(Statements in italics taken from Ethics, by Baruch de Spinoza)
Look farther and farther toward thin blue sky, until the green feathery tops of the trees are like the northern pole on some dream planet. Put the anger back in its bottle. These trees are generous. Hatred can never be good.
Your carsickness from the ride up the mountain begins to fade, leaving behind a breathless, weepy echo not unlike your first religious fervor. Hatred is increased through return of hatred, but may be destroyed by love.
When have you not been afraid? The random can be scrutinized for meaning, the puzzle solved, when surveyed long & carefully enough. Anything may be accidentally the cause of either hope or fear.
These trees have plenty of time. As a child, you stared at Jesus’ sad face for hours, wishing you could marry him — wondering what it was that made him love you. Could you sacrifice yourself for the sins of the world, if it was that simple & necessary? Cathedrals turn us small and vulnerable again, for reasons both blessed & cursed. Devotion is love towards an object which astonishes us.
Vague, starry eyes like yours feel at home here; the air is weighty, burdensome & solemn. You’ve loved trees before; this is different. These trees have plenty of time – more time than you. If we love a thing which is like ourselves, we endeavor as much as possible to make it love us in return.
Your nerves are suddenly frozen, by the unaccustomed richness of perfect light. Your guide is tall & slender, hesitant to speak. Her mother has the tattooed forearm of a Polish Jew of a certain age. The knowledge of good and evil is nothing but an idea of joy or sorrow. Sorrow is [a hu]man’s passage from a greater to a less perfection.
These trees have plenty of time. She touches your wrist, and for a moment, you, too, want to grow taller, leaving the surface of the earth behind forever. Shyly, she picks up a tiny pinecone, smaller than a toy. You both laugh when she tells you this is their seed. Joy is [a hu]man’s passage from a less to a greater perfection.
These trees have plenty of time. And all around, their wise, fallen, hollow bodies litter the ground like the bones of saints. Childlike, you understand a wish to die here, never to leave this hush. They’re only trees – your neck bent back as far as it will go; only trees, yet wondering if the giants can hear your thoughts. Love is joy, with the accompanying idea of an external cause. Love and desire may be excessive. When the mind imagines its own weakness, it necessarily sorrows.
Is there anything we have less power over than our own tongues? These trees have plenty of time, growing wise as the Buddha, in their silence.
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(image information — http://nerafinuota.deviantart.com/art/Dog-eat-dog-world-285292431)
Dog Eat Dog
I. Dreams After Eating A Large Meal
Cannibals exist in all species,
even primates. Chimpanzees,
long thought to be peaceful vegetarians,
love to hunt. Male chimps will kill
newborns from their own troupe
if they suspect the mother
to have consorted with outsiders.
They kill the infant
with a bite to the skull,
then tear it apart, sharing the flesh
with each other. I watched a mother chimp
chasing the males who had grabbed
her baby. She followed
at a slight distance, screaming
from the trees, shaking the branches,
filled with rage but lacking the large
canine fangs of her brothers.
When she was on the verge
of attack, the males would dangle
her infant by one limb, threatening
to drop it 25 feet to the ground.
She backed off, howling
with frustration. In the end,
she gave up. The males sat
and watched, then consumed the flesh
of her offspring. It was the soft
pink of milk-fed veal, so tender,
so sweet — they napped heavily
all afternoon, dreamed vague dreams
involving slim saplings, bent
under their weight, about to snap.
II. Fighting Biology
Every human law is an effort
to curb natural instincts.
When people kill, it is for reasons
they cannot articulate. Come to me,
they hear the victim say. Take me
into yourself and make us both
whole. Much of the time, the message
is obeyed — one wrong look
can end a life. The rule of nature,
what has this to do with love?
III. Brighter Colors, More Vivid Patterns
For scorpions, 25% of their diet
consists of other, smaller scorpions.
Frogs in South America will eat anything
smaller than themselves… though sometimes
they try to swallow another frog,
larger than themselves. Rather than give
up, they both die of suffocation.
Father fish, guarding their eggs, will eat
part of the clutch rather than leave
the eggs unattended to find food.
It is too dangerous to leave the family,
it’s better to sacrifice
a few members to save the whole.
IV. Protein Is Precious
Mother mice, when their nest is found
by a predator, will kill & consume
as much of their litter as they can hold,
recycling precious protein
they’ve spent weeks gathering.
We all want to survive.
Some of us want to survive by eating others.
Some of us want to survive by consuming
air alone. I wanted to survive
without hurting anyone — I thought
it was possible, to take less, to give more.
V. Hunger, Touch, Satisfaction
I’m so hungry. All I can think of is food,
all different kinds. Bowls and bowls
of cereal, popcorn, rice, couscous.
Buckets of slop for the bovine.
Is it really spring outside? Has the mating
dance begun again? Do you love
to curl your hair? Do you long for ringlets,
shiny tresses? Do you want your hair
to touch someone? Do you want to consume
the most tender parts, leaving the rest
for scavengers? Do you understand
what sort of need you are satisfying?