“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”
Do we dovetail like Escher’s birds? Are we linked like the white lights that string our backyard spruce? Or do people all just crash around, orbiting each other mostly with the occasional collision, a cloud of frantic and isolated fleas?My take depends on the day.
I certainly feel locked into myself, distinct, never a chance to try another face, another psyche. When I pet this soft brown dog, do I feel what you would feel? I’m bothered that I can’t fully know. And yet, there survive seemingly agreed-upon senses of softness and color. There seems even to be a nearly universal understanding of the clean, outdoor dog smell, and that this smell is honest, possibly healing.
There are, however, cat people.
Despite my occasional feelings of imprisonment, I continually return to the notion that we are all connected more deeply than we can guess, if for no other reason than I like it. I feel oddly encouraged by the possibilities. The strange symbiosis of twins, ears burning from hundreds of miles away, distant friends and family laughing or dying nearly simultaneously. These concepts, while debatable, improve my mood the way good friends do by staying the night in our home. Especially if they bring good wine.
If we bind intricately together—and why not say we do?—our responsibilities and accomplishments shake their limits. We plant together the makings of bombs in duffle bags, we insert the knife terribly between ribs, we rape and kill each other and ourselves. Equally, we apply the touch of healing to the sick in Kolkata and paint the brilliant sworls of “Starry Night.” We say something uproarious and inappropriately fun in the middle of brutal survival. We are each other.
This interconnectedness seems more in line with what I understand about Buddhist thought. The more cyclical concept of existence, at least compared to the Western linear approach, reduces the insistence on individuality. Past existences reach forward and play with the gears. Some Buddhist teachers use the term “interpersonal being” for an idea that there are bundles of feeling and self that have been shared through generations. I think of my father and his father and his, three generations of guys in a family that shared a shocking level of emotional similarity. How many moments have I enjoyed—wistful, joyous—that they felt in nearly identical fashion, just with different rooms, different trees? I wonder, too, how far back these similarities might go.
When I’m really feeling right, I feel even wider connections. I see totems and visitations and omens. Turtles visit me on the road, deer too, and thunder and yes, rainbows—they seem part of a design that lives just outside my understanding.
Oddly, when I see signs, the signs almost always say something good, or at least with the goodness of neutrality. This does not seem trustworthy. Who cares.
One weekend during the joyride of my early twenties I went with two friends to a beach house on Lake Michigan for the weekend, during which I experienced oneness with the entire freaking universe. I will never forget the feeling. I laid on my back in the sand next to a fire I was personally incapable of making at the moment and felt myself to be a bead in an unfathomably huge network of beads. Or maybe they were stars. There was a visual component that I can’t explain but that I can return to when needed, a small gift from the cosmos, and I remember that I felt total serenity. This feeling seemed to go on for hours. I never would have tired of it.
I was awoken from this “dream” by a friend who had gone for popsicles, and who told me my experience had lasted all of about fifteen minutes. I then experienced some serious interconnectedness with a popsicle.
I am, to be clear, desperate to hold on to my originality, my own particular spirit and memories. I don’t really want to dissolve into light or get reborn or relinquish my desire. I want to ascend into some higher plane, but I want to come back and tell my people about it. I am my only point of reference.
The older I get, though, the less sure I am of my originality and the more desirable letting go into a collective spirit seems. In fact, the older I get, the more I can’t really remember what it was like to be certain ages at all. Memories of some stages become like photo-stills. I find that I fill in the gaps with the stories and emotions of others. Stories I’ve read become my stories, too. I carry around Flannery O’Connor’s sense of childhood with all the detail that has eroded from mine. John Cheever’s depiction of youthful summer lives in me like a blood transfusion.
We become each other when we talk and we write and read, the space between us rarifying and compacting. A row of paper dolls pulling open and closing again. I look up into our triptych mirror while I shave, and hand after receding hand pulls down the hot blade.
Evan Perriello’s ambitious story, “Everything You Create is a Piece of Your Soul,” unfolds under the concept that all creators put bits of their souls—seemingly live and quantifiable bits—into their creations. The story rockets toward the reader from the unique perspective of some of these bits as they enter the body of a man who has survived an air raid. Within the creative imagery and cool, quirky rhythm, Periello still offers characters about whom we can care, and a narrative arc that satisfies, as well.
In “There is a Bat in our Spare Room” by Brian Sousa, a couple tries to limit their visitor’s flying, but the speaker admits a sense of kinship with it. Sousa’s poem evokes the quiet moments of a couple’s togetherness, as well as our attempts to penetrate the web of ties that hold us to the world. A clear, lovely, and subtly unsettling poem.
A fascinating sort of splintered elegy, “Three Memories of Which I am Fairly Certain,” flash fiction by Catherine Campbell, blurs the distance between self and other souls, some close as soul-mates, others from longer range. This piece is as surreal and distinct as life itself, the apparent lack of certainty balanced by Campbell’s sure hand and rock-solid prose.
Photo By: cobalt123