POSTCARD #230: New Delhi: From somewhere deep in Antiquity (2nd-1st century BC) the Indo-Greek created a likeness of the Buddha saying, okay, this is who he was, and this is what he was like. Before that there was nothing; a stupa marked a place where he had been and what he had said there, but no actual identity, no story of how it began, what the cause of it was – always the echo of ‘and what was the cause of that?’ (repeated endlessly) prevented the writer from saying, ‘it was something like this, you know?’ because, even before it begins, the story requires the listener to gently comply with the constraints of a starting point… “Once upon a time” (and this is as good a place to begin as any), so we fall into the story, become the story – we believe in the story because we are ‘the story’, we are ‘personified’, we are assimilated, a simulation, without even thinking about it.
Immersed in the commonly held belief in personification (‘I’ have to believe in it to get it to work), it seems to me that even God is a personification, I believe, I believe in “It”. The model of ‘the creator’ applied in multiple forms (everything is invented), based on a frame of reference inherited from artisans in generations past who built it, shaped it, fashioned it based on an earlier model they’d had then, dating back to well-before-that-time and everything so distant that even the words seem to get smaller and smaller in a perspective vanishing point location, and this, we can say, was the point where it disappeared completely.
Then, from a faraway place beyond the place where it was last ‘seen’, somehow brought back across the centuries into the bright light of modern times, eyes blinking in the dazzled befuddlement of it; historical and ancient – the meaning contained in words cloned from an ancient artifact, cloaked in strangeness, dynamic and eloquent.
Then examined, agreed-upon, regarded-as, and said-to-be the original, correct, true and embedded thus: the wisdom of the East meets the modern Western world. Immediately becomes ‘history’ and seen to be an accurate rendering, handed down from mother to daughter, father to son, identical to, or as near-to-as-possible the same as it was then and always had been since as long ago as anyone can remember (by word of mouth) the actual archetype.
So immensely detailed and complex that, even today, it is impossible to engage in any kind of discussion about anything, without the correct intermediary being present (or, if not, sent for), the structure of class/caste/social behavior being as it is; an unquestionable system of who does what, where, when, why and with whom, and how it’s all being done is supervised by somebody wearing a suit, or a long-sleeved shirt and shiny shoes, seated on a chair (while everyone else is standing), and he’s carefully copying everything down in a notebook.
No beginning, no end… the skill was, and always had been, to discover the answer formed as a question, and nobody thought it was necessary to create a likeness, besides, what’d he look like? There was nothing to go on…