Sun, 28 June 2009
My parents' house was robbed a few weeks ago, evidently in broad daylight. The thieves knew what they were after--silverware and nothing else. The job was neat, quick, not too thorough, and overall creepy.
Music: Been Caught Stealing by Jane's Addiction
Sun, 28 June 2009
Our good friend Doug told this tale from his days on board ship in the later years of the Vietnam war. Boys will be boys....
Sat, 13 June 2009
I intended to write a story; it was to be a story of a powerful dragon, called Word, who outlasted all attempts to conquer it, though there would be one warrior who would alter the tale forever, of course. The dragon was neither malign nor benign but simply vast, maybe unknowable, and champions fell and died at its base the way climbers die on forbidding mountains, and for the same reasons.
Before the story began, though, I had to know my subject, and that proved hard. True, I was the one making it up from nothing, and could go any way I chose; but I needed the dragon to live and to be as mysterious to me as it would be to the world it was part of. I determined the dragon must be "other" to me and have power equal to or greater than my power to comprehend it. And so I approached this as an act of concentration. Knowing only that I, too, like my characters yet to be written, had to throw myself against the dragon--learn how it worked and what it wanted--I posited it and myself together in the darkness.
I stood by this great entity, imagining only a dim torch for light with which to know it. I could not see an area more than the size of a room on its great cold surface, but something of its almost imperceptible curve suggested the size of the whole to me. It was dizzying and fearsome. I wondered at my own wisdom in allowing it to exist.
Where to start? I had called the dragon Word, though the name was unsatisfactory and told me nothing about my creation. I wanted more than a name in response to my questioning. I asked then, into the darkness, with a voice strangely unsure: "What are you?"
There was no answer spoken. I sensed only an invitation to find out an answer, and, at once, the revelation of both the otherness of the creature and the sameness of it in relation to me. I felt that to know it I would have to set one foot across an abyss and stand partly in a world bathed by the light off its iridescent scales. But in doing so, I would remain wholly myself, on this side, even while becoming wholly the other, and as a third part, being wholly both together.
"What are you?" I repeated, though I could not say from where the question came or, in my three-part state, in which direction it was meant.
I felt myself move across toward my outstretched arm and the torchlight. Led by the impulses of my eye, I trod the ground in the presence of the being. Irridescent scales were numerous as stars, and the flickering light made them seem as playful as we imagine stars to be. With each step a new darkness dispersed away from my light, and just as quickly reassembled in my wake.
Moving this way, calling my question and feeling the darkness carry it away, I lost my certainty of being outside of the creature and began to feel equally certain that I was inside it, trying to get out. Nor was this the only paradox. I found that the dominating ego, the monstrous self I was prepared to find, existed nowhere; it never was. What existed and made themselves known through the being's slow, patient breathing were--and here my description can be only an impression of the experience--an immense and untiring will to live expressed in the maintaining of the physical form, and, at the same time, a boundless capacity for acceptance of all things, great or small, in its world. In its commitment to living the dragon Word was he; and in its feeling of all things, she. I saw that the danger of the dragon lay not in some malevolent need it harbored, but in any attempt to rob it of its full measure of its two possessions.
The realization struck me as a warning and a blessing. I had been slow and cautious, but just enough. I had taken the dragon's invitation to approach it as a sign it favored me; I learned then not to assume such favor.
Each step I took then became more difficult, and nearly painful. I fell into weariness. The perfection required in the being's presence was too great a burden. My question to the dragon passed my lips more quietly, sometimes mechanically, as distracting thoughts wore my attention away--thoughts of the world waiting for me outside, thoughts from who knows where? It came to me that I was no longer sure whether my direction was taking me toward the head or tail of the beast. The scales of the vast belly before me, which had seemed like petals, each a miraculous work unto itself, now presented to me a wall of bright rock. My admiration became mixed with an equal, and at times greater, portion of fear. I began to notice, too, where scales had been chipped away by blows from a weapon; and even attempts at scrawled or carved words, at intervals, though they were unreadable.
Let me speak about time now. During the greater part of my union with the dragon, time had no role. It existed, but only as an outer fact, the way my clothing or the contents of my pockets existed. Time left me alone and asked nothing. When insight came, though, time awoke.
An insect flying near an electric coil may know nothing of time or fear, but to one observing, its choice of fates is clear. If it does not fly straight away from the coil, it may as well fly straight into it, for that is where it will end up. The insect explores; the coil ignores; but the one without a soul will destroy the other.
I came to observe myself and the dragon, and I saw that, apart from brief framed moments of perception, I could no more comprehend the being's existence than the insect could understand the coil. Why had I imagined myself to be the One to comprehend his mystery? When no such One was needed?
This knowledge brought me shame and then relief. The thudding of my heart, the chill of my arms and chest told me I was afraid, but I knew then there was no inevitability to my destruction; I was the child and he was the father, and I was not meant to know his burden. I turned then, and faced away.
My eyes had been nearly blinded by the cold brightness of the light, made sterile but magnified by the being's surface. But in an instant, there was warmth again. The frozen light that had paralyzed me a moment before, shimmered from behind me and painted the air in gold. And the world, my world, was there again. My blood grew warm again. Gratitude came on me like an ocean swell and moved me forward. I embraced my world with my restored eyes, my steadying breathing; with joy!
I have wondered since then, as I write my story (about the story I did not write), Toward what did I feel gratitude? Toward that indifferent being for not leading me into destruction? I've decided it is for good fortune,or a primitive wisdom somewhere around me, that turned my blinded face away; that made me walk with the light at my back, reflected from the flame I had left on the ground by the being I had called Word.