When you look in the mirror are you real, is your reflection real? Be careful what you say, for if I look into that mirror and see you, is the you I see anything other than real? When you go through the gate you say “I am exiting”. When I follow you through the gate I say “I am entering”. Are we both liars?
A Reflection on case 58 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)
So Androcles, how did it feel when, in the pit, the lion sidled over. You saw his paw finally healed and no doubt remembered the thorn you had extracted. Did you rub his mane as his jaws snapped around your thigh his teeth tearing into your flesh. As you saw the blood spill out did you curse the fabulist for his detachment from reality?
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019
It always seems odd how the dual veils that separate day from night, wakefulness from sleep, seem impenetrable in the moment. Yet they both fade, now pellucid, permeable with the simple passage of time. Now dreams are a reality, such as that purports to be, and the worlds intermix, one ceding it to the other, the other flowing back. It is in that moment It is then you realize both are real, both dream states and you exist only because you imagine it so.
She says if you could only peel back the photograph, you could read the entire story that lies beneath. It is deeper than the image below which it lies trapped, and wider, imbued with a meaning the image could not capture, just as, she says frowning, there are no words for parts of the picture, a symbiosis that we of unitary senses cannot unite. This one, pointing to a crucifix, shows him where he ought to be, the pain, his pain apparent, but so much deeper than any image or sculptor’s hand can fashion. Undeserved pain, not by sacrileges, by rebellion but he would understand it, he would revel in it, for he was the greatest rebel and he would easily peel back the picture in step wholly into the story beneath.
It looks perfectly normal, the kind of restaurant you would seek out on a Friday night in a distant city. The people look like those you know or could know, those from home for instance. She is not remarkable, blonde, older, a slightly twisted smile, blue eyes, but on meeting there is a sudden distance as though this is not a normal world, certainly not the world where you first met a cousin, and you have a nagging feeling, which grows during the meal that one of you is an alien, an avatar from some other world, parallel perhaps, and this reality is anything but, although the pennette is quite remarkable. Would you meet your first true relative at age 62 you know that while blood may be thicker than water, it also congeals just as easily.
Reality is clearly something to be avoided to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons, perfumed, yet its fetid stench is always lurking in the background waiting to pierce your nostrils in an incautious moment until you retch and bring up the bile that marks the darker moments of your life, the kind that lingers in the throat which no chocolate can erase. Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it or hide it behind masks, or offer it willingly to others, a gift in surfeit. It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook periodically, and thrash as you will the barb only tears through new flesh, setting itself deeper, intractable. You and I are dying, as I write, as you read, an ugly thought particularly lying in bed staring into darkness, no motion or sound from your spouse, mate, paramour, friend, significant other or teddy bear, where God is too busy to respond at the moment and sleep is perched in the bleachers, held back by the usher for want of a ticket stub, content to watch the game from afar. I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality as though the divorce from the words will erase the little pains and anguishes of our ever distancing marriage, while holding vainly onto the warm and sweet, the far side of the Mobius of reality (the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring). We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries of words to cover the flawed, stained walls of our minds, like so many happy endings, requisite in the script. Basho knew only too well that truth of beauty should be captured in few syllables.
First appeared in Chaminade Literary Review Vols. 16-17 (1995)
I am a child of ghosts, my parents adopted and birth, all visit me, but only in my dreams, for ghosts prefer the reality that dreams allow. Some say that dreams are not real, but they live in the mind as do every other reality I experience each day, my senses merely inexact lenses for the mind. Perhaps dreams are more accurate, a deeper reality in the end, for they arise without passing through the lenses of the senses, whole and complete, and as quickly gone. I am a child of ghosts, and I will eventually join them, haunting the dreams of others.