autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.


A conflict in mind
Like forests of razor thorns
Cut all equally

I recall you were a conspiracy theorist; I remember how you used to earnestly explain to me all the many ways that a massive, maliciously intentional collective was out to either dominate us or exploit us. I never agreed, and I cannot say I understood, but I knew it was important to you so, I listened and made the right sounds at the right time because that was what you needed.

I recall you were a chronic depressive; I remember the moments in which I would catch you by a window, gazing out and unaware of being watched; and I would see the lines etched on your forehead, in the creases of your mouth, and they spoke silently to me of decades and of many pebbles in the invisible knapsack. I never knew your stories; you never talked about any of it and thus, I’ve never actually known you, but I could see how the weight of that knapsack bowed you and I lived how the contents of it affected you; the impression upon my skin was fist-shaped and unforgiving, but, eventually, I knew it was really rock and stone, shadowy voices and the sibilant sounds of self-loathing. Eventually, I forgave you but only after I figured out how to forgive myself. And no, I never forgot.

I recall you were a paradoxical optimist and idealist; all those conspiracy theories and all that pebbly weight and still, willing to believe in impossible dreams and get-rich-quick schemes; that, somehow, the influence of a star, or karma, or the rabbit’s foot, or just your own persistence and wish-fulness would force all the universe to see that spectacular deal to your hand; the deal of a lifetime that, to your mind I knew, would cure all the old hurts, silence the sibilance, and make you impervious and invulnerable for the rest of your days.

It took me years to get past our shared history; years of avoidance and denial followed by years of anger and resentment followed by still more years of anxiety and fear that were, at long last, followed by acceptance and release. I remember the feeling of that last bit; all shredded paper and tears cast off the end of the world. It’s funny but, in that moment, I thought I was casting you away as well. In that moment, it felt good because the weight had been so heavy for so long that I needed to think it was utterly gone… that every pebble was bouncing cliff-side and down, to the ocean.

It seemed blissful this time since, almost two decades now; even as, on rare occasions, upon exquisitely silent nights, I still hear the echos of you bouncing and bounding over the ridges of my mind.

Can I tell you how amazing it is that I can consider the thought of you, somewhere, out there, in the world, and actually hope you are well? Or how peaceful it feels to sit here, now, and just let the flow of memory and thought be as it is? Or how serene it feels to look back and see that all my stories have turned from sharp-edged razors and pitted brick to pebbles, to sand?

I sit here and sift you through my fingers; watching the occasional glimmer of long-gone dreams and smiling to myself that I had them. They were good dreams, even if they were entirely unrealistic ones. I suppose I got that much from you; ever the optimist, ever the idealist, always willing to think that I could bend the universe until the ragged edges met, until the gap between “what is” and “what I wish could be” found one another.

Your email arrived almost three months late; actually, no, it sat upon the server from June until recently as I had put the account and all things associated with it from my mind. I read it and spent a day thinking about whether or not I really wanted (or needed) to answer at all; and I realized something beautiful and perplexing… you are a stranger. In fact, you have always been a stranger; first, you were the stranger I feared, then you were the stranger I hated, then you were the stranger I escaped, and now? You are more truly a stranger than any of the ones I thought I met along the way; once known yet never known, from across oceans and over mountains, like a stupa now, you stand.

I cannot know who you were, that is consigned to fractured memories – both yours and mine – things unlikely ever to truly align in any meaningful way. But the possibility that I might know who you are, I think, remains. I am undecided if I want to find out. I know to certainty that I do not need to do so, but I am uncertain in all ways otherwise. It reminds me of a story and of many things besides; the many things I do not care to explicate, but the story seems fitting, even as it says nothing more than I have to this point:

The Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and spit on his face. He wiped it off, and he asked the man, “What next? What do you want to say next?” The man was a little puzzled because he himself never expected that when you spit on somebody’s face, he will ask, “What next?” He had no such experience in his past. He had insulted people and they had become angry and they had reacted. Or if they were cowards and weaklings, they had smiled, trying to bribe the man. But Buddha was like neither, he was not angry nor in any way offended, nor in any way cowardly. But just matter-of-factly he said, “What next?” There was no reaction on his part.

Buddha’s disciples became angry, they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much, and we cannot tolerate it. He has to be punished for it. Otherwise everybody will start doing things like this.”

Buddha said, “You keep silent. He has not offended me, but you are offending me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man who is throwing people off their track, a revolutionary, a corrupter. And he may have formed some idea, a notion of me. He has not spit on me, he has spit on his notion. He has spit on his idea of me because he does not know me at all, so how can he spit on me?

“If you think on it deeply,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind. I am not part of it, and I can see that this poor man must have something else to say because this is a way of saying something. Spitting is a way of saying something. There are moments when you feel that language is impotent: in deep love, in intense anger, in hate, in prayer. There are intense moments when language is impotent. Then you have to do something. When you are angry, intensely angry, you hit the person, you spit on him, you are saying something. I can understand him. He must have something more to say, that’s why I’m asking, “What next?”

The man was even more puzzled! And Buddha said to his disciples, “I am more offended by you because you know me, and you have lived for years with me, and still you react.”

Puzzled, confused, the man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. When you see a Buddha, it is difficult, impossible to sleep again the way you used to sleep before. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He was trembling all over and perspiring. He had never come across such a man; he shattered his whole mind and his whole pattern, his whole past.

The next morning he was back there. He threw himself at Buddha’s feet. Buddha asked him again, “What next? This, too, is a way of saying something that cannot be said in language. When you come and touch my feet, you are saying something that cannot be said ordinarily, for which all words are a little narrow; it cannot be contained in them.” Buddha said, “Look, Ananda, this man is again here, he is saying something. This man is a man of deep emotions.”

The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”

Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. The Ganges goes on flowing, it is never the same Ganges again. Every man is a river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! The river has flowed so much. So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.”

“And you also are new. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing at my feet, touching my feet. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it. Those two people, the man who spit and the man on whom he spit, both are no more. Come closer. Let us talk of something else.”


I will close simply by saying that I am that sleepless one; there are things I would say that cannot be said in language and there are things that I would not say that tremble even now upon my fingertips. I am undecided, but I realize that the conflict occurs because the memory of what was, the wish for what may be, and the fear of what may not be, these things are all in great opposition to one another. The mind is terribly good at creating conflict in the name of trying to avoid it, I think. But, until I can be as peaceful as I was prior to putting this thought of re-discovery to the page, it is likely I will forgo anything more than thinking upon it.

I suppose it is not a thing to ask another (any other) to understand; how can I? I am not sure I truly understand it all myself.