In the elemental scheme of things we humans are, at best, middling. We are minute in the scale of the universe, our time not even a glimmer, and as we age, time contracts, but only in the shortening forward direction. But pity the poor hydrogen-7 isotope whose life is likely over in 30 yactoseconds, absorbing the laughter of helium-5 living on average, 33 times longer, and both jealously, if ever so quickly regarding our seemingly infinite span. But lest we get complacent, there is always zirconium-96 for whom our life is but the blink of an eye, barely worth noting, a second at most in a span that could reach twenty quintillion years, so we are nothing special, save in our own eyes.
She walks with a deliberateness that bespeaks years of always knowing what the destination is. Getting to the destination, she knows is far less important than having one. On occasion she would arrive at her destination and would then have no option but to immediately select her next destination, for being on one place too long was, to her, a form of living death. Many thought her a wanderer, and she was fine with that. She knew the shortest distance between two points was a straight line it was also just the most boring, and for her it was really all about the trip.
It is far past time that I went on a pilgrimage. I’m not at all sure just what sort of a pilgrim I’d likely be. As a now Buddhist child of the late 60’s, the Plymouth Colony model clearly isn’t workable. And in my own late 60’s, now with a fused spine and creaky knees and shoulders, foreign travel looks less and less of an option. I’ve long since given up acid and mescaline, and I never got the hang of astral projection, so perhaps I need to think smaller and just wander over to my local wine shop for a couple of bottles of a decent Rioja and Galicia and dreams of the Camino de Santiago.
Krevchinsky froze his ass off on the Siberian plain. The gray concrete box was traded for concrete gray skies, the whistle of the truncheon gives way to winter’s blasts. It was in many ways easier when the beatings came neatly marking the days dividing days between pain and exhaustion, all under the watchful eye of the meek incandescent sun dangling from the ceiling. In the camp day and night are reflections of an unseen clock, seasons slide from discontent to depression. The prison of the body is finite built block on block, the prison of the soul is vast, empty, dissipating life.
First appeared in HazMat Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (1996) and later in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, Nos. 1-2 (2006).
An evening summer retreating in the face of autumn, two garnacha, a piano, bass, drums, her voice lifts the weight of the sky and we float up on a melody, unchained. In heaven George and Ira smile and we, here, smile with them.
Today was downright exhausting, and my hour long walk along the river left me dripping and drooping. It wasn’t different than most days, same time, same place, and the usual 756 miles, according to my old friend Orion, who was watching from his usual perch, unseen, as he prefers it by day. When I was done, I started to complain about how I felt, when Orion interjected, “Just be thankful you’re not in Florida today, its hotter by far, and your usual walk would have covered a full 930 miles today, and there you’d have reason perhaps to complain just a bit.” Heading home to shower, I called out to Orion, “You know you are one heavenly pain in the ass.” “Yeah,” he replied, “that’s what Artemis said.”
If you ask who I am I will have you close your eyes and walk behind you, or I may step to your left and take your right hand. If you are perplexed, I will ask you, do the four gates open into the city or out to the world beyond, and if I stand still sideways under a gate in which direction am I headed?
A reflection on case 46 of Dogen’s True Dharma Eye (Shobogenzo).