At the South Pole

Just north of the south pole lies a small outpost, owned by a small man.

Burton had been part of an expedition – one that failed, ultimately, due to infighting and poor preparation – but he had succeeded. Continued to succeed, for he wasn’t dead yet.

Where others came and went, Burton had built a small hovel. It wasn’t much at first. Just a few walls and roof. But he shored it up, surrounded it with snow and ice to keep the heat in. He kept adding to it, expanding out and down, making more rooms, more space for him to stretch out. Storage for the penguins he regularly hunted.

Burton had a vast supply of food now, frozen and ready to cook and eat when he needed. He held back scurvy with raw fish, and the occasional foraging for vitamin tablets at the research bases, but that was such a long walk, and he didn’t think it was that worth it. The penguins’ stomach contents would do just as well, and it didn’t take him long to get over that bit of squeamishness.

The main difficulty was loneliness, and boredom. Burton had little to do most days. At first, he read his way through the complete works of Shakespeare, and two other books he had brought. He found a couple of more at various abandoned outposts, but not much of value. He spent time stitching together penguin pelts to make floors, clothes, whatever he needed. He made some wall paintings to decorate. The place was nice; functional, but nice.

Now, though, he sat. Just sat, staring, thinking. Trying not to think. Remembering ideas of clearing the mind, of being in the moment.

It was through his unintentional, but ultimately chosen, isolation that Burton came to be a master of contemplation, of meditation. He would go forth to share his wisdom with the world, but that would mean losing what he had found.

Instead, Burton stayed where he was, continued to contemplate, to exist. To be.

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