PART TEN

Death Is A Sorrowful Lover


(1)


DEAD LEAVES IN SPRINGTIME


They are I, and they are not-I.

I never know where they're going to come from.
I never know where they're going to go.

Chasing each other
     round and round,
Swirling, twirling,
     high up off the ground,
They sure do seem to know a thing or two
     about how to play,
     how to dance.

they say
     Why would anyone want eternal rest,
     endless sleep?

they say
     Why wouldn't anyone want to go on living and living
     forever?






There is a strange and wondrous power running throughout the whole of the natural world, a primal, driving force which, operating like an internalized engine, imbues all facets of nature with motion and purpose.  "Motion," I say; and "purpose," I say; shying away, at least momentarily, from asserting an equivalency between this purposeful motion and "life" – for how can I possibly claim that rocks and rivers, the rain and the wind and the dead leaves and so on are "alive"?  And yet they have a power.  Nor is this power merely symbolic.  The symbolic is that which exists only to give those abstractions born of the human intellect embodiment in some external, tangible form.  But the power embodied by those dead leaves is, I believe, a power whose source is located within the leaves themselves. This power might perhaps best be designated simply as energy, though I would qualify my definition of energy here to mean "the communicative ability that resides in all things, both animate and inanimate," this communicative ability being the means by which the transformative power of energy is given expression.  Not having yet learned (or having forgotten) how to understand the communicative power of inanimate objects, we believe them capable of only such transformative action as the laws of physics allow.  Who would contend that those dead leaves, twirled and swirled by the spring breezes, are in fact not really dead, but living things still?  Yet they have a story to tell.  They speak.  They have a language, and that language is not, I believe, beyond the interpretational ability of humankind.  The only reason I speak of their communicative power in terms of "belief" at all is because humankind as a species has become so single-minded in its adherence to scientific rationalism that it can no longer interpret reality from any other perspective.  We have forgotten, in other words, that scientific rationalism is but an attitude, a methodology, a mode of perception, and thus have come to define that which we call "irrational" as being not only that which lies outside the parameters of one particular conceptual framework, but as that which is no longer worthy of consideration because it lies outside the parameters of one particular conceptual framework.  Any mode of perception other than that which is rooted in scientific rationalism is relegated to the status of mere "belief" – subjective, personal, and relative.  Scientific rationalism is beneficial in that it gives us an objective standard by which to measure reality, but it forgets that reality is also subjective – is experiential.  To interpret reality correctly, one must speak in terms which encompass both its objective and subjective expressions, and realize that true understanding can only be found at the point at which they intersect.  The energies manifested at this point of intersection must, by definition, be realized metaphorically:  for tangible reality is, after all, but a metaphor for energy.  Poetry (and art in general) is perhaps the best mode of communication we have for this kind of understanding, for a work of art is likewise metaphoric in content, even while its mode of transmission is symbolic.  Yet even art becomes hesitant, speaks falteringly, approximately, when faced with the full range of communication available to us.  The language of the leaves is, finally, beyond it.  While such a language can be spoken about, it cannot itself be spoken:  it can only be lived.

Last autumn's leaves – brown, frayed, dusty, brittle – swirl, twirl, scuttle, tumble.  They are simply being blown about by the spring breezes, yes; but they are also alive.  This is absurd only to those whose thinking is ruled by scientific rationalism; it is not absurd in and of itself.  In the interaction that exists between wind and leaves each partially transforms the other – the wind by imparting motion to the leaves, the leaves by shaping and subtly altering the course of the wind.  In this transformative power there exists a manner of communication; and where communication exists, so must consciousness.  And where there is consciousness, so must there be life, however foreign its formulation appears to the human mind.  The dead leaves speak.  They are alive.  And the message they bring is, insofar as it can be understood and interpreted by humankind, friendly enough I think.  Any message that can be understood by humankind must be deemed to be fundamentally friendly (even when that message is dangerous, spoken by an enemy) because if it is a message that can be understood by human beings then at least one aspect of its communicative power must be said to have a human causality, thus bringing it into the realm not only of the understandable but also of the potentially answerable.  And yet I cannot interpret entirely the message of the leaves.  Nature is feral; nature is wild; and I have not yet recovered enough of my own wildness to be able to interpret nature entirely.  Until I can do so, it will remain, to some degree, dangerous to me in a manner that is not only problematic, but potentially deadly.  To overcome this danger I must learn the language of the leaves.  I must come to understand that I, too, am a dead leaf, blown about by the spring breezes yet also moving by my own power, under my own volition.

Life and death, indeed the entire process of living and dying, cannot be encompassed by the merely symbolic.  The symbolic must be emptied of all preconceived meaning, its value understood to depend upon that which we discover through our own active embodiment of the true nature of reality, and of ourselves.  We must become one with reality – or realize the oneness that already exists, beyond the realm of our preconditioned conceptions.  If we can but accomplish this, then what lies ahead will be nothing less than a voyage of discovery into an uncharted land.








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