City The Wonders of Yesler
posted by March 21 at 13:20 PMon
A few hours ago, I saw something wondrous under this tree on 18th and Yesler: A young Japanese woman helping an ancient Japanese woman to reach with her old and crooked fingers the cherry blossoms on a low branch. Why was this vision wondrous? Because it echoed a traditional Japanese ghost story about an ancient woman who has a young woman help her reach a cherry blossom tree in a garden. The old woman is about to die; the young woman has fresh breasts. The old woman does something to the young woman that the old woman in real life didn’t, thankfully, do to the young woman in real life.
Coming across this impressive advertisement on the back of a truck parked near the corner of 14 and Yesler, I wondered who its intended or ideal subject might be? Two handsome men carrying your mattress out of the back of a truck? Who would be pleased by this vision, this particular situation? And what exactly are the smiling men doing with my mattress? Are they taking it out, or taking it in. And if in, is this an invitation?
Here near the corner of 12th and Yesler a wonderful thought appeared in my head much like that wonderful cloud appeared in the sky. The thought concerned one of the sayings (number 29) I read the night before in the Gospel of Thomas, which was translated from Coptic and found in 1945 by a murderer looking for manure.
Jesus said, “If the flesh came into being because of spirit, it is a wonder. But if spirit came into being because of the
body, it is a wonder of wonders. Indeed, I am amazed at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty.
At first I thought nothing of the saying. It appeared to be the muddying of a puddle to give the effect of depth. Then, at this moment, the corner of 12th and Yesler, it occurred to me that the Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas was saying something that the Jesus in the canon would never say: the spirit comes from humans, from the flesh, from the body (“this poverty”), rather than the other way around. More impressive: the spirit rising from man is far more wonderful, more amazing than the spirit descending from God—or from the sky, as Plato fancies in Phaedrus:
The soul in her totality has the care of inanimate being everywhere, and traverses the whole heaven in divers forms appearing—when perfect and fully winged she soars upward, and orders the whole world; whereas the imperfect soul, losing her wings and drooping in her flight at last settles on the solid ground-there, finding a home, she receives an earthly frame which appears to be self-moved, but is really moved by her power; and this composition of soul and body is called a living and mortal creature.
A scene in Phaedrus brings the conclusion to this post:
Phaedr. What an incomprehensible being you are, Socrates: when you are in the country, as you say, you really are like some stranger who is led about by a guide. Do you ever cross the border? I rather think that you never venture even outside the gates.
Soc. Very true, my good friend; and I hope that you will excuse me when you hear the reason, which is, that I am a lover of knowledge, and the men who dwell in the city are my teachers, and not the trees or the country.