Milk


in the luxuriant grass of the orient lay a life form contemplating the
configurations of the clouds. for the sake of this conversation we will
call him Calf. Calf is one of those Dostoevskian minds that burns up all
the world in the blackhole of his intellect, despite being of an honorable
nature. as i said, he lay in the luxuriant grass, the lush waist-high grass
of an ancient eastern land, studying the movements of the passing clouds,
those billowing congealed masses of dew–at least, he appeared to be
studying them. of course, he was only pretending to study them, as befits
one of a Dostoevskian turn of mind, for in reality his thoughts was focused
quite wholly upon the matter of the road below him, where passed the
villagers on their way to their various duties for the day. he perhaps
truly wanted to be mindlessly examining the clouds, for he was supremely
conscious, after all, that he was seated in a verdant meadow of beauty
beyond words, and that the sky was a theater of the utmost majesty–if it
could just be taken in with a clean, pure, and empty mind. yet it was
impossible, quite impossible, for Calf to concentrate his attention on lofty
and divine matters as long as there were people passing along that road.
for each person that came along, Calf found himself looking out of the
corners of his eyes and figuring out who it was that was coming, and why
they were coming and whence they were going, and of what nature they were,
of whether he liked them or not (he probably didn’t), and of how they were
looking at him, if they noticed him at all, engrossed as they were in
matters of daily bread. “ah, Sunyan,” he would mutter, for instance, “that
silly drunkard. he wouldn’t know the sun if it fell on him. he’s got one
doozy of a wife though, the thighs on that woman are unbelievable. how is
it that such a fool gets a woman like that? the thighs on that bitch, my
god, what those thighs could do. . .” or “ah, there’s the sheriff. i’d
best lie low and not move, or else he might manhandle me for loitering, the
swine. all he does is loiter all day. him, and his goiter. there he goes,
butt cheeks a-rolling, on his way to the whore-house, where he can make
himself feel powerful with his money.”
so Calf lay in the grass, the long and verdant grass, casting judgment upon
his fellow villagers, unable to find peace in the clouds which passed
unacknowledged through the sky. as he thus lay, a giant grasshopper
appeared unto him. it was a giant, green, gossamer grasshopper, and Calf
knew not whether it dropped out of the heavens or if it simply appeared from
out of thin air. Calf, not being of the religious personality, did not
prostrate himself before it, as another might have done in such a situation,
but rather stared at it, unable to comprehend such an anomaly. “what in
god’s name . . . ?” was all he could think to say.
“in god’s name is correct,” the grasshopper informed him, settling into the
grass on its hind legs. “do you know god’s name?”
Calf, after coming somewhat to terms with the fact that there was a giant
grasshopper speaking to him, answered, “god is that which has no name.”
“you are approaching the right answer. it would have been more correct to
say simply that you do not know, because you know nothing, least of all the
name of god,” the grasshopper reprimanded, twiddling its antennae in little
spirals.
Calf wasn’t sure how to take this, coming from a grasshopper. he decided
that it would be better not to challenge it, for it was surely from the
spirit world. Calf had certainly heard of such things, for in those days it
was not uncommon for the spirits to appear in physical form to the people,
for they were close to the earth. but Calf, of course, had never seen a
spirit, nor conversed with one, and he had never believed that he would.
all of his intellectual webs that spanned his days and nights with their
seeming impenetrability seemed suddenly full of gaps, and he felt extremely
humble to be in the presence of a giant gossamer grasshopper, which was
sitting opposite him, a little lower down the hill yet rising to double
Calf’s size, the high green grass folded around it, its bulbous eyes focused
querulously on Calf, waiting, apparently, for him to reply.
“what is it that you have come to teach me?” Calf asked the grasshopper, for
he was a sharp lad, and he realized that if a spirit had come to visit him,
then it must have something to give him. he knew that if not treated with
respect, a spirit could quickly become demonic and ruin the rest of one’s
life with a curse.
the grasshopper appeared satisfied with the question, for it crossed its
legs and lit a pipe and sucked on it for a while in silence, blowing out
long thick trails of smoke which slithered and rolled into the sky in long
wispy tendrils like the dragon beard of a sage. in the smoke Calf could
smell fresh things, it made him think of the open sky which he had failed to
notice before, it smelled of dew and clay, of sun and rain. after blowing
its smoke into Calf’s face for a few minutes–though it seemed like
forever–the grasshopper finally spoke.
“i have come to you in the form of a grasshopper so that you might be more
receptive to my information, for if i came to you as a man, you might never
listen to me, for you seem to think you know more than everyone else. i
come to you because you have the ability to learn, and you have the capacity
to do many great things in this world if you so choose. but you have been
idling in foolish thoughts of jealousy and insecurity and fear and anger.
you have been attached to your thoughts as if they were the fruit of life,
when in fact all they are are rotten dead things that do nothing but waste
your time, and drag you around, up and down, keeping you forever lost.
“what of all these people that are passing by? what are they to you? they
are trying to do their duty as they see fit, and what are you doing? they
do not need nor deserve your judgment. they stand alone in the sight of
god. let them do what they need to do, and help them to do it. what are
you to them? why are you so great, that you are better than them? you
should be serving them, you should be sacrificing yourself for them to
further them on their path.
“i will let you in on a secret. you will best serve yourself by serving
others. let us say that you are hungry. but you know that this passerby is
hungry, too. imagine if you had cooked your meal, and you had gobbled
everything up immediately by yourself. and this stranger who is hungry
would smell the scent of your food, and he would feel the hunger in his
stomach aching, and he would have anger in the form of envy in his heart.
and so though you may have momentarily fulfilled your hunger, you would
have sown a seed of anger in the world that would be revisited upon you.
now imagine if you cooked the meal, and then you served him first, and then
you waited until he was satisfied. then you ate what was left. he goes
away, and he is full, and he is content. you see, it is better to serve
others first, and then eat what is left. thus, you will be served by the
world. for how can anyone leave you starving when you have given everything
you have?
“but let me direct your vision beyond them. look at the sky, look at the
beauty that you are a part of with every breath. why are you wasting your
time worrying about other people’s lives, about how other people might think
of you, about what you think of them? there is much more to think of then
that. none of that matters. it is like these clouds, passing by. they
build and they build and then everything falls down as rain and pours down
the mountainsides into the valleys, into the rivers, into the streams, into
the sea. everything falls into the ocean, because it is lower than all, and
it is the beginning. and then the water comes back into the sky and gathers
together as clouds and repeats the process. it is like your life, your
every thought. you arise out of the mother and then grow heavy and then
you release your breath and you fall back into the mother again. this
neverending cycle is nature. be like the water, let yourself find your way
back to the source, gather together with others, and then fall, let
yourselves fall and find your way by way of the force of gravity. then be
like the ocean.”
here Calf grew perplexed, for though he could envision the cycle, he could
not understand how to detach from it. “grasshopper, how do i be like the
ocean without continuing to break away as cloud?”
the grasshopper rubbed its wings and made a low sonorous hum. “because what
is your essence, what is deepest in you, is eternal, is unchanging, and is
unattached to birth or death or this or that. the clouds can move without
you. at your core you are always the ocean, always the mother, always the
beginning. and thus nature can move without you, within you. this requires
you to be unattached to anything. this requires you to be calm, to be at
peace, no matter what happens around you. this requires that you end all
the conflicts in your mind, that you gain stability in your daily affairs,
that you forever sacrifice yourself to others. you can never be happy until
you are not attached to the idea of happiness. give of yourself. that is
the only way to gain the world.”
the grasshopper belched politely and settled back onto its haunches and blew
smoke rings through each other, catching them with the tip of his pipe and
jingling them like bracelets, so dense were they.
Calf looked above him at the heavens in which the clouds moved. and he
could see that it was beautiful and good, and that it moved according to its
nature. but it was transitory, a fleeting mist that would soon rain and
lose itself to the earth, feeding the hungry crops, falling back into the
sea. and he could understand this, and know himself as something within
this, and ultimately, know himself as something outside of this that was
beyond understanding. the grasshopper turned into a cow and stood looking
at Calf through calm bovine eyes, chewing repetitively on some cud. Calf
prostrated himself before this vision and put his forehead against the
earth, the grass rising about him towards the sun like sages. he prayed
like this for an hour, and then he got up, dusted off his knees, and slipped
back onto the road, whereupon he journeyed into town, and took a seat with
his brothers at the tavern, so that he could consummate an offering to the
gods with a drink, and stand his brothers a round so that everyone could
partake. and they drank together and they sang songs rejoicing in the
spirit, rejoicing in the life that was theirs to give.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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