An exile wandered through the city of rain, full of despair and exhausted from ceaseless walking. It was tiresome to try to hunt down a potato, a piece of coal, a well-tarred roof. Woodcuts on posters and postcards advertized light bulbs on every broken wall, but they were not to be taken from the wet trees, not to be stolen from the glassy shops or passing girls in their swelling coats, not to be conjured from the bare hands of beggars or from old cameras with twin lenses or oblong radios encased in wooden sideboards that one often found discarded in the alleys. The exile walked through arcades of black thoughts and arcades of rain, hungry for golden, silver light. On a rare dry corner of birch trees and gray, box-shaped buildings, a whore whispered to him what he had suspected in the depths of his heart for a long time. The world around him was not his world, and its history was not his history. It would be best if the mysterious stranger forgot about light bulbs and this world altogether. The exile walked off once more into the dark matter of life and weather, a matchbox rattling in his coat pocket.
Some thirty seconds later, the old man with the umbrella accidentally forgot his great epiphany. And feeling vaguely nostalgic for something, he sat down on a wooden bench stained like wet charcoal to watch the bittersweet raindrops exploding on the asphalt.
In the city of rain and somnolence, I kept running into phantoms of myself, watching motorists go blind as the signals turned amber, and I sank into tumultuous dreams of crusaders, languid dreams of flying machines, and idyllic visions of magic elephants wandering the dusty roads of earth that run on forever.
Into a garden lost on some wayside, through the paper doors the exile opened the world, bronzed and blackened like smooth pebbles embedded in grouts of cool white clouds. Beyond the paper doors the rain divides the pebbles into respective shapes of charcoal pear and ash persimmon, into six different shades of silence. In that first land the paper doors were holes through which the moths would dance, through which the night time coiled. Like cool green tea the summer set all the fields in a foam of sedge.
A logician spent years testing word problems, striving with paradoxes and studying all the arcana of mathematics, physics, and philosophy. Through various tests and formulas, he came to the conclusion that there were many logics—some which worked together well, some which contradicted others, and even some which contradicted themselves while remaining valid. There seemed to be no way to unify and map all the logics into one great logic.There were days when logic seemed to darken his mind like the desert sun; there were nights when logic lifted him on the wings of white birds to sail off to the stars. The poor man grew tired and ill. At last, he traveled one day and one night over the desert to an old weathered church, and confessed to his priest: I believe in the faith, I do not believe in logic, but I do not believe in an illogical faith. Worried for his health, the priest blessed him and sent him on a pilgrimage, giving him a map of the exact route to take. On the first segment of the journey, he encounteed the smallest oasis he had ever seen. On the second segment of the journey, he passed through the mountains and watched racing clouds and falling rain. On the third segment of the journey, he arrived at the shore and beheld the sand dunes and the immeasurable sea beyond. As an apostle once said, perhaps mystically or symbolically, everything was made of water and by water. There on the beautiful shore the logician wept, for a saint who weeps is analogous to a saint who walks on water.
[credit to Simone Weil for the last analogy]
The calligrapher loved to write and paint and make books. When he was not conducting official business, he read books of philosophy, thought about the world, and wrote or painted in his quiet house, sipping endless cups of tea. White mountains, black trees, worlds of snow, clouds of words, dragons of mist, and phoenixes of light covered the pages of many books alongside texts of parables and poems. The city sometimes summoned his texts for printing with great expectation; at other times, the city forgot him and his manuscripts. One day, the wind and rain rushed down upon the city, scattering rooftiles, breaking down walls and flooding homes. All of his books soaked up the dirty water and then bled out streams of rust and ink. The citizens wondered what he would do. Most thought that he would hang himself from his own willow tree. Instead, the calligrapher repaired roofs and walls wherever he could. Then he dried out his books and sorted them. While burning some, he examined the others that were disfigured but not burnable. With new soot from his fire, he made new ink and painted on the dried but disfigured pages that he had not burnt. When he ran out of these, he returned to buying new paper, but something had forever changed. Once again, he was painting, but always with blotting papers below the pages he painted on and with extra blotting papers at hand to place on top of his paintings. On certain days he would remove a blotting paper from beneath, and affixed his seal to it, to the unfinished poem or landscape of blots and marks. On other days, he would press a blotting paper to the top of a wet page and seal it after taking it off again, its dampness bearing the ghosts of brush strokes. Through abstractions of dark raindrops and pale silences, the calligrapher rebuilt the lost landscape.
Every day, the mariner watched the clouds and recorded their migrations in the sand. Every night, the wind and the waves erased his cloudscapes. Though he could count ten types of clouds, four heavens, and numerous variations and subdivisions of both, and though he often pondered the possibility that clouds were living things, far more mysterious and majestic than eels, oarfish, calamaria, or dragons, sorrow grew inside of him as he watched them pass by in armadas, in caravans, in solitary paths, their beauty filling him with a lightheaded gravity. Why did the ice, snow, rain and steam find these shapes to form? Why did they change and reform? Were there worlds with different types of clouds with different shapes? Where would snowflakes and raindrops go if there were no forms to receive them? It was undeniable that billions of their atoms would only fill a teacup, and trillions of teacups formed the atmosphere, and it was beautiful to live on an endless beach of soft mornings of soaring kites and white sails and deep nights when the lanterns flickered and the surf moaned. The man lit a smoke and threw the burning match into the infinite night.