LXII. Similarities

by | Aug 25, 2015 | Opus Magnum

windowOnce upon a time I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.

For us, pure rounded eyed people known through eastern lands as westerners, that yellow race forged by imperial rulers and decrepit sages; that race of men and women with a slanted sight of the world, sick of rice and noodles and pasta, tortured by the infinite boiling bubbles; a chopsticked society doomed by a never-ending wall and a lack of facial hair that embarrasses probably God himself; those masters of the copy and followers of the randomness that orderly reigns within the I Ching; that colourless feature that bonds a number of nations together and some despicable noises that are called languages and they don’t even know how many are there, nor what there implies – those…(due to reasons of space, we are forced to resume the introitus of this account) Chinese, Taiwanese, Koreans, Malaysians… are part of a multinational conglomerate whose faces look to us unfailingly the same – an oriental déjà vu. I have yet to find a single westerner who could tell me at first sight, when shown a picture of Bruce Lee and another of Jet Li, who was who. Failure, due to his lack of imagination, is an appropriate word to describe the creator of the yellow folk. Indeed, creator with a c.

The curious thing about these undeniable facts is that for those who are Asians, we westerners look all alike. If the reader feels or thinks or even believes that this assertion could be, might be or is true, please read the first paragraph inverting oriental for westerners, and yellow for the colour of your preference – do not forget to choose two very well known actors for similarity purposes.

With the purpose of adding more spice to the debate (please, do abstain from reading the whole story if you suffer from IBS or a particular sensitivity towards any form of spicy foods), the incredible and enigmatic[1] Danish anthropologist Stellan Pers Skarsgaard, does not believe that the previously mentioned facial identicality to be a scientific fact. In order to prove and reconfirm his denial, he cites an unscrutinised and sole case in the whole history of the earth’s nations. A case that will blow your fucking mind. A case that, once discovered, has been never shared out of fear, and out of paper.

We read an entry written on a train ticket that once took Stellan Pers Skarsgaard from København to Berlin:

“In the remote province of Ming, within the Pang region, near the Tang river, where there reigns (prevails) the Emperor Tab Tea Chow, all the inhabitants are identical to each other. There is just a sole archetype of a woman (if I may use such an expression) and one of a man. The rest are nothing but perfect Chinese-like imitations of the previously mentioned original: just as it happens with the universe, where any given point is the centre; here, the perceived one is the original, and the others his or her copies. The skins are invariably yellow, with no beard among the masculine population.

“Of course it is indeed impossible to check and investigate such a basic and monotonous model of human breed; that constant and unique path towards the beginning of the species has been lightly obliterated through the force of habit and lack of difference: thus the memory skills have almost completely perished: remembrance needs diversity in its incessant comparative games.

“A single depiction of their very own Adam or primordial Male survives in the Emperor’s main chamber. Surprisingly, it does not look like any random inhabitant of this predictable land. The pattern did start somewhere in the past, but the lack of exercise is beginning to prove devastating for the memory (ailment that apparently was already starting to affect the writer himself). I assume that the identicality of bodily features is to be blamed for such an obscure and ignored past. It is this very characteristic of identicality which transforms the reminiscent work, that privative exercise of the memory, in a much more laborious and perhaps impossibly worthless one. It – the product that Lethe carries in its waters – operates and survives through (and thanks to) differences, variations, nuances, shades; creativities that are omitted in this flat and monochromatic region. It is as if the lack of mnemonic work not only fed, but somehow produced this dreadful lack of aesthetic dynamics; I am afraid that soon enough all things will start to look alike, influenced through osmosis: an evolution towards a living, human, and multiple (but double) Ying and Yang. The sum of all reductions.

“Could I be affected merely by the registering of my findings?[2]

“These identicalities (I do refrain myself from using the term equality, because it would eventually imply some sort of difference) are so notorious and overwhelming that each day implies constant and tedious troubles that could be easily avoided if a slight alteration were to be applied on the very source; problems that are still being studied and scrutinised in order to find a stable and feasible solution.

“A simple example of such common aporeia so the reader might get into climate (It is going to get colder, so you better get a jacket):

“The usual act of watching oneself (whoever that self might be or belongs to, yet let us assume it is a masculine inhabitant of the Province of Ming) in the mirror is an instant source of distress for the soul and a puzzling activity for the mind: the futile and vain attempt to try to recognise the reflecting image as his own, and not as if it belonged to another fellow countryman of the Province of Ming. To accept and perceive that the reflection is the very self that was yesterday, and fatefully will be so tomorrow or the next time, when the unknown face shall duplicate itself (among thousands of times throughout the day) in the mirror – a mirror that is becoming half of the province of Ming.

“In a way, to look at another man is to look into a mirror[3]. A precarious habit that in this region provokes distressing confusions, sometimes leading the way to panic-attacks, sometimes in the form of faints, sometimes in painful and sweaty haemorrhoids. The most extreme cases are those where the personality and all its fragmented selves are lost in an unreachable realm of oblivion; the person who was once known and loved and despised ceases to be, thus leaving behind an inert, nameless body that is only able to perform bureaucratic tasks .

“Another illustrative example is the bizarre occurrence that took place within the matrimony conformed by Pan and Sung. Pan wakes up at seven in the morning everyday, even on Sundays, and heads to the bathroom at once so he can shave his shaggy – yet fake – beard, which is typically seen in those ill-fated yellows that quench their thirst in the sweet watery river Tang, in the province of Ming. Such a fake facial hairy tactic started as a doomed attempt to create some kind of different physical pattern within the masculine population: moustaches, beards, prop materials made primarily of horse hair and human pubic hair. Needless to say that it did not work at all: within the hour, all male Mingeans were suffering the same type of beard despite being convinced, at least during the first seconds, that they were actually not.

“Pan, the routinous fake bearded man, looks at himself in the mirror without really being able to assure himself whether the reflective image belongs to him or not; he looks at the woman sleeping on the bed – his wife Sung – in an anxious attempt to create an anchor, a fixed referential point; suddenly the mnemonic blur operates, and now he fails to remember if she was his – that woman he took by the arm during yesternight as a street rough-house was being ignited: and at that precise moment, losing the anchor forever like a ship doomed to everlasting movement due to the rust of its chain, he stops knowing for sure if it is he the beholder, Pan, the grey man of accountancy, or if it is his wife Sung[4], or any other mistaken woman.

“At this point we hope it is already clear for the reader that, when Pan looks at the bed, he ignores whether it is he who is awake and is witnessing her sleep, or it is she who is the observer and he the dreamer of such a bizarre situation. (The extrapolation could continue ad infinitum by asking the reader if you know for certain that you are not Pan, or Sung, or simply yourself being a character within a story read by both of them before slumber seizes them.)

“Cases such as this can be abundantly found in the overflowed cabinets of the Ming Identity Police.

“Due to the difficulties which can surely be easily imagined, the Emperor, after several experimental failures and false rulers that have been suffered throughout the centuries (some innocent, others guilty of identity theft), has been left to resort to a method that even today proves infallible in preventing such confusional excesses within the palatial realms; though it is fair to say that the actual Emperor does not remember who the originator of the method was: whether if it was a commitment he accepted, or a product of a logic construction, or even something suggested by a chief counsellor of his whose name has already been thousands:

“Each Emperor, especially after the disappearance of the Great Gri Xion Ghul – though some still swear that he is alive and running an exotic fruit tent-store in the Sunday popular market – is to have at his entire disposal a troupe of Tibetan monks, exclusively and thoroughly trained to repeat during those hours in which the supreme ruler decides to remain awake – if indeed can be stated that there ever was or is a fully awaken human in this realm, or perhaps in any other – that monotonous and piercing chant: You are yourself, O beloved Emperor (the name of the ruler), and not the man who is watching thee. O, Sun of Ming!

“Other sources claim that the chant is as follows: You are yourself, O beloved Emperor, and not the beholder, O, Sun and Thunder of Ming!

“And even fewer ones assert that the chant goes like this: You are yourself, O beloved Emperor, and not the man who is watching thee. O, Sun of Ming!

“There is also another special elite group that was brought from and trained in Siberia: it works in the same fashion by serving the law and order forces. The leitmotiv is a similar one: the constant and tedious remembrance chant of the original identity. The characteristic wardrobe of these rememberers resembles certain eagles that dwell in the Andes and in the mystic Tiahuanaco, Bolivia.

“And even fewer ones assert that the chant goes like this: You are yourself, O beloved Emperor, and not the man who is watching thee. O, Sun of Ming!

“Yet, the tenacity of those past, present and probable future inhabitants of Ming who have, are and will ever tread the ancestral grounds throughout their entire history, is quite remarkable indeed; futile, yes, but the passion and almost naïve[5] fervour that fuels them in order to overcome such difficulty, is nonetheless worthy of appraisal.

“Like those thieves and rogues who skillfully manage to pose as another ordinary citizen or as a policeman or a famous politician – despite the fact that in some cases it would prove a living tautology – in order, for instance, to avoid a civil penalty or a graver one; criminals who confuse the judge by making him believe that the accused is not Ping, but Pang, thus instantly walking free of charge – or by taking the magistrate’s place, and by purposely inducing the innocent to believe in his or her own faked guilt, they incarcerate the very judge at once; and an endless (though not infinite) number of accidents that the reader’s imagination will allow them to construct.

“Despite the highest of secrecies surrounding the Emperor’s chanting theme previously mentioned in this racconto, the usual leaks inevitably did take place: and today one can hear some sort of varied melody and lyrics combination in every corner of every street within the Ming province; but soon the novelty shall predictably become a never-ending repetition of supposed diverse versions of the same flawed yet identical imitation; the arts are being already touched – harassed – by the oblivion plague.

“The very same concept of plagiarism is slowly being erased from the codes of the supreme imperial law. With artists unable to work on nuances, details, or a simple comma, flagrant copies are being justified everywhere: even the word Yeng Sio which implies a certain form of original creation using scissors and cardboard, is being slowly banished from the new editions of the most popular dictionaries; such word is being replaced by Yeng Sio, which means: a certain form of original creation; the future update is rumoured to be: Yengo Sio: certain identical variations of a forgotten unique source.

“The capitalist West, with its inexhaustible greed, never ceases to look for business opportunities; the computer software corporation that is not as clean as its brand name might suggest, is trying to take advantage of such an oblivious land by launching to the local consumerism frenzy a device (our sources claim that its outer form has not yet been determined) that would allow the confused Yellow to continuously observe his or her own life, thus refreshing his/her identity in order to keep the risk of forgetting oneself quiet afar.

“Several are the names that are being whispered; perhaps Windows to your Life might be the one that shall linger on in the end[6].

“The clothing is a matter of definitive importance due to the clarity and divisiveness it provides; it has been recently proposed that each family should wear a unique type of wardrobe: that is, one for the females, another for the males. The creator’s motto says: If there is room for confusion, let that be within the family[7]. In this manner, the feared ad infinitum effect shall be restricted.

“But there was still a tiny detail that had not been yet perceived: some scientists realized what it was all about, and started to work on a subtle variation of the previously postulated idea. Its success has been proved to be uneven, but the statistical projections are encouraging. Simplicity might be a form of genius, and the simplest of ideas is proving to be resistant, not only for the identical Mingeans, but also for the brutal entrepreneurial lobby that is thundering above it.

“The mechanic is fair and easy: each member of the family must write his or her name and the colour of the shirt being worn, on a piece of paper; yet this can be done only after agreeing on each one’s own identity within the family nucleus. Once this has been correctly performed, the shirts shall only be changed if the switch is registered on paper.

“The first set of experiments, which involved 10.000 different families, showed a rate of success of 47.9%. The second experiment was expanded to 10.000 different families: the test proved to be an even better source of success, by reaching an astonishing 47.9% of effectiveness.

“The last – and more ambitious – project, is involving the incredible sum of 10.000 different families, and so far its phenomenal success reaches an spectacular 47.9% of joyous effectiveness.

“The clothing is a matter of definitive importance due to the clarity and divisiveness they provide; it has been recently proposed that each family should wear a unique type of wardrobe: that is, one for the females, another for the males. The creator’s motto says: If there is room for confusion, let that be within the family (5). In this manner, the feared ad infinitum effect shall be restricted.

“My very eyes still refuse to believe the reality of the generous and sensual forms which belong to a woman who just happened to sit by my side, thus transporting me to a field of lavender and musk[8].

“Among other various bizarre methods of remembrance, some chic bracelets are succeeding in an unprecedented (the use of such timely term should not be trusted) and unpredicted way. These arm flourishments come in many colours and provide essential descriptive information of the wearer in question: name, height, sex – whether he practices it with a respectable frequency or not –, gender, favourite Ghog team (traditional ball game similar to the Argentine pato but played whilst riding camels instead of horses, and replacing the stuffed duck used in the Pampas game with a giant Panda bear), and the preferred laterality of the bearer of the bracelet.

“The actual Emperor, Tab Tea Chow, enthusiastic about this option, might be planning to make a strategic agreement with the technological enterprise commonly related to the first Man and the forbidden fruit, which is Adam; which is the Apple, in order to destroy that windowed competitor.

“The last suggested company, which is Adam; which is Apple, could be developing a system to be included inside the memorious bracelets: a bar code and its necessary and complementary scanner (easily hidden inside a regular pocket), devised to help the scarce, valiant and circumstantial successful tourists – by successful we mean that handful of tourists who each year manage to leave the Province of Ming with at least a trace of a memory of an almost forgotten self – who, assisted by the necessary scanner and the input-code placed inside of the bracelet, will be able to recognize each Ming native as they enjoy their tours and walks alongside the beautiful river Tang, whilst retaining the threatened memory of the self and its fragmented nature; it is rumoured that the bracelet-scanner project has been set in motion some years ago within the local community.

“This technological aid would not only enhance the good vibe in the air, but allow proper and profitable business to be made without massive confusion and the subsequent loss of profits, besides lightening the obvious and ever growing population problems and those related to public health care, pensions, etc.

“It is also suspected that both the increased easiness to recognise the locals and the reduced risk of forgetting about oneself will immediately impact on the number of tourists in the region: an 8000% rise in those figures is to be expected.

“As a natural and logical result to the implementation of such an wristy-army device, it is easily inferred that proper and profitable business deals shall multiply in the same way as tourism figures: a rise of 8000% is to be expected.

“The name of the scanner is yet to be delivered, but anonymous sources within the capital city of the province of Ming within the region of Pang, whisper that it would be Nano Ming-Pod Chop Suey: with a simple click, the complete profile of the Mingean (a native to Ming) in question will appear on the tourist’s (or local) hand (or feet, if he or she happens to be, by the force of fate or laziness of chance, handless) in order to stop a probable and plausible eternal déjà vu.

“Before the invention of both the scanning device and bar-coded bracelet, and even previous to the creation of the memorious chanters who actually serve the present Emperor Tab Tea Chow, who, by the way, has enjoyed such an intoned help from the very beginning of his rule that around 97.365.945 citizens have occupied, within the duration of a fortnight, the throne of the vast kingdom of Ming; mayhem that was naturally caused by this incredible mnemonic problem.

“Conspiracy theories are still feeding the paranoid belief that the actual installed Emperor is not the one chosen through the divine right of blood, but simply another Mingean who by the force both of predictability and chance (which is just another word for fate), looks exactly the same to the confused and real Emperor, who no longer is who the people believe him to be.

“Some days after the possibility had been uttered through the media, all arguments, even those which were the exact opposite, started to aim at the same direction, and soon, consensus was absolute: the singers are the only ones to be trusted; their effectiveness is held in high esteem precisely because their faces have never been seen, nor their names uttered, nor their personal stories retold.

“The inclusion of the bracelet and scanner will enormously facilitate the task of those who are expected to carry out the first complete census of the region of Pang as well: something that for the moment proved to be impossible and utopian. The last attempted (and failed) population count was impossible to be finalised given the variations of the numbers found in every report submitted by the royal employees; these tentative figures ended up being as dissimilar as the numbers 2 and two. Each worker provided an estimated number of partial inhabitants that was 47,9% higher than the one presented by the previous royal employee; at the end of the year that it took the supposed authorities in charge of the census to make sense of the whole enterprise, they could neither establish an approximate number of inhabitants in the region of Pang nor could they gauge the number of census workers involved in the disastrous counting endeavour; gold is still coming out of the national treasury as more and more citizens are claiming their wages for the (un)performed census work.

“If you, dear reader, care to know how those cursed yellow folks look like, find a portrait of Ming’s best known prodigal son: that of the philosopher Confusion.”

This text was the last living thing found after the disappearance of Stellan Pers Skarsgaard. He never reached the Berlin HauptBanhof. Instead, he descended at Nykøbing Falster Station, as Sigurd Bjornsson, entrepreneur and bon vivant from Malmö, leaving his anthropological life in the third coach of the Danske Statsbaner Train, trapped in an ignored loop made of oblivion and identicalities.



[1]           Such an enigma still is, paradoxically, enigmatic.

[2]           It had already occurred in the first paragraph.

[3]           Reality does forge art; an example of this is given by the aspirational author and Austrian philosopher Ruckhart Ellot, who after spending several meditative years in the province of Ming, within the region of Pang, wrote: to love is to recognize the other in yourself, to then become that other, who is none but oneself. Quoted from his Die Kunst des Lebens und Photokopie.

[4]           We must infer that the written example refers to a couple of homosexual men, or a couple in which the roles had not been precisely defined, or to simply inhabitants who were unaware of the common archetypes (Ed.).

[5]           It can be argued that ignorance is required for such remarkable enterprises; Columbus had really no idea about the reality that finally sailed him.

[6]           For a contemporary allusion to these account, please watch the movie Fifty First Dates, starring Adam Sandler and at least forty two actresses that look exactly like Drew Barrimore (Ed.).

[7]           If there is room for confusion, let that be within the family; and the comic variation: if there is room for Confucius, let him be with the family.

[8]           Remember that we are aboard the train destined to Berlin.





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