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"OH WATERS, TEEM WITH MEDICINE TO KEEP MY BODY SAFE FROM HARM, SO THAT I MAY LONG SEE THE SUN." - Rig Veda
We're beginning to come to grips with the idea that your brain is not this well-organized hierarchical control system where everything is in order, a very dramatic vision of bureaucracy. In fact, it's much more like anarchy with some elements of democracy. Sometimes you can achieve stability and mutual aid and a sort of calm united front, and then everything is hunky-dory, but then it's always possible for things to get out of whack and for one alliance or another to gain control, and then you get obsessions and delusions and so forth.
You begin to think about the normal well-tempered mind, in effect, the well-organized mind, as an achievement, not as the base state, something that is only achieved when all is going well, but still, in the general realm of humanity, most of us are pretty well put together most of the time. This gives a very different vision of what the architecture is like, and I'm just trying to get my head around how to think about that.
"You will walk
on the sidewalk. You will
place refuse in approved containers
to be picked up at
the appointed time. You
will close doors behind you, turn off lights.
You will sleep—eight hours, precisely—
dress within the confines of
acceptable taste and drive the speed limit
and carry exact change.
You will earn diligently yet modestly
to provide for your dependents. You will
at approved outlets
during posted hours of operation. Your respiration
and metabolic processes will fall
within established norms. There is no standard
It is for your own good,
you among millions.
You will conform.
You will not
skip lines. You will not skip.
You will not waste resources unless directed
or convenient. You will not read
what you scrawl in the small hours
except to yourself— by yourself—
in subdued lighting that casts no dramatic shadows.
You will not
listen to what rumbles outside,
and if there are
shouts arcing through the grid, the city's synapses,
you will not hear them,
or you will not notice.
Pay no attention to what isn't televised.
You will not support
what threatens security
and abundance in the life which
you have been
taught to know
so long. You will protect
material wellbeing. You will save your voice
for when it is asked of you.
You will not indulge
in difficult colors or savor food or flesh
longer than required.
You will not
sit up at night thinking
about asterisms or
the cold or debris from cosmic collisions
spiraling toward the sun
over long centuries. You will wait, always wait, for it all
to get better. And it will—
it is. Getting better.
So much better all the time."
Para a Inês
There are more color receptors in the human eye than are used,
thus the colors of the world as they are seen are not the true colors.
The true colors have no names, and so they are impossible to imagine.
The failure of language is not that something can only be described
with a limited number of words, but that it can only be perceived using those words.
Holding his fingers to the light the man said to his son,
“this is a hand,” it is good for breaking, for building,
the hand is a machine, and like language, a machine is a means to an end.
Now, imagine you do not know the hand's name, tell me then
what is it not capable of?
The occurrence of war outside the boy's window
was as frequent as the birds. Each night
he watched from behind the blinds
as soldiers emerged from the thicket
smooth and quiet as apparitions or memories
climbing down from the skull and into the tall grass.
The starving steel rods they carried burst with sparks,
and tore each other down at knees and necks.
His father told him these were the inventions of lesser minds
demented by baseness and old magic. These burning branches
could swallow the stare of a man, and drive him
straight into the ground.
It was a time when, amongst the villagers,
there was not such familiarity with guns
that they were discussed by name, or even during day,
only by description, and behind doors where it was believed
they could not enter. To the boy and his father
the nameless guns were capable of anything.
They did not know why they were only used to kill.
The boy knew nothing but the bodies next to the garden,
the crows discussing the rites of flesh. In the morning
he would wade through the pints of men
wandering dizzily about them as if he too were bloodless,
drifting off into the smells of carnage.
One by one with a silver spoon he would remove the lead
musket balls from the skulls and chests and legs of the dead men,
and carry them to his father to be melted down and turned to gold.
When the man was finished he would bring a vat of burning gold
back to the field and pour a spoonful of the molten metal
into each of the wounds from which the lead was taken.
Time and time again the boy watched the eyes roll back
from the depths of the skull, shine in the waning light of day
like lanterns along a river and then the soldiers would rise
as fog does. They would empty the grass and return to the forest.
Come nightfall they would re-emerge to kill each other again.
And again. Like blood thirsty hounds of fire and gore.
Automatons clad in blood.
Every day the boy asked his father why
he would reawake the soldiers, and each time he said,
“These instruments of war are doors to an end.
After a war the side with the most land and least dead
always dances and makes love inside the sound of drums.
It seems to me this is all the body has ever wanted.
“I wish to see if there will ever come a time where upon reawakening
they will each forget their language,
and not know the name for the those terrible burning snouts
they carry, and thus not know what they are used for.
These are dangerous men not because they carry a weapon,
but because what they carry is named,
and so it has only one imaginable purpose.
“Imagine, the whole field of soldiers forgetting their language,
and being possessed only with what their bodies want most in the end:
to dance, and to love. I wonder then, if we would see the field break
into a brilliant cavorting where the branches fire upward,
and those steel rods peel back the dark cowl of night. Oh,
how they would all be illuminated like cathedrals, empty
of language, and teeming with sound.”