I Could See the World
From the Perspective of the “It”
I liken the universe to a spider.
It takes six hundred eggs to make one spider and the flesh of its mother to let it live.
I trust that the wrinkles embracing my eyes—those firm encasings that flood my vision or otherwise tame it—are testament enough that I ought to be taken at word, for I saw the universe before it ever was.
It was, in truth, very much like a spider; so much so that it’s difficult to fathom how it was not confused for one to begin with. When it was created, it worked with nimble fingers and maternal affection, weaving with utmost craftsmanship the fabric of space and time, sewing into place each galaxy, and embroidering the finished piece with celestial bodies of colors and textures so unalike that it was quite a shame their beauty was lost in the vastness of the garment. I imagine it is this way with spiders: their webs are spun, precisely and deliberately, to the tune of divine blueprints, every string, soft like threads of gold, lifted masterfully into place in such a remarkable display of purpose that it is hard to imagine that the spider lacks any sense of it. The spider has no reason to believe in the concept of ‘the future’ because ‘the present’ is the only reality it has ever experienced. So, when the spider rests on the seventh day of Creation and reclines into a sinister stillness at the center of its masterpiece, tranquil and vigilant, it is as likely to be waiting for its next catch as it is for a gentle breeze to come and sweep it away, web and all, into the vastness of the world.
I HAD WITNESSED THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE, but, in spite of this, I could not see the world immediately, not out of any fault of my own, I suppose, and certainly not out of a lack of things to see— but perhaps that was the issue: that I searched for things to see and that, inevitably, everything I saw was what I expected to see. I lived in a blind’s man world, but the ignorance was comforting. Seeing with the eyes had been child’s play because for as long as I’ve had eyes to see with, that was the only kind of seeing I had known: the sight of things. In that way, I was not much different than the spider. I lived with a fervent dedication to ‘the present’ that discounted ‘the future’ as expendable, even extraneous. No breeze was a cause of concern whilst I lay lofty and exalted at the heart of my web. But when I looked down at the sky, I saw misery. It wouldn’t be long, however, before I realized that the sky was simply a reflection of things.
I neared its edge with reluctance, let my fingers caress its ferocious oceans, tumbled over its mountains and settled triumphantly in its valleys in hopes of getting a better view; that was the first time I truly saw. I saw an encroaching emptiness devour whole a sense of common purpose. I saw spiders, thousands of them, infatuated with ‘the present,’ and I thought of how many eggs were laid and how many mothers sacrificed for them to be able to live lives so idle. Everywhere I turned I was surrounded by more of the same—intoxicating levels of it—and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had joined their ranks. People began to resemble each other: they walked with a robotic, reverberant pace [one step, two, three steps, four…]; they breathed in unison [in, out, in and out]; even their gestures were done in a bizarre, hypnotic synchrony: the pursing of lips at disgust, the formality of money-laden, sin-stained handshakes, and the cynicism of artificial smiles and raised brows to cover up the latent distaste for it all. There was misery and pain as there ought to have been, but just as there is no room in a lifeboat for a boulder, there was no room in that world for illness and misfortune. Old men—boulders of the past—raised glasses of wine to heartiness and youth. Bliss was the country’s currency, and old age begot poverty. So, they fought impermanence with greater impermanence. In truth, the whole ordeal was pitiful and unorthodox, quite dull actually, but then I looked up at myself, and I saw one of them.
From the Perspective of a Human
“‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:24)
There is life in the breath of things as much as there is life in the breadth of things, but when these things are not seen, is life drawn from them?
When I saw a cardinal drenched to bone in rainwater, mate at her company, wings weighed down by the wearying weights of life, could I be certain that the scene continued in my absence—that an understudy didn’t replace the lead actress at the turn of my head elsewhere—or were the curtains drawn at the closing of my eyes?
This was far too much to ponder, and besides, my feet ached terribly.
I considered resting on a tree stump nearby, but I couldn’t: it reeked of death. And worse yet, death by other life. The tree had been betrayed, and 30 pieces of silver put the smoking gun in our hands.
I imagine that the tree bled—not of that fiery red soup that does both give and rid of life—but of life itself. The tree bled life. And when its killers collected it into jars, they had, in sum, three pounds of syrup.
In one jar, they stored the sap of unhealthy trees and in the rest, that of healthy trees. By all measures with the exception of volume, the syrup of both trees were nearly indistinguishable; unhealthy trees simply bled less of it. So, I thought of how much syrup flowed within me, and if it flowed at all within spiders. I wondered if a spider would ever weave its web on a tree stump, or if it would flee in cowardice at the pungent odor of death, as I had. But most of all, I pondered what ‘the future’ of that tree could have been—all the spiders its branches could have nurtured and the reserves of syrup that could have run like the honey of Canaan through its veins—had it stopped living for ‘the present.’
My feet still ached.
There was a bench nearby made of wood, shined and polished, from what I imagine was the same tree as the stump I had refused to sit on. There was no way to be certain of the difference between it and the stump, but I knew that more people were willing to sit on one over the other. By then, my feet had become swollen and bruised, a symphony of deathly reds and blues accented with fine paint strokes of exhausted veins. The weight of my body became a burden no longer worth bearing. My mind was now the cause of bitter enmity between my members, and so, in spite of my moral convictions, my feet stopped at the bench and the rest of my body, in reluctant subservience, stooped into a sitting position. It was a pyrrhic victory for the flesh.
A new tree had been planted thirteen feet away, not far from the gravestone of its sapless, mummified ancestor, next to a sign that read “Scenic Overlook”; more game to hunt, I figured. Its leaves convulsed violently in the wind, frenzied and flailing, as if to break free from the branch—as if the currents of air had been harbingers of doom. It was lethargic and grossly misshapen, eroded by gusts of wind into a grotesque asymmetry that left the sapling limp and lifeless before its blood had flowed. Its bark was firm, but its roots brittle. I feared ‘the future’ of that tree and of those to follow it. In my head, I counted the jars of syrup that would be collected that season, each filled to the brim and sealed firmly, as if collectively holding their breath lest the sap should escape them and they be left scattered in the vastness of the room. The sap overflowed: it must have been open season on healthy trees. In my mind, that tree had already died—and someone somewhere was resting on a bench made of its wood, oblivious to the corpse beneath him and to the bloodshed that had brought it there.
I looked up at myself, and I saw that person.
The contrast of life—the arrangement of tree, stump, and bench within sight—was haunting. Had this been what the old men meant when they said they would “sculpt” the land? I had lost the desire to see, but my eyes, of their own accord, remained open. It was the horrible sanity of it that drove me to insanity: how was it that something so mangled could pass as a “Scenic Overlook”? Death was to the old men a breathtaking landscape, the final masterpiece. There was some audacity in facing it while still alive and strength in mocking it before it's had the last laugh. I looked away from the scene of the massacre and shifted my gaze upwards, hoping that at the turn of my head elsewhere, it would all disappear and the curtains would be drawn.
Overhead, a wheatfield whispered a morning song, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I no longer had to see, just listen. I heard the undertones of a gospel hymn, the soprano sung by fleeting breezes and streams of early birds gliding weightlessly through the fields—the wheat plants played like strings on an instrument, plucked precisely and deliberately to the tune of the song; the alto hummed by the gentle sway of billowing grains; and the tenor belted by the rustle of critters and the tempered pitter-patter of small rodents. The wheat plants drifted weightlessly in the afternoon wind, pulsating, as if the wind breathed life into them. Their stems were too thin to bear any sap, but in spite of this—or perhaps because of it—their movements were elastic and spirited. The stems were brittle, but the roots robust, a firm armor against unyielding gales; there was depth to their roots as much as there was death in their roots. Death was their undying fate, but not their ‘future.’
I tried desperately to picture it: I saw spiders weaving their webs and destroying them, mothers feasting rabidly on their children, six hundred eggs left to rot on wheat stems, pools of sap surrounding the victims, and the unsettling carnage of polished wooden benches. But when I turned to the wheat fields, I heard the comforting song of ’past', ‘present’, and ‘future,’ and it was a symphony. Death was to the wheat fields a boulder in a lifeboat kept afloat. They had learned to dance in the direction of the wind—to capture it, weave it into an intricate fabric of melodies, adorn it with subtle wisps of passing fowl, and never to resist it.
From where I rested, my eyes traced the ebb and flow of the sea of wheat as the wind caressed it. It was a humbling throne, a far cry from the heart of a web or the stump of a tree, but from it, I could see the world.
My feet ached only for the journey ahead.