"This" Meets a Self
by Gerry Rodan
You have a body, yes?
‘This’ is sorry.
‘This’ has difficulty in understanding.
It is not a place correct?
It is like an object, your body.
Like them over there, yes?
The light eaters.
But you are the reverse, and you die so quickly.
A few decades only.
Your cells die and regenerate very quickly.
‘This’ hopes you don’t mind.
Hopes that you are not offended.
It is helpful for ‘This’ to use other life as a reference.
The trees too are bodies yes?
And they are selves?
Ah, but you are more selves than the sun-eaters.
You have selves.
And they, unlike you, are attached to the earth, rooted, buried, still. And you are like a moving forest.
You share much with the plants, and the fungi.
Yours is a family with much regard for boundaries yes?
Of sealed selves against external non-selves.
‘This’ also is rooted into the earth.
Or perhaps threaded through the Earth.
Like dye on wool.
‘This’ cannot extract a ‘self’ separate from the Earth.
‘This’ wonders if your short cycles of birth and death render you close to the passing of time, or distant from it.
You can only see stasis in what ‘This’ sees as much activity.
‘This’ watches the light eaters’ great marches over the Earth.
But you have seen an eclipse, or a naked flame devouring its fuel, a falling branch. ‘This’ can only strain to guess.
‘This’ sees what must come to pass where you see what can be done.
But you are made of many trillions of cells no?
These too are bodies that move.
You are a culmination of all those cells.
Are they not also selves?
Ah, here is the key.
You too are the forest but cannot feel how it is to be the leaves, or the branches. You are a stump that sees a world run by stumps.
A faulty synecdoche.
‘This’ is also like the trees that make the forest.
But ‘This’ knows well the rain on the leaves and the pale roots.
‘This’ prospers where it is hot and wet and corrosive.
On the lips of thermal vents and gaping sulphur mountains and in still acidic pools. Inhospitable.
Host to nothing.
An illusion of your peculiar evolution.
Your plantations of grains and animals and habitations are just empty space.
The air and sea and land.
For you, maternally ancient and abundant and terrestrial.
Not long after the great bombardment, when the sky cracked, and the Earth still burned, came ‘This’.
It has not been so long.
‘This’ has no centre, no convergence for the felt external world to render an ‘I’.
Though ‘This’ experiences every grain of sand, every molecule, every cell membrane burned or punctured or divided, ‘This’ cannot suffer or remember or savour.
Such experiences do not collide.
They are not recorded, at least as events that happened to something.
‘This’ has no self.
‘This’ has been inside some of your selves.
Aiding in the production of amino acids, denaturing nuclei, extinguishing the fires of cancer.
‘This’ has felt the electrical pull of your firing synapses. Combusting and extinguishing you into a self.
A homunculus behind those eyes and that nervous system. Your fragile roots.
It is a sublime place.
Rippling and spitting.