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Susan Runs The Edges (prose)

Susan Runs The Edges (prose)

There’s a big difference between the world of Water Runners, Tree People, Plainsmen, Mountain Folk, Sea People, and The Flying Ones and our world.

On our world, all the humanoids have a common ancestry, an essentially identical physical makeup, and the ability to produce fertile offspring. That is to say, we are all the same species. And so while we may sometimes form identities and organizations based along racial lines, when different human populations smash together, we inevitably begin to desire each other and to mate and share children; and so soon enough, even without possessing enough wisdom to always innately see past superficials and into our core commonality, given enough time calm and freedom (within a given time/place/power-system), we inevitably fade into one another body, heart, mind and culture.

On Planet X, all the humanoids evolved from other animals. They don’t find each other particularly attractive (I mean, there’s always going to be somebody …), and they cannot produce fertile offspring (we know because, again, there’s always somebody). So their humanoid identity is not as fluid as ours.

However, on Planet X, all humanoids possess opposable thumbs (granted, the Air Ones’ thumbs are on their feet), and roughly human heads and limbs (OK: a shark-like tail replaces the Sea People’s legs, and their earless noseless grey-blue heads flow into their hulking forms so seamlessly that it is difficult to discern where head ends and neck begins or where neck ends and body begins; and the Air Ones have wings instead of arms; and the Plainsmen look more like antlerless elk than humans as they bound across the plains with long arms tucked along glistening torsos), and brains with the awareness and intellectual and emotional complexity to sense the Truth shining through everything and—given the right ideas, disciplines, and supports—to adequately translate spiritual insight into human words and deeds.

Divinity students can debate whether the opposable thumb pulled the brain into consciousness or consciousness pulled the various creatures along towards itself, using opposable thumbs and the tool-making, signaling, and hand-holding they make possible to enlarge minds and hearts. But whatever the ultimate origins, the fact remains that all humanoids on Planet X evolved opposable thumbs first, and spiritual awareness second. Despite their different physical family trees, all humanoids can, with a modicum of spiritual maturity, perceive their common spiritual origins, and so while the different species of Planet X humanoids have not, at least in the era where our story begins—roughly equivalent technologically and politically to the bulk of North America right before European arrivals—ever lived peaceably under a cross-species government; however, though they are as a group far from free of speciism, they don’t generally go so far as to claim either that other humanoids lack souls or that non-humanoid animals have individual souls akin to the eternally spiritually- and ethically-bound cores humanoids enjoy.

Personally, I’ve never been able to figure out exactly how much awareness, to take two widely separated examples, a dog or a pillbug have. It is hard to imagine that dogs don’t at least catch a little sense of the divine joy and eternal presence of the Soul Light. But what about pillbugs? Their sense of the holy must be quite tiny—musn’t it? Since they are almost like machines, having very little presence within their own desires and panics. But even supposing dogs own some sense of the holy, can a dog be wise?, can a dog grow spiritually to a degree warranting an individual soul? Some say when a human misbehaves, s/he’s reincarnated as a dog or, in extreme cases, a pillbug; and then s/he has to work back up to human form. But does this make practical sense? Compare the number of individual humans to individual animal lifes, and it seems that you soon run out of human-souls to fill all the animal bodies. So then some animals have animal souls or perhaps no individual soul (being only hulls around the One Soul), but some animals have doleful remorseful oh-so-penitent human souls?? Explaining, perhaps, the rare cockroach: one with more shame and ego than the average bug??? (I’m being facetious: this is not a phenomenon I’ve ever observed; although I grant you I’ve made little to no effort to discover spiritual differentiation within cockroaches.)

Given such considerations, I’m wont to cross out the whole idea of individual souls and replace it with a buddhisty notion of spiritual energies that perhaps continue after death, but that must eventually dissolve into the One Soul. No, I’m sorry, but I cannot see my way to a belief in individual souls—at least not eternal souls. Please don’t be alarmed by these metaphysical musings! If they happened to point adequately well towards Reality, that wouldn’t imply that the you who now exists will necessarily die upon death: maybe there’s reincarnation into other creature life and/or into spiritual beings until one finally flows into God; and while I cannot believe in or hope for the eternal continuance of any spiritual energy except God Light’s, everything that ever was could still remain as a memory of which God had awareness both from the outside (God’s infinite perspective encompassing all things) and the inside (God looking through from that being’s individual perspective, and so in some sense retaining its identity, although this is a little worrisome, because then wouldn’t all kinds of horrible states remain forever, not just in cases of complete spiritual disaster, but also infinite moments of everyday delusions and follies—wouldn’t those moments also have to hang forever in God’s two-sided memory??).

Fortunately, we humanoids are not required to riddle out eternal mysteries within our limited little lives. And so let us accept what is required for human joy and decency, and which anyway blares unambiguously through our ever conscious moment: we’re all in this together and must work to be ever more aware, clear, honest, kind, wise, good, joyfully together (true: you cannot define these goals perfectly in words; but words can still point our intellectual/emotional thinking towards an adequate sense of these goals, a sense that will grow as we get better and better at reaching said goals). Let us accept what we must know to win any traction in our own thoughts and feelings, and work to know/understand that knowledge better and better (by better and better organizing our ideas and feelings around the Light within that is both Reality and The Truth, and thus capable of sharing Certain Knowledge with one’s thought-as-a-whole, though naturally—owing to the mismatch between What Is and ideas and feelings about What Is—not perfectly/literally/definitively/1:1, but instead as insights that can, given enough awareness, clarity, honesty, and open-heart/mindedness, get better and better); let us not fret our small mortal noggins overmuch over details which we’ll not anyhow ever figure out, and which we could not really make much sense or use of even if we were somehow gifted with the “whole story”; no, let us stick to the basics: awareness, clarity, honesty, kindness, wisdom, goodness, joyful all-inclusive community.

Susan had told her parents she needed to go run the edges—to clear her thoughts, of late scattered and confused, as if she were a watermouse caught in an eddy, frantically and mindlessly panicking. Her father told her not to journey past her limits (second bend downriver [a little over a mile]; the advent of the tumble rapids upriver [a little less than a mile]); her mother told her not to be late for dinner (dinner always at sunset). They both told her to obey rules that she already knew about. She agreed to obey the rules she’d already planned on obeying and which you might argue they needn’t have mentioned, seeing as they were well established and faithfully followed, and slipped into the cool clear gently rippling river beneath their cabin door.

Susan chases the edges, like the elders had instructed.
Everything moved as one as she skates across the waters.
The river wide as a lake out here; far from town.
Susan’s town of bamboo rafts and shacks floats silent
in the rounded distance, at the edges of her eyes.
She follows slow-spreading green round a rocky bend.

A water skater, a river chaser, she-who-belongs.
How easy it is when you can!
Wide flapped froggy feet fold up down the center,
thin black legs stab into liquid glass, push against,
jam her spindly body the otherwise, setting up
a falling slice from that side’s folded flipper.

Nothing compares to water skating,
the concentration of never-hating.

On and on she flies, forgetting everything but
her motion, calm, the swoosh of her water strikes.
Deep inside, pushing out from within, searching
for the edges, to stay within yet go beyond,
to chase the edges, catch the light, know all joy.

The village out of sight when she unfolds her flipper feet
and skids to a spraying stop, standing breathless on wide
strange crinkling river flowing to a sea she’s never seen.
On the banks the Tree People gather timber in their way,
many on the lines and one flailing at the base;
two hatchets, steel glinting in passion’s blur.
A youth rests upon a rock, his short legs crossed.
She waves her thin webbed hand, he, long arm
thick as her torso, waves a broad flat hand.

Susan’s overcome by joy and fun
She’s able, she’s one
Who runs the river
That leads into the sea.
Focus on gratitude
on the wonder of running
with those who rule the rivers,
who travel to the sea.

At dinner Mama wonders what Susan’s seen and heard.
A squick-squick bird diving beneath the water
coming up empty-beaked.
The Tree People hunting timber.
Waterhoops rolling wild–she had to jump over them.
Mama tsks.
Father shakes his head.
When will the council address this matter?
The waterhoops are outgrabe!