Epiphany Emoticon

Spence here: Long shadows and warm meals. Neighbor check-ins. So many trips to the library and many good reads. Chilly fog in the morning, which hangs below the gray cloud cover, like a dream of floating, waiting, altruism… Walks in the pouring rain. A string of good days.

It takes time and patience to live well. It takes listening, not just waiting to talk. This is what I come to learn every day–maybe every hour–since I forget and remember again. A myriad of Life’s details, washing away the marks in the sand I wanted permanently etched there. Slower, kinder, less edgy next time. What is necessary? The neighborhood noises felt aggressive to me today. People sawing, hammering, pounding, yelling, orchestrating–cars racing over the speed bumps with a startling “ker-thump!” Usually, I am apart of all of it, with my construction/building habits and busy-ness. When I feel quiet however, through the strings of my mind fall sometimes into a jumbled pit–ambition, drive, lack thereof and worth. Too much! So, I went running.

I haven’t run in many months, since my ear started to clog and ache. Our household has been sick for awhile now–I did not escape it. Thankfully, I am feeling better and I took off running like a child or a cat. The feeling of running–just flat out–like a wild thing through the woods, is one of  merriment for me. Perhaps it is connected to youth–memories of my mother and I galloping through fields pretending to be wild horses. The sun was streaming through the trees at the park and I could see my breath. I found I had more energy and strength in my legs than I gave them credit for and I just kept going. I rounded the corner of the muddy trail, where the dogs go to fetch and chase squirrels and I kicked it up a notch until I cleared the hill top. Since tearing the ACL in my knee several years ago, its taken me eons to get back to the feeling of what I call “The Gazelle”. The feeling of thick, strong muscles and tendons, springy, reactive tissue, toes as tough as hooves and speed! Before my injury, I wasn’t running marathons or anything, but I had started to really get into the groove of trail running. Jumping roots, dashing around trees, stomping mud puddles and then topping it all off by dunking in the Willamette River, (much to the amazement and horror of all my friends, as it is polluted–hey, I swam “upriver”!) on 90 degree summer days. I’d come home smelling like the animal I aspire to be and my tongue-tied brain would be set to rest.

Some neighbors came to dinner recently and started in on a gender-ized conversation about aggression and ambition. It started with work complaints and ended up progressing to a version of  “men do this and women do that, blah. blah.blah.”  with a little “no offense to the men at the table” thrown in. Obviously, I am not a fan of this kind of talk. While it is safe in many ways to come out as a transgender person in so many of my local circles, I forget sometimes I need to–like someone can look at me and know I’m transgendered. So, I’m always a little surprised when I completely shift the conversation, ostensibly by coming out and revealing myself. The direction changes and thankfully, so do the comments. I have come to appreciate this as a very effective anti-bashing tool. “I don’t believe a word of it,” I say. “Its all nurture.” I think ambition and aggression are genderless. I have seen this in one of every kind. As Billy tagged onto something another neighbor said about cages, “Gender is the biggest cage we have.” I love the people who came to dinner, but I am still surprised at the values placed on gender, and our slighted capacity to bloom in our lives because of its constraints. During my run I started to arrive at a place of thankfulness for being transgender. While I have always maintained it was a life-saving decision for me to transition, I haven’t always loved myself for the necessity or way of being. It is still hard to find respect and reverence, not just tolerance, in society  for being trans. I want to appreciate the oldest of old tribal ways of all our ancestors, who upheld a veneration for the dualistic nature of the wildness in all beings. Not just for our resource or drive or climb to the top, but all of our shared sense of true living-ness.

I have been reading the book Dwellings, by Chickasaw poet, Linda Hogan. I love her writing in this book! She mentions a concept called “far-hearted”, one she gleaned from the Bushmen. I feel the saying really encompasses all my ramblings this week:

This “far-hearted” kind of thinking is one we are especially prone to now,with our lives moving so quickly ahead, and it is one who sees life, other lives, as containers for our own uses and not as containers for a greater, holier sense.”

–Linda Hogan

She prefaces this by telling a story of watching wildlife managers stocking a river. Instead of lifting the fish out and into the water with nets and care, they dumped them into the bed of the pick-up truck, backed up the truck to the river and then kicked them out. I like to think while people can be “far-hearted” and uncaring, we can also be “near-hearted”. Really that should be our main ambition.

Billy here. “Epiphany Emoticon!” says Spence. In a conversation at dinner with the neighbors, emotions and voices raised at the mention of the use of emoticons. Some were adamantly against their use and others not. Some insisted that emoticons are a bastardization of language in the world of truncated thought in texting vernacular. Others held the view that emoticons convey a context of the visual when we are not speaking face to face. Then someone said no one has an epiphany reading emoticons. Someone else suggested the ridiculous existence of an epiphany emoticon. This makes me laugh out loud at the paradox (I really can’t bring myself to type “lol”). The funny thing is that this dinner happened on the night of the Eastern Orthodox Epiphany feast, but I didn’t know it until I looked it up just now. Epiphany: from late Greek epiphaneia, means “manifestation or striking appearance” especially of the divine. The idea that an epiphany could be represented in a symbol and also cause an epiphany at the same time seems unlikely, but this is an apt metaphor for thought and language in general, because no language can adequately talk about reality without separating itself from it, except perhaps in classical Chinese, whose very nature is image rather than the subject-object dichotomy created in Indo-European languages. In classical Chinese poetry there is no subject or object, just raw perception, ripples on the lake reflecting back the mountain. I don’t know, but perhaps the danger of emoticons is the same danger of language coding in general, if it’s too simple, its weave too coarse, reality itself falls through the net. It seems to me that an epiphany would actually necessitate the breaking down of the language net so we see the whole order of things. The map is discarded and we are left only with landscape. Is there a need to talk about it? Is a blog as ridiculous as an epiphany emoticon?

We spotted Comet Lovejoy in the backyard through binoculars (and even through the light pollution). Sometimes I think being who we are is like trying to spot a faint comet – a fuzzy patch of light in the sky against a wash of light and finding that it looks entirely different than you thought – or maybe you don’t spot it at all because you think it’s somewhere else. But then, when the fuzzy cosmic blob resolves through the lenses, I realize this little rocky, icy being was washed into our Solar System from the Oort Cloud by the galactic tide of the Milky Way, just like some flotsam washed ashore from the ocean, and my brain melts a little bit into the epiphanous.

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