From the heart of the inferno Dante and Lucifer grow bored waiting, waiting for the ferry while Charon stops for lunch yet again at a Greek diner in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. They take up a game of catch tossing Molotov cocktails, raining fire onto the brimstone, setting the Styx ablaze. Each knows this is not necessary, for necessity is a creature of heaven and there is no room for the extraneous here in the realm of forgotten souls. We watch from deep within a nightmare of our darkest memories, certain that heaven must await us, or purgatory if that is how our fate is to finally be written. The angels dance on the ceiling waiting for the precise moment to break Morpheus’ grasp and drag us back to our reality, to continue our dance between heaven and hell.
Describe this moment without use of word or sound – see where you are with eyes pressed tightly closed, hear a song with utter silence, taste the pure mountain air reach out and touch that which has no shape or form, no essence and you sit in the middle of reality.
A reflection on case 45 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo Koans (True Dharma Eye)
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 thrashes you at will, the barb 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, Fall 1995.
We will always be friends, we said, probably half meaning it at the time. How many times have we said that or somthing akin to it, knowing that the promise to call, to stay in close touch, was at best half meant and almost certain not to come to any reality.
I have a catalog of friends, who I told I would never give up, distance notwithstanding, we all do, and mine is replete with both good and bad intentions, each and every one a failure.
I did not say this to my ex-wife when we divorced, and I must say that while I failed at the marriage, or so she said, I did not ever fail at not being friends after its end.
We live in a zoom world, one we never imagined, and one for which we will never be prepared. But it is our life now, friends and family reduced to pixels, voices disembodied. They tell us this is the new normal, although what is normal about it is beyond logic and comprehension. We believe deeply that we are interconnected, curse when that connection is dropped by our technology. We cannot survive without our electrons and pixels, for that is where people exist. Every man is an island now, isolation is a perpetual state. And, hey, we should get together soon. I’ll send a meeting number and password.