And Dragonflies and Bumblebees

On the streets today, people seem so smart and full of Spring. Though the temperature has dropped ten degrees from its high, the sun is still shining. It's 32 degrees and sunny in New York City.

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.

Clay White's picture

Fascinating pairing - your piece and Wes' in the newsletter. Stillness, the appreciation of which is getting the most out of the here and now. Sometimes you and he are on the same page in more ways than one.

Stephen Mejias's picture

>Fascinating pairing - your piece and Wes' in the newsletter. Stillness, the appreciation of which is getting the most out of the here and now. Thank you so much, Clay. I'm glad you got something out of it, and glad you share my enthusiasm for stillness. The ideas of being - and being still (and still being) - really inspire and influence me. >Sometimes you and he are on the same page in more ways than one. I do like to think so. Thanks again!