And Dragonflies and Bumblebees
I love the word "still," by the way. I have to tell you. It means so much more than its five letters.
On the train this morning, I read.
Elizabeth Costello is giving a lecture on animals now. She refers to Kafka's story about an ape, Red Peter, that is captured and brought into civilization. To avoid "life" in a zoo, the ape, Red Peter, decides to become human. He, the ape, learns to "think" like a human. I haven't read this Kafka story, so I'm not sure how it all unfolds. I mention this simply as background.
On the train this morning, I read:
In return for the prodigious overdevelopment of the intellect he [Red Peter] has achieved, in return for his lecture-hall etiquette and academic rhetoric, what has he had to give up? The answer is: Much, including progeny, succession. If Red Peter had any sense, he would not have any children. For upon the desperate, half-mad female ape with whom his captors, in Kafka's story, try to mate him, he would father only a monster.... Hybrids are, or ought to be, sterile....*
That's just about where I left off, so I'm not clear on where Coetzee via Costello is going with this. However, there on the train this morning, I closed the book and took the word "hybrid" along for a ride. We traveled from the pages of the book in my hand to my home and my Moscode, and happily disagreed.
And now I'm wondering: Aren't we all hybrids, anyway?
I loved today's eNewsletter, by the way. I have to tell you. Wes wrote a beautifully human and very entertaining piece about happiness and being.
On the train this morning, I looked up from my book to see an unusually great number of people board at the Pavonia/Newport stop. An empty train became absolutely crowded. It meant, at first, little to me, other than just that: I lost some space. However, looking up again, I noticed that the couple closest to me was communicating in sign. The language of sign. Sign language. I stared for a moment and smiled before looking back down into my book. Time passed. After reading that bit about Red Peter and hybrids, I looked up again to realize that it wasn't only the closest couple; They weren't the only ones communicating in sign. Everyone every single person on the train was communicating in sign.
I gave up entirely on discretion, and stared openly. I do indulge in this way often. I sometimes show very little self-control, little discipline. But what I saw was this:
A warbling symphony, not unlike the monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery and their otherworldly throat singing, of a million wild waterfalls. A fluttering of fingertips and faces, tickling the air, blowing kisses, and letting loose sighs. Blinking eyes and wagging tongues. A parade of slick and fleshy musical notes floating around, bumping up against the train's dirty windows, sliding down the silver walls, and scurrying across the orange floor. The canopy of a rain forest. A field of tall grass and wild flowers whirring with the wind. And dragonflies and bumblebees.
At the Christopher Street stop, they all got off, and I felt something.
* Coetzee, J.M. Elizabeth Costello. New York: Penguin Group, Inc., 2003.