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More About Zeitqualia
 
After a long time without seeing each, twin brothers Stuffle and Doppel reunite in Taipei but the day Doppel arrives there is a massive earthquake. During the hundreds of aftershocks of September 21 1999 earthquake in Taiwan, the twins Stüffle and Doppel von Schöngait go to help the international rescue effort 500 miles away in Central Taiwan by packing a sleeping bag and riding motorcycles through the Central Mountain Highway, which is officially closed. Engaging in catching up with each, the twins realign to one another as they ride through the dust and landslides. Putting their lives at risk for the sake of proving their life philosophy, they push each other to extremes during their search for truth, but neither of them were aware that so much time had passed and that their lives were to be changed forever. A story about twin brothers and lost time, this work has a deep intellectual component, which makes it a unique book. 
 

 
Chapter Five

&

I rode with one eye on the road and one eye on the old villages and pagodas I passed, steep precipices enticing a fever of recklessness within me. Fresh mountain air and a sprinkle of rain against my face, I carved my corners through hazardous civil engineering and saw why the Portuguese called Taiwan ‘Beautiful Island.' The road was now showing severe signs of earthquake debris but Doppel and I cruised through damp tunnels past barking dogs and swift streams. The obstacles on the road didn't slow us down because we rode in third gear, dodging the rocks and broken boughs with poise.

A Robert Browning line came into my mind:

My stress lay on incidents in the

Development of the human soul,

Little else is worth study.

This was Doppel's primary dictum, and why he chose to spell out the moral code for membership to the Viking-Poet Club. For example it is strongly recommended to locate in a foreign country so that a new culture forces you to adapt yourself to your new environment. This begins the process of tapping into your instincts. Viking-Poet members choose books over television, art and philosophy over science and technology, and continually strive to build their knowledge about all facets of life. A member should have the inherent equipment to survive in all corners of the world without the help of others so that not one place but rather the planet itself is your home where you are comfortable in all geographies. He states that top-level task of all members is to earn wisdom upon completing an exploit in which he has freedom of movement using self-sufficient means. Execution of all exploits must be done poetically.

And while endeavoring in an exploit, members should remember the Viking-Poet Club dictum: "Become who you are!"

I slipped it into fifth gear going down a hill and curving through a small village passing a huge temple painted with green dragons, and Gods holding their long beards in their hand. We stopped there to refuel.

"Anything you want to say about exploits before I move on to the next chapter in the handbook?" I asked.

"Well, yes. Some basic stuff. First, what is an exploit? It is an act or a deed, especially a brilliant or heroic one, from the Old French word esploit. In Latin it is explicitum, neutral past participle of explicare, which means to unfold. The verb of explicare is explicate: to make clear the meaning of; explain. To unfold. So you see an exploit is an action whereby something unfolds that also explains, perhaps something about the character or the nature of the deed. Regardless, at the end of every exploit is something gained and explained."

"That's not in the book."

"No, I didn't put definitions in the book. It's too time-consuming."

"Anything else?"

"Well, yes. Every exploit needs a primary objective that serves to satisfy one of man's natural instincts. When perpetrating the steps toward the completion of your primary objective, it should be executed with the utmost incorporation of your own style that can be interpreted as ‘poetic motion.' When completed each exploit should yield wisdom, a moral or enlightenment that you can apply to the rest of your days. As an absolute master you should tackle exploits that yield insights that you can use to paint your canvas."

"Life as a work of art. As in painting on a canvas?"

"Indeed. Strong strokes of the brush." When his tank was full, he screwed on the cap and parked beside the temple. There was a large Buddha in the middle of the temple with incense burning.

"What I call the key to the Viking-Poet Club that all prospective members are told is: all individuals are given the same opportunity to live a life that is extraordinary."

"That's the key. What's the first principle? I think I remember reading that there was something about a first principle." We stood beside each other looking at Buddha.

"The marrow of strength is born from the healthy expression of instincts. That's the first principle, though I like to think it's to promote ones originality at all costs." He looked like he was making a comment about a pebble in his shoe. "See, there is an art to be had in all aspects of living, so that all Viking seekers are artists in how they do what they choose to do. Flourishment of self comes from the self-affirming enjoyment of overcoming obstacles that litter our path."

"That's very proactive of you," I said. "Doesn't it also say somewhere that the first warning to members is: always beware of time-stealers."

"You did read it. I was hoping you had."

"What exactly is a time-stealer then?" We both moved into opposite corners of the temple courtyard, he stroked his chin and pondered a definition.

"Time can be defined as a period during which something (as an action, process or condition) exists or continues: an interval comprising a limited and continuous action, condition, or state of being; measured or measurable duration. So you could say a time-stealer is something that takes away potential action." Doppel seemed to find this of interest. "I suppose one could also say time is a unit of duration as a basis of poetic meter."

"I would say it is the length of the period required for or consumed in performing an action," I added.

"Ah! In the words of Henri Bergson: ‘...life is a matter of time rather than of space, it is not position, it is change; it is not quantity so much as quality; it is not a mere redistribution of matter and motion, it is fluid and persistent creation.'"

"An exploit as a creative endeavor."

"Exactly!"

"Speaking of rescue action." We both bowed at Buddha at the same moment.

&

Out on the road the turns were tight because as the landscape didn't allow for wide berth, tall bamboo shoots sprouted in every given space, steepness a sight of awe. In the middle of nowhere was a village built around a creek with small homes supported by concrete stilts dangling over the water. Vegetation thick off the road, ferns so tall they look like palm trees; even the most zealous jungle trekkers couldn't penetrate the foliage. But it was the roar of the water under the overhanging concrete homes that made it so unique.

Down the road and over a ridge we found an odd sight. Nestled atop one of the tallest mountains was a university, a colony of academia perched in the middle of the range. We rode up to the school but couldn't see anyone.

"When one yearns for peace and quiet, quiet can be very quiet," he said. "For someone who is a tad scared of heights, this has to be the highest university in the world."

"It's a far cry from the atmosphere of a big American school with its fraternities and pub crawls."

"This is monastic solitude."

Hua Fan University was built in the plain functional style indigenous to the Chinese, resolute in its purpose to indulge in the art of teaching. What was most striking was its remoteness.

"What do students do up here?" The dorms were quiet and halls barren, a stagnant pond unmanicured, like a ghost town. We sat on the small terrace and looked out to the expansive mountaintops. 

"Recently built, it's here for the overflow of students from the island," said Doppel. "It's for all those students who didn't get into one of the big ones around Taipei. Only 30 percent of those who graduate from high school get into post-secondary education. There simply aren't enough schools."

"I guess you'd either excel in this noiseless setting or go crazy."

"That's why the keen ones study English, to try to get into one of the under-attended schools in the West."

"Or this one. Leave it to the Chinese to build here. They seem to be a very determined race."

"No one can ever accuse them of not being industrious. May not have the cream of the crop but they might nurture a philosopher or poet or two. Hiking could enliven the instincts."

"Indeed."

"'Life is short, but truth works far and lives long; let us speak the truth,' to quote Schopenhauer."

"Didn't he also say ‘symmetry is rhythm standing still?'"

"I'll take your word for it," he said.

"You mentioned instincts. How exactly would you define ‘instinct?'" I could tell definitions were tough for him because he took them so seriously.

"Instinct is a natural or inherent aptitude, tendency, impulse, or capacity. As an adjective its to instigate, to incite; impelled by an inner or animating or exciting agency; profoundly imbued instigation; to implant as animating power. Instincts are largely hereditary and unalterable."

"A blueprint for behavior."

"That goes back millennia. Sure. The instinct in man is what governs our behavior during our earliest years of development. And it should continue to aid in more complex decision-making in adulthood. It's a suitcase full of inclinations that contain an entire system of built-in action. An integral part of our biology."

"And you argue in your book that the repression of instinct is the source of all psychological problems."

"True. Man today, who I refer to in the book as ‘the 21st-century man,' epitomizes that repression of instinct. Ignores his instinct; thinks it's base. That really gets my goat."

"Yes, there's a chapter about that in your piece."

"The 21st-century man thinks mountain bikes are for children and thinks anything to do with the ‘spirit' or ‘philosophy' is a form a mental instability!"

"Ignores all that he doesn't understand and hasn't read a novel since high school." Doppel nodded.

"Measures his life as a countdown to cashing in his pension."

"Fluent in the games people play with each other using deception and manipulation."

"Always follows rules. Believes everything he reads in the newspapers."

"Completely unable to understand the ‘NOW' in time." This one made us laugh finally.

"Lives in constant fear of the unplanned, like a typhoon."

"Or earthquake."

"Avoids debates. Distrusts those of higher education."

"Has never gone through the metamorphosis of boy to man."

"Does not have any opinion that differs from the general consensus. Prefers to follow rather than lead. Acts primarily to please others."

"Regards his time as something to get through and endured rather than to be valued and enjoyed."

"Measures all activities in monetary terms first, and thinks instinct is the urge of lust."

"Believes Affirmative Action is fair." That broke him up. When he was laughing it was the first time the deep sadness of my condition hit me. How I would miss this.

"Sounds like we both know who we're talking about."

Just then a helicopter flew overhead.

"It's flying in the direction of Puli," he said, checking his compass on his wristwatch. "I think we're close to Wushe." The sun falling into the west sky.

"Where are we staying tonight?" I put on my wool sweater.

"Who knows? We'll play it by ear."

We eased out the clutch at the same time but he took the lead.

 
 &

Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams,

Now I wash the gum from your eyes,

You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light &

of every moment of your life. - Whitman
 
 

Chapter Ten

&

When I awoke I saw the towering wall of rock stretching hundreds of feet to the sky, I knew I had made it to God's country. I sat up looking around at my home for the night, the morning air pungent and invigorating. The early light of the canyon when birds were busy looking for food and dew made the grass sluggish, I went to river where the rock face retreated on both sides and widened into a flat area. I worked the stiffness from my left knee and my clutch hand and looked down river speechless by its picture-postcard setting.

"To think of what we would have lost if we stayed in an apartment this weekend," said Doppel, who had walked over. It said something about his Carpe Diem philosophy, like the cold fact that we had traveled over 900km through mountains and tunneled-paths in the gorge just to be here. Made my surroundings even more special that it was.

"Yes, it would have been a loss."

"Opportunity cost and all that. Better for the canvas. And better for ones objectivity."

"How's that?"

"Objectivity is derived from a multiplication of subjective experiences. The more varied experience that is accumulated, the better one can be objective. The more objective, the better time utility."

"That's very Nietzschean of you," I said.

"In the context of Western thought, there is a massive oversight many academics have in factoring in the centrality of time in their philosophical arguments. The problem with rules with regard for time is seldom addressed, Henri Bergson being the exception. Think of the few students who studied philosophy, not to regurgitate for good marks, to learn it well and apply it to their lives. They made the time to learn. They became philosophers precisely because they recognized how time can be manhandled."

I had sat down on a rock and was now putting on a fresh pair of wool socks.

"I can see you have thought a lot about this."

"As far as I see it, it was Kant's fault. His a priori intuition of time and space had been overlooked ‘as a given,' which caused scholars to construct their theories on a foundation that did not move, that is, had zero consideration for the finite nature of time in every individual's life, particularly revealing when seen in terms of a young child, old man or man in his prime but afflicted somehow and crippled in some way from the gravity of time."

"The gravity of time, not the gravity of mass."

"Every thinking person can recognize that they don't exist in a vacuum of time immune from the demands of life. Truth is a function of time." Doppel sat across from me changing his socks and then I spotted a puppy coming out of the woods covered in burrs, ears back and wagging its tail. Helpless, abandoned and alone in the world, the puppy was struggling to survive in an environment where it could easily perish. We looked around for its master but found no one. That's when Doppel went up to it and began patting it. The thing was so excited that it couldn't remain still.

"It's a unity of flapping appendages," he said. Demonstrated its warmth to a kind hand. "Perhaps the All-Knowing One in the Sky has His hand in this chance meeting? It was sleeping by the river like us." Easy to see the combination of intelligence and curiosity in its green eyes lit by the morning sun.

"I can't take you home doggy," he said.

"Take him home! A thousand kilometers in your knapsack?"

"You worry too much. If it's meant to be then it's meant to be. And if so, then there's a way to take him home with us. Good doggy." Doppel's compassion found fertile ground to focus. He picked some of the burrs off his coat.

"He's a good doggy."

"See, the allocation of time in terms of stopping to check out an old fort or to save a dying puppy versus passing up the opportunity because it took away from the time it would take to complete the exploit is an important decision. To have the wisdom from life that can guide you to a decision that would weigh the loss of experience and knowledge by stopping to explore the fort or save the puppy, with the hour saved from not stopping. It is this decision-making ability that should be nurtured for the sake of a richer and fuller life to combat against regret from missed opportunities that we all must face when exiting life.

"Combat against missed opportunities." That's precisely it.

"It is where wisdom shows its worth."

"So then you'd like to save the puppy?"

"Well, I don't think it's that easy. I want to go check out one part of the gorge we missed last night. It's only about a half hour up the road, but I want to see it in the daylight."

"So let's go there first."

He looked at the doggy by the edge of the forest. "I'm making a deal with the Great Teacher in the Sky that when we return from checking out that part of the gorge, I will consider it a sign from Him that I should save the puppy from hunger, fleas and death." Looking at the small animal from his motorcycle a few feet away, he said: "It's not the best looking doggy I have seen, but it does appear to have a lot of soul."

After warming up the engines wet left the little puppy there and moved back west up Toroko Gorge about 5km where there was a place to stop and watch the water take a corner between two tunnels and a bridge.

"Really is quite majestic. I'm glad we came. I don't know about you but whenever I ride through a place that's unusual or exotic I always think I'll be back again one day but I never do." Stood against the fence and was sprayed with splashing clay water.

"Nietzsche believed that man lives only one life - the only life he has - and that when he dies he doesn't go to heaven or hell, but lives his already-lived life over and over for eternity," I said.

"Yes, the theory about the Eternal Recurrence."

"What do you think about that?"

"The afterlife is a tricky one."

"What's brilliant about eternal recurrence is that because you live your life over and over again forever, the importance of what you choose to do in this life has much more significance than if you believe in an afterlife where you can live again. We will relive this moment here in the gorge."

"It's good time-utility. Time commands respect for what it can do for you. To treat time profitably is to enhance its value. Derive gain through the beneficial application of time and you have spent well."

When I put my hand through my hair I found it soaking wet from the spray. A drop of water fell dripped off the tip of my nose. Doppel was right: this was a good brushstroke on the canvas. Red swirls in the rock face like cherry cheesecake ice cream.

"The symbolism of a new front tire has not been lost to me," he said wiping his beard. "I interpret this as a new chapter in the life stages of development." Taking a bandana out from his bag He wrapped it around his head. It was also his language to say it was time to move.

Following in the tradition of Plato's notion of justice of the soul, Doppel stoically adhered to all deals he made with the Creator. Therefore, when we again passed by the riverside place where we had slept under the moon, he turned down the small path towards the river to see if the puppy was still there. I could tell from his body English that he was doubtful he would be there.

"The dog could have gone anywhere," he said, making a move to leave. But he caught sight of the little puppy emerging from a shaded area under some trees.

"Good doggy."" I knew from the wagging tail and the pulled-back ears that Doppel would be its savior. It was what God wanted him to have as if booty from the farthest point we had traveled. In Doppel's world, the dog offering fit squarely into the spirit of fair play between him and the White-bearded Gentleman in the Skies Above.

But by keeping his word he made with Him, Doppel now faced the puzzle as to how he was going to transport the puppy nearly a thousand kilometers along the coast across the mountains on Route 106 to his place just outside Taipei. After considering the feasibility of carrying it in his knapsack or balanced on his gas tank, he calculated that the best place was balanced on his gas tank.


 
 
 
 


 
 
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