Zhuangzi’s Butterfly - Presbyteros - The Doors - The Secret - Reveries - The Sum
While others boys were busy in the trees
yodeling from branch to branch
like Tarzan in the green
I counted iron nails
and the force
of the face
where I might
ascend for awhile
and feed on bright stars
and wonder how and where
the wings of the butterfly are held
by a tiny point from thorax to windswept air
The priest recites the ancient, inevitable words,
not the newfangled German tacked up on a door
or the English slogans
so fashionable now on the bursting t-shirts
of the dancing Madonnas
and our Lady of the Gaga dolls —
no, his words go back to the Latin and Greek,
the Hebrew scriptures, the Aramaic script,
and the Phoenician that gave it birth.
Yet even that, he feared, was not the beginning:
before the cities of Paris, Rome, or Jerusalem
were Thebes and Uruk;
before culture flowed on the banks of the Seine, Tiber, or Jordan
were the Nile and the Euphrates.
Some might call agnosticism the doorway drug
to atheism and decadence
to loss of belief
and purpose out of sight,
yet if people want these things
they’ll find such a door
in earth or sky
agnosticism is the trickiest
for no sooner are you through it
than you realize it’s revolving
Your straight line
or call it second nature
has brought you back
to that world you thought you left behind
with different eyes
The thumb is a Taoist monk.
A lug, it lags behind the index finger,
Mister Smarty-pants, Confucian, writing down rules
till the cows come home.
Pointing everything out.
But when it comes to grasping things,
the index finger’s a dolt.
They've all found The Secret
the Truth, in the Light, on the Way, only through Him
or they've found Buddha or Brahman
or Dao, that other Way.
Or they've found the scientific method
magic decoder ring
of riddles past and revelations to come.
Or they've found politics
with its flame-thrower on the opium field of dreams
or aestheticism: All Arts All for the Sake of Art
leaving politics to the grubby likes of Sartre.
They've all found the Secret
except the agnostic
for whom there is, as of yet, no secret.
Or if there's a secret,
no one's telling.
For the agnostic there are only mysteries
endlessly revealing and unrevealing
endlessly dissolving and re-emerging.
Agnosticism is the step you take
toward existentialism and Sartre
until Camus stays your gait
and steers you toward something
that might be something else
It's hard to imagine death
because everything with which you imagine it
is a function of life
Your brain thinks it
but your fingers can’t imagine it
You’ve never not breathed
or at least
not that you can recall
The only metaphor that makes sense
from your toes to your cerebral cortex
and in that sleep of death what dreams may come
So you imagine yourself going to sleep
and then waking up
except that you don't know what it is
that you're supposed to have dreamed
You imagined that you’d wake up
in some other world of pink clouds and harps
at the sound of your alarm clock
your eyes refreshed with the long sleep
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
You remember buying a ticket for the boat
and thinking that you were going to be dipped
in the River of Oblivion
but you don’t feel refreshed at all
more like hungover
you can’t even remember the party
You look over to the clock
and all it says is 3:00 AM
Some people feel a love so deep and powerful that they give it a name and a history, and make of it a universal Meaning. So that when you drink the wine of the communion you feel the divine blood course through your body and you know that you shall be released. The sum of everything leads to Jesus.
Some people find empty pockets about them everywhere. Empty pockets in which being only appears to be born. A mockery of meaning amid the absurdity. The nausea of seeing that you’ll never understand the black root of a chestnut tree; that even the word black is an illusion you use to cover the ineffable face of things. We’re all lost, adrift, condemned to freedom. The sum of everything leads to Sartre.
Some feel the desire to move beyond desire and suffering. Once you see that you're trapped in the paradox, you're released. You stand on the lake shore and see the ocean. You stand on the edge of the world and see the stars. The sum of everything leads to Buddha.
Some see a slow, inexorable accumulation of facts. From stardust to revolving earth. From layers of sediment 300 thousand years old to the city of Edinburgh, with its geologist James Hutton measuring time. From a single-celled organism to a brain with over a hundred trillion synapses. Survival and evolution. After millions of years, you exist for a brief moment, pass on your genes, and disappear. The sum of everything leads to Darwin.
Some feel a flow of energy linking the waves of the electric air. Connecting and dissolving. Knitting and unravelling. Invisible and visible. Momentary and eternal. There’s no you, at least not in a personal sense. You are That, and all this is That. The sum of everything leads to Shankara.
Some feel something of these but aren't sure how to sum it all up.
Should we calculate the relation between the perspectives in some sort of theosophical or Bahá'í way? Should we capitalize Way? Should we see the truth of all Grand Sums in some Greater Sum?
Agnostics suspect that this would just start the cycle again, so that the next thing we'd have to do is divide the One, and then argue the limited conjectures of Its design. Agnostics — who seem destined to doubt till the end of time — suspect that this will just bring about division. Just when we reached unity. Just when we summed it all up.