Archive for November 7th, 2022


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Twelve

Light passes through windows. This is a puzzle. This is a complicated story, a story that no one understands, in four words.

Beams of sunlight pass through the library windows, making patterns on the wall.

Sitting where I sit, among the shelves and the piles of books, I see beams of sunlight passing through the library windows, making patterns on the wall.

My evidence for the existence of beams of sunlight is (at least) in two parts: I see dust motes dancing (dancing? what is it to dance? what kinds of things can dance?) in the sunbeams, visible (to me) in the light, where in other parts of the (dusty) library air, there are no (to me) visible dust motes dancing (or otherwise) in the air, and one explanation (is it the best one? what is best?) is that there is a sunbeam, or at least a beam of light, passing through the air there. (How does a beam of light pass through the air, let alone through the class of the windows?)

The second part of my evidence is the patterns on the wall. I know, or I remember (in memories that I have now, at this moment, the only moment, the only entity, that exists) that the wall is really (what could that possibly mean?) more or less uniform in color; vaguely white, and the same vague whiteness more or less all over. But what I see, or what I see at some level of awareness (what are levels of awareness? what is awareness? who is aware?) is a complex pattern of light and dark, triangles and rectangles and more complex figures laid out and overlapping, and I theorize (automatically, involuntarily, whether or not I intend to) that these brighter shapes and triangles are where the sunbeam (passing through empty space, and then the air, the window, the air again) strikes the wall, and the darker areas, the ground to the sunbeam’s figure, are simply the rest, the shadows, where the sunbeam does not strike, or does not strike directly.

(Or the dark places are where the frames of the window and the edges of shelves and chairs, things outside and things inside, cast their shadows, and the light places, the ground to the shadows’ figure, is the rest, where the shadows do not fall; figure is ground and ground is figure.)

Can we avoid all of this complexity, if we hold Mind as primary? I am. Or, no, as generations of philosophers have pointed out, feeling clever to have caught Descartes in an error, not “I am” but only something along the lines of “Thought is”. If there is a thought that “thought is”, that can hardly be in error (well, to first order). But if there is a thought “I think”, that could be an error, because there might be no “I”, or it might be something other than “I” that is thinking.

Second attempt, then! Can we avoid all of this complexity, if we start with “Thought is”? Or “Experience is”?

Experience is. There is this instant of experience. In this instant of experience, there is a two-dimensional (or roughly two-dimensional) surface. Whether or not there is an understanding of dimensions and how to count them, there is either way still a two-dimensional surface, here in this experience. In some places, the two-dimensional surface is bright. In some places, it is dark; or it is less bright.

Whether or not there is any understanding of brightness and darkness, what might lead to brightness and darkness, anything about suns or windows or how they work, there is still this brightness, in this single moment of experience, and there is still this darkness.

(Whether the darkness is actually bright, just not as bright as the brightness, whether the surface is really two-dimensional in any strong sense, or somewhere between two and three dimensions, or whether dimensions are ultimately not a useful or coherent concept here, there is still, in this singular moment of experience that is all that there is, this experience, this experience, which is what it is, whether or not the words that might be recorded here as a result of it (and whatever “result” might mean) are the best words to describe it.)

And whether it is described at all, whether description is even possible, does not matter; the main thing, dare I write “the certain thing”, is that this (emphasized) is (similarly emphasized).


From this point of view, we may say, Mind is primal. Mind, or whatever we are attempting successfully or unsuccessfully to refer to when we use the word “Mind”, does exist, or at any rate has whatever property we are attempting to refer to when we say “does exist”. Except that “refer to” and “property” are both deeply problematic themselves here.

This is why the ancient Zen teachers (who exist, in this singular present moment of experience, only as memories of stories, memories that exist now) are said to have, when asked deep and complex questions through the medium of language, and impossibly concerning language, have responded with primal experience, with blows or shouts or (more mildly) with references to washing one’s bowl, chopping wood, carrying water.

We can remember that there is this. So, what next?

Language (this language, many other languages, those languages that I am familiar with, that I know of) assumes time.

Without the concept of time, it is difficult to speak, to write, to hypothesize.

Let alone to communicate.

To communicate!

The impossible gulf: that you and I both exist (what does it mean to exist?) and that by communicating (whatever that might be) one or both of us is changed (otherwise why bother?). But change, like time (because time), is an illusion.


Is it necessary (categorically, or conditionally) to participate in the illusion? Or pretend? To act (or to speak, as speech is after all action) as though time and change were real?

The sun comes through the windows and casts shadows on the wall. Is there someone at the door?

Fling Thirteen


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling 11

Alissa stopped to rest again when she got to the top of the next hillock.

She was, very definitely, unused to traveling, still more unused to traveling beyond the rich dark earth, and by herself, and without a scent-trail to follow, and trebly unused to pulling behind her a travois constructed from a couple of carefully chosen and balanced twigs wrapped together with cured fibers, and holding two bundles of useful and relevant materials.

The people of her gathering, her friends and neighbors, had been helpful and supportive in offering useful suggestions and ideas, and of course stories, about her undertaking. A visiting artificer, in the rich dark earth in search of stories about particular methods of construction and crafting, had made the travois for her and given advice about packing and moving with it; she had had no particular story to offer him in recompense, but he had generously waved off her apologies.

She had hoped, even assumed, that Sema might come with her, but the blue creature had made soft negative gestures, and said that they had reasons to stay behind, mysteriously hinting that they might meet again even before Alissa’s presumed return. Alissa had not found that a great comfort, but did appreciate Sema’s advice on how to hold, and view, and attempt to follow, the sinuous markings on the fragment that was to be her guide.

The entire prospect, now that Alissa was actually out of sight of the rich dark earth, and feeling a bit weary as the twilight approached, now seemed questionable at best. How could any person find their way across the ground by looking at a line on a fragment of leaf, with no scentable trail to scent? Why should anything be at the other end of this unscentable trail, and if there was something there, why would it be interesting to Alissa or her friends and neighbors (who had not, she noted to herself, shown any interest in coming along to see what it might be).

With the twilight, she decided, it would be difficult to see the markings on the fragment, entirely too easy to lose one’s way, and with the general dangers of the night away from home, she decided to venture down the other side of this hillock just a little way (as the stories advised, never settle at the very top, or the very bottom, of the ground) and then dig in for the night.

Although she had been quite comfortable with her stem and her indentation for a long time now, she had of course traveled in her youth, and her people, those of her specific body-type, were fine burrowers and diggers-in.

So Alissa, pulling her packs behind her (they were, all things considered, quite light and easily pulled), moved off of the top of the little rise, and off to one side of the most obvious walking track, pushing herself in slightly between two close-growing bark-enclosed stems, and dug herself a neat hidey-hole with her arms and two legs and all the associated pincers.

She put the travois to one side, pushed her bundles down into the bottom of the hole, and then slipped in backward herself, the hole just the right size to accommodate her abdomen and all four legs, leaving the top of her head and most of her eyes just at the surface, and her arms able to tuck in or reach out as desired. It was extremely comfortable, and it occurred to her to wonder why she did not rest like this back at home more often.

Just as she got well settled in, and had begun thinking and humming softly to herself for lack of the rich dark earth’s twilight gathering, there was a shrill buzzing and a sort of wet thump, and then another shrill buzzing a wet thump from the other side of her, and focusing her eyes she made out a couple of small but somehow unpleasantly formed shapes against the fading sky.

“Well, hello,” said a thin but resonant voice from one side of her.

“Ah, hello,” the storyteller said in the direction of the voice, “and good evening.”

From the direction of the other shape there came a sudden buzz, which might have been a sort of laugh, and then a different but similar voice.

“I wonder who you are,” the second voice said, “we both wonder who you are, don’t we?”

“Oh, we do, certainly we do, wondering who this is in this hole in the ground between these two stems,” responded the first voice, and it buzzed.

Alissa did not like, for whatever reason, the sound of these two voices. There was also a worrying acrid scent that had come along with them, a scent that suggested persons that might not be above consuming other persons, without the latter’s permission.

She began enlarging her hole under her with her rear legs, in case it became advisable to move further in, and pull some of the dirt in after her. The unattractive scent seemed to be intensifying.

“You should answer us, you know,” said the first voice to have spoken again. It was getting quite dark now, and the voice somehow thinner and sharper.

“You haven’t asked a question, really,” Alissa pointed out reasonably, pushing her bundles deeper into the hole as she made more room for herself beneath her, “you have been talking to each other mostly, I thought.”

This resulted in two rather loud buzzes, one from the direction of each voice, that made her wince.

“It is rude, I think, brother,” said one of the voices; she had rather lost track of which was which, but it seemed hardly to matter.

“Aye,” said the other, “it is quite rude, I am sure. And I believe it is thinking of shutting its front door to us, which is entirely unforgivable.”

Alissa winced and tried to dig faster and more quietly. It would be a few seconds, still, until she had enough space below to make herself secure and pull in enough earth to block whatever these creatures were.

“Shutting its door would be unforgivable indeed,” the first one said, “and it would be entirely within our rights, indeed it would be our obligation, to pierce that door open again with our lovely lovely sharps.”

“It would, it would,” said, the other, its voice something like a buzz now, and something like a hiss.

Alissa shivered, feeling hope fading.

“You won’t try to close your little front door, will you?” the buzzing hiss continued, and Alissa was about to desperately do just that.

“It will not end well for –” this voice was interrupted by a groan and a thud, as something large and somehow bright came from somewhere, and by a sudden bluish light Alissa saw two grey shapes with many sharp probosci tumbled across the ground away from her hole, and then was happily aware of buzzing and cursing voices fading into the distance.

“Well,” said a new voice, from the large something that was emitting the bluish light, “hello, and what have we here?”

It seemed to have a great number of eyes.

Fling Twelve