita, sambil mengungkapkan harapan guru-guru agar kita dapat menimba lebih banyak ilmu di tempat tujuan kita.

Sahabat, tibalah kita di sini, di dermaga tempat kita akan berlayar sendiri-sendiri. Aku mempunyai beberapa pertanyaan dan perkataan terakhir. Dengarkanlah dengan seksama, karena melalui kata-kata ini kita berpisah. Apakah tempat tujuanmu telah berubah dari yang kau rencanakan? Apa yang kau inginkan dari dan dalam hidupmu? Sudahkah kau pikirkan mengenai masa depan sematang-matangnya? Jawablah kepada dirimu sendiri, sahabat, karena pelayaran perdana kita akan segera dimulai. Akan jadi apa diri kita dan mimpi-mimpi kita, semuanya dimulai dari pelayaran ini, di sini, di pelabuhan ini.
Sampai jumpa, sahabat. Semoga suatu saat dalam perjalanan, kita dapat berjumpa lagi, dan semoga pada titik pertemuan itu kita semua telah mewujudkan impian-impian kita.

Selamat tinggal, untuk saat ini. Amin.