Wednesday, June 09, 2010


A wad of gum gunked itself onto the sole of my shoe last night. I stood on the train. It crept onto the bottom of my foot. Somewhere between Ebina station and Sagamino Station. I scraped it off. A few moments later, there it was again, a glob of greenish, bluish, grayish goo. Persistent, it was. Almost insistent. Finally I flicked it off by aggressively rubbing one shoe against the other, like a praying mantis biding its time, and it finally rested, defeated, but not broken, against the side of the door. Soon someone else would come along, and its covert scheme could begin anew.

Perhaps I am being somewhat superior in my tone. Should I have said 'soul' of my shoe, rather than 'sole'? For I am almost certain that this particular piece of chewing gum was not merely an inert, passive player in its own pathetic tale. I did not intend to step on that gum; it found itself on myself. And if such a motive can be ascribed to a lowly scrap of discarded candy, who is to say that black dress shoes bought for $20 twenty dollars in the Philippines do not have their own modest depths of identity? If the ancient Japanese believed that the rocks and the rivers, the caves and the trees all contained infinite depths of awareness and their own, inscrutable form of consciousness, perhaps a lowly pair of workwear can hold similar spiritual flexibility. I wear the shoes, but they may be wearing me in turn. A somewhat disturbing thought.

There could have been magnetic wars at work that eluded me last night, some kind of subtle war between the stretchy, flexible essence of gum and the stolid, solid resiliency of cheap leather. (If leather is, indeed, what these shoes are made of; how foolish! To trod daily with a substance clasped close to one's skin whose very identity you remain indifferent to, if not contemptuous of!) If mankind can embark on centuries of apocalyptic warfare merely because our philosophies of the spirit differ in tone and structure, perhaps a smaller, subtle form of malice is being enacted between the tactile, unconscious shapes on this world.

I can claim no scientific superiority, but I know enough to state that what we see as solid is, in fact, little more than a swirling and whirling and twisting and turning mass of atoms and electrons and neutrons clashing at each other with all the miniature force of a thousand roller coasters ramming towards one their mechanical destiny at one and the same time, a free-for-all of controlled chaos held together by the most intricate of designs. And who are we to claim that the smallest among us might not possess their own form of sincere, albeit primitive, awareness?

Perhaps the restless molecules at work in that piece of gum and these pair of shoes I wear are so tragically minute that they are not aware of the physical forces at play in their random collisions. (And are we truly conscious of why we do what we do? Of who we clash with? Of those we scrape away?) I can conceive of a situation where the fluidity of the molecules locked inside, indeed forming the very marrow, of that slab of chewing gum, suddenly rebelled at the arrogant, unyielding stiffness of my shoes. Jealousy may not be limited to the human realm, as any animal lover can attest to. Atoms, too, have their own internal dynamics, and they could very well be spiritual ones. Enough was enough, the gum decided. If the shoes will flaunt their solidity, I will flare my own flexibility. Let the war begin!

Indifferently scraping that gum off of my shoe, I almost felt a sting. Of this I swear. (Even the smallest things can hold the greatest of grudges.)

On a train hurtling through the Kanagawa countryside, in the country of Japan, on the planet earth, I showed the objects of this world who was boss, I sure did, while somewhere up above, far away, in space, something similar is looking down at us, getting ready to scrub the earth off the bottom of its pride.