Archive for February, 2009

Shadowed Senses

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2009 by lushangxinku

“Pity the man who has lost his heart and does not know how to recover it.  When people’s dogs and fowls are lost, they go to look for them, and yet, when they have lost their hearts, they do not go to look for them.  The way of learning is none other than finding the lost heart.”

The Book of Mencius, 6A:11; 371-289 BCE

The author at an extremely young age.

The author at an extremely young age.

The acrid piercing scent of roasting espresso beans wafted across the wet air.  I strolled wordlessly through the dark alleys and stairways, looking askance at buildings now torn down, tattered fences and barren plots.  A branch tangled in powerlines balanced and trembling in the early morning wind seemed like it floated there, but was a remnant of a tree now torn down.  Change is easy to see through the campus of the public university, yet I still stroll at dawn, covered in flourdust, satchel held in one hand, watching the sky and its movements.

I sit down for a second on my journey, the pavement cool against my thigh.  For a moment I reflect on the idea that blogging or journaling is a narcissistic endeavor.  I try to step back further enough from the concept to see some of its roots and causes, and feel that this wide brush with which I was painted also held other colors- accusations that I was too self-denying, masochistic, devoting myself so fully, giving myself away so completely, that it was sad and unhealthy.  I must be able to look clearly at such criticisms, but at the same time I must see their contradictions and absurdities.  The only two things that they have in common is that they constantly come from the same people, and they are thoroughly destructive.  Everything else is absurdly contradictory.  If I am resented for being hot, so be it, but if I am simultaneously resented for being cold, I must remember that the resentment itself is really the problem, not me.

Across the parking lot was a small cemetery.  I looked at its old trees and stone and drifted into the memory of my first experiences of the mountains.  The cool air, the achingly sweet smell of verdant green forest, the brutal gnarl of ancient white oak and lichen in a biting churn of cliffside windgush.  The low clouds,  the fog.  Was there a valley down there or not?

This memory took me back even further, when as a child I watched dust motes drift through afternoon sunbeams in my parents’ den, imagining each one a planet, each one dancing across the light, alone but alongside others.  This was a shadowed sense; a perception only there if I put my self to the side, out of the way.  Like the swirls of a tree bough spiraling through a streetlight at night.  Like staring at something openly until it is seen clearly, in all its manifestations and possibilities.  Like hearing a secret language whispered by insects in the woods, their pauses significant, as if waiting to make sure the hearer got the message.  Like sitting by a creekbank until faint voices can be heard through the bubbles and splashes of current.

And who is the hearer of such things?  What sort of mysterious transformation propelled me from the child in the photo to a grown man in black boots, hands now worn and calloused from their labor?  The prominent commonality is a sense of play, a shadowed, subtle thing, shining as I pull bread from the oven and thump it down, hearing the crackle of the crust; shining as I sit and daydream alone at dawn, manifold awe in sky, pavement, stone and wood; shining as a lovely old tune is rediscovered, cradled in my body as I listen intently with headphones.   The secret to all of this is a sense of play, coursing through my body, imagination seeing magic everywhere.  Even the silent meditation leads back through these shadowed senses, sights and sounds, smells and textures almost missed, as delicate as a forest cobweb sprinkled with dew.

When the insects pause, when the stones become clouds, when water becomes a voice, no justice or logic, no validation or reciprocation is necessary.  This is the awe of the mystery of existence itself.  The shadowed senses beckon, and I indulge in their playfulness with a quiet smile, and a heart reclaimed once more.

Along The River

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2009 by lushangxinku

“Zhuangzi and Huizi were taking a leisurely walk along the dam of the Hao River.  Zhuangzi said, ‘The white fish are swimming at ease.  This is the happiness of the fish.’

‘You are not fish,’ said Huizi.  ‘How do you know its happiness?’

‘You are not I,’ said Zhuangzi.  ‘How do you know that I do not know the happiness of the fish?’

Huizi said, ‘Of course I do not know, since I am not you.  But you are not the fish, and it is perfectly clear that you do not know the happiness of the fish.’

‘Let us get to the bottom of the matter,’ said Zhuangzi.  ‘When you asked how I knew the happiness of the fish, you already knew that I knew the happiness of the fish but asked how.  I knew it along the river.’ “

Zhuangzi, Cht. 17, between 395-295 BCE

3.6 million year old hominid footprints, southern Serengeti
3.6 million year old hominid footprints, southern Serengeti

“The eruption of a volcano spewed a layer of ash over the plains.  Soon after, there was a brief, light shower and then, while the ash layer was still damp, some 20 different kinds of animals scurried, ran, and slithered over it, leaving their prints on the soft and slippery surface.  These included hares, baboons, a rhinoceros, two types of giraffe, hyenas, many birds, a three-toed horse, a saber-toothed cat- and three hominids.  At one point, one of the hominids stopped, paused, turned to the left and then, perhaps reassured, continued on.  Under the heat of the equatorial sun, the ash dried, setting like concrete, and soon the footprints were covered by more ash and windblown silt.  The trail on the left was made by the smallest of the hominids, perhaps holding the hand of the one to the right.  This one, the largest, was followed by another smaller hominid who walked in his or her footprints, partially obliterating them.  The prints on the right are those of a three-toed horse.”

I remember many years ago having a conversation in my bedroom with a girl.  There was a cat, eyes squinted, purring loudly as I scratched its neck.  I mentioned something about how happy the cat was, and I remember the girl asking me how I knew…how anyone could really be sure of anything.  I have no convincing answer for those who are firmly convinced that there can be no firm convictions, or those who declare absolutely and universally that there are no absolutes or universals, not allowing any relativity in the belief that everything is always relative.  I knew that cat- I knew it was tickled to death, loving the moment.  I knew it because I felt it, like a musical chord from one instrument harmonizing with another.  Understanding isn’t just an exercise of the intellect- it is an emotion, resonating with the furthest depths of being, singing from marrow.  I can only safely know what I have felt, because I felt the knowledge itself.

A recurring dream I used to have:  A wide plain stretching ahead, unkempt, tall golden grasses swaying gently.  I’m unsure of who or what I am, or what type of eyes I am seeing out of.  I am still.  The slow shadow of some gliding creature about drifts across me onto the rolling meadows ahead.  I felt watched, hunted.  Then the dream ends.  I used to wonder if seeing from ancient eyes would be much like this dream.  The evolutionary roots of our consciousness are still based in the way that we have lived for millions of years before, up until several thousand years ago.  It is not keeping up with the rapid pace of technology and the social intricacies of modern life.  So the serotonin and cortisol, the dopamine and testosterone, which served for our survival once in time, now drive us to extremes of chronic anxiety, hatred, fear, depression, and all the horrible things done between people that are rooted in such primal triggers.  A lot of us just don’t know anymore.  Jerked around like marionettes by emotions we cannot fathom.  Causing incalculable damage to those around us, those who care about us most.  Others militarize and hunker down what they feel- inside there are curfews, rations, and various propaganda, all trying to make sense of a war that will never, never make sense.

The little family that made those tracks long ago were surely faced with predatory threats, hideous diseases, lives we now may see as short.  But seeing it from another perspective, it was a family together, headed in a similar direction.  There were no tracks of divorce lawyers, psycho-pharmacologists, sugar daddies or princesses.  There was no evidence of a coke deal gone wrong, or a home foreclosing, a layoff slip or a credit bill, no mark of a flagpole in nationalist fervor or drag mark of chains of sexual slavery, no vomit trails from binging and purging bulimia, no reason for the little group to lie to others about the fact that they were together, no feverish, paranoid attack on the idea of pair bonding, primacy, or long term partnership.

As humans we carry millions of years of survival in our genes, our DNA.  We carry a little piece of all of our ancestors within us.  I remember a Cherokee friend who went with me once many years ago to an ancient village site in Swannanoa.  He had tears in his eyes for the buried dead there, like they were sweet grandmothers and strong grandfathers who cradled, watched over and guided him in his distant youth.  In a way I feel the same for these hominid tracks.  There is a colossal set of unknowns here- I glance across the millions of years as a man would gaze into deep waters.  But, walking along the river, sensitive to its churn, its spirals, its push downstream, I feel as a kindred to those ancient walkers.  And somehow I know that they felt moments of ease, moments of co-creation and play, and that for at least a while, they walked together.  A bittersweet lesson in these troubled, confusing times.  For with all our technological advances, with all our medical breakthroughs and magic pills, I still see all around me direct evidence of people out of touch with what they feel and what they know, deep down- people incapable of anything but the lust to be entertained or anesthetized, anything to prolong the avoidance of the resonant knowledge that the purring cat, the lazily swimming fish, the strolling hominid, knew a sense of ease.  Once the gate of recognition is open, love flows through it.  Love is risky and makes no sense.  It is much safer to remain oblivious, safe, and distrustful, cutting off all loves and friendships periodically because they bore us or no longer serve a particular purpose.  Knowledge resonating in marrow has no due date, deadline, deal-break or grounds for dismissal.  It perpetuates through all dangers and confusions.  I only know this because I feel a calling to walk along the river, and carefully look down.

A Rising Cloud

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2009 by lushangxinku

“The fire god comes looking for fire;

how much light do the pillars and lamps begrudge?

Buried in the ashes, though you search you don’t see;

lighting it up and blowing it out,

it goes into action again.”

Eihei Koroku, Dogen Zenji; 1243 CE

"TV Buddha" by Nam June Paik, 1974

"TV Buddha" by Nam June Paik, 1974

 “Video Installation with statue, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.”

Paleoanthropological research has shown that the brains of our ancestors grew in size not as much to deal with sudden climate change but more involved with their dealings with each other.  This holds true for other primates as well; an increased brain size is found to directly correlate with the size of the groups in which the primates dealt.  The larger brained primates were found to travel in larger packs.  A certain degree of social cohesion became necessary as cooperation and clear communication help ensure the survival of the pack as a whole.  And so our evolution slowly guided us toward not only a larger sense of self-awareness, but a deeper recognition of the feelings and thoughts of others.  Larger brain size meant that we could truly consider consciousnesses outside our own, and with each added layer of complexity, the mind grew.

Now, though many seem to be incapable of such nuances, we can not only tune in to what we think of ourselves, but what another may think of us.  We even have the capacity to think of what someone thinks about someone else, and what someone thinks about the person who thinks about our acquaintance, who is thinking about us while we think about them.  We can even consider what someone is thinking about someone who is thinking about someone who is thinking about someone who thinks about those two in addition to thinking about someone who thinks about the person who thinks about us, while we think about them and everyone else.  Carefully considering the humanity and dignity and commonality of all these hearts and minds, one can hold interaction in a compassionate way.  And at the root of it all is the ability to reflect on the self.

But to wonder about the self, Dogen admonishes, can lead to a strange and convoluted search for something that we already embody- fire looking for fire.  If we get this fundamental part wrong, our interactions with others can become cumbersome and problematic.  If we only focus on ourselves there is no room left for empathy or compassion towards others, and if we only regard them in reference to ourselves, narcissism and selfishness become the order of the day.  We become someone looking at a reflection of themselves, one that looks back at us, swallowing up all our thoughts and feelings.  This is especialy dangerous when social isolation has become the situation.  Cut off from others, fire obsessed with its search for fire, a dark cave shielded from the vast open sky.

The key, it seems to me, is empathy, kindness, understanding, communication.  Stepping off the platform of self-reference into the shoes of others.  But how is this accomplished in isolation, or in the midst of blind and tragic misunderstanding?  The light goes out, and must be lit again.  Going out again, it must be lit again.  And so on.  Maybe this is how true companionship, balanced friendship, and a priceless sense of community can be nurtured.  I must not only watch the fire but follow the smoke trails, watching as they merge with the open sky.

 

Thorns, Axes, Oaks

Posted in Intention on February 9, 2009 by lushangxinku

“In hewing an axe handle,

the pattern is not far off.”

Ode #158, from The Book Of Odes, Zhou Dynasty, 1111-249 BCE

"The Survivors" by Kathe Kollwitz, 1923
“The Survivors” by Kathe Kollwitz, 1923

“World War I and the soldier’s death of her youngest son strengthened her commitment to social protest and her concern for the suffering of mothers and children.  Protest against war and compassion for suffering constitute the content of her “War” series.  From 1933 until her death, the government tried to efface her presence and her work.”

When I read the ancient song about the axe handle, I can close my eyes and feel the wood in my grasping hand, the tendons tensing up for the swing.  I can see the metaphor clearly; if you’re wondering how to make the shape of the handle while chopping away at the wood, you could just step back for a second and look at the tool in your hand.  It reminds me of a Buddhist sutta that speaks of using a thorn to remove a thorn- using something similar to the problem to help remedy it.  The Buddhist comparison was in application of the paradox of desiring to be free from desire.  Both desires are thorns, but their true import is actualized in their use.  One is a desire that causes great suffering, the other having the potential to help alleviate that suffering.

Both stories point to actualization in use.  I create things bearing a resemblance to whichever tools I used to create them.  I change the perception of what I see by the state of mind behind my eyes at the time.  But being aware of the coloring of the mind, and the influence of the tools, I can at least approach a creation that is understood, or a visual image that is clear.  And the understood creation, the clear vision, can be used in a way that helps define its meaning, like the Buddhist analogy of the thorn.  Will I use my creations, my visions, in a way that inflicts suffering, or to help pry out the suffering that is there?  The axe is an indifferent force that can cut chains or lose limbs, clear out unhealthy underbrush or chop down the most venerable of oaks.  Its use implies its temporary identity.

As far as presumptive identity, I was struck by Kollwitz’s lithograph not just by its haunting, stark imagery, but by the title.  One may first look at this piece without knowing the title and assume that it may be “The Victims.”  But what the title did for me was to lead me to consider the two words of identity that resonated loudly to me: “victim” and “survivor.”  Both seem on the surface to be defined by or limited to the experience of trauma that they reference.  But when I see these words in my mind’s eye, I see “victim” as moss, clinging to the soil by which it was created.  I see “survivor,” however, as an old gnarled oak, firmly gripping the earth of its experiences with deep roots, while simultaneously soaring silently above it, and continuing its slow growth toward the sun.

There is no happy victory or flag-waving in Kollwitz’s piece; these are survivors of something that clearly silences cheers and lowers flags.  There is no relief in their eyes, no quaint resolution to the lingering pain they are experiencing, no pithy resolve to refuse to feel what pulses within their chests.  There is no glee in the suffering of the people behind their traumas, and no fury or rage at certain other groups, individuals, or countries.  There is shock; there is protection of the weakest and most vulnerable among them; there is no sense that the huddled group is just a set of individuals thrown together who in fact are solely concerned with their own well-being.

I have met victims in my time.  People so lowered and pressed down that they remained like the moss, clinging to familiarity, even though the familiar was the trauma itself.  Others who brushed off any notion of trauma and simply refused to acknowledge what was going on with them; moss that had convinced itself it was a tall oak, and would rage and blame with all sort of bile and fire if anyone pointed out their actual growth.  This was coupled with a profound sense of aloneness and a total lack of empathy for similar trauma victims. 

I remember speaking to a man about the y2k bug and how the electrical grid may break down, affecting water and heat, and some of the conveniences of modern capitalism, leading to possible severe hardships for the sick and the elderly.  He gruffly claimed that whatever happened, he and his dog would be ok and that was all that mattered.  I and the rest of the sangha exchanged glances of mixed concern and amusement.  This was supposedly the voice of wisdom and compassion itself, a Buddhist priest.  Moss, pretending to be oak.

I remember more recently having lunch with someone while the economic collapse was beginning.  Again, a similar response- my only concern is myself.  I know I’ll be safe and fed and cared for and will have a job that will remain steady no matter what, and that’s all that matters.  A reflection of the dangerous notion that capitalism is something natural.  That competition and hyper-individuation is the only sane way to go.  That we must help ourselves at the expense of others, and if something bad happens to them it’s their fault anyway.  I often wonder, if there was a food shortage, or even a medication shortage, who in my daily life would band together and help, and who would lie, betray and jump at each other’s throats in the name of petty creature comforts for themselves, no sense of empathy for others.  The ones that already lie and betray and attack those they used for friendship or companionship for a short time make it easy to decide.  Many of them consider it actually a sickness not to promote one’s own insipid comfort at the expense of the rest of humanity. But there are some who, I think, could go either way.  Moss, or slow-growing oak.  As the axe is only defined by its use, they could use what they go through to become either thing.  Victims claiming to be survivors, moss shouting about its oakness, or true survivors, their arms reaching out to enfold their fellow beings, reaching out to help, to pry out the thorns that may plague us.

I have also met survivors.  Thoroughly in tune with the grounding of their experiences; thoroughly striving to slowly grow.  As they imperceptibly internalize what has truly happened, they help shield the saplings below, and even the shouting, proud moss.  And they do not speak as if the history and the memory that forms the very ground beneath them, doesn’t matter.  They do not look down at the saplings and moss below with a sense of superiority, or abandon these beings who may just be slower to grow.  They shield, and embrace, and help, and actualized through their use, the trauma itself provides nourishment and sparks effort.  In this way an axe once used to cut down, is used to create.

Treasure As Kindling

Posted in Intention on February 4, 2009 by lushangxinku

A great radar, set to catch the slightest unusual outburst of energy anywhere in the world, reported one night that such an outburst was taking place.  Alerts flew around the globe.  Distance is no problem to transmission, and in two seconds retaliation orders could have been sent and received.  Just in time there came a frantic message for delay.  What had happened?  The full moon had risen and somewhere a bemused young man had neglected to record its rise and thus explain the outburst of energy.  Just in time the orders were not sent and the human race was saved.”

A Bridge For Passing, Pearl S. Buck, 1962

carved plaque made from a mammoth molar, circa 50,000 BCE, Tata, Hungary

carved plaque made from a mammoth molar, circa 50,000 BCE, Tata, Hungary

 “The edge is rounded and polished from long handling, symbolically ochered red; never provided with a working edge for any utilitarian purpose.”

Although Buck’s story seems a little like an urban legend, a cold war myth, it illustrates a fascinating point.  Mistaking the full moon’s energy for enemy nuclear activity could have been a catastrophic case of mistaken identity.  A failure to recognize something for what it clearly was.  The energy itself passed by naturally, unmeasured and unnoticed for millenia, until the proper instruments were put into place.  And even then, these tools caused more confusion than perhaps they were worth.  When dealing with mutual assured destruction, why bother?  The moon was plainly speaking in a language at a level that the radar couldn’t really fathom, but that oceans, cats, and star-crossed lovers easily could.

The Mousetarian ceremonial plaque also contained a meaning not obvious on its surface.  To the untrained eye, in the dimness of the cave in which it was found, it may have seemed like just another stone, eroded and smooth from moisture.  And even if the marks of human hands were noticed upon it, one would naturally assume that it was a tool for one practical purpose or another.  But for people who have studied similar plaques from the Australian Aborigines called “churinga,” for people acquainted with the time and culture of the site being investigated- people looking for the sharp edges indicative of practical tool use- this artifact would reveal itself as something sacred and ritualistic, at once greatly revered and often handled.

Once I heard a story about when the Visigoths sacked Rome.  The illiterate invaders would storm Roman houses and buildings, and once inside loot the places mercilessly.  Inside the Roman buildings they often found special kindling for fires.  This kindling burned well- thin sheets with markings on them, rolled up for easy igniting.  Once lit, they burned hot and fast, excellent for the cooking fires.  The Romans would protest to this atrocity screaming things about scrolls and knowledge, recorded wisdom and history.  But the Visigoths had no idea what the Romans were talking about, having no sense of the portent of written language.  They were just appreciative of the excellent kindling.

I find both the possibility of cold-war era nuclear war, and the burning of ancient scrolls, both monstrous examples of mistaken identity, not seeing the potential in what is there.  And this is what, today, gives me a limited sense of peace, along with lingering heartache.  I offer a certain energy, like the full moon, and it is mistaken for something toxic and devastating.  I offer something potentially wonderful, filled with benefit, but a subtle, concealed thing, like the knowledge in the ancient scrolls.  But this is mistaken for some lesser, base use, like the kindling of the Visigoths.  I have prepared my own inner treasures to offer, ones not used for any utilitarian purpose, but sacred things- and had them mistaken for just another river stone, something easily tossed aside and forgotten.

Both the mistaken radar personnel and the illiterate Visigoths made tragic reinterpretations of what was actually there; both ran the risk of immense loss by doing so.  But this does not make them evil, or even wrong.  The tragedy of all these situations is simply a lack of true, straightforward understanding.  Mistaking the churinga for a river stone, the full moon for a nuclear strike, or scrolls for kindling, all amount to a loss of the true and magical potential of profound and subtle things.  A loss not based on what is offered, but how it is accepted.  So, like the moon, like that carved mammoth tooth, like those ancient scrolls, the things I have offered have been sacred, natural, and precious.  And the fact that they are not always received in that spirit is not the fault of the treasures themselves.  It’s simply a matter of failing to describe accurately colors to the blind.

 

Shadow Gardens

Posted in Psychache on February 2, 2009 by lushangxinku

“Shadows arise from bodily forms; echoes follow upon voices.  Some play with their shadows to the point of tiring their bodies, not realizing that their bodies are the shadows.  Some raise their voices to stop the echoes, not realizing that the voice is the source of the echo.”

attributed to Bodhidharma

"Toad Pond At Full Moon" by Adolf Schudel

"Toad Pond At Full Moon" by Adolf Schudel

 

“Part of the Prinzhorn Collection, 1907, from a German asylum inmate diagnosed with hallucinatory insanity.”

Circular thoughts have plagued me for many years now.  I patiently receive them and whittle away like they’re pieces of wood, piles of shavings growing at my feet.  And when these thoughts become tangled with the deepest recesses of my emotional memory, it seems that they whittle me back.  I wonder, in honesty, how many people would be willing to say out loud when they are betrayed by their own minds.  I become startled when I realize to what extremes I stubbornly look at an issue or problem dead on, and when I share my thoughts openly, as I am prone to do, others become startled too.  Some become impatient or judgmental, others simply avoid me altogether.  Some find it freakish or maddening, and I find myself wishing for their goodwill or acceptance, seeking to explain that I only truly want to feel as if I understand.  But seeking to explain myself seems to make it worse.  Being a thoughtful, caring  person, an intense thinker, seems so rare that it becomes a sort of crime, a breaking of social decorum- a stating of things few want to hear.

But I’ve always been of the impression that the rejected, marginalized, maligned and misunderstood of the world have always vastly outnumbered the people that cause these abysmal difficulties in the first place.  I find myself more accepting over the years of the strange things people do to themselves and each other.  For if I can find myself time and time again exiled for the fixated patterns of my thoughts, for the serious tone of my reflections, for the care in which I consider my interactions with the world, I can see clearly that whatever I am being exiled from grows less and less desirable.  Over time, a critical mass of exiles has developed.  And if they become in tune with this fact, they can take comfort that so many people are isolated and left out, shunned and excluded, they form a powerful ring around the excluders; though once facing in, now facing out with their backs turned.  If one contemplates the sheer number of people who see, hear, or feel things labeled as unreal, unhealthy, or freakish, the realization comes that this is actually the majority of people who have ever lived.

The general rule I hear applied to the foggy middle ground between insanity and normalcy seems to be that there is a line drawn, and once people pose a harm to others, or their own minds disrupt their lives irrecovably, they have crossed that line.  My thoughts, daydreams, searing emotions and aches from within the psyche have admittedly disrupted my life to a significant degree, and though I may feel I have not harmed others through it, one may find some who disagree.  But when faced with the notion of burying them, medicating them out of existence, or simply hiding them like some embarassing blemish- I consistently choose none of the above.  Holding true to my own intuition, my own shadows, is the only dignified, graceful response I can muster.  In the end I must live with either being truly freakish, or disingenuously normal.  I find it easier to live with the former.  So let the insanities within us be the more colorful blossoms in our gardens- their radiant glow giving each garden its own unique spectrum of colors and scents.  And those who find the colors too garish or the scents too overpowering, let them pass through to other gardens.  Only those who can sit in tranquility and savor what is there, should stay.  And until such people come along, the gate will remain open, the spirits inside unchained.

The Precambrian Pulse

Posted in Intention on February 1, 2009 by lushangxinku

“In the dew dripping

On the broad-flanked hill,

Waiting for you

I stood dampened

By the dew on the hill.”

Poem exchanged with Ishikawa, Otsu

“Waiting for me

You were dampened.

O that I could

Be the dew dripping

On that broad-flanked hill.”

Poem exchanged with Otsu, Ishikawa

(composed during the Nara Period, Japan, sometime between 710 and 794 CE)

Eoastrion (fossilized cyanophyte); Gunflint formation, Canada

Eoastrion (fossilized cyanophyte); Gunflint formation, Canada
 “Eoastrion, a one-celled organism without a nucleus, resembling bacteria, about two billion years old.”

For over 2 billion years our older brothers, the cyanophytes, ruled sublimely over the world.  Details about these ancient creatures are decidedly foggy; somewhat like algae, but lacking nuclei; somewhat like bacteria too.  Their true nature can’t be known using the present tools of science.  Yet their reign as a predominant form of life on this planet is unparalleled.  As life became slightly more and more complex, leading up to the Cambrian explosion, eyes, sensory detection, and memory began to enter in to the equation.  Lungs, limbs, and social bonds eventually followed.  All seemed to be geared toward the transition of genes from one generation to the next.

I look at the vastness of the history of known life out of curiosity and awe.  But I also wonder about the role that my gut feelings play in such vast energy.  The ancient lovers quoted above, their longing, the heartbreaking magic of their failed rendezvous; was this all merely some cosmic card trick, something felt to be real but only a mask for selfish genes seeking replication?  We are shown our cards, they become shuffled and hidden in the decks of our minds, all the while their true face may be turned away from us- buried in the deepest recesses of our brains, grinning with reptilian glee as we suffer for something we are hardwired to do and to feel.  And so the most noble and boundless of loves may be a petty materialist trick at self-replication- still multiplying like our cyanophytic brethren, just with mystical illusions about intimacy, closeness, pairs bonded for eternity by the sheer power of what they feel.

It seems that in these times when we watch the useless hypocrisy of Victorian sexuality crumble before our eyes, when the oppression, possession and resource-consolidation that constitute the darker histories of traditional marriage become unbearably obsolete and finally overthrown, when humanity from any angle can be seen as multiplying out of control and shoving thousands of other species out of existence, consuming and breeding at a rate that insures starvation, disease and the possible destruction of all life, forever- where does this leave our noble, ancient lovers, clamoring waiting and pining for their possible union?  I know very well the taste of limerence; the incredible, elemental power of being in love; the wanting to be held quietly, safe from the abuse and confusion outside- the warm-blooded joy felt at snuggling as in some private burrow.  The boundless mysteries within the eyes of the person we love most.  Bonding and intimacy, emotions and selfless dedication, that lie far far beyond some societal obligation or imposition, even further beyond some material shadow play for something in return.  How can I say I idealize these things, when it is so obvious to me that they consist of a deeper, underlying reality, and those scattered movements on the surface of this profound ocean are the only things that strike me as barely real?  Career, hobbies, social status, tacit peer approval, relative expressions of power or success- all just tickling the surface like so many water bugs darting across a still lake.  Deep underneath the water’s surface, powerful currents of longing, closeness, intimacy- circular pulses between the lover and their beloved- are the things that actually stir all the fleeting nonsense above.

So can these primal energies simply be a Jedi mind trick of the body, simply yearning for replication?  Is that really all there is to it?  Or did Otsu and Ishikawa yearn for something more, some wholeness beyond gender, beyond mere social bonding- a wholeness exemplified by our venerable asexual ancestor?  Perhaps the balanced billions of years that simple being existed have something to show us about constancy in the face of change, staying power through temporary frustrations or disappointments.  Maybe our role as a gendered species is truly to reach a point where there is no need for love, romance, longing, being held- but I personally tried this route for over a decade, and it seems to me that we are not quite as independent as our asexual predecessors.  This hardwired yearning may just be a cynical way for replication of genes, some kneejerk grasp at immortality.  But I step back from that precipice that shouts of human lust and greed, people using and playing one another for transient self-gratification, throwing one another away the second they are bored like cheap plastic toys whose novelty has now faded.  Also from the other edge, that of transmission of property, name, and legacy to another generation, or the mere ownership of a supposedly lesser gender meant to prop me up and live vicariously through me.  I stand with Otsu, timelessly knowing that this isn’t about anything but my Ishikawa, a longing for true intimacy that will blanket us both like the dew-spattered dawn, sharing, natural and mutually whole…approaching the grace, if not the expanse, of the cyanophytic reign.