Posts Tagged With: analogy

Philosophia Venereum: Speculum Pulchritudine

Speculum Pulchritudine

Smiles are the foundation of beauty.”

— Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

“You know,” she said suddenly, “your grandmother says I have your smile. And she’s not the first, Sarah’s told me the same thing.”

“I hope you thank them both on my behalf?”

“On both our be—behalfs? Or is it behalves? Anyway, I was complimented too, you know.”

“Complimented? That’s like saying you’re as cute as a bug, which is something my grandmother would say.”

She gave a jingling laugh. “She has. What’s your point?”

“Well, it may sound sweet, but when’s the last time you saw a cute bug?”

“Are you saying it wasn’t a compliment?”

“I’m sure she meant it like one, but she might as well have told you that you have a smile like a warthog.”

Photo Credit: Jack Fussell via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: Jack Fussell via Compfight cc (altered)

“You don’t think our smiles look anything alike?”“Were that my smile were half as marvelous as thine!”

“I thought it was a sweet thing to say.”

“Oh, it was! And don’t think I’m not honored that my grandmother thinks my smile looks anything like yours. It’s probaly the highest compliment I’ve ever received. And I do think I will agree, insofar as our smiles are structurally, physically, similar.”

“Then what makes them so different?”

We came upon a bench and she suggested we sit. The bench gave us a perfect vantage point to admire the gilded trees; even the streets which seemed to be paved with gold. The world had become a reflection of the sun’s light, shining like the treasure trove it is.

There was a brief pause as we sat, and the world seemed hushed for a moment, bracing itself, like she was, for my answer. I turned to her, and she turned to me, and the corners of her lips twitched up, and her eyes sparkled.

“And that, that exactly,” I said, framing her face with my hands, “is the difference. That’s the difference between our smiles. Do you want to know something? You can’t see yourself, except in mirrors, so you’ve probably never noticed it; and I doubt if most eyes would notice it, anyway, and so probably you’ve never heard it. You never smile.”

She tilted her head questioningly, but said nothing, waiting for me to go on.

“And that’s the difference! That’s the secret. You never smile. Me, I smile all the time. I can’t help myself. But you—never. You’ve looked at me several times today, but you didn’t smile once. Not once. No. Every time you glowed.

“Your face sort of contracts, and each of the features gathers close to the center with the others to enjoy one another’s company. And then your eyes . . . how can I describe it? They brighten, they shine, they twinkle; they narrow, they wrinkle; they quiver, and—vibrate. And most amazingly, this incredible expression of joy—so far above anything as base as a smile—doesn’t even involve any movement of your lips! Not always. Your lips don’t always glow with the rest of your face. They’ll just tighten and bend up, but they won’t glow. When they do—when they part and widen in what is known to the vulgar tongue as a smile—they open on an absolute wonderland of euphoria and delight, through a portal that reveals to the humble human eye all the beauties to be found within a glorious paradise where love alone can tread. Like a curtain opening on a fantastic play with a story you wish were real but can’t believe it could be.”

She threw her head back and laughed, a high-ringing sound like a wind chime. I just watched in admiration. You should have seen how she glowed.

If I ever commit the sin of saying that she could stoop to something as crude as a “smile,” it is only for the sake of brevity, because the English language doesn’t have a better suited word. Even glowed doesn’t qute capture it. I can’t use an entire paragraph to describe it every time she glows, mainly because the majority of this barbaric “modern civilization” is tragically revolted by the smallest degree of beautiful language. If you are one of these philistines, then please, bear with me a little longer.

When she stopped laughing and glowed at me I said, “You find it funny?”
“I just wish I was half as beautiful as your words,” she replied.

“But you’re not,” I agreed, “because you’re ten times as beautiful.”

She just shook her head, glowing.

“And I am blessed to be a witness to it, and I am honored that my grandmother thinks I bear a resemblance to you. You know, the more I think about it, the more I understand why she would think so.”

“And why is that?”

“Simple logic. You stand in the sun, your face gets rosy, right? It’s a natural reaction; a reflection of the sun’s energy. Take the moon. The moon has no light of its own; we would never even see it by itself, but thanks to the sun, its beautiful. Well, so—”

“So you’re the moon,” she interrupted, “reflecting the sun’s light.”

I frowned. “I was going to say that. But I’m glad you agree. Yes, any similarity my smile has to yours is just the reflection of my joy in being with you.”
She rolled her eyes. “But I don’t agree.”

“You don’t enjoy being with me?” I sobbed.

“Of course not. Why should I?” She trilled. “I’m kidding. I meant that I don’t agree with what you were saying about just being a reflection of the sun’s light. There are more important things than being pretty.”

I held up an index finger. “That’s very true! And I’m glad you brought it up. Don’t you see? Of course you’re more than just a pretty face. You never smile. I never said you had a pretty smile. Take what our society typifies as a ‘beautiful’ woman. That archetype emphasizes all the wrong things. So-called beautiful women may have slim bodies and well-shaped noses and thin eyebrows and red lips, but you have even more, because you have true beauty, inner beauty. You’re a charming, kind, sweet woman, and that’s three of the many, many things that make you beautiful on the inside. That inner beauty always shows on the outside. It’s something you don’t always see in a societally ‘beautiful’ woman. You’re both societally beautiful and truly beautiful; that’s why you glow. That glow is your inner beauty shining, and that is something that can be seen.”

Her eyes gleamed suddenly with triumph. “Exactly!”

“Exactly what?”

“Exactly that,” she repeated. “That makes you the most beautiful man I have ever met. That’s what you don’t see. Because you can’t see yourself. So let me tell you. All the sweet, beautiful things you’ve been saying are reflections of your own beauty.”

“Beauty?”

“Yes, beauty! Don’t be sexist, men can be beautiful.” She trilled again, and continued, “Anyway, my beauty, all this beauty you’ve been talking about, is just a reflection of your beauty. And the beauty I see in you is a reflection of my beauty.”

“So,” I said slowly, “are you saying humans are inherently egocentric?”

“Not at all! Exactly the opposite. It’s giving something to someone else. You’re giving them a part of yourself. That’s why your grandmother says we have the same smile. Not just because our smiles look the same, because she saw something else—the something we gave each other. She saw the same something reflected in both of us.” Glowing brighter than ever, she leaned toward me. “And do you see what that something is?”

I felt the birth of a grin on my lips. “I’m beginning to. You’re something special, I’ll tell you that.”

“And you’re very sweet”—she kissed me—”even if you’re only as cute as a bug, poor little boy!”

“Hey, you’re the one my grandmother thinks looks like a bug, not me.”

“True—but if your beauty is a reflection of mine—”

“Right, right.”

She trilled. I thrilled. She scintillated. I cachinnated.

The End

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Categories: Imagining a Better World, Philosophia Venereum, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philosophia Venereum: In Frustra Coincidi

In Frustra Coincidi

“Your hand fits mine like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.”

— Judi Picoult

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I. But it’s obviously the only choice, and I don’t know why you’re making it so hard.”

“But . . . breaking up?”

“Face it, it just doesn’t work to be together. It’s not that complicated.”

“Butbut how can you say that? It’s perfect together!”

“Look, it doesn’t fit.”

“But the picture lines up

“But the edges don’t!”

“Fine.” I threw down the puzzle pieces in defeat. “I give up. I hate jigsaws.”

“This was your idea,” she said.

Photo Credit: Heliøs via Compfight cc  (altered)

Photo Credit: Heliøs via Compfight cc (altered)

“Don’t I have the right to complain about my own ideas once in a while? You do it all the time.””All I know is, it wasn’t my idea, but it beats going outside.”

She glanced toward the window, looking beyond its frost-bleared panes to the brightly moonlit snow outside. I thought it was pretty. She shivered just to look at it. I admitted to myself that it was cold, and at this point getting more than a little tiresome.

“Honestly,” I said, “I don’t believe that it’s March. If you ask me, it’s still February. See, my theory is that a couple months back, something earth-shattering happened, and the U.N. banded together and used top secret technology to mindwipe the whole earth, erasing February from their minds and setting us back a month.”

“It fits!”

“It does? . . . I mean, naturally!”

She rolled her eyes. “No, these three pieces here. See?” She showed me. “What you said made no sense. That would mean it’s actually April.”

An awkward silence followed. Finally I said, “That’s what they want us to think. Wake up, woman! You’re enslaved by the media! Your buying into the twisted into the distorted lies the world governments are feeding us!”

She chose this moment to be tactfully unresponsive. We worked without saying much more than what qualified as necessary communication as we colluded to crack the quandary before us.

“You know,” I began, giving up on mashing two pieces together and turning instead to tracking down their allotted soulmates, “this is a lot like life.”

“You don’t say,” she murmured, deep in concentration.

“Oh, sure. In lots of ways. Life’s a puzzle we’re all trying to make sense of. We spend our lives trying to gather all the pieces and arrange them the right way. Sometimes we waste our time thinking two pieces fit together, like I was a minute agoand then we realize they don’t. Sometimes we try to force them anyway, but there’s no use doing that.”

I found a handful of pieces that matched and quickly fit them together. I leaned back and viewed them with pride. “Sometimes, in an almost surprising flash of understanding, everything comes together, and we can be happy for a while that things are getting clearer.” I picked another piece that looked like a match, but after trying it against every edge of my section, I put it back in the pile. “Too bad it doesn’t always work that way. It never lasts.”

“Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work, and still doesn’t seem to come out right,” she observed helpfully, apparently frustrated in her search. “But it’s important to be persistent.”

“And sometimes it’s just nice to take a moment to appreciate the small little things,” I murmured, admiring a piece with half a sunflower on it. From the right angle it looked like a sunrise; from another it looked like a yellow octopus. I put it down and added grimly, “But who has time for that?”

“We should make time,” she said, picking up the piece I had put down and smiling at it. “We forget that too much. I’m lucky I have you around to remind me.”

I put my hand on hers. She twinkled at me. I said, “I’m glad to know I’m useful for a few things.”

“There’s another way a puzzle’s like life,” she mused.

“And what’s that?

“It’s better when you have someone to share it with.”

We returned to the puzzle; large segments were beginning to fit together, leaving only a few gaps to be filled. “It’s all about getting a clearer view of the picture,” I said, watching the materialization of a puppy and the slightly exasperated kitten it cuddled in a flower garden. “You examine, you calculate, you adjust, but you keep going, always trying again and again, never giving up, no matter how many setbacks and unexpected hitches and disappointments and frustrations stand against you. And at last, by working together, in the end,” I said“ah . . . in the end . . . huh.”

“In the end,” she finished, “you realize you’re missing a piece.”

We exchanged glances.

The End

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Categories: Philosophia Venereum, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philosophia Venereum: Sapientiam Quaerunt

Sapientiam Quaerunt

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”

— Mark Twain

“They’re not here.”

“They were here last time.”

“They couldn’t have just walked away.”

“But they could have been moved.”

“Honestly, they do this all the time. I think it’s a conspiracy. They rearrange things so that when people head straight for what they’re looking for, it’s not where they thought it was. Instead they find a lot of books they weren’t looking for, but between that and the time it will take them to browse for what they wanted in the first place, there’s a much higher chance that they’ll pick up more than what they came in for. It’s devious.”

“It’s business,” she said. “That’s exactly what they do.” She took me by the hand. “Come on. The classics must be somewhere.”

She led me through the aisles of the bookstore as our search for the elusive Lord of the Flies continued. At last she spotted the sign labeled “Classics” and we made our way to that shelf.

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Photo Credit: jessamyn via Compfight cc (altered)

She looked at me. “What’s his name?”

“William Baldwin, I think.”

“Okay. B . . . B, B, B . . .” Her slender finger traced the spines. “Here’s Unamuno, U . . .”

“Unamuno? As in Miguel de Unamuno?”

“Eyes on the prize. Don’t get tricked by their system,” she teased.

“Ha, ha. But Unamuno–wait, that’s not Miguel. I’ve never even heard of this guy, how did he make it to classics?” I took the book off the shelf and examined the copyright. “1997? Come on, people. Not my idea of a classic. Am I a classic? Are you?”

“We’ll debate that later,” she interrupted. “Here’s Kantor, K, and . . . Collins, Carroll . . . Burnett . . .”

“Burnett?” I echoed, diving toward the shelf. I returned with a book cradled in my arms.

The Secret Garden? I thought you already had a copy.”

“Two, actually, but one of them uses single-mark quotes where they should be double-marked, and vice versa, and I mean seriously, what’s up with that? Besides, they’re both paperback. Look at this! Leather-bound, and just smell it–wood shavings, right? I love that smell! And at a price like that, two dollars, brand new? I can’t pass that up.”

“All right, well, look for yourself, there’s no Baldwin here. It goes straight from Bacon to Beckett.”

“Uh . . .” I ran a hand down the back of my neck. “That’s probably because his name was Goldwyn . . .”

She had the uncanny ability to thoroughly deride my stupidity just by staring at me. Words would have blunted the effect. Rolling her eyes, she said, “G, then. That should be over here . . . Fitzgerald . . .”

“Frank,” I read, and looked lower; “Haggard, overshot . . . Guest, never actually seen any of his collections before. They said it couldn’t be done!”

“I see what you did there,” she answered, and I could hear her eyes rolling. Pointing with a finger she began, “Here’s–”

“Aha!” I interrupted.

“What? Do you see it? I don’t–”

“No, I just rememered, his name was Golding, not Goldwyn!”

“Doesn’t matter. Right here, goes from Gogol to Green.”

I tutted. “Not here?”

“We’ll have to try general fiction.”

“Which is–where?”

She shrugged.

As we resumed our heroic quest for our quarry, and as we wandered through the maze of shelves, she said, “Why are we even here? Why don’t you just order the book online?”

“Have you no sentiment?”

“Sentiment,” she echoed. “Like a spirit of adventure? Are you going to make some heroic quest out of this or something?”

“N-no . . .” I didn’t tell her what I’d just been thinking. “No, I only meant that here, in the midst of all these books, it’s something magical, it’s an experience. Sure, you can shop online, you can browse with your head and find what you’re looking for in an instant. But here in a traditional bookstore you get to browse with your eyes, with your hands . . . you get to browse with your heart.”

“And you get to go on an adventure,” she added.

“Well . . . yeah.” We found the general fiction section rather quickly, and began looking through the aisles for the hiding place of the Gs. “I mean, it’s one thing to get to read a book,” I went on, “one of the best things I know. But it’s something else entirely just to be able to be around them. Call me crazy, but I do it at home all the time; I pick a book up, sometimes whether I’ve read it or not, just to admire it, to feel it. You know?” I held The Secret Garden and petted its cover as an example. “Just to see it, to touch it, to be with it . . . it’s magical. It’s like you’re taking a part of it into yourself even without reading it. Pretty incredible, isn’t it, what a book can do, even before you read it?

We passed a shelf where a pair of pale hands offered us an apple; nearby several books displayed, with a definite undeserved pride, the half-naked subjects of their covers. I observed sagaciously, “And some books have a knack for instilling you with intense repulsion. Not much magic offered there.” As we passed on, I swept my hands into the air, generally gesturing everywhere, adding, “But on the whole, books are beautiful. They reach out to you . . . they touch you . . . they speak to you. What’s that?” I leaned closer to a bookshelf nearby. “Uh-huh? Uh-huh? Oh, absolutely! I couldn’t agree more.” I turned back to her. “You’ll never believe what the bookshelves just told me. I mean, I knew books were wise, but I didn’t expect them to be quite this percipient.”

She smiled a charming half-smile, amused. “What did they tell you?”

“It’s nothing I didn’t already know, but I’m impressed that they knew it, too. They tell me you’re the most beautiful woman they have ever seen.”

She laughed her trilling laugh and slapped me across the chest. “Tell ‘the bookshelves’ I think they’re the sweetest.”

I couldn’t help it. Overflowing as my heart already was with the enchantment of a bibliophile in his element, the emotions inspired by her shimmering, velvety raven black hair and the light in her eyes and the light in her smile were more than I could take. I put my arms around her and kissed her. A moment later, smiling a charming full smile and laughing still, she began again,

“Anyway–I agree with you of course, but I prefer used bookstores, don’t you? You’re the first person I would expect to appreciate the stories inside a used book. And I mean the ones written in the margins. All the lives that book has touched. Tell me you don’t love that a million times more than a brand-new book.”

“A million times more, without a doubt,” I admitted.

“And I just love the smell of old books.” She opened imaginary pages in her hands and drank in the aroma. “It’s even better than the wood-shavings smell some firsthand books have. As magical as any bookstore is, a secondhand bookstore has even more magic. When you go in there, it’s more than just you and the books. Go into a used bookstore and you’re something more than just yourself, you’re a reader. You’re another one of millions of the lives touched by these books. You’re a part of all that.”

“It’s like walking through eternity,” I breathed.

She glanced at a copy of The Screwtape Letters, then put it back on the shelf, and added, “And all that for a better price . . .”

“Always the practicalist,” I joked. “However, I agree with you absolutely. The only problem with used bookstores is that there’s no guarantee you’ll find what you’re looking for.”

“Right. Here, on the other hand, it was effortless.”

“Ha, ha.”

“That’s the best part of a used bookstore, anyway. You find so much you weren’t expecting . . . where’s there’s so much history and so much–so much, well, like you say, eternity–you make new discoveries every moment. There’s so much more more to learn, so much more around you than there is here with all these brand-new books. The only lives they’ve ever touched were the printers’.”

I stood motionless, just admiring her. She noticed me watching her and met my gaze sweetly. “My marvelous fellow-poet,” I said. “May I kiss you again?”

“Later,” she laughed.

Our search yielded no more success among the Gs of general fiction that it had among the classics. As a last resort, we approached an employee.

“Good evening, J.D.,” I greeted, reading the teenager’s nametag. “Or can I call you J.?”

He stared, “hip” oversized glasses sliding down on a face lumpy with acne. He pushed his glasses back up and slurred, “C’na hel’you?”

She looked at me and I looked back with an expression that begged the question, “Is he offering his services or threatening us?” She turned to J.D. and smiled disarmingly and said, “We’re looking for a book. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Do you know where we could find it?”

“Come wi’ me to da fron’esk, please,” he answered automatically.

At the front desk a more helpful, more vivacious young woman chipperly helped us look up the book on the store’s computers. No, she’s sorry, it’s not in stock. If we like she can put in an order– No, we’ll wait? All right. Can she ring that up for us? Have a good night.

“At least it wasn’t a total bust,” I observed as soon as we were outside, holding The Secret Garden close to my heart with one hand, and with the other holding hers.

With her free hand she was deftly navigating her iPhone. “Done,” she announced.

“Done?”

“Done. Lord of the Flies, William Golding, please allow 2-3 business days for delivery. That took, what, thirty seconds?”

The End

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Categories: Philosophia Venereum, Short Stories | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Philosophia Venereum: Amant in Gelu

Amant in Gelu

A man learns to skate by staggering about and making a fool of himself. Indeed he progresses in all things by resolutely making a fool of himself.

– George Bernard Shaw

“So?”

“It’s cold.”

“And?”

“Slippery.”

“And?”

“Half as beautiful as you, which is to pay it an astronomical compliment.”

“You flatterer.”

“There are few words within the human vocabulary that can be spoken of you, my sweet, and yet be considered mere flattery.”

She rolled her eyes but she smiled, and I didn’t think the color in her cheeks was entirely from the biting chill of the ice rink. As much as I would have liked to keep my eyes on her I had to return my attention to my unstable feet. I was inching my way into the rink, arms spread wide, probably looking like a flightless bird on legs of gelatin. Meanwhile, she skated graceful circles around me, coaching me.

“You’re doing fine,” she said. “The hard part is learning to get your balance.”

“I like to consider myself a defender of balance.”

Feeling bolder, I threw one of my feet out in front in an attempt to pick up speed. I made it about three feet on my skates and eleven more on my face. It was worth it to hear her wind-chime laughter echoing through the dome. Still trilling, she slid to my side and offered me a hand.

“Are you sure this is your first time?”

“Painfully positive.”

“You fell like a natural,” she teased.

“Why, thank you, my dear; I like to consider myself a natural, even if only a natural disaster.”

Pulling me to my feet, she offered, “Here. Hold my hand. It will help.”

“Don’t have to ask me twice.”

Another fifteen minutes went by, and on the strength of her guidance and assistance I began to get accustomed to the strange feeling of standing on butcher knives, and had successfully skated a full circle around the rink, falling only twice, bringing her down with me only once. Another fifteen minutes passed and we had gone around the rink another dozen times.

“Do you know something?” I said. “This is fun.”

“Isn’t it?”

“It’s difficult for me to admit this—but I’ll swallow my pride. This was a great idea, and a better way to have a date, even, than some of my past ideas.”

“Are you referring to the—”

“I believe we agreed not to talk about that since we paid off the broken vase.”

“Right.” She hid a smile. “I just hope this teaches you something. We can have normal dates, too, and still enjoy ourselves!”

“And I can still find something to philosophize about. Figure skating makes a beautiful metaphor.”

She mumbled, “You could philosophize about a paperclip.”

“As a matter of fact—”

“Please! Not right now.”

“Right. Let’s focus on the metaphor of figure skating.”

“Actually, I’d rather just focus on the act of skating.”

“C’mon, can’t I please? Just a little?”

She sneered her exasperation. Behind it, however, her eyes twinkled. “Fine.”

Photo Credit: ffela via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ffela via Compfight cc (altered)

I took both her hands and swept into a spiral. I tottered and nearly fell but she saved me, and using each other as counterweights we twirled together on the ice.”They say life is a dance,” I began. “Well, I’ll agree with that, so far. Love is, too. But not true love. True love is something different. It’s so close to the same thing—and yet it’s so far. But if you don’t look closely enough, you can’t even tell. It’s a subtle thing. It’s more than just moving your feet to a melody and timing each move to the rhythm. It’s not as simple as holding each other close and trying to work together at the same pace. That’s what dancing is about. But love—true love—is all that and more. True love is like figure skating in a pair.”

“I think I see where you’re going. I watch figure skating whenever I get the chance, and I especially like to see the pairs. They really have to work hard to stay together and time everything just right. Dancing is—well, I mean, it’s dancing. Professional ballroom dancers are incredible, I would never argue with that, but, well, there’s a reason it’s not an olympic event. It doesn’t take as much of the same stuff as figure skating. The thing about figure skating is that the ice will carry you much farther than your feet would. Sometimes that means rushing along at a faster pace than you could keep up with on your own, and sometimes you can just glide slowly and easily along without much effort, and sometimes you have to push to pick up speed. But when you’re skating with a partner—it’s not about keeping pace, it’s about helping each other and staying together as the paces change.” She shrugged with a trill and said, “So I can definitely see what you mean—true love is that way, too. It’s not two people trying to stay at the same pace, but two people supporting each other through all the changes of pace.”

I nodded eagerly, beaming. “What could I possibly add to that?”

A smirk crawled across her face. “You’ll think of something.”

“Well, all I can say is that you’re exactly right. Life, as in the act of living, can be like a dance. But life, the world around us—it’s like the ice in a skating rink.”

I let go of one of her hands and we slid to a halt. With one hand, I gestured over the ice.

“When you dance together, it’s just the two of you and nothing else. Throw anything more complicated into the mix, and they lose it. When you skate together, it’s the two of you together against the ice. It’s not so simple. It’s much more complicated.”

“I think the biggest difference is that dancing is fifty-fifty. Figure skating is about each of the partners giving one hundred percent.”

“You have to, to dance together against the ice.”

“Exactly.”

“True love . . . it’s all about a man and a woman, body and soul in tune; one heart, one mind, one will, united for a common goal, with a common enemy. . . . Then again . . .” I cut a slow circle around her and then came to a stop in front of her. “Is it about working against the ice, or working with it?”

“That’s a good point.”

I put my arms around her and she put her arms around me and we enjoyed that common and not altogether unpleasant show of affection called a Hug.

“Are you feeling more comfortable on the ice?”

“As long as I’m with you.”

“Good. Do you think you’re ready to try without the double-bladed training skates now?”

The End

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