Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Nothing 4

Ben sat on the floor. He was still, his legs folded in front of him, his back leaning against the front of the couch. It was a cool night. Cool air streamed in from the open window, smelling piney like some plant outside. He watched the plant on the shelf across from him. It was a little bigger already, full and happy from more regular waterings. Its leaves stood out straight, plump and very green, a kind of green that seemed to contain thoughts or intention. Ben had never seen anything look so alive. Tinges of red at the tip of the leaves where they twisted upwards and towards the window, tinges of red along the stem as it split apart, joined together, sunk into the brown dirt. Part of the plant was down there, too, where you couldn’t see it and didn’t think about it, but it was just as much part of the plant as the part you could see.

Ben wondered if plants were more alive than people. That’s why we eat them, right? To get their life out of them. He wondered what part of himself was made of plant, which cells were made of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, how had that greenness reshaped itself to become part of him. And what part of him was onions. And beans—they were plants, too. Even the pasta was plants, wheat, grasses feeding on the sun and dirt. He was all made of plants. He basically was a plant. Even the air blowing through the window, scenting the room like sap was made of plants. And those plants were going into his nose and into his lungs and becoming part of him.

Then Ben understood that there wasn’t a real separation between him and the plant. That separation was an illusion. But there was a continuity—plant, air, dirt, sun, human—all in a constant process of exchange, the way the cells in his body passed nutrients and fluids to each other, redistributed them from the part that had more to the part that had less. That was the same with him and the plant, who were sharing the same air, redistributing the oxygen and carbon dioxide in a manner that would keep both of them, him and the plant, alive.

He wondered which of them would die first—him or the plant. But he also thought: it doesn’t matter. If he and the plant were part of one thing that contained not only themselves but billions of other plants and animals and people and cells and molecules, then it didn’t matter whether he died or the plant died, any more than it mattered when one of his cells died. It was just like people said: you live on in the lives of others. That had always just been a thing people said, but now, sitting on his living room floor on a cool summer evening, it made sense.

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