May 23, 2007

Ring

Dined with a merchant captain who told me a curious fishing story about Japan. There the fishermen train young cormorants to fish for them. They take them out at night, tie a string to their legs, put a ring round their necks to prevent them swallowing the fish and then with lanterns to attract the fish set them free from the boat. The queer thing is that the fisherman seems to know by the feel of the string whether the bird has its fill of fish or not. In this way they can fill a boat with fish in a night.

Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart
Diary entry
May 23, 2007


Someone was as much a stranger to the land as I was, and I found her crying under the quivering shade of the Dao tree. Lovely. Yet I thought it stupid that she loved the young of the place, but she did. Because I sat with her, she told me what she knew of the elders.

The elders train the young to speak and act, to sing and dance. They take them out at night, whip them with dogma and emotion, put their grades around their neck to prevent them from growing enough brain to protest, and then, with footlights and requirements to fill the seats, they set the young free to pour their hearts out on the stage. Strange, how the elders know the heft of their purse even before a single ticket is sold. Strange, how the cormorants fly all night for props and solicitations and art to swallow nothing. In such a wise the elders gather five figures tax-free.

She was crying, and it was already a well-fed tree as it is, so I spoke to her. Hey look, those young had their pictures taken, and didn’t they smile? They got their memories, didn’t they? They got their precious experience, practicum hours. That’s payment enough for slave labor, I guess. And the marine zoo audience, weren’t they happy? They got their fill of capital A art, didn’t they? So why weep? Only you remain unhappy, I told her. And that’s moronic – please excuse me but it is – because you are an elder, one such fisher of children. Until you have given back what you have taken, you cry stolen tears.

I drank every tear from her eyes until her lashes bristled with fury. It wasn’t acting, and I knew it. I told her, I hear what’s left in you, and I hear you name it righteous indignation. I wish I could tell you you’d been quite precise, I said. She was lovely, and I wished I could tell her she was right on the money. I wished I could tell her she was right, period.