Monday, August 16, 2004

The Illuminated Quick

Where are you in your guts, your lungs, your brain?
I want to keep you from them,
separate you from them,
but I only find the vastness of your molecules,
the grace of your arteries,
held together by the illuminated quick
of your tears, your smile.

From Andi's Sixteen Verses

Tranquility, Unfound

Of course we can't find tranquility in our daily lives...because we define tranquility in a way that excludes our daily lives from it.

From Lorianne's Tranquility

One Grief

all our ancestors hanging by their dead mirrors
and the tools we invent to polish them,
leaving behind old days, thinking
the marbled water flows through one grief.

From N's Chance Self


And that last haunting line of N's set me thinking, what if -- what if there really is only one grief? What if time and personhood fold over, and we really come back to the same one grief, whether it's yours, or mine, or Achilles'? What if this sense of continual return is just perfectly accurate, and what we are experiencing is not new, but the hundredth return, the millionth, return, each time richer and (in this case) sadder? "You only go around once in life," says the beer commercial, and every time I hear it I think, "well, you certainly don't only go around beer commercials only once. Why should I believe what you say about life? It doesn't feel like once."

All time is irredeemable, says Eliot, if all time is equally present. I'm not sure that's true. But anyway it sort of assumes that there's only two choices: the moment is present, or eternity is present. But what if there are other choices?

Every once in a while you get someone brave or stupid enough to ask real questions, at the Sangha. One of them is -- where do all the extra modern consciousnesses come from? If there were just a few million people once upon a time, and now there are six billion -- isn't there a problem with the arithmetic, here?

And of course the orthodox answer is that this world is just one of millions, and this realm of worlds is just one of many, which makes a universe quite as disquietingly vast as that of the scientific imagination. The deficit is made up from other, depopulating worlds. But I always think, what if we're reincarnating simultaneously? What if there are really only thirty-one people, say, in the universe -- or maybe seven -- and the sullen kid lounging by the fence is actually me some forty-seven lives ago, while my barber is Martha, six lives ago?

In that case, all time is infinitely redeemable. We may be actively engaged in our own redemption, intervening in our own pasts, and in the pasts of those we love.

Do I believe this? Well, sometimes I could. Do I think it's true? Probably not. But it seems no more implausible than the story that billions of little individual consciousnesses pop up out of nowhere and wink out again. That story only seems plausible because we're used to it.

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