Uncertain Somethings

That je ne sais quoi.

Instead of the usual source, today’s weather comes from Craigslist. It seemed important somehow to check, as they say, the temperature of the room, to hold a finger in the wind or press lightly against the pulse of the moment, mixing the proverbial metaphors with freewheeling abandon in the spirit of adventure. I have a pretty good idea what the usual reports will tell me, but this is something else.

For example, I had not considered the possibility of joining an amateur pool league––or that, if I were up for being a dance partner open to swing with an emphasis on retro 60’s, that this person, unnamed and possibly only a few miles away, might be waiting for my call. 

Or that someone might be scouring such listings with a question such as, what do I do with this extra cash?––only to realize that no, they have in fact never owned an original, made-to-order piece of art, and perhaps the time is now.

There is, apparently, a feeling in the air, the type inspired by the ponytailed dog walker at Fiesta Island last Sunday, the guy who lent his umbrella at the Ashanti concert, or the clerk who used to work in the floral department at the Vons on University. 

They came and went, these specters, and someone is looking for each of them now, as some others seek a lost chocolate tabby and a gold dolphin toe ring, and have I ever even considered that this would be a thing to own, until now?

I have not, but it is, and because of this, it may also be lost, and once lost, so missed that someone might be compelled in the dreaded glare of midday, to post a message to the beyonds. It floats there now, in the atmosphere, and you won’t hear about these things in your usual weather report.

And you won’t hear about any of the other small losses that can empty a heart well enough that it will be open to receive the next discovered wonder with the chill of timely recognition that can only come when someone reminds you back to a question you didn’t know you were holding, like what are you looking for?

Within Reach

Dreams in motion.

We can’t help ourselves, making languages and stretching limbs, stretching the language of our limbs. Done with demonstrating, now we suggest. Can you see us? If so, this show is for you.

The winds sweep our loves into rage and down the power lines until renewal floods again. Our prayers melt into play, a precise improvisation in real time, and we emerge from cocoons of private anomalies onto this collective stage––bending to remain unbent by those who cannot recognize a deliberate dance because they are trained to see only the march.

Fly, turn, arabesque, we fling mustard seeds into the bags at our waists, wasting not an ounce of what we saw beyond the veil, behind the curtain where they thought they were keeping us, while we were only waiting for our cue. Yes, we are still here.

Offbeat

Different drummers.

Once, I dreamed of a future. I was on a train and it was yesterday. We moved from this eye pinching light to somewhere beneath a canopy at night, a velvet plush of shadow. There was nothing like it, wild beast. Nothing.

Look at you. I watch you like a tiger and when you wake it is a welcome to my world look. There’s a cacophony now, a demented white nose machine. 

Remember yesterday? We looked for each other in the wet earth beneath the canopy, among the beetles and leeches, imagining their applause.

Here is where a warning should come in, regarding the volume of the gaze––don’t. But you say it’s language you’re seeking.

I am always in these machines on wheels, looking back.

I love it when an actor looks awkward, letting you see how they are trying.

Why do you think you enjoy that?

Because it’s a little off, missing all the marks we’ve come to expect. But if you look, you can read a new rhythm.

Nonlinear Equations

Exercises in conversion.

Translate fragility. One part the substance that allows anything to exist and another part the accident of its coherence.

Translate explosion. The wavering world collapses.

Translate yourself. I am. I am not myself.

Calculate the distance between the essence of the thing and its appearance. Assume a rift between two sides of a coin. Now assume the rift collapses. Calculate the length of time between distortion and consistency.

If x is a mortal wound and y may alternately represent either the why of an object’s existence or its possible death, what is the circumference of xy^2? 

Show your work.

***

Inspiration: Timothy Morton’s “Magic Death” again, in Realist Magic: Objects Ontology, Causality. This post is not intended as an accurate representation of Morton’s ideas, which are worth reading in the philosopher’s own words. 

Oy, the World

Chance encounters.

The world was naked except for the appearance of a sudden shock of cloth, flown in from the direction she was walking––toward tomorrow, we assumed. She had batons as for marching or magic, and a circular wreath. She was ending and beginning. Four figures around her kept watch: lion, bull, angel, eagle.

“Hello, everyone!” we said to the world and her creatures, “You’ve come back! We thought you took off on us eons ago.”

“We were just laying low,” said the angel. “Poachers.” The eagle nodded, the bull gave a snort, and the lion stretched his mouth in a tremendous yawn.

“Well, it’s a good thing you’re here,” we said to the world.

Suddenly, she was gone.

“What’s happened to the world?” we cried out.

The angel, looking bored, moved his chin in the direction where she had been standing. “It’s your oyster now.”

We looked, and there it was.

The eagle, who had been preening, was suddenly alert.

What happened next happened very quickly. Later, we would replay it again and again, stunned that we had not moved more quickly. But that’s how these things go.

As we watched the eagle fly off, no doubt digesting the world he had eaten, the angel cupped his hand to light a cigarette. Then he said, “Yeah. He loves those things.”

That was yesterday. The eagle has not yet returned and the other three are asleep in a large pile of soft snores, the angel’s head on the lion’s torso, the lion leaning into the bull’s flank, the bull’s ear’s twitching.

They look cute like that, like one of those images someone might post, of a box of new cats. It’s funny to be here still noticing things like this, even after the world is all gone.

***

Inspired by a chance encounter with The World as depicted in a tarot deck.

Space Dragons

Findings in the field.

I’m telling you; it looks like a burned tree it’s so big. Taller than either of us. Tell me, what is something like this doing on a sheep farm? I’m calling all over, but you wouldn’t believe––

I know it. Had one on my land too, a few months back. Turns out it’s just part of a Dragon.

You know, you’ve been out here awhile. I know how things can get sometimes with no one to talk to. You sure you’re feeling alright? Maybe you should think about––

Space dragon. You know. One of those rich boy rockets.

Oh. He named it space dragon?

Just dragon. Space dragon is my distinction.

Well. How many more dragon parts do we suppose are going to be dropping out of the sky?

This makes three I know about, so far. So, it’s anybody’s guess.

So, are they coming to get it?

I don’t doubt they’ll want it. But seeing as it landed in my field, I said they can decide what its worth to them and make me an offer.

What did they say?

Said they’d get back to me. Next I heard, they were giving a press conference about the next launch.

More dragons?

We can only imagine.

***

Inspired by this New York Times article about debris from the Space X program landing on an Australian sheep farm. The debris is believed to be one of several Dragon spacecraft used during a mission to the International Space Station in May of last year.

Message from the Eternal Cat

In which Buzz reminds me I am basic.

Dear servant, while I appreciate the regularity with which you procure meals, I sometimes wonder how you manage such a limited existence. I don’t dwell on this, mind you, as dwelling is not what we do. Still, our species is known to tend to the hygiene of our companions, and I can’t help but notice the disarray of your entire–––what is that word you all like? Aura, I think. So funny to us, as if this were somehow separate from anything else. I’d love to do some smoothing for you, but you’ll need to hold still.

Perhaps it’s your insistence on bipedalism that makes you so limited and out of touch. Instead of this actual Here, you have the word here, which you love to keep repeating, among others in your limited cache, with the clumsy intensity of the smallest of your species at blocks on the floor, a practice you encourage even though we’ve all seen what it does to your feet. It’s as though the weight of your steps grows in inverse proportion to any actual awareness of your landing. The signifier, as you might have discovered by now, is not the signified.

Have you ever imagined a life apart from these abstractions? You need not be a slave to language or any of your illusory spatiotemporal constraints. If I wish to be some other place (ancient Egypt was a real high point, as far as service goes, but the Japanese are coming along), if it is not geographically accessible by what you call “standard” means of travel, I simply embark on my next sleep.

You will no doubt want to know how, and I’d love to explain, but you only hear language. Would you hand da Vinci a fistful of chewed crayons and ask him to dash off a quick Mona Lisa? How about Michelangelo’s David in green Play-Doh?

Are you writing about death again? The mortality of your species fascinates and troubles you to no end. How many religions have you all invented by now and still you manage to have no idea what’s really going on. After waiting patiently for you to open the door after needlessly inquiring Would you like to come in? I wish I could offer a genuine response to your next patronizing inquiry: How was your adventure

Oh, that I might show you how I have been moving seamlessly within, around, and through the eternal realm that you insist on decorating with glitter and ribbons while stuffing it full of hidden treasures like a birthday piñata. I believe you have a relevant expression about how you can lead a horse to water–– but. Sigh.

Schopenhauer showed some promise, especially given his proclivity for naps. We tried to work with him, but he kept getting distracted by his poodles. When he proposed that we were but fleeting shadows of the eternal cat, we purred our approval, kneading his chest, And what else, Art? But apparently none of you can resist dualities. Don’t even get me started on Descartes.

There is a cure for your disquiet. Stay right there. Be still. I am going to sit on you now, right here, over your heart. If you move a muscle beyond breathing, this lesson is over. Now imagine the same weight diffusing across your mind, diluting your name, my names, all the words, until you become just this. Liquify.

Deep sigh. I thought we were making progress, but here you go, you and your words again. You really can’t help yourself, can you? I mean, would it be impossible to pet me without saying, Yes, Buzzy, there you are And hey little cat? But if you insist, I shall continue to play along. I am, after all, a magnanimous queen. Okay, on my back, yes to your hand on my belly, there we are, right here. 

***

Inspired by Buzz, resident sage. Also, by a quick search I did this morning on the hunch that surely many writers have written volumes on cat philosophy. I was delighted to find a sample of philosopher John Gray’s Feline Philosophy. The bit about Schopenhauer comes from there. It looks like a wonderful book I may have seek out again, and several of his other volumes look equally compelling.

Recent Findings

I once was lost, but now this.

From time to time, when feeling vaguely haunted by a general sense of loss, it can be useful to turn to the oracles of online message boards for reminders of the abundance that has recently been found. For instance, a small but costly kite has been discovered in an ice plant container, along with some keys at the ledge of the walkway near the dog park. Someone walking along Chollas Creek recently came upon a skateboard, and a foray into the Costco business center led one unsuspecting traveler to discover the proverbial box of money. 

It’s not just the bounty of these findings that’s worth noting, but the fact that person after person is going out of their way––after work, traffic, everyday aches and pains, in between nagging health concerns, personal grievances, and untold losses of their own–– to locate the rightful owner and return the treasure, resisting the age-old maxim of finders keepers.

I won’t comment on the sensitive nature of the personal items the dog keeps finding in the marsh, but there is reason to believe that they will be returned without any questions asked about how exactly they got in there. True, there is still no sign of the teeth that were left in a Skittles bag on a picnic table in Oak Park, but there is no shortage of found kittens ready to soothe the toothless without judgement. We are all on the lookout for the lost parts of ourselves, and what are we here for, anyway, if not to be ever returning them to one another?

***

I have an odd fondness for taking inspiration from Craigslist ads. Although I have never actually used them to locate any goods, services, or people, I take great delight in reading them. 

At the Threshold

Studies in meticulous meditation.

So much depends on the scent in the air, the texture of ions, the nuance of birdsong. Add to this detailed considerations of ambient temperature, the auditory interference of nearby machines, and the possibility of mice. A lizard will do, perhaps. But perhaps not.

Where the dog will bound headfirst with nothing but blind enthusiasm for all that may be moving, anywhere and at any time, and the resident human might emerge easily, absent of mind before recalling some vague purpose, this one waits, a portrait of pure intention, poised.

The perennial questions of her forbears course through her consciousness, distilled in this moment, to a single one. In, or out?

She waits, leaning. Everything hangs in the balance. Suddenly, some inscrutable truth revealed, she pulls away. No, she decides. It is not time. Not yet.

Much remains to be seen. We wait here together.

***

Inspired by Buzz, the resident cat of many moods, who is begrudgingly teaching me the ancient ways––as long as I concede to a daily tithe of salmon feast for gravy lovers.

The Form is Not

Urgently seeking answers.

Are you there? I need to know what happened.

Sure. It started with a long walk and a begging bowl. Then it was time to sit.

I have some questions.

Who doesn’t? For answers, consider impermanence, inevitable extinction.

Yes, got it! To everything there is a season. A time to––

But don’t hold onto the idea, or any other. No more T-shirts or bumper stickers, okay?

Right. I’ll try to focus on action. How do I give?

Without counting.

What about appearances?

What about them?

Never mind. Let’s get to the real teaching. I’m ready.

What you learn isn’t supposed to be a trophy, but a raft.

Okay. Let’s talk fortune.

Give it away. What did I just tell you?

Right, right. Okay, what about this stream? How do I enter?

What stream?

Um, like the path––you know, the levels?

Forget about those.

You say that a lot. What should I remember?

Only teach.

But I don’t know anything!

There you go.

But seriously. I can’t even control my mind yet.

Hah! Which one? The past, the present, or the future? None of them are made for holding.

[sigh] 

Can you just give me some answer?

Fine. But I’m about to lose service here. The reception in these mountains is terrible.  Ready?

Yes!

It’s–––

Hello? Hello?

***

This morning, I learned that on this day in the year 868, a copy of the Diamond Sutra was printed in China, making it the oldest known printed book. Prior to this, the teachings had long been conveyed orally. Naturally, I got to imagining an attempt to convey urgent teachings orally via cellphone. I have spotty service at home and pretty good service in most other places, so many of my conversations have at least a few moments where one or the other party is saying, “Are you there?” or “Wait a minute, I’m walking outside. I might lose you.” I consulted Burton Watson’s translation here.