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The Real Piece of Work

Posted in Adventures With Humans

There are artists among us: humans gifted with abilities that make them stand out from the throngs of the rest of us still toiling with shoelaces and toothpaste lids. There are those more than adept with paint, or stone as their medium. Others create furniture, hats or musical instruments with intention and focus. Some sing. Some write. Whatever the material, there is somebody who knows its details, as if it had a personality. Repent and rend your–whatever it is that we should rend these days–perhaps a charge cable, or your ridiculous beard. Why? Because I met an artist driving a pickup truck, so skilled, so beyond the regular scale that he puts others to shame. So much shame.

I am lying. I didn’t exactly ‘meet,’ him. We did not shake hands or mutter pleasantries to each other as per custom. He vocalized at one point but it certainly was not a pleasantry. It was too primal. That was part of the beauty of this fella’s gig: two-steps-and-a-nod past a stick and a rock–primal. It was the most remarkable–oh let me tell you how I discovered this talent:

October 8th 2019, and I’m cycling on a secondary road here in Uxbridge. It is shortly after six. The sun has seen enough and is getting ready to punch out for the night. I have my lights on, and as is my habit, I’m staying as far to the right side on the asphalt as I can. There are some small rises on this route and some drivers, out of care and kindness hold back until I hit the top before passing me. Towards the middle of this chunk of road, it happens. HE happens.

First, I hear the sound–a long, gritty blast from a horn. This wasn’t a honk. Some honks can be taken to convey support, or a kind of cheerleading–an acknowledgement of effort perhaps. Other honks convey irritation. We know those. They are still ‘honks,’ but they have a layer of frustration or disapproval that you can sense largely by the duration of the sound. The audio that I heard was as if someone had taken the heavy chair of a dethroned king, or maybe a bunk bed, and dragged it across a floor that was made out of some kind of difficult, ornery wood from a forest of blight and bad thoughts, and fed the dragging sound through several years of angry young white male, until the noise came out the front of this pickup truck. Yeah, that sound. I heard it clearly and knew that something out of the ordinary, something significant was coming. I was right.

Underlying this initial note, came another two-parted tone that grew hard from a point in time: there was the clawing, harpy-scream from tires at the same time as a great engine–of piston, fire and fuel, bellowed as if charged with breaking out of its frame with a great, careless gasp–the kind derived from the perspective that oblivion is nothing more than a child at a fair. All other sounds were pointless and pathetic. Yes, the pilot here was a master, a young god, a real piece of work.

At this point, I had lost any discernment. I was between moments–fumbling actually, between one second and the next. My Buddha nature was off to the side, busy trying to touch its tongue to its nose. It had been remiss in remembering that if you find yourself nowhere, that’s the exact time when someone will come out of it, or rather rip through the present paradigm into all of time, all at once and all terrible. In place of my Buddha nature, my hindbrain was scrambling to launch some kind of defense, some kind of posture; “do you have any sandwiches you could throw?” And, “once you close your jaw, presently dropped in disbelief, perhaps you could pull of some kind of an angry face, or sneer. Something to consider, and that’s all we’ve got.” Signed: some of your ancient DNA. The rest are out on a break trying to touch their tongues to their noses with some meditating dude.

The final flourish that will forever install this great master into my memory, was another two-parter: he guided the great metal ark of disappointment up alongside me, as close as he could get. I mean close enough that if the truck had just been painted, I could have had a touch of it on my left elbow if I had not been cringing inward. His passenger side window was down- the empty seat possibly still warm from the recent presence of a horned, cloven-hoofed mentor who, perhaps glowing with pride, de-trucked and announced to our hero, “you are enough of an asshole that you can now show the world this finesse on your own. Go forth and work to lower mankind back into the swamp!” And work he did. Through the open window came sound waves laden with poetry rooted in the sensibility of a jumper cable. I saw his slack face open. He leaned toward me and didn’t so much as yell, as vomited his frustration at finding himself in the body of an utter, thumping moron, threatened as he seemed to be by an old woman on a bike.  I won’t repeat what he said. I can’t. It was a sound with no framework: guttural and vile; the anthem of those confused by thumbs.

For a moment, I was angry as hell, since he did come close to killing me. I’m funny that way I guess. Once I regained lung and heart function, I hollered after him with sincere and robust effort, and beckoned him to return. Our brave hero rejected me outright. I watched him scurry up the road, navigating with round-shape-make-turn, and foot-pedal-make-go, likely on his way to some convention of bastards, or back to his cave.

The thing is, that I was more upset by my reaction to the assault than I was by the assault itself. Why? Because he got what he wanted. His aim was to upset me and he did: he took my power away. Can you imagine if I had not reacted? Can you imagine if I had simply looked off towards my right and not acknowledge him? Can you imagine if my Buddha nature was not off doing whatever, but was fully present and I was able to quietly wish our hero peace and relief from so much hate? That would have been something. That’s the medium that I want to get good with, and I am absolutely serious. Earlier in the summer, a fella in a different truck gave me the finger on the way past, but I was ready and did not get hooked. Instead, I smiled, and quietly wished the man peace and freedom from his attachments. Instead of anger, I actually felt a boost of energy and a chest full of some kick-ass love. The experience was empowering–seemed to connect me with something bigger. That changed me, and I want more. I want to be better. I want Buddha nature 24/7. That is my goal. 

...But, in my far-from-enlightened, juvenile state, not reacting to our artist might have caused him to burst into flame or pop a blood vessel in his forehead and considering the mood I was in, I'm ashamed to say, that that might have been wonderfully entertaining.