Monday, August 27, 2012

Their faces rarely change demeanor. They seem at times like actual stones set upon the hill to frighten away invading armies. Or crows. They inhabit the darkness like enzymes in prehistoric seas and if it weren’t for the distraction offered by the passing carnival troupes or the salesmen selling hats and trinkets and sometimes even stoves from out of the trunks of their cars, I’d be truly depressed. Of course, we can’t live our lives as if they have been loaned to us but we can’t treat them as legitimate property either for fear of breaking the curse that allowed us to have lives and bodies in the first place. All the same, no one will reconnoiter the far, dark side of creation for me so I have to make certain calculations before I can act. Many of these involve doing fairly complex mathematics on my fingers, but not for the reasons most people automatically assume. It is an effective way to plant an image in your interlocutor’s head and keep it there long after the image, or the concept necessarily sewn to that image, proves fatal. Long after he makes his disdain for the entire procedure something more than a mere inward condition. Across the river, a monastery stands where it has stood for the better part of a hundred years, looking less medieval than one might have assumed if one was in the habit of making assumptions about architecture, particularly the sort associated with religious orders -- not something I’d recommend now that we possess fewer and fewer of these for reasons I couldn’t begin to unravel. Perhaps it has something to do with the way we view the past and then contrast it with the future, the way we illustrate our view of each of them, and their relation to each other, by holding our hands out away from the body and indicating our hands are full by cupping them. This is intended to mean, I suppose (at least this is what I intend the gesture to mean whenever I perform it), that we are carrying both the one and the other, that they are entirely separate entities and we keep them as far apart from each other as the numerous structural limitations and design weaknesses of our bodies will allow. You can frequently see the monks from the freeway as you pass, their ambling about the numerous courtyards of the monastery in twos and threes, their eyeglasses glinting sometimes in the sunlight and that light racing upward again towards its source when the monk’s head is inclined at a certain angle. We might be tempted to interpret this glint in a metaphysical sense, congratulating ourselves on witnessing a rare instance of the spirit made tangible and glimpsed because of our close physical proximity to a place where things like that are expected to happen. Or we may simply chock it up to run-of-the-mill optics, no different, really, than what you might witness at any time of the day or night when a light source is present, and in any other part of the city or the vast countryside that happens to caresses it. Either way, we are mistaken.

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