This story picks up right after A View from the Top. This is the latest story that follows a character named Ruby as she goes through the process of waking up and letting go of ego in the pursuit of spiritual freedom. You can read the full series of spiritual stories involving Ruby on this link as well as find other stories:
Ruby struggled to open her eyes. Her eyelids felt like ten pound weights.
She found herself in a bed in a room full of empty beds. Gray light filtered through blurry windows.
Ruby came back to consciousness. With it came protesting aches and pains in every part of her body. She groaned as she sat up.
She felt the toll of her climb to the top of Mt. Liebe. Tenderly she touched parts of her body to assess the damage. Nothing seemed severe, but everything felt sore.
A door creaked open.
A fat man with a large handle-bar mustache approached her.
“Are you all right?” A softness in his eyes mirrored concern.
Ruby could see her reflection in his eyes–she saw a battered woman who had taken on too much.
“I think so. Where am I?”
She nodded. She tried to get up, but her body rejected the movement.
The man smiled and handed her a cup of something warm. She drank it. A dance of flavors and feelings moved through her mouth into her mind and her body. Something inside of her relaxed.
She noticed the light coming through the window had turned golden. She tried to get up again and found her body more responsive. She thanked the innkeeper again and walked outside.
She looked up to the source of the golden light and found her teacher, the kuldne kull, perched on a branch of an enormous oak tree.
“Teacher,” she said simply.
“How are you?”
They gazed in silence together.
“What do I do now?”
“What do you want?”
Ruby paused, unsure how to answer. Her recent achievements of experiencing love had been wonderful, but now….
A part of her liked the idea of having more love experiences, but she wondered if she was ready for more powerful experiences after her ascent to the top of Mt. Liebe. Conversely, her experiences with the more normal human love had been fun, but not as fulfilling.
And as for the spiritual path….
Was the longing still there?
Yes. Somewhere. Somewhere inside she still longed to know what life was really all about.
The kuldne kull rubbed its beak with a wing, and then in another instant, she saw the man, Zeen, picking his nose. Then she saw the bird again.
“How can you be two things at once?” Ruby asked.
“Are you not many as well?” He raised his eyebrows, now the man again. “Are you not a daughter and a lover? A craftswoman and townsperson? Smart and dumb at the same time?”
Ruby thought about this. “I suppose I am.”
“I know this, and until now, you did not.”
Zeen became the bird again and prepared to fly.
“Wait. What do I do?”
“What is asked of you.”
Then he flew away, his golden light shining on the tree leaves and landscapes as he went away.
A part of her tried to be frustrated with the response, but something inside started to relent. She shrugged.
She returned to see the innkeeper, wanting to pay him for his generosity. He politely refused, but Ruby also realized she was going to have to stay longer because she had no idea where to go. She searched for her money, but remembered that she’d lost that and many other things in her climb on Mt. Liebe.
“I have nothing to pay you with if I stay longer. What can I do for you?”
He pointed outside. They walked out to look at an outhouse.
“We use the refuse for manure. We need people to dig out what’s in there and take it out to our fields.”
Ruby felt herself recoil. A whiff emanating from the outhouse made her gag.
She countered with a number of services and skills that she had, but the innkeeper shook his head after each one.
Finally, Ruby decided to meet some of the other villagers to offer her services.
Around she went to different individuals, asking what they needed. Again and again, the need was the same: someone to clean out the outhouses and fertilize the fields.
She’d mention one thing after the next that she could do instead, but none were of interest.
Feeling very frustrated, she stared back at Mt. Liebe.
After climbing so high, why was she forced to stoop so low?
She couldn’t live off the generosity of the innkeeper forever.
So she finally picked up a shovel.
And shoveled out the innkeeper’s outhouse.
And then the cobbler’s outhouse. Then the seamstress’s outhouse and so on.
This went on for months.
She continued to hope the kuldne kull would come to let her know that she could leave or tell her where to go. But days and weeks and months went by without a sign of him.
One day, she leaned heavily on the shovel. She wreaked, but she no longer had much of a sense of smell. She’d shoveled out all the outhouses, but once again, as to be expected, things had filled up. After all this work, in such a small town, there were still no other tasks offered. She breathed heavily and felt the early summer sunlight warming her.
She felt his presence.
“How much longer?” she asked shortly.
“For as long as is needed.”
She sighed heavily, turning to look at him, currently an older man.
“I’m sure this makes sense, but it sucks.”
Zeen/the kuldne kull said nothing in response to the complaint.
“Where will I go next? How do I even know if I’m doing it right?”
“The next step comes when it comes. How did you get here?”
Ruby was about to offer a chronology of events, but she was starting to understand the nature of his questions. “I thought I was ready.”
Zeen watched her closely.
“But I wasn’t. I almost got myself killed. I wasn’t ready. I don’t even know what ready is.”
He nodded, turned into the kuldne kull, and flew away.
Ruby looked up, dismayed and then looked at the outhouse.
She went back to shoveling.
Interpretation of the Story
Démut is a German word for humility. This entire story is about the humbling of Ruby’s pride.
Again and again students like Ruby are so trapped in their pride that they do things that make no sense on the spiritual path.
Despite being a relatively thoughtful character, Ruby is actually quite reckless. She fell into a pit and almost killed herself there. She almost killed herself on her climb up Mt. Liebe.
Yet even after those events, she struggles to recognize the level of her pride. So we have a very simple story about shoveling shit as a metaphor for being humble and dealing with the attachments we don’t want to deal with.
That’s it. It’s simple.
The humbling process is a critical juncture for most people on the spiritual path. My advice has been ignored countless times because of ego pride–overtly and covertly. Students just like Ruby think that they know what they are doing. It has been relatively large and significant events that have to occur to show the student that they have no clue. They need to surrender to their spiritual teachers.
If that scares you, that fear is part of your pride. And it’s part of your unresolved pain.
But surrendering to a spiritual teacher is just like surrendering to your soccer/football coach. By trusting them and doing the athletic drills to which they direct you, you get stronger and better at that sport.
When I point people towards issues like marital disaster, sexual abuse, misery at work, narcissism, fears of failure, clinging to children, and other issues and attachments, my advice can be things like journaling, therapy, self-inquiry, and other very reasonable things. But pride rises up and avoids these things.
Pride will even have the person go looking for something else to work on. That includes working on things for which they’re not ready.
Using the wrong or inappropriate tools, people can be needlessly upset people, waste their time, and/or even be traumatizing/re-traumatizing.
In Ruby’s journey, we see these happen occurrences in the past stories.
So before anything else can happen on this journey, Ruby has to be humbled. And that’s where we leave her at the end of this story.