Monday, June 23, 2008

A Fragment

(Inspired by a different book.)

Can I tell you about your sadness? Can I even tell you about your longing? What would there be? All the same. I think the two are the same. That same pointillist feeling in your hands. Those same vignettes revisited and re-spun. The same threads plucked from the tapestry and laminated for safekeeping—the hideous practice of the heart. Ah, well! There are still vignettes. Like when you were a teenager and got a crippling stomachache on a bus, and the world did a double-take, spun in-and-out, and you saw it. The place of all human longing; the place beyond plans and beyond life simply trying to reach for more life. This is abstract. Let me try again. It’s like your experience of ripping out carpets in a room full of human smells: thousands of breakfasts cooked, each one striving to be better, to follow up the previous with pride. Children played on that carpet; rattles shook and soldiers marched, as you marched soldiers in the spinning of a cylindrical hair brush—the spokes were soldiers. Or, better yet, the plick-pluck-placking of raindrops in April, smacking gravel—hundreds of raindrops sounding awful. Yesterday they would have been musical, grandiose. They would have been the emissaries of the crystal spheres which still vibrate somewhere in your clouded web of concepts. But this is getting too far afield. We have to get more sadnesses in on this. The sadness of stopping on the street to look at a broken chair. The sadness of looking out the window at grey parking lots. Indeed, all that arises passes away—the learning thereof. The passing away of the first precious things: the endless days of summer haze, the rapturous awe at Jupiter, the strainings of words long since mastered, the first hammer-fall of a poetic insight, the first dawning of samadhi, the little-death at thirteen, the bigger death that gives life at twenty-two. All things are impermanent. Yet all things interpenetrate. All these things tend towards enlightenment—they are there for the tending, even though our mostly-speechless breath will never give them voice. There’s the pangs of remorse; the knowledge of lived-with pain built upon pain, the awful memories of eight-year old dawns with parents fighting, the brutal summer aporiae at nine, as a soccer hooligan. The loss of the crooks of elbows we found in our innocence—the knowledge that never, ever, will it be exactly the same. What, then? What do we flow into? We don’t know, but we have the pessimism that it’ll be worse than this. The sadness of you’re still young—the sadness of knowing of coming sadnesses with certainty. The sadness of holding a fist too tight until it rips skin, and the countervailing sadness of hands too loose getting slapped around. The sadness of paint splotches on the walls. The sadness of girls’ private confessions. The sadness of diaries and diarists’ tears. The sadness of phantasmagorical reminiscences I never sent to the one I loved. The sadness of hurting love. But this is too listy. All things also tend towards enlightenment. So says the wise owl of the big spirit. So says the coyote scaling the window-washers’ lines up the side of a glass skyscraper. So says the spinning, grinning holographic image in my head—the neon claws of Queen Street. But there’s sadness in the bustle of scarves and goatees—the same impermanence that impregnates the air of summer afternoon drawing rooms, where men with big beards mouth-breathe, leaving that strange old-man smell of halitosis. I’m trying to get you to see. But neither past nor future stand in this reverie. They are mere patterns, all. They are here but will never play. Sadnesses or longings, now? The longing for the one you love—the burning in my chest area, slightly more pronounced on the right side. The memories of curly hair. The knowledge you’ve just scooped someone’s unconscious wheels—the knowledge of sabotage. The strange premonition of a mating swarm. The sadness of never being able to express in prose what good poetry should do. The failure of decompression. The sadness of losing my powers. The sadness of staring at the refractive patterns in a beer glass and tuning out all ambient conversation. The sadness of knowing I’ll never be secure in love—the knowledge, deep and full-fledged, of negotiation and protean shifting. The sadness of knowing, like Cassandra did, the immensity of the unconscious mind. The effort to change it and the slow progress. The sadness of streetcars at 3 a.m., and its drunken buffoonery. The sadness of having coaxed out bitter speech from one who had never spoken like that before. The longing for summer warmth during a torrential downpour. The sadness of not quite right..., the sadness of thousand yard stares at inconvenient times. The sadness of knowing, certainly, that it’s not what we’re here for: to feel splendor and wholeness, or even love, even tenderness. The sadness of knowing we’re here to be, whatever that is—added sadness of knowing that whatever it is, it’s erased so much of our humanity. The sadness of not having enough energy, or enough energy to get up enough energy. The sadness of running head-over-heels to live fully—to kill yourself just to feel. The sadness of emotional masochism. The sadness of children’s toys from the dim past. The sadness of feeling, despite all the trials by fire, almost exactly the same. The sadness of inadequate memory, inadequate comprehension. The sadness of having slept eight hours and feeling exhausted...

Consider: "In encountering contemporary culture, the dharma may recover its agnostic imperative, while secular agnosticism may recover its soul."