Part one of one of four. About a father, daughter, and the beginning of the end.
"Tell me the story of the end of the world again. Please, Daddy?" she unfutilely pleaded.
"Okay, okay. So, where to begin..."
Nothing extraordinary ever happens in the world, not really. If you think that you're special, that some exception to this rule has somehow been allowed by chance to occur just for you, you would be wrong. It, everything, was bound to happen sooner or later, and not in that everything that can happen will happen pseudoscience fiction sort of way.
You're born one day, you live a shitty life in a shitty world with shitting people falling in shitty love and hate, and then you die. It's not a depressing view of the world; at least it's not supposed to be. But everyone brings to any theory their own opinions, so it can hardly be helped.
So where does this leave us? Or more precisely, but completely in reverse, where should we begin? Let's start with Eden Taylor, the grandson of two stoned hippies from the United States of the 1960s. That's where it all began, the movement to chance the world, fix it once and for all. Well, there's really not much else to say about those grandparents, his dad's parents. They don't do much to start the story.
So, the journey begins, as a hypothetical and completely unrealistic Buddhist would say, near the beginning. At, in, on, for, from, to, around, and after are all equally horrid prepositions when discussing the beginning of existence because the beginning didn't know or care it was the beginning, and sure as hell wouldn't have considered itself a reference point from which to talk about the rest of the entirety of existence. Only a culture as egocentric as our own would do such a thing as that, not to mention personify a state of being of time. Near has been deemed, by those that matter but must remain nameless, an acceptable preposition for the discussion of the beginning of all existence.
This journey, however, begins not at the beginning but quite some time afterwards; if you must know, in roughly the year 798 according to modern, though hardly so, Christianized democratic, though thoroughly undemocratic, Western timekeeping, or 0, depending upon if you cared or noticed or cared to notice. Of course, as finicky as our decadent, and rather biased, though uniform, timekeeping methods are, we have such a plethora of dates from which to pick in dating ourselves, as in assigning ourselves a time in relation to the rest of time: 19 billion; 3.6 million; 5,978; 798; 39. And that's just from a literal, though misunderstood and misappropriated, grasp of divine heredity, Christian or Hindu or Jewish or Muslim or Mayan or Celtic or Shinto or Catholic or otherwise.
But, let's leave all that theological and political crap for later; why not get back to how Eden's dad's parents shacked up one night in 1964.
They were at a concert, taking various mild-altering drugs; it doesn't matter which concert or which drugs, though not because it actually doesn't matter, it definitely would, but because they can't and couldn't remember, from the next morning to today. Then again, why bother crying over spilt milk or forgotten memories. Blaming it on the drugs, though, is like pointing to the Jews for Hitler, pinning the Third World War on Ethel Jackson (42 N. Main St. Yakima, WA), or believing there exists a supreme being that actually cares about you. So, I'm not going to do it; besides, love is love, whether you think it's a panda or another human being.
Luckily for us, they both knew they were human, no delusions of bestiality today. There they were, sitting on the grassy hill, enjoying the music and each other, engaged in the most trivial of stoned conversations. They had only met earlier that day, so neither was sure when they noticed it, both being rather reluctant to admit falling for a near complete stranger, no matter how good looking, but they both felt it. Enjoying the conversation inevitably led to enjoying each other in a slightly more literal sense of the word, and did they ever. Being so many shades of high that it was initially rather difficult for them both to get each others' pants off, they rather understandably didn't bother with birth control. It may as well have never been invented, though isn't that always the way of such things?
Anyways, regardless of the state of birth control in the larger patriarchal society or smaller hippie one, the story continues. They hardly rose with the dawn, but rather with dusk did they stir from slumber. Far from departing that day from the battlefield of strewn asunder corpses separately, forever never to converge again, never really knowing one another, and never finding each other, instead they left hands on hips, for better or worse.
"That's enough for now I think, don' you think?"
"It's getting late, and you have learning to do tomorrow," he said, patting her where he imagined her knee was under the sheets.
Falling out of her reverie, she groaned. She loved the story of the end, but it always took her dad so long to tell, so many nights. It was never coherent, never a logical story. She'd come to accept that, and even liked the minor details that differed from one telling to the next.
"Okay, Dad, I know. Goodnight," leaning out of bed just enough to give him a kiss on the cheek. She knew her father better than most did and far better than most know their own, but it was something she likely not truly appreciate until later.
Smiling to himself, he softly closed the door to her room.
"Hey there, you ready for me to tuck you in?" he asked as he sneaked into her room the next night.
Pondering for a minute, she pushed her book under the pillow and situated herself under the covers. "Okay," she conceded with only the slightest hint of a pout.
"What's that about?"
"You just got home; don't I deserve a story?"
He couldn't quite make the connection for himself, but she picked that up from her mother he knew, so why argue. "Alright, where'd I leave off?" He sat down next to her on her bed.
"Eden's grandparents had just had sex," she rattled off rather blushingly.
"I half wonder whether or not you're mature enough for this story, but it's too late now." When she didn't say a word, he just started to continue.
Anyways, Eden's mother's parents had just made love and Eve had just been conceived. Of course, if it hadn't been for the visit they were soon to receive they never would have been able to guess at the true identity of Eve's father, for as archetypes could already be suggesting, the man she would grow up calling father was quite infertile even so early in his life. While nothing quite so improbable as yet another virgin birth, their nonetheless interesting story can be saved until another day.
So, the story of the end begins with a birth that could, if paid attention to, though it wasn't, signal the beginning of the world in the minds of some,not just the end, though those of that sort of mind always were and always will be few and far between.
However, let's now transport ourselves to India. As many know, India has still yet to dismantle its class system that allows the nearly complete discrimination of an entire people simply because of their birth, and in the 60s, well, it wasn't any better for anyone. Unfortunately, this isn't the tale of an Untouchable who becomes a prince and births a royal line, it's the story of an orphaned Untouchable adopted by a visiting American celebrity who died in a plane crash near a Buddhist monastery. By some twist of the hands of fate that boys survived, and was found in the forest by his future brother monks.
It would almost be more believable if he were the next reincarnation of the Dali Lama, the twenty-ninth. He's not now, nor was he ever. He was just a Buddhist monk, from cradle to grave. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing. In a word, he was ordinary in his obscurity, just like the rest of us; it only appears a tragedy to those who think they are beyond that mere obscurity.
There were a few peculiarities in his great long life of obscurity, and both had to do with his solemn vows. At the age of thirteen, having been with his monastic family for over three years, he went on a vision quest, not in the manner often stereotyped as Native American; whereas in the American Romantic style of aggrandized search for self he would have went to the nearest village and gotten married, in the aboriginal Australian style he would have climbed Everest alone, without a shirt, in jeans. He was none of these three; in fact, he didn't know what or who he was at all. So he, in the style perfected by a rather obscure few in history of whom he had attempted extensive study at the temple library, after having been taught to read, though not quite to write, for there exists too much power in the pen, walked for a day and a night. Coming to a tree of a particularly wide nature he sat with his back prostrate against it.
Do you know what happened ten days later? He was found by a team of loggers and taken to the local village's missionary infirmary. Feeble and frail from a frivolous fasting, weak and wary from the wanderlusted wayfaring, he would not and could not awaken for nothing. The loggers left, the nurses continued their duties, and the few children that had followed the white men through town left. For no particular reason, though, an American had stayed for a moment more, suddenly recognizing the young monk.
He wore a plain robe marked by a crest of the monastery she had been searching for. She sat and waited for him to awaken.
Now, no matter how cliché I know this may sound, the vows this monk had made, or rather would formally make upon returning from this taxing quest, were important. Sitting infront of the tree, after a time it had begun to whisper in his ear small subtle secrets. At length the eventual destruction and end of the world were relayed to this young monk; it was almost too much to bear the weight of, and indeed he wept. However, what he was being told by that tree over a century ago was, is, nothing compared to the truth as we ourselves are now aware and have been witness to for some time. But he was only a child, a child confronted with horrors, and he vowed then and there to that tree, to that grove, to the world, and to the entirety of existence, that he would do something. He vowed silence in order to be humble and learn from others what he himself knew not; he vowed chastity so he could more wholly serve the world without distraction; he vowed perseverance in the hopes of finding someway anyway to stop the end before it began.
She, the American college student teaching English, would help him to fulfill each of his vows even as all the while she helped him break them all, allowing a place for the birth of Adam.
"Let's leave that story for later, aren't you getting tired?"
She opened her eyes, not from resting or sleeping but from imagining. Sad, but tired nonetheless and allthemore, she just nodded.
"So where were we?"
"The monk and the American had just crossed paths," she declared, "and you forgot to tell me the screaming."
"No one ever forgets anything; people often can't remember what they otherwise would, but no one ever really forgets."
So, have you ever had a puppy die, or a hamster? What about a loved one, say, a mother or father? Have you ever had a sister, no, a twin sister, die? What about a lover, someone who theoretically knows you better than you yourself?
When those white loggers went back to that tree he had been sitting infront of for weeks, and it was impressive that they did even bother to move him from before their blades, not to mention take the time to drag him to that hospital, they quickly got back to work. From the first moment the teeth of their chainsaws bit into that tree, he felt it. They were cutting into his skin, carving out his chest, draining his blood. But, more than that, they were doing this to his closest friend, his mother, father, his twin brother, his first lover. Still more, they were doing this to his tree, his countryside, his world. In the most literally metaphoric of sense they were cutting him down.
And he screamed, oh, how he did scream. Never in that village before had they witnessed such a thing, and likely will they never again hear such a treacherous howl. He screamed, from his mouth and his lungs and his soul, with his lips and his heart and his whole body. He screamed so loud, the world could have ended right there and no one on Earth would have heart it. He screamed so long, the world could have began right then and no one would have noticed the difference.
He screamed; and the nurses thought he was mad, feverish, hallucinating, dieing; but she knew, for she herself could feel the truth reverberating in the air.
The imaginary imagined hurdles that Eden's grandparents should have had to overcome just to be able to speak to one another as she sat there and waited for him to recover really wouldn't have been that insurmountable. She wished to accompany him back to his monastery, so she patiently attempted to patiently await his recovery. Being a student learned and trained in teaching English, she knew the local variety of what he would imagine was Indian. So, had he not made his vows already, at heart if not in ceremony, communication should have been fairly simple. As it was, she talked to him just to talk to someone who wouldn't talk back, sometimes in English, sometimes in languages she imagined he understood, sometimes in ones she hoped he didn't, most of the time not in anything remotely plausible.
Having only lived with other monks for quite some time, he had never before and only just now had the opportunity to witness one of the great mysteries of being a human being: our desire to imagine we're being understood. Sometimes the limitations of a common language are just too much to overcome, but sometimes even those limitations aren't enough to hold back that desire.
Unknown to Eden's grandfather, had he never met that American, had he never fallen in love with the sound of her voice, had Eden's father never been born, had she not wished to live in that very village, had he not wished to fulfill his vows, had she not been so impressed upon him, had they not parted ways, she returning to America only partially satisfied, him in unjust shame to his temple, he could have and would have lived forever. By some pure chance his vow to the very soul of that tree, were it to have some recognizable essence characterizable as a soul, was binding. Silence of the mind; chastity of the spirit; and perseverance of the will: though he spoke, he listened; though he loved, it was pure; though he would die, life would continue. He broke the vow of perseverance and never even knew it.
"I'm confused," she confessed with melancholy.
"Why's that, sweety? You've heard this all before."
"I know, but it's never made sense how he broke his vow of pesivrance."
"Perseverance. It doesn't have to make sense; it's true either way. Besides, you're just not old enough yet."
She hated that answer, but wasn't yet old enough to reflect on the situations in her past to which it would have applied. Her father quite appreciated the value of that conundrum.
"Some details of some stories are better left for a time in which the narrator is in the mood to properly tell them, so the love between the Indian monk and American teacher will have to be told another time. Eden's grandmother, in particular, however, has quite a story in her past. One which, like all good, in the sense of captivating not necessarily moral, stories, must be told aloud for its full gravity to take hold of you."
She was an ideological, brilliant, and wealthy girl, the daughter of an ideological, but horribly poor, Irish immigrant. The tale of how she was accepted into, not to mention managed to afford to attend, Yale would likely not be without a few miracles, and a couple sings. She never fit in there, though, never found her niche in the tapestry that is and was and will always be the university. And so, it was such a shame, such a disappointment, but no surprise, to everyone when she dropped out and began her private lessons, both teaching and taking.
She became her own rosetta stone, polished and etched with conviction, learning a dozen languages, and a staggeringly few twenty revolutions of the sun she left the States just in time to miss the beginning of Flower Power, traveling to India to study at the feet of Buddhist monks, or teach them English, whichever they'd prefer.
"If every story has a beginning, middle, and end, then what if you were to rearrange the pieces? Or what if, first, you divided each section into three more parts, rearranging the not three but six parts? Or worse yet, what if a story had four beginnings, two middles, and one ending, how scrambled of a story could you tell?"
ൠ?" she asked, almost boldly enough for it to be a statement.
"Something like that," he laughed, amused, "something like that, I'm sure." He ruffled her hair before getting up, stiff, and turning off the light as he closed the door.
"Hey, sweetheart, what you reading?" he asked as he sheepily poked his head in her door.
"Just a book, Fahrenheit 451. It's an old, old sci-fi story about these firemen who aren't firemen... Dad, what were you and mom arguing about?"
After a short cough, not of awkwardness but shortness of breathe, he replied, "My medicine."
"Tell me a different story tonight, Daddy, please?"
"Why?" shocked, and a little hurt, at this first instance of apparent boredom with his normal storytelling.
"No; it's just that you never tell it right after you and mom fight."
What is war but a personal vendetta to the most general of scopes; what is a fight but a war narrow to the most specific of scopes? So, to fight for peace is to war for the anti-thesis of war. That's quite the conundrum, isn't it?
Realizing this story tonight was more for him than it was not for her, she just couldn't drift away into that place she went when she normally listened to his story, couldn't find the space between disbelief and faith where the story itself normally awaited her patiently. But, she loved him, and he was her dad; so she listened to his words, even if not to his story, pretending to hear what he meant to say. Even still, it was hard enough for her just to hear what he said.
"...just like the firemen in your silly little sci-fi story, we all have parts to play in the world, parts we may or may not be happy to play, parts we may or may not be aware of..." he droned on, unaware himself that he had forgotten the story in his words. Still angry at her mother, this obviously wasn't the best time for a bedtime tale, but once he got started he couldn't figure out how to stop, "... superstition being the force that rules our lives, what else is medicine but scientific superstition..."
She tried to picture the story, but to no avail. "Daddy, I'm tired. Could you finish your story another night?" she asked, trying to be as nice as she could.
"Of course," he mumbled as he got up. He didn't even say goodnight, tuck her in, or turn off the lights; she was a little hurt, but mostly just sad. Looking back, if she bothered to use that hindsight, she would likely wonder if her sadness was sympathy or empathy, or something else entirely she had similarly inherited, if she bothered to know the difference.
continue the story...