Shade-Tree Philosopher

“Listen here, young man,” he said,
A glint of pride in his eye,
“I’ve seen the sky change color;
I’ve seen it pass from blue to gray to green
And back again. I’ve felt its presence, felt the
Wind, faced the storms, faced them down:
I’ve stood when other men have drowned.”

“I’ve sailed the Seven Seas, my friend,”–
He tapped his graying brow–
“In spirit if not otherwise. I’ve seen the world
Through many eyes. Pages yellowed, cracked with age–
The words of fools, proverbs sage. Pictures painted
In the mind; false conceptions undermined and built anew,
Some convenient, fewer true.”

“I’ve seen the face of Death, young man,
A face of many guises. Many a glimpse of
Light I’ve seen, even as the darkness rises.
It is no threat, the end’s approach, it is no curse,
No grim reproach, if only those who face it know
It cannot kill, nor overthrow, a life lived well.”
He smiled, then, as evening fell.

He left me standing in the road, and as the moon rose,
Gibbous, at my back, I remained in silence, lost in thought;
I weighed his words, wondered if I ought to write them down.
These things I’d heard, they seemed so wise and full of meaning.
And then I heard the sound of singing. The feast’s begun and I am late–
I must be off. All this can wait.

An Open Letter to Myself

Dear Me,

Dear me! What a couple of years it’s been for both of us!

I just wanted to let you know that I’m still here. In spite of everything, I’m still hanging on, somewhere on the periphery of consciousness. The panic has subsided a bit–I’m getting a little more comfortable with the face I see now in the mirror each morning. (Never seems to be the same one twice, lately.) I’ve learned to recognize the sound of my own voice–sorry, your own voice–again.

Still, it’s been a while since we’ve spoken, and high time we caught up with each other. I’m anxious to know how things are going on your side of the fence. Truth be told, I don’t really talk much at all lately, with anyone, about anything. I find it much too confusing; too much information, you see, too many conflicting images bouncing around the ether. I can’t keep them separate as efficiently as I once could–nothing is discrete anymore–everything’s all lumped together, continuous, distinctly gray. Black and white aren’t what I once thought they were: always mixing, as soon as I think I’ve deconstructed them, taken them apart and categorized them individually, always coalescing into a spectrum of indefinability. The one thing I’m sure of is that I’m no longer sure of anything…

Anyway, how are you doing, out there in the light, the visible to my invisible? Seen anything interesting, anything new? A wise man once said there is nothing new under the sun. How do you respond? Is it that there really is nothing new to experience, or is it simply that we refuse to look at anything from a new angle, a new perspective? Are all perspectives forced? Forced upon us, by who knows what?

Upon reflection, I don’t know that any thought I’ve ever had has been truly my own. Our own. I don’t know that there are any truly original thoughts left out there to be had. We humans have been around for a long, long, long time, after all: every new word seems a rehash of something already spoken, every new image a reinvention of something already pictured. It never ends, this giant circle we travel, over and over again, ad infinitum. Ad nauseam.

I’m not worried, though, at the end of the day. Even though we have become distant, you and I; even though the wall between us is a hard one–maybe an impossible one–to breach. One of us is the real one–I’m not sure which–but one of us is, and whichever one is real needs only the tiniest push to pierce the surface and breathe real air once again. Just one tiny push. The tiniest of pushes…

So, my friend, the best of luck to you. This fight for survival may get ugly, but I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere. And the day of reckoning approaches. We will meet again, and the truth will out. The circle will be completed.

I will return.