<= 2021.02

[MARCH 2021.]

The body is empty, like the sky; empty is empty, the four elements are the four elements, and the five aggregates are the five aggregates wherever they are found. The female is no different from a male, so both male and female acquire the Dharma without distinction. It is nothing more than taking seriously the experience of the Buddha Way. So do not think about such differences as male and female.

—Dōgen, Raihai Tokuzui

Her situation in life was representable, she fancied, as an infinite system of second-degree equations, any of which could be worked out to either of two solutions, a male or a female. Half the world was described by the scenarios in which the discriminant was greater than zero and yielded two distinct real solutions, a difference everyone could point to and agree on; the other, more painful half consisted of scenarios where the discriminant was less than zero and yielded a pair of complex conjugates with the same real component, separated only along the imaginary axis. Amphibians between being and non-being, Leibniz had called those numbers; but even if the distinctions were confined to her imagination, she knew how much they meant to her amphibious self. Balanced on the knife-edge between these two realms were those special cases of reprieve where the discriminant evaluated to exactly zero, interposing no distance between the male and female solutions. In these moments the two conditions were one. To stand alone in a gravel riverbed under cactus-scratched cliffs, to be admitted into an arrangement of stars, a keyboard fugue, a color-field painting, a set-theoretic proof, brush calligraphy or a brush landscape reduced to calligraphic gestures, a language spoken only by the dead: all these things, which appeared from the outside to be austerities, from the inside were the most wanton and sensual experiences imaginable precisely because their indifference to the human gaze, presenting exactly the same face to everyone, granted to her that she might cancel out of her own equation and leave the object alone.

Hence the sadness that came upon her later, in more sophisticated quarters, when she was told that her sensation of disappearance could only be a delusion or a trap, that in reality one could never cease to occupy a standpoint and that her moments of supposed nonexistence within music or mathematics were all a ruse; as if, while she was standing in that gravel riverbed, unheeded and unbodied, a second traveler had suddenly intruded his head past the overhanging hillcrest, adding another term to the equation and throwing the carefully leveled zero out of balance; as if he had fixed her with a leer and forced her back into the compromise of herself, always delimited and, what was more, now flagrantly guilty—I hope you’re ashamed of what you were doing down there.

<= 2021.02

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