Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Basic Questions

photo © Mark Butkus 2014

So, I ask
what all humans have asked
from the very beginning,
the primary questions
we all ask ourselves,
that we ask our imaginations
unless we are willing to take
someone else's word for it,
because who else is there to ask,
unless we invent someone,
and how can any answer come to be
unless someone imagines it first?

The moment we are born
we ask the four basic questions
in the language of cries and salty tears,
“What am I? who am I? what am I doing here?”
and “What does it all mean?”
These questions are the ones
that lead to all other questions.
They are our primal prayers
and the numerous answers
which we have imagined
are the basis
for all the personalities, religions and
civilizations that have ever been
and considering how that’s worked out,
maybe it's a good idea to ask them more ofter
with fresh eyes and ears and no preconceptions.

So I ask,
“What is this self that inhabits this husk of me?”
“Why, of all billions of various forms
that exist in creation,
has this one chosen me?
Why this body,
this life,
this moment,
this experience
of suffering and joy,
this situation, over which, I have so little control?”

So, I sit by my window
and wait for the answers to emerge
from somewhere,
and what I see out there while I'm waiting,
is the cycle of the seasons,
the cycle of life and death and
how everything in this world
comes and goes.
Again and again,
I see the leaves falling from the trees
which then become compost
and feed the tree
which then, leafs out again.
And then there are the raindrops
which come down from the clouds
and follow all those rivers and streams
to the sea
where they evaporate and form clouds again,
over and over,
around and around and around it goes...

And I think,
Since all these forms
keep on repeating themselves,
then maybe it's the same with me,
but then I think,
“Can an ego, a personality
exist beyond the body?
Isn't the individual leaf or raindrop
just a form?”
“Well,” I answer myself, “I suppose egos and personalities are forms too. There may have been
a lot of other people that have been similar me,
but it seems doubtful that they were me,
because a son is not his father,
and a moment is never the same
as the previous moment
and nothing is really completely the same
as anything that came before it
yet much, if not all, is a result of it,
but since I don´t seem to be able to
remember anything before
this particular memory came into being,
I don’t want to take responsibility
for anything that came before,
do I? Although we do
have the ability to forgive.”

So I continue to sit at my window, watching
from behind these eyes with their limited view,
for a long time,
watching all those comings and goings,
all those fractals of existence
swirling and flowing around me
as if I were the center of it all,
and then I realize
that I am the center of it all
but everyplace else is the center of it all too,
in fact, if that spot over there is the center of it all,
then I'm just another small part of everything
spinning around that center of everything
in some gigantic swirl,
maybe a solar system or a galaxy
or a hurricane or something,
that I really don't have any control over.

And in a way,
I'm actually both bigger and smaller
than myself,
no more significant
than the tiniest particle of stardust,
just another fractal in the universe
in  some enormously greater imagination
than my own,
but which I am part of
and is therefor also myself.

And I think,
maybe, this smaller self,
this identity I have been cultivating
and presume to be myself,
is nothing more than an illusion, a trick,
because, you know,
I don´t think any of those leaves or raindrops
even have names
and I doubt they ask any questions
or have imaginations of their own to ask.
And yet,
each one is just a little different from the other
if you look close enough,
and one leaf is not another,
not the same leafy bunch of leaf cells at all,
and all the raindrops have
the same sort of molecules,
but each one is a distinct raindrop,
a unique individual, raindrop,
for just the time it takes
to fall out of a cloud and down to the earth
and go splat
into a bunch of even tinier droplets.

So perhaps,
the significance of those differences
is only important for a short period of time,
and only,
in relation to all the other raindrops
as they flow together into rivers and streams
then become the sea again,
the same the way the leaves and limbs
branch out to make a tree,

And perhaps
our own identities,
our own individualities,
with all our successes and failures,
all those achievements we are so proud of
and those sins and crimes we
we feel guilty of, our secrets,
all that,
which separates us from one another,
you from me and me from you,
is only significant
in our relations to one another,
and in how we treat one another
and love one another
and where we are going with all that together,
which we do have some control over,
within the great imagination,
which has conceived it all
the great sea in which each of us
is only a mere temporary drop
of our true self.

Do you think that any of this might be possibly so?
Does any of this make sense to you?


— Russell Rosander


An artist and poet living in the Costalegre of Mexico, Russell Rosander is also a co-founder of the Bar None Group. Russell hosts weekly readings and discussions on poetry, art, music and literature...but mostly poetry at Chynna's Backstage Bar in Barra de Navidad, Mexico. You can find more of Russell's writing at Russell Rosander Short Stories where Basic Questions first appeared.

Russell has two new limited edition volumes of poetry — The Creator is the Devil and Heart of One — available for purchase at his weekly Friday appearances at Hector's Corner Bar in Barra de Navidad. Copies are also available at Babalu's Café and Books in Melaque, Jalisco, Mexico.