Not unwilling to talk, Rahim lost his ability to piece words together in any substantial way. He was the desert’s deep torrent beds naked after a spring rain washed the sand away. When he did speak, his words stood as bare as the northern Qabd Mountains, as lonesome as an oryx atop a vertiginous mountain.
If the smells and sights and surfaces of the world inhibited his tongue, the world itself prevented his mind from constructing a caravan of thought. The times he could, as he could now, he always went back to Odolatorite where he learned that since not everyone thought about the Beloved, they mulled over different matters and involved themselves with different concerns. He’d picture the different places he’d been; he thought of the different musics, the different speeches, clothings and customs and foods. All those different people living in the same world. And he knew the world was big. Zaghali tried to explain it once, but Rahim couldn’t stomach the thought.
Every person out there a different story. If someone else’s life resembled his, they smiled and they cried. Maybe someone smiled more than he; maybe someone shed heavier tears.
He thought of the many experiences in his own short life and how he happened to sit atop a she-camel trudging through the Qabd Mountains. He stretched his upper back and loosened the congestion in his nose and throat. He thought of the experiences of those they’d passed since they left Batin and how they happened to be in these very same mountains. What name did they give to their joys, their sorrows?
He thought how his and Zaghali’s stories shared similar text and wondered how and in what ways joys and sorrows wrote other peoples’ stories together. What about the people he met once or those he just passed by? Did joys and sorrows write them together too?
Of course every individual, with their own concerns, would have their own understandings of their own experience, an understanding penned by joys and sorrows. What about when people met or passed in groups larger than a pair? How man joys and sorrows did it take to author three people together? What of four? A hundred?
His eyes rolled; the she-camel’s easy gait threw him side to side.
Zaghali, walking to his right, offered him a full water skin. Rahim, his eyes pale yellow moons obscured by clouds, took a drink, said nothing; Zaghali, well accustomed to Rahim’s newest behavior, just smiled at the boy and told him to “hang on to it.”
Like a splash of cold water across the face, the sip, dousing a slight burn in his chest, alerted him, albeit momentarily, to his surroundings before he slunk back in the saddle and followed his thoughts in their wake.
Innumerable people inhabiting innumerable places. Each person storied in their thoughts, experiences, joys and sorrows. Of course the dead had stories as did those to come. Did some invisible pause issue a break in the stories between the dead and the newborn? How many generations of the dead still told their stories today? How many generations did it take before the dead’s stories came to their final boastings?
Thoughts, experiences, joys and sorrows in infinite variety.
He took another drink.
What about the very possibility of all those experiences? All those thoughts and joys and sorrows?
What about the ability to even consider possibility?
Or to consider at all? Don’t forget about considering at all.
Oh, yes, yes. Considering.
The she-camel’s lumbering footfalls exploded as if the wall around the palace in central Condus came down all at once, over and over and over again.
And don’t forget this so-called “storied infinite variety” also includes the trees you pass, the grasses on which you walk, the birds over your head, and…and…the camel upon which you now ride.
Oh yes. How can I forget about her? He patted her neck and took hold of the rein.
The rein, the rein. The rein made of hemp. The hemp was once a plant, once a seed, once a plant. Each fed by the water, the sun, the soil, the air. And someone—a someone with parents, friends, thoughts, considerations, joys and sorrows—took said plant and made a rope.
He looked at his woolen robe. Someone used shears made by someone else, sold by someone else in a market made by someone else under someone else’s direction and wove the fabric on a loom made by someone else. What of all those someones? Were they somehow “in” the scissors, the loom, his robe? What did they like? What did they not like? What brought them to be makers of looms, makers of shears? What were their parents like? How did they meet?
But ropes and woolen robes are relatively simple don’t you think? I mean, what about the aforementioned markets? Or the palaces? How many smiles and tears, laughs and sighs, coughs, sneezes, and flicks of the wrist went into making those?
Fun, huh Thinking like this
I don’t know, I feel kind of funny, like I’m gonna throw up
Maybe life isn’t as smooth as you thought. I mean, of course life is rough, but did you ever think that that is it? That life itself is rough? So when people go through rough times, that’s because that’s life. Roughness is life in its subtleness.
So two people passing by aren’t just two people, passing by
Two people weren’t like two strings interwoven at a single point only to separate again. Infinite variety stitches a fabric—each string, each passer-by, a part of the fabric. Even an innocent glance of the eye is a string registering a thought, an experience, which leads to the next, into the next, into the next.
It’s like standing between two mirrors isn’t it
Oh, oh, I got one! Maybe somewhere someone far off killed a fly once. And killing that fly then led to an experience that has an impact on someone’s life, which in turn set off the processes by which that someone and me cross paths.
Who’s to say that didn’t already happen
Point taken. Rahim took the book from its pocket and fanned himself
Maybe the whole turn of your life is the effect of someone killing a fly. Maybe something so simple shaped your father in such a way as he one day met your mother. The fly, the person who slapped it, your parents—all part of you, much as the sun, the water, the air, the soil, all the bugs in the soil and all their poop are in the book you now hold in your hand.