A Roundup Of Things Not On The Internet

A perception, a memory, a book

A Pause for Humanity 3, 2005 by Li Wei 李日韦

There are many roundups of the Internet. I thought I’d try something more obscure. This is a roundup of things NOT on the Internet.

A perception, a memory, a book.

A Perception

I was bathing my son and the bubbles formed a thin film. Then they started disappearing and appearing out of nowhere. Empty spaces then full. I wonder if we’re one of many universes like this. Just bubbles.

I idly poured water over his back while he told a story about his toys. The penguin was hanging out on a ‘bubble balcony’.

I had been chiding him about wasting time to find these damn bubbles, but he was right. Dude is full of delaying tactics, but sometimes he has a point.

Whenever I have these moments of love with my children I also feel terrible. Children are so delicate. We keep so many things in place around them to make them safe. And yet, for so many children, adults are actively tearing their world apart.

My wife’s family is raised with the idea that at any moment they could be refugees. Her gramps indeed ended up in a camp after the worst pogroms and told the cousins about it. You have it good now, he would say, but that can all go away. Immediately.

It’s maudlin I suppose but I think about refugee children all the time. About all the children without someone to lovingly bathe them. Without a safe place to bathe. My son screams if my wife goes to the bathroom without him. I wonder about the children whose mothers have been taken away.

Ever since I had children it feels like my heart is outside of my body. I can’t can’t even watch the same TV, the suffering is too real. Too much empathy really. It’s so poignant when I’m alone with them that I almost can’t bear it. Then there’s the battle to brush his teeth and I can put my internal organs away for a while.

A Memory

The only memories I’m sure I possess are fantasies and dreams. Everything else is a reconstructed photograph. As a very young child in Sri Lanka I remember wanting these shoes. Some brown football shoes, not even Adidas. Probably Bata. These shoes would be so awesome. I picture myself getting out of a helicopter and the kids being blown away. Not by the helicopter, the shoes. This is a stupid memory and I never got the shoes, but it’s one of the few things that I know was true. Because I never told anybody. This feeling was mine alone.

A Book

I’ve been reading Chinese philosophy which is surprisingly funny. Kongzi (Confucius) waxes elegiac about what dumbasses his disciples are, especially Zilu. Mengzi is constantly subtweeting the rulers of the day. I’ve started Zhuangzi, which I find the most difficult, but also the funniest. A lot of it is him and his friend Huizi calling each other stupid.

Behold, for example, this sick burn about how confusing Zhuangzi is. He really is.

Huizi said to Zhuangzi, “I have a huge tree which people call the Stink Tree. The trunk is swollen and gnarled, impossible to align with any level or ruler. The branches are twisted and bent, impossible to align to any T-square or carpenter’s arc. Even if it were growing right in the road, a carpenter would not give it so much as a second glance. And your words are similarly big but useless, which is why they are rejected by everyone who hears them.”

But then Zhuangzi retorts:

Zhuangzi said, “Haven’t you ever seen a wildcat or weasel? It crouches low to await its prey, pounces now to the east and now to the west, leaping high and low. But this is exactly what lands it in a trap, and it ends up dying in the net." 
But take a yak: it is “big like the clouds draped across the heavens. Now, that is something that is good at being big—but of course it cannot catch so much as a single mouse." 
"You, on the other hand, have this big tree, and you worry that it’s useless. Why not plant it in our homeland of not-even-anything, the vast wilds of open nowhere? Then you could loaf and wander there, doing lots of nothing there at its side, and take yourself a nap, far-flung and unfettered, there beneath it. It will never be cut down by ax or saw. Nothing will harm it. Since it has nothing for which it can be used, what could entrap or (1:15 ) afflict it?”

Honestly though, WTF is he talking about? I’m mostly with Huizi here. But it of course makes sense, in a non-sense kind of way. The Daoist and Confucian ideal is being so on the wavelength that it appears like you’re doing nothing, which in a non-dualistic sense is also everything. Be water, you know.

Unlike the poems of the Daodejing which are at least over quickly, Zhuangzi really forces you to think about these contradictions in your stubbornly dualistic head (by naming things we make then NOT other things) and honestly it hurts, but the humor makes it go down easier.

I think our daily lives are so much about something that’s it’s nice to hear someone idealize nothing for a while.


So that’s it. There are no links. There’s nowhere to go. These are just pointless moments from a pointless brain at a pointless point in time. I say this not dismissively. There is nothing that this email can be used for, so what could entrap or afflict it? You can just loaf and wander here. Do lots of nothing by its side. Welcome to the homeland of not-even-anything. A roundup of things you cannot catch.