Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Compartment

"You need to put me in a compartment," he said.

Compartment? she thought.  Compartments are for shoes and old tax returns, not for people.

"I don't do compartments," she replied.

She wondered how he could even conceive such a thing let alone request it of her.  She wondered how long he'd kept her in a compartment in his mind. She wondered what that compartment looked like.  Was it a box with small breathing holes cut into the side or a padded room with a lock on the door? And how often was she allowed out?  But the question that burned most in her mind was, after all this time, if she wasn't spilling all over his mind, his heart, his life, what the hell was she even doing here?

He looked at her as if he had heard all of her questions, but he did not answer them. She sighed and wiped away the tears now streaming down her face. His carefully chosen silence hurt as much as his carefully chosen words.

tall penguin


Umlud said...

Once I learned about koans and that they are meant to break down the compartments in the mind, I realized that compartmentalization, while useful in some cases, is ultimately an exercise in compressing the infinite into manageable chunks that we have decided (either individually or as a society) mean something useful. However, when examined through a different lens, they themselves become silly (at best) and supercilious (at worst). (Pun intended.)

I give two examples:

A) The Monk Mayo asked this question of the Sixth patriarch: "What is Zen?" the Patriarch replied that, "when your mind is not dwelling on the dualism of good and evil, what is your original face before you were born?"

and B) "... it is a rather curious thing to have to divide one's life into personal and official compartments and temporarily put the personal side into its hidden compartment to be taken out again when one's official duties are at an end." - Eleanore Roosevelt

Living in many different cultures, I've come across many different ways in which life is compartmentalized, and through this compartmentalization, different aspects become more (or less) important within a culture than in another. Sometimes, connections between compartments change (sometimes dramatically). Therefore, I might offer a change to your last sentence:

"In his carefully chosen silence, he could not fathom the hurt caused by his carefully chosen words, and he sat there, blankly waiting for her to comprehend an axiomatic understanding of existence that was as alien to her as a compartment-less existence might be for him."

(Btw, as a punster, I revel in recognizing and playing with the compartments provided by language. As one who grew up internationally, I do the same with the compartments defined and enforced by society.)

tall penguin said...

Umlud, will you marry me? :)

A brilliant response. Just brilliant.

I enjoy playing with koans, as I enjoy constantly questioning my own mind and attempting to see things from many different angles. Your international experience has given you some very interesting perspectives and I'm always grateful when you share them with me.