Wordcarpenter Books

 Chapter Eleven 


 

  

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When Doppel started the engine and put the puppy on his gas tank, the engine didn't bother him.

"Always be aware - us men of action - that coincidences are almost always a sign from God that should never be overlooked because the messages are divine roadmaps guiding you to reach your destiny because He knows. And never be afraid to undertake an exploit that will test the mettle of your will because even if the task is not as successful as what you had hoped, there will be some light shed about the strengths and weaknesses of your will, which can be corrected and bettered."

Doppel revved the engine as he held the dog on the gas tank with his other hand.

"Will he stay?"

"Hope so."

When we began our return journey it was clear the puppy no understanding of gravity and inertia. Around one of the first corners along the Coastal Highway the puppy slid off the tank and landed Doppel's left thigh. After focusing so long on only his own needs, his reaction to catch the falling puppy was hesitant, even half-hearted. The puppy dangled over the pavement on the crowded highway clinging to Doppel's lower thigh. I could see the puppy slipping off in slow motion.

"The puppy!" I yelled.

Slowly he reached across with his throttle hand and grabbed a leg. He downshifted to free his clutch hand so he could pick it up instead of pulling it up by the leg. I could see that he needed to adjust his Doppel van Norman-centric perspective on life to include a puppy that now needed his care. And it would be difficult for him to constantly alter the governing of his excursion now to include a helpless puppy that didn't know the basics of inertia or gravity. The clouds rolled in as a storm looked immanent, and there was now traffic.

Doppel pulled off the coast highway to a temple pitched on a mountainside. There was no one there but the temple was open.

"I'm naming him Howie," he said, when she had sniffed around the Buddha and lay on Doppel's leg. The rain came down hard.

"He seems to have taken a liking to you. Good you snagged him dangling over the abyss there."

"Yes, it was fortunate."

We watched Howie dream, the twitches and demonstrative body English as proof of its cognitive abilities suggesting that Howie had faculty to learn and respect Doppel as a master.

"Caring for anyone other than my own hide will be a change of monumental proportion."

"The word ‘parent' brings with it a shard of fear, does it?"

"'Master,' not ‘parent.' Howie should be able to manage with laissez-faire supervision. I can provide a home for him and housebreak him. But we have to make it there first. Looks like a storm is coming." The sky had turned gray, clouds blew in from the ocean.

"Will Howie be a member of the Viking Club?"

"Well, what is the Viking-Poet's Club? It's a club for those brave souls who choose to live their lives like a work of art through extraordinary exploits, which reveal the secrets of life's mysteries and answers to life's timeless questions."

"So that would include Howie?"

"Membership to the Viking Club is paid for with passion, creativity, dedication and a single-mindedness to pursue all that is offered to you through chance and circumstance as well as the innovative utilization of one's time and space in their zeitgeist."

Howie kicked in her sleep.

"All full men who possess the equipment necessary to live a Viking-Poet's life are above their given epoch and instead stand outside their history so that convention and morality indigenous to your epoch fall outside your scope of reference. The Viking-Poet lives among the ancients. His idea of good is different from that of the 21st-century man."

"How so?"

"From Old Frisian, good means to unite and from Old High German means to fit together or to hold fast. It means bountiful yield, having favorable character, genuine, promotes well being, beautiful, not small or insignificant, wise, noble and worthy. This is good for the Viking-Poet: something that is either an end in itself or a means to such an end. It satisfies its intrinsic value by promoting individual self-realization."

"Your half-finished canvas."

"Like empty time waiting to be played out. Brushstrokes come from the manifold of experience. Colors come from how you express your soul. Texture is determined by your yield of qualia and shading is an illustration of your level of fulfillment."

"Your doggy is stirring."

"The mind is a refuge full of elastic bands, plucked by the thumb of reason to echo pleasantries in the ear."

"The wind's picked up. It's coming from the east so we're going to get it on the bikes."

"Time is the only thing that has met our ancestors. Probably the oldest thing in the universe."

"Never stops moving."

"And the unrecognized elixir of life."

"How does one extrapolate this elixir?"

"Will."

"You know something? I've never really understood ‘the will.' It's an overused word in philosophy that people use without really thinking about what it means."

"What does it mean?"

"That's the point: no one really knows."

"Let me try. The biggest fundamental difference between me and the 21st-century man is my complete mastery over will, but it's something that needs to be exercised regularly or it will wane. The defining quality of the Viking-Poet is his expert use of his will. In fact the extraordinary nature of my life has been the direct result of my will."

"But I'm still vague on the whole notion of will. What the heck is it?"

"It's a desire and inclination to act."

"That's it? Inclination to do something?"

"Pretty much, but it's a bit more subtle than that. It's a settlement of mental uncertainty or indecision resulting in volition. It's the total conscious process involved in effecting a decision."

"It is your will to save Howie."

"The will is action directed toward a goal clearly known in advance and requiring effort to overcome obstacles or contrary desires. It is the faculty of the soul to coordinate with the intellect that determines rational choices in accordance with what the intellect has determined as good or bad."

"But philosophers disagree whether it is a faculty of the soul or a faculty of the mind."

"True, so it's a faculty of the mind that is usually coordinated with thought and feeling that determines moral actions in accordance with ideals, principles and fact. In the Viking-Poet Handbook, the will of the Viking is a disposition to act according to particular principles, or to conform in conduct and thought to general or ideal ends."

For the first time his philosophy sounded ominous, with words like ‘conform' and ‘conduct.'

"Your will to save Howie is conforming to the Viking-Poet code of conduct because of the handbook? Or would you have done it without the handbook?"

"I know you know the answer to that question. There was the character first, before the words. The character lies in the will and not in the intellect. Nature has produced the intellect for the service of the individual will. The old mistake of philosophers is to place the essence of mind in thought and consciousness, but Schopenhauer believed the primary guiding force is not the conscious intellect but rather the will: a striving, persistent vital force of action and imperious desire. Nietzsche said of the will: ‘The will is the strong blind man who carries on his shoulders the lame man who can see.' It's a clever notion that touches on this idea that the will is somehow lacking in one of the senses."

"That's what I'm getting at: the will is taking action to get to a desired goal but it's more than that. It's tied up with thoughts and feelings and moral judgment. Disposition, choice, inclination, passion, intention, determination. You could say it's a summons of purpose."

"The will is the commander of all the chess pieces on the board with the power to control, determine and dispose. It's that restlessness that constantly reminds you that you have to do something, that omnipresent inclination standing just outside your door but never knocks. It's that inkling that whispers in your ear too softly that makes you feel as though you had something to do but have forgotten."

"Yes, I see what you're saying. The will is like a persistent recollection of a recent event in which you made an important choice but you still have yet to act on it."

"It's like the unsatisfied craving for coffee in the morning knowing there's nothing holding you back from getting a cup."

"Or like a mild suspicion that there's a voice in your subconscious mind trying to tell you something really important."

"Morality targets the heart, not the intellect. The home of the will is the heart, not the head. The Viking-Poet masters his motorcycle by imposing his will on it. The more exploits achieved increases the power of the Viking Poet's will. It is fatigue of the intellect that disrupts the will's work. Will is the cause of all action, and force is the form of the will. Over time one can see ones destination at the end of the teleological line which the will goes forth to."

The rain started to let up.

"Didn't you bring up the word ‘ennui' in the handbook?"

"Yes, I believe I did."

"And what exactly is it?"

Doppel surveyed the riding conditions from the view of the temple. The waves crashed against the rocks in the distance where the tide was coming in.

"Ennui, that's a Schopenhauer word. I mean he uses that to explain the will."

"Which is?"

"Ennui is a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction, languor or emptiness of spirit. It is life when the will is dormant."

"Aristotle would concur with that I think. He believed that pain is life's basic stimulus and reality, and pleasure is merely a negative cessation of pain. For Aristotle it was the fundamental equation of existence. He believed the wise man seeks not pleasure but freedom from care and pain."

"That's why the exploit is of such importance," he said. "It keeps everything sharpened and polished."

"In the words of Heraclitus: ‘The unshaken mixture decomposes.'" Like a flower it blooms and soon withers so that the smell of bloom can never be attained again. Only those who take action while in bloom can say to have truly lived.

"Well, yes. The will is there to maximize life."

After the rain let up, the two of us cruised along the Coastal Highway back towards Taipei.

  
 

 

Chapter Twelve 

  

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Within the first 200 miles Howie learned how to sit upright on the gas tank, squinting into the wind with poised balance and a confident posture. Howie had figured out the entire question and had adapted to his situation by overcoming the issue of balance. I rode up closer to watch the animal while Doppel patted it with his clutch hand, causing Howie to look back. But it preferred to look ahead to enjoy the ride along the open road and open spaces beside the ocean. Doppel and Howie covered mile after mile as a functioning team of two with their eye on the road and task at hand. Doppel spoke to the doggy as he rode, I'm sure explaining the philosophy of the Viking-Poet Handbook in more detail to Howie than me. As the hours ticked by, Howie assumed a posture of absolute aerodynamic confidence. People in the vehicles passing by stared. No longer was Doppel taking corners in top gear being pushed and pulled in different directions every time they went around a curve in the road. It was if whatever Doppel had said, Howie understood. Nor were there any disputes or arguments.

An unexpected development arose as we turned off the Coastal Highway for Highway 106 over the northern tip of the mountains just south of Taipei close to Doppel's apartment. We were looking at spending a third night in the mountains despite the fact that Doppel had work the next day. We stopped at the turn off for Taipei as the sun was setting.

"If exhaustion hits, we may need to grab some shut-eye somewhere between here and Taipei. If we do, it's with the definite objective of getting to work by nine."

"Sure."

"As far as what constitutes a successful Viking exploit, the main criteria that determines a pass or fail is that you make it to work on time Monday morning. If this requisite were not reached, the exploit would be regarded as a failure despite the possibility of other experiences along the way that have a profound influence on your future course. As I see it, all that time that doesn't fall into the 9-to-5 of work is my own time that no one else can steal from me, so arriving at nine o'clock tomorrow morning after a short sleep somewhere in the mountains would be acceptable."

"I see that it's important."

"Fair play is a must."

Sure enough, the fatigue from covering the 900 km of riding during the day while balancing Howie had caught up to him. Warning signs like heavy eyelids and a barely functioning clutch hand soon tipped the scales for me towards a snooze. We found a bridge where there was protection from the wind just after a corner of a side road.

"The plan for tomorrow is a three-hour downhill ride without much traffic, drop Howie off and then go teach."

"I guess we'll both be doing that because I can't ride anymore. My hand is paralyzed and I'm getting careless."

"I've accumulated enough empirical data from my adventures around the world to be aware of the serious dangers that can arise from exhaustion. There is a line that's crossed when the Viking adventurer will find it difficult to enjoy his time as he rides home. He is more prone to take a wrong turn or lose his clarity of purpose when pushing the limits of physical exhaustion. Wisdom tells me this protected area here is a good call. I need REM. It's the body's way of demanding a switch of priority." Sometimes, in such a diminished strength, it is hard to see the poetry of sleeping beside the road by a bridge.

I was awoken after what seemed like five minutes. Doppel already had his motorcycle warming up.

"We should beat the traffic. Sleep well?"

"Yes, but not long."

"Four hours was longer than I thought we'd need."

The plundered booty gained from our exploit stands out among the city traffic that confronted us when we reached the outskirts of Taipei. The power was back on and life was back to its fast pace. The special feeling of wisdom and bestowal is soon replaced with the city-mad state of mind of traffic jams and indifference. But I am not alone. I pull up to Doppel at a traffic light.

"Good trip brother," he said.

"That's an understatement." The Taiwanese stared at the little puppy sitting up with good posture and ears back on the gas tank, as though it was now a connoisseur of road tripping on motorcycles.

The light changed and he darted ahead, soon putting his shoulder into another turn taking us closer to his retreat in the mountains. What had threatened to be danger had in fact been revealed to be a terrible beauty hidden in the lining of earthquakes and avalanches. We had seen how God Himself can paint the canvas. As we neared Doppel's apartment, I felt a new unity of parts that had entered my soul that calmed old anxieties.

 

 
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Finding the puppy and the dream begins, 
 
surreal riding with a small doggie balanced on the gastank,
 
 Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver"
 
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