All over the forest, creatures cry for help. Loss wins the days. Check the tree trunks for scars, phantom limbs, orphan kittens. Look underbrush for fallen nests, broken-winged darlings, lizards who gave tails to baby vampires at play. Forest eye can tell. Nature nurtures us all and watches our fall when she abandons us.
But if you stay loose, like a drunk, you will land again, suspended in silken threads. You will find she never left, that the spiders are spinning webs to connect us in a single system. Our network is safe. The energy is renewable, an explosion spinning infinite consequences, an equation attempting to attain zero. Then rest again. Back to nothing.
You will be relieved, maybe, to find we’re all being breathed, a function of the function, not responsible for even the most basic functions. Take home the lost kitten and watch her stomach rise and fall, her paws stretching open, pushing rhythmically, willing milk from a cashmere sweater. She’s a little tiger, a fighter yet flexible, a magical realist. In just one night, she will trade a mother and litter of siblings for luxury goods.
It doesn’t matter to the multiverse, whether any creature lives or loves or dies, whether we hear the cries, or what we do before we go. Everything is compost. Nature doesn’t mind if you feed the kitten and name her Bijou, or dig out her eyes to mount as jewels in your crown. It’s all data from and for the equation, near zero, a constant state of perfect imbalance, beyond comprehension.
Nature will not judge if you choose hell though paradise is not lost. The way makes no distinctions between this and that, unlike us. Thus, when we’re distracted from the mysteries of existence by red herrings, blue tunas, Swedish fish, it provides more of the same. We can all play the game how we like. Truly, there is no wrong or right.
Yet, despite evidence that it’s all a good cut on this porker, we distinguish insistently. Good and bad, right and wrong, gain and loss, weak and strong. It’s imperative to choose, insiders and outsiders, winners and losers, to feel we excel at this game that everyone knows — really, even if you spend your whole life avoiding the truth — simply cannot be won.
It can only be enjoyed, and even then, just sometimes. Pleasure exists only in relation to pain, momentary relief from suffering. Happiness no country, only a tourist destination. Still, that is what I feel today, happiness. Outside the drone delivery zone, not fighting for a spot on the scrapheap.
Was there something I could have done to avoid drowning like so many Disco Ninjas before me? Probably. If spirit resisted less than mind wishes it would. I can be paid to keep secrets but not to tell the emperor that the same old new clothes still suit him. Not when the emperor is the world’s friendliest corporation, naked, a psychopathic legal person whose prime directive is Plus This, growing Gross Universal Product, GUP.
After all, a powerful emperor doesn’t require my lies. Who am I to tell MoreCorp it’s doing a good job, to pack compliment sandwiches in their free lunches? That’s for someone else, someone who gets it, thinks everything is awesome, and has no questions. We all have a role and I reluctantly accept mine. Maker of useless things. Asker of questions.
Like this one. Who is pulling the strings? Of course it’s not just Hound pawing the quantum or Wolf cursing his enemies to hear the lamentations of their women. It’s not only me with my rhymes or Bijou crying in a redwood. It’s not even billionaires, like Big Daddy Cane or the MoreCorp Founders, Ergo Sum and Page Turner. Not Goddess or Eclair or Steak or Ribeye or Bacon or Donut. We’re all fleeting and practically powerless in the grand scheme. But it is all of us. We’re pulling the strings — those cobwebs holding us invisibly close until we compost.
In the interim, we exert will to create, destroy, and deconstruct. We must. O! To be only good! But that wouldn’t work, would it? Absence makes a window but frame shapes empty space. Contrast is everything, contrary to popular belief. For a world where everything is awesome is a world where nothing is good.
Not that I advocate destruction, however chic it is. You will note that I forego cheap tricks, neat fixes, explosions, burning buildings, hacked systems, shootouts, standoffs, pure vandalism, and false revolution. My goals aren’t more noble but my method is more perfectly useless. A sacrifice to texts reduced for cube rent, tribute to The Arts Old, a lost cause that cannot die, like grass sprouting through sidewalk cracks, persisting in existing. Nature doesn’t mind when some of us step out of time.
Zen Koan Of The Day:
If a story is posted on Reddit but no one up-votes it, was it ever written?
Don’t answer yet. You’re meant to savor the question, sit on it in meditation. Ask until no answer makes sense and all answers work. Ask until more questioning. Ask until silence, nothing left to say.
Do not answer yet because we don’t know the significance of anything now, here, where we stand. But of these things we can be sure. On a long enough timeline all endeavors fail. Ultimately, we are insignificant in an indifferent multiverse. There is no winning, not even for the Founders, who we swear on for Founders’ sake! So we are free to inevitably fail.
Burn the bridges. Light the way. We’re not stuck but we’ll never know what was misfortune and what was good luck. It depends where you stand when you’re asking. For the magical realist, everything is possible except certainty. If you are flexible, imaginative with math and myths, wishes come true, including those unknown to you.
Read the signs, weave a story, and loss transforms to glory. It’s a useless skill, spinning yarns. But it is everything. In the land of the blind, those with third-eye sight keep the record. It’s too long and no one reads it. Still, my destiny is lost causes and tongues, so signs appear immediately. My help is needed.
On my first day away from MoreCorp, I settle into a hollowed tree stump in the forest, looking up, listening for the creek’s babble. But it’s dry, quiet. Instead, I hear a cry and follow it down behind the cabin to a tree where I see a tiny tiger, wildly patterned in silver and black, yellow bug eyes lined in white making up most of a bat-like face, crazed, clinging to the rusted trunk of a redwood. I take the yowling kitten down and she clings to me, purring sweetly, soothed. Meet Bijou, jewel of the forest.
In the evening, Wolf comes home from work in Silicon pale and agitated. He trips on the steps and bumps a bench in the tiny cabin. Luckily, Bijou distracts him. She is sweet and small, affectionately nuzzling the tall stranger. Hound, giant and white, circles, paws clacking loudly on the wood floor as man and doge inspect the jewel in the palm of Wolf’s hand. Bijou hisses at the doge boldly. “You conjured her,” Wolf says, matter-of-factly of the kitten.
“No. I listened. She was there.”
“Don’t humblebrag me. It’s unnecessary. I know magix.” He smiles but seems distant and disturbed. We don’t talk about work or people in the Clubhouse, and I assume it’s by design, that Wolf needs time to consider continuing among the cursed as I collect jewels and plan my uselessness. He goes to bed early with Bijou curled up on his chest and Hound slumped against him.
Overnight, a redwood sprout breaks through the house, bolstered by drunken courage, celebrating the unpredictable. In the morning, the unthinkable! We wake up in an ocean of trees hurtling through space so fast it feels still, while lighting strikes, thunder roars, and the creek below gurgles with glee. Seventeen full moons since we traveled X-Country and it has never rained in the west — that’s why it’s rumored the Silicon bathrooms run on recycled piss.
No rain predicted. Yet it falls. So burn the bridges. The way will make what we need. Rain and sun, water and light. When the old gods hear a pilgrim plans sacrifices on a poetic pyre that won’t grow GUP, they weep tears of joy, the world’s most popular emoji.
I open the window by the bed. The land is so parched it rejects drink, water flowing down the mountain in rivulets. Wolf wakes up beside me. He gets up with Bijou in his palm, held nestled against his chest, stands framed in the red doorway, and says, “Ellipsis, I have to tell you something. I hit Ampersand Matrix at fight club yesterday … broke some ribs, I think.”
“What?! You didn’t! What happened to discipline?”
“I’m a one-punch-man,” Wolf shrugs. “He was asking for it.”
I'm secretly thrilled. Still, I say, “JFK?”
“You wish,” Wolf laughs. “No. Not just fuxin’ kidding. I’m done with MoreCorp, and that guy.”
I push away thoughts of greenies we’ll need to make and debts we can’t pay, focusing on the positive (of course!). “We’re in the forest, and it’s raining, so yay. American Dreams!” Wolf seems caught between a grin and a frown. I try to coax the former. “Eye can tell. We’ll be fine.”
“Yeah,” he agrees, sounding noncommittal. Raised in the wild by wolves, he takes no comfort from consolation. Wolf turns into the other room as I watch the dawn rising outside, wondering if Ergo Sum is at an enviro-clone spa or luxury Humble Servant retreat, and if he ever feels peace.
Un-carved block is but freedom from desire.
By the window stands Chaim, tree of life, a giant redwood hugging the tiny cabin. Chaim’s roots are so deep they reach the beginning of time, so tall that there’s no drought and he continually sprouts, drinking the sweat of heavens. He may not be a Founder but Ergo Sum’s got nothing on him. Even if Sum is kept forever young in ever-improving iterations like Gem Shwift’s GS5 clones, he cannot beat Chaim. None outlast nature. While the tree always reaches in all directions, the Founder, our Ozymandias, will not even live to see his edifices crumble.
That a hunter may one day express
wonder at this wilderness
where Silicon stood.
Holding beast in chase,
meeting a candy statue’s face.
Stops to guess.
What fleeting race once was here.
The chattering rain grows loud and steady and sweet, soothing, like the hum of a machine, a mechanism breathed, a purring kitten. And as day breaks all is revealed anew. The resources have not yet been depleted, despite the dour predictions of positive thinkers. Is that a roar from the creek as it rises and rushes past? Are those redwoods dancing outside the window? Look close. Focus. They seem solid and stuck but they are not stiff. They bend, limbs outstretched, swaying with the wind.
Wolf puts two tin coffee mugs on the wooden table and sits. He lights a cig. “So what are you going to do,” I ask.
He shrugs. “Enter the dragon? Not sure. Probably foolishly stumble from one amusing failure to the next, chomping berries as I fall off the cliff. We’re good at that. Why? What’s your plan?”
“Well, I was going to rise like a phoenix from the flames. But now that you mention it, Wolf, foolish is my niche. Seriously, I want to worry. But my lizard brain’s not responding to the usual stimuli.”
“Relax into greatness,” he suggests wryly.
“Everything is awesome,” I reply.
It’s not that we don’t take ruin seriously. But in an absurd world, jokes work best for the serious. Maybe there was a time before, worth being nostalgic for, when people really took things seriously instead of just saying so with six emojis on a soc-nets post. If so, I don’t know it. That’s not my time. For me, this is what it is.
Welcome to my world. We are 12 trillion competing for a spot on the scrapheap. We are efficiently reducing old data to make space. And the more is reduced, the less we miss, so it’s perfect. We won’t know we don’t know and won’t question — less is more when it comes to curiosity. Then, eventually, we’ll need so little info to know it all that everything will be summed up in an LOL. It’s not only short but poignant, so do laugh out loud now. The joke’s on us. We who weep electronic tears of joy, who trade inspired unreliable real so easily for machines, reducing the record to meaninglessness, not realizing that when the text is taken out of context what’s left is a con.
But hope springs eternal. Creation is within my powers, not just reduction or destruction. Deconstruction. So I’ll use my words. The word is God, and I’m a person of the book even if the books are gone. We specialize in questions. Early on, we question everyone, even God, who has been dead a long time now. I’m not required to have answers. So why not? I’ll do it, ask the q’s. What do I have to lose?
Wolf reminds me of the stakes. “We’re supposed to keep the corporate secrets, especially labor-related. You could lose your license if you write about MoreCorp, and your life if Big Daddy Cane’s kid hates you, which she clearly does. You wanna go the way of Walden King? He’s dead. Besides, who will read your questions?”
“Everyone,” I reply unrealistically, then concede. “Probably no one. Too long et cetera. But I’m applying prong three of your labor philo.”
Wolf smiles triumphantly and raises a mug. We toast in unison, clanking cups and proclaiming, “Those in chains must complain!”
A loud crack sounds outside and a big branch falling from a redwood hits the roof with a thud. It shakes the cabin on its stilts. Was that confirmation? Reproach? Nature doesn’t judge but it punishes all. Bijou yowls. Hound barks. My heart sinks as I imagine our house collapsing just as we’ve bet on bird nest futures. Fools!
But inside all is intact. Wolf puts on his boots and a jacket, goes out with Hound into the rain to check the roof. I follow with Bijou, jewel of an indifferent yet spirited multiverse. There are no punctures from the fallen branch. Wolf, tall, dark, and handsome, his long legs dangling off the roof, gives me a thumbs-up.
It is what it is but all is not as it seems. The Keeping It Real Committee will not win any prizes this year. Those are reserved for the clones of GS5. You know why: #PeopleSoFake. But we on the Committee are not that. We have a code that is old and we are not falling apart though to the untrained eye we may seem it. Also, we are amenable to the unpredictable.
Hound runs wild in the rain, triumphant for a day. Celebrations are short on the hero’s journey, for the poignancy of contrast, obviously. Still, we met destiny in the road and killed it like a Buddha. The dogerman winter, who chooses and is not chosen, cannot be owned, has led us out of hell. We are free. Momentarily.
The doge is pleased.