S: What are you doing, for heaven sake? H: Isn’t it obvious, I’m searching for Nirvana, for enlightenment. S: You silly fool, it’s right behind you! H: (turning suddenly) It is not, I would certainly see it. S: You might think so, but it is still right behind you! H: But why, tell me, can’t I see it? S: Because you’re looking for it always peering outward, but if you look inward behind your eyes, you won’t be able to miss it.
I have visited countless galleries, stared at or shielded my eyes from all manner of art, but I always read the plaques affixed to the walls, name of artist, of work price, the relative amount speaking to the financial state of the gallery.
I actually care very little about the name of the artist other than as a historical reference, for the piece has already spoken or remained in total silence.
I do glance at the title and wonder why so many artists, of infinite creativity, when it comes to words are struck mute, and tell me their work is simply “Untitled,” which for me is but another way of saying, unpurchasable.
You can take my sight, but my mind will still see what it must, and my fingers will become eyes. You can take my hearing, I will imagine what I must, and my eyes will become ears. You can take my tongue, but my body will shout what I must, and my hands will speak volumes. The only thing you cannot take is my words, for without them my prison would be complete and I would be rendered mute, deaf and blind, and that is a fate from which I could never hope to emerge.
In setting along the path do you follow Hofuku covering your eyes so as not to see evil, ears so as not to hear it and close your mind to wandering ideas or is Jizo’s path yours as well?
With eyes shut tight the mind will still see, with ears covered sound will echo, growing louder with no hope of escape. With open eyes light is reflected, with ears open fully, sound passes freely and flitters away and the empty bowl is filled with potential.
It is the eyes that fall in love, the heart that follows like an always faithful shadow, and the mind and reason that are bound to darkness and silence.
That is what I learned in my dream last night, or my recollection of it, for dreams may fade in the sharp light of morning.
But dreams have a potent magic, a holiness really, for there I can resurrect the dead and if the mood is right, bend back the arrow of time, render it dimensionless, all the while I remain constant, but certain with any luck, in someone else’s dream, I may be a child, a young man, or any of a thousand other roles I cannot imagine.
The most important lessons he taught were in those moments when he was absolutely silent, the smile across his face shouting across the background din of everyday life, his eyes wide with a sort of childish awe that I had long since given up as adolescent.
The child sees everything for the first time regardless how many times she has gazed at what we adults are certain is the same scene, a pure iteration, hears each call of the cardinal as a never-before-heard song, not the now boring chorus of a too long repeated lyric, its melody now painful.
His lessons too easily slipped away, as he did a few years later, mourning a poor substitute for memories that eased into the damp ground with him, but the smile of my granddaughter at seemingly everything and nothing, her laughter at the squirrel inverted from the crook arm of the bird feeder defying the shield below to stop his constant thefts, the giggles at the clouds filling the sky with characters I could not hope to see, brought him back, and with him the joys of my childhood long suppressed.
It washed up on the beach this morning, stopped right at my feet, as I stared down at it, examining it carefully. It message was clear at first, a tale too hard to swallow, of creatures tossed about by a storm that no one saw, from an age in which no one now alive could have experienced. The message described a magic land of which it gave only had a brief glimpse, a land that was constantly in flux and perpetually out of reach. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine such a marvelous place, and as I did it receded back into the ocean from which it emerged, merged with all of the others, and I was left with only this dream of it.