The night was ripped by the lightning, the thunder piercing our dreams, awakening us to the shadow’s play on the skylight shades. As I slip back into sleep the gods turn their backs and continue to argue well into morning.
Much as every person is a Buddha every guitar can play a simple song. Some will lay it badly, some will break a string, some will play with an unspoken regret, but all have the capacity, recognized or not, to create a moment of memory. On this night there are two, both skilled, honed of fine wood, carefully strung, a purity of tone, and you know neither will fail to honor the song they play. But while one shows its mastery, intricacy of notes dancing from the soundhole, while the other sets a gentle rhythm, it is when the other takes up the song, that you realize it is playing it with a depth of soul that you will not soon forget.
This morning I made the mistake of asking where the coffee beans were. My spouse didn’t hear me, but Siri offered her opinion, leaning toward Guatemala. That didn’t set well with Alexa who said they were either in the cabinet over the stove, of in Papua New Guinea, since she prefers lower acidic coffee. Probably unsurprising, but Siri did not take well to being corrected, and got into it with Alexa, and I was left trying to interject, being ignored. I asked the Google Voice Assistant to intercede, but it only wanted to know which voice I wanted it to speak with, and then froze completely awaiting my answer.
She imagined what it must be like to have wings. She always wanted to be unmoored from the ground, to be free of its incessant pull, to look down on it from high above, and not with aid of contraption, just her, arms outstretched. The ground was a prison. She could move about, yes, but never really free, that sixth direction always denied to her. The sea was as close as she could come to true freedom, the sandy bottom dropping away, but the water was an imperfect atmosphere. She finally found the courage and stepped free of the cliff, felt the wind beneath her, the earth below falling away and coming up under her. She flew on until the alarm clock ended her flight.
It is far less a matter of space for we have that in profusion if mostly always beyond reach, but unnecessary anyway given our pervasive fear of being alone while always trying to define our particular uniqueness. The universe has a vastness we can never hope to grasp and so we turn inward, where space is constrained, and we can imagine impenetrable borders that exist solely within the mind. But the dimension that gives rise to fear and loathing is time, for it despite its vastness, is always finite and always, in our deluded eyes shrinking as the universe expands, and we know there is a point when time becomes a deathly singularity.
Time seems frozen in the checkout line stuck between the Mars bars and the tabloids, you wonder how Liz could survive a total body liposuction, and further details of how OJ killed in a moment of lust. The old woman in front rummages in her change purse certain she has the eighty seven cents, the coins lost in a blue haze reflected off her hair. Two aisles over the young mother her jaw clenched in frustration keeps putting the life savers back on the shelf as her child, fidgeting in the cart grabs another roll, until she shouts and slaps his hand. His cry draws stares from all and she stares at the floor as he grabs a Three Musketeers and Certs. A man in the express line swears that the apples were marked 89 cents and wants to see the manager who calmly explains that Granny Smiths are a dollar twenty nine and only small Macintoshes are on sale this week. He puts the bag on the scale and stalks out of the store. I would shift to the express lane but I have 16 items and must continue to wait and wonder how many incisions it would take for a full body liposuction.
Previously appeared in Kimera: A Journal of Fine Writing, Vol. 3, No.2, 1998 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008
They gather this time every week, they would feel lost if they did otherwise. The don’t do it out of any sense of duty or higher calling, and they expect nothing in return for having done so. They aren’t even following directions or obeying some unwritten rule. They object to most rules, demand logic before even pausing to consider requests for action. Holidays do throw off their schedule but they work around them as best they can. Theirs is a joyous group and only the swings groan under their laughter as their feet reach up to kick the clouds, before night falls on the playground.
Somewhere in here there is a hidden irony, not irony really, but a close enough approximation. We are creatures of softness, we relish textures that yield to our touch, would rather be swaddled than armored, vastly prefer the kitten or puppy to the armadillo or porcupine. It’s all about softness really. And despite this primal desire for pillows and down filled duvets, when it comes to measuring value we’re all about corners and hardness, about solidifying our financial position. And while we crave bills and coins, our ultimate measure of success are those crystals formed over eons, made hard by pressure and time, for those are the jewels of our existence.
If you are truly looking for the way why do you insist on using your eyes. Any teacher will tell you that your eyes see nothing, they are only lenses through which a delusion is created in the mind. The mind has no eyes, but it is all that enables you to see anything. So abandon the eyes that see nothing, and the mind that only thinks it sees. Settle on the cushion until you and the earth and the sky are one, indistinguishable from each other, and everything, which is nothing, will appear before you if only you refuse to acknowledge it.
A reflection on Case 4 of the Bring Me the Rhinoceros koans.