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My Daughter’s Lack Of Essence

photo-3 copyThis morning my daughter was a dog. She walked around my apartment on all fours. She barked, she growled, and she wagged her tail. She panted with joy when I tickled her belly. She took great delight in being scratched behind the ears. And when she was a good girl, I tossed her a treat that she gobbled up without using her paws. She was a dog. Literally.

Some of you may take issue with me saying she was literally a dog. Of course what I mean is that she was acting like a dog. No. That is not what I mean. I mean she was a dog. A dog is “any carnivore of the family Canidae, having prominent canine teeth and, in the wild state [of which my daughter most certainly belongs], a long and slender muzzle, a deep-chested muscular body, a bushy tail, and large, erect ears.” And that’s exactly what my daughter was, for a time, this morning. She was black with a couple white spots. I wanted to name her Rufus Wainwright  but her name was Old Clementine. Don’t ask me. I’m just the messenger.

If you refuse to believe she was really a dog, you’re assessing her nature from your reified human perspective and not from the dog’s (my daughter’s) perspective. There’s a lot of fluff written about how wonderful children are, how they can teach us so many things, and how delightful it is to experience life through the eyes of a child. The reason I call it fluff is because it’s all written as if adults know how things really are, the authorities of the real, while the silly little children provide us with whimsical little vacations from the business of reality. Because they say the darndest things.

I beg to differ. I think we have it backwards. I think the fantasy of children is more reallier real than the rigid fantasy of adulthood that the lot of us mistake for real. What my daughter understands, what most of us have forgotten, is that the essence of being human is that there is no essence. For a long time (a couple thousand years) the essence of human beings was believed to be located in our rationality. Our essence has been up in the air for awhile but I think it’s lately located in our ability to use language. I’ve lost track, which is a good thing because the fact is that it just ain’t there. We are essentially nothing, leading to the startling realization that we might be anything.

A dog, for instance. Or a frog or a butterfly or – eek – even a princess. I’ve seen my daughter be a rock. I love it when my daughter’s a rock because she’s a damn good one and I can get a lot of work done when she’s being a good rock. My daughter has done time being a cat, a bird, a cow, and I’ve listened in on her having entire conversations with her bicycle. She has tea parties with a host of polite animals. My daughter talks to dead people. She is often dead herself. And then she drives to work where she is sometimes a runway model and sometimes an art teacher.

I’ve watched my son “grow up” while still satisfying his need for fantasy (we all need fantasy) by projecting it into books, movies, and video games. And soon my daughter will follow, which is heartbreaking and necessary. Yes. I confess. It’s necessary. But only because growing up is the dumb thing that all of us are duped into believing it is: reasonable and static. Remaining in our imaginal essence, what we really are (nothing and everything), has the insane designation of being insane. But we all, secretly and all the time, imagine that we’re something else. Permission to be so is our collective dragon to slay. Bring your imagination. And don’t forget your sword.

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