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.