Monday, April 05, 2004

Fabulous Beasts

I have wandered through my life as stupid as a camera.

You sent me a photograph of a lady in an office, with the note: "See! Proof, I work."

The lady was kindly, middle-aged, comfortably unkempt. I looked at the picture with disbelief. How could a camera have looked at you, and seen that?

I look at you and see la tigresse du soleil, hunting at dusk quicker than the eye, or asleep in the sun slower than the turning earth. I see a careful five-year-old girl, her tongue at the corner of her mouth, arranging shells. I see a dragon with poison-green scales, wily and wicked and old as the hills. I see a still mother on the zafu at dawn, whose daughter quietly creeps under her meditation shawl and sits in the eye of shamatha, tenderly held in the small space of infinity. I see the ice climber, half five-year-old and half dragon, patiently working out the route of an ascent into the blue silence. But in all "the shadows of your changing face" I have never seen what that camera saw. That kindly middle-aged lady at her desk.

But this is more stupidity. Of course I have seen that lady. I will see a dozen such tomorrow at work, with my stupid camera eyes, and be completely fooled. There is no kindly middle-aged lady working in an office. That's a chimaera, a fabulous beast, a story palmed off on generations of credulous camera-eyed fools. The world is, actually, full of tigresses and dragons. I have learned to see just one.

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