Friday, June 03, 2005


Sometimes I wonder.

About the knock on the door.

(Can you hear it?)

About the grid.

(Can you sense it?)

About life. About our purpose. About the fact that we are here on this earth for, maximum, one hundred and ten years, and, that being the case, how should we spend our time? Is it better to wander the globe searching for the points of intersection between people and cultures, or is it better, saner, to crash out on the couch in the living room, chilling to Oprah's rhythmic, calming, soothing voice, her reassuring vibe?

Then I think: No. That is selfish. That is unproductive. That is inertia transformed into religion. That path does not lead to wisdom, only to Pringles. There are others out there, entities beyond my fragile self, and they are part of something simultaneously grander and more intimate, and it is my duty, your duty, to become one with those fellow organisms that are searching for some sense of serenity. (However brief.)

And so now I'm here. In this place. And there you are. In your place. The sun is shining here, and perhaps the moon is glowing there. It's the same world, with the same moon and stars separating us. All around me is the hustle and bustle of Cambodian life, its dusty, grinding, chaotic flux, and all around you is...


That, I don't know.

Sometimes I think that the separation of me from you is a lie, a gross, distorted untruth hoisted upon us by family, society, religion. 'I am an autonomous entity,' I say, but if there is no hearer to assess the validity of such a claim, then how can it possibly contain even a rumor of truth?

Such a random, crowded, connected world this is! All of our passports and borders do such a fine job of keeping us contained and diverted, but I'm starting to believe, beginning to understand, that such containments, arbitrary as they are, necessary as they are, are merely smaller sections of a larger grid.

It is that grid that I've been searching for, unconsciously; it is that grid, arbitrary as it may be, imaginary as it may be, that lies within the ground beneath our feet.

I'm not sure what that grid is, precisely. Its origin, contours and endpoint remain maddenginly elusive, like a half-remembered word lying dormant on my tongue. (I can grasp, barely, its meaning, but not its shape.) There's a book by Herman Hesse called Magister Ludi and The Glass Bead Game; I've read part of that book, not all of it, but I think contained within its pages lies something that approximates an eternal, lasting truth, a map to the map to the map that leads to the memory of the grid, if not to the grid itself.

Patriotism, nationalism, xenophobia, racism: the very concepts that divide us as people are also what, ironically, bring us closer together, for in their universal prejudice we find our common bond. The fear of the other; the fear of the neighbour. Americans resent Mexico and Canada resents America and Cambodia can't stand Thailand and Thailand can't stand Cambodia and Japan is pissed at China and China is freaked over Japan and on and on and ON it goes.

And so it goes, as Vonnegut would say.

You, reading these words, are scared of many things. Your past, your future, your present. If I were to combine all of those fears, personify them in the form of a single man knocking on the door of your home, if I were to do that, would you open that door? Would you be able to confront those fears? If you heard that knock -- once, twice, three times -- could you open that door? Would you dare?

Outside, on a busy street, there are no such doors, true, but there is a man. Tired, lonely, hot. I do not know his name. He does not know mine. If I were to pass by him on the road, he would, most likely, stare. Stare in wonder and curiosity and disgust. Who knows. But if I were to smile at this man, he would smile back. Of that I am sure. Maybe not in Canada, or Japan, but in Cambodia, yes. He would smile back.

That's one section of the grid, that smile. One small, almost minute molecule of the skin on the finger on the hand of that person knocking on your door. (That persistent knock.)

I'm still searching for all of the other interlocking circuits that make up this global, imaginary (?) grid of mine, but that one, that smile, I'm certain, I'm convinced, is one of them.

Sometimes I wonder.


inger said...

"Americans resent Mexico and Canada resents America ....."

I was more under the impression EVERYONE hated us now. Maybe not us...but what we've or what certain people have done. Is that not a fact? I've had many conversations...with people not from here. I didn't however realize, we resented Mexico. However, let me tell you, WE LOVE EVERYONE ELSE.

Anonymous said...

Um, this made me bawl because I'm always saying how I wish someone could know me well enough to understand how the act of bringing me a pine cone or a blade of grass would undo me -- in the best sense -- in the sense of the smile you note here, and that identification -- my "take" on your words -- is why I bawled.

Allele Dopa *Lump-In-Throat* Loci