"Everything is just a repeat of yesterday," the old master used to always tell me. It wasn't until I took his place that I really understood what he meant.
Well, that might not be entirely true. Honestly, I sort of got it before, but once I took his place, I experienced it. That's when I really got it—know what I mean?
It's like this: no one ever really does anything new. It's like every time a new person's born, they're just reprising the role of the people who brought them to life anyway. They learn the same lessons, make the same mistakes, speak much the same language, eat much the same food, get haunted by much the same goals. There's variation there, for sure, but not much. Like the old man used to say—"Everything is just a repeat of yesterday."
So when he died, we repeated the tradition—one of those old, artificial repetitions. Because we just can't help ourselves, apparently. When he died, they didn't realize until a few days later, when he didn't come out of his room, which was forbidden to everyone else. I remember watching them carry the old master out of his room, eyes open, but looking about as peaceful as he usually did. Another repetition, I guess; the guy really loved practicing what he preached.
But then they looked through his room. Apparently the old man believed in breaking repetition now and again, because he left a note, sensing his own impending death. He expressly stated that, rather than hand the mantle down to the next senior monk, he wanted me to have it. Me! Can you believe that bastard?
But here we are. And after weeks of depositions and suspicions—just why would the old man leave things to me?—I was locked away in his old room. It was fine. I suppose. But it did smell. Not really like old person, or even decaying flesh. It smelled just like the same old-same old; like my old room, and the corridors, and the kitchen, and the outside, and the city. It smelled like everywhere else.
I can still remember sitting down in that room for the first time, though I guess "remembering" might not be the right word. Because I sit down on that cushion the same way, again and again, every day, every time on the same day—the same day of the same month of the same year. And all the other days and all the other months and all the other years, too. The old master really had his work cut out for himself, and so do I. But here we are, like I said, just looping through time again and again, never really hitting a destination, never really finding an end.
Some may wonder what it's like to be every person in every place at every moment—hell, I used to wonder myself. But I don't wonder anymore. Weirdly enough, it's not because I learned some particularly new thing. It's just that I realized something. I realized that I already knew what it was like. I knew what it was like to be anyone and everyone because I had been since I was "born"—or at least for as long as I can remember. After all, everything is just a repeat of yesterday; there's nothing new, just rehashing and rearranging what's always already there. And I was always already here, even if I took different shapes and was in different locations doing different things.
The old master died a while ago, and yesterday, and next week, and a million years from now—oh, and today. He died today, too. And I took his place today, and all those other times he died. But I guess I had different names at the time. I looked different, too; so did he. But there definitely was "that one time," the "first time" I ever sat on the cushion and took his place. There was a moment when I was just me—just me. It spooked me to find that I wasn't everything, but that Everything was me, and that therefore everyone was me, too. Thinking about it for a while, though, I understood—it wasn't a lesson learned, it was just something I had forgotten then realized.
In any case, you get the picture. You've been here before, too. After all, everything's just a repeat of yesterday—and here we are.