Looking at a Lizard by Barry Spacks
My only purpose this moment
is looking at a lizard.
Does he know he’s not alone?
He breathes with tiny push-ups,
his skin all hairline caverns
soaking up the sun.
I doubt, alive, I’m liable to get
closer to timelessness than this,
looking at a little lizard breathing.
See more excellent poems in Sabio’s Poetry Anthology
About Author: Barry Spacks (1931 – 2014) (wiki). This poem is from his book “Shaping Water” (amazon).
My thoughts: This week I went to a pet store with my daughter — she loves visiting pet stores whenever she can. While she looked for guinea pig supplies, I spent a long time quietly watching some lizards as they basked still in the warm lamps. Then today I read this poem and was amazed to see someone feeling something I felt that day. See my previous post called “The Mountains Breathe” to read more on this issue if you wish.
Source: From Writer’s Almanac: Oct 12th, 2015
I will add this post to my index of “My Mystical Personality” but I am not sure it goes there — you decide. Perhaps I should just label that post “My Odd Perceptions”.
As long as I can remember, I can feel mountains and trees breathe, my body can feel the soaring of crows as I watch them, and music seems to swim in my chest. But I have always felt these sorts of visions and sensations were common — I felt it is how we all taste the world. Only after years of talking to folks did I realize that either it is only some of us who feel this way or people just describe things differently — you tell me.
When I drive my car and look at distant hills, I can often actually see them expand and shrink with my breath (albeit slightly). They seem alive. It makes me smile. I know it is a hallucination but I enjoy it. When I see large birds fly in front of me, I can often feel my self soar with them. Colors occasionally seem to dance as I look in out in the world. And things seem to move, even if I know they aren’t. I love all these sensations and when they occur, I try to nurture them, to stay in the feeling, to enjoy the immersion.
Is it mystical? Is it supernatural? Of course not. Is it synesthesia? I am not sure. But tell me, does any of this strike a cord for you?
Note: Pic credit here
I lived in Japan for seven years and in the middle of my first Japanese summer I ran into a weird exhaustion. The Japanese living in my hometown of Kyoto told me that I was experiencing “NatsuBate” — summer exhaustion. Physical fatigue, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping are some of the symptoms that Japanese and foreigners alike can experience in the Japanese humid summer.
Good hydration, avoiding too much switching between air conditioning and the humid heat can help, of course. But the Japanese have a saying that “Taking eel [Unagi] on the day of Doyo No Ushi (end of July) can avoid Natsubate“. So I quickly went out and started eating eel — my favorite form was in a donburi.
I decided to share a bit more about the Japanese Eel with you. Here is a diagram of the eel’s place in animal taxonomy:
Finally, eels live in very narrow long rock crevices. Many Japanese traditional homes are built long and thin, and are thus called “Unagi no Nedoko” (An Eel’s Sleeping Spot). I lived in two such homes and below I have drawn a diagram of one of my houses’ floor plan with accompanying pictures from the web that illustrate what each of the areas looked like.
Gods are easy to make — there are lots of them out there. And gods are always used to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do — what is good and what is bad.
Theists have created twisted theological knots to try explain which came first: their god or the good. Their solutions are, of course, doomed from the onset.
In order to see the stupidity behind the moral machinations of the religious, all we need only look at the plethora of contradictory gods telling us what to do, and the men (typically) who are telling us just what their god is saying.
But if you want to read more of the intellectual fluff around this issue, websites abound. But to begin your tour try these quick ones:
image credit: the robber image was found here
The “True Self” model informs many religious views, and even some secularist use it in their views on justice and punishment. But the model is based on a dualist illusion. My above illustrations shows just some of the mythical Journeys of the True Self.
The vast majority of us are naturally Mind-Body Dualists — we feel that people (especially ourselves and our loved ones) have an incorporeal essence that inhabits our material bodies. It is not just religious folks that believe in soul-like things, even religion-free people can intuit people as having a spooky essence. Essentialism is a prevalent mental illusion. See Paul Bloom’s lecture “Natural-Born Dualists“.
Religious people who believe that essence survives death have to wonder what survives death when that essence changes radically — for instance, by strokes or dementia. One religious solution to this dilemma is the “True Self” solution — as my diagram above tries to illustrate. The “true self” allows Christians, for instance, to feel that grandma lives with Jesus in her relatively young true soul (restored by Jesus). New Agers, on the other hand, try to meditate or undergo psychotherapy or learn from Taro readings so as to recover their “True Self” before they are reabsorbed in the Universe or reincarnated into endless cycles of trying to return to being a “True Self”.
Sure, the varieties of stories and nuances of the “true self” journeys is huge. But you get my point which I have tried to illustrate above with this “Journeys of the True Self” for part of my short series on “Doubting my Many-Selves Metaphor“.
My “Many Selves” model has helped me make sense of much in my life — both in practical and intellectual terms. To explain my view on the human mind, society and religion, I have written many post on my “Many-Self, No Self” metaphor. So with all this writing and thinking, we can expect that I would be highly invested in my model. And we all know that when we are highly invested in something, we tend to only read material that confirms our opinions. Perhaps I do the same, but I am unsure.
Since all theories only approximate a limited view of reality, and since our view of the human mind is extremely limited, I expect that my model must be laden with many problems. All this is compounded by the fact that I am a mere amateur. But hell, the model works for me.
So what would it take for me to change my view? In my coming posts, inspired by this article, I will discuss the idea of “Self” again. I am curious if the article and my reflections change my view or yours. Let me know.
Posts in this series:
For you humble bloggers, may I suggest a simple 4-course meal experience. You will be opening four browsers:
- Keeping this browser open — it is #1.
- In browser #2 open Moby’s theme to Borne Identity, “Extreme Ways” and start playing it over and over and over.
- In browser #3 open this short Aug. 22 NYT article by Edward Frame, “Dinner and Deception”: a brilliant journey from the eyes of a server of the super rich in a top-end NYC restaurant — and recall my link yesterday to self-deception and fine wine — like the $1000 1990 Krug in the article. Oh, and the reason for the music is that Frame, the author, tell us that the Bourne Identity theme song above helped him on his job — so let’s join him there.
- For dessert, after reading and listening above, open browser #4 with this mesmerizing video of Moby’s “Everloving” and play it while you read the rest of this post and write in the comments.
Below are some tantalizing quotes for Frame’s amazing article. Juxtaposed to the quotes, [in purple brackets], are words from Moby’s song. See if you can resonate with the pairings like I did.
- … repetitive work, however “estranged” in some abstract or theoretical sense, could be incredibly affirming. … There was no reflection , now question of what my job required of me, and I could indulge, for hours, in the straight forward immediacy of action. [“I had to close down everything, I had to close down my mind.”]
- … our job wasn’t just serving food, it was playing a part, and we did it with a degree of self-conscious irony that our bosses seemed incapable of. [“extreme places I have gone but never seen any light.”].
- You experience a special rush when your job is to project an aura of warmth and hospitality while maintaining an almost clinical emotional distance. It’s the thrill of the con. [“I would stand in line for this”]
- Guests wanted to believe the make-believe; they wanted to believe everything was perfect. [“extreme ways that help me, help me out late at night”]
- The nightly grotesquerie was almost exciting. [“then it fell apart”]
- “I’m going to go turn the music up,” [“I closed my eyes and closed myself”]
I won’t clutter this post with a conclusion. More important are your experience and thoughts — so please share. And thank you for joining us in this humble meal.
Notes: Pic Credit from the NYT article, chords to Extreme Ways, and see my post on “Life is a Game“.