Paperclip Philosophy

Paperclip Philosophy

I hadn’t thought about the “Path of Philosophy” in months, but when Alex told me that he dreamt about the crazy man years before it happened, I realized that something spiritual really had taken place that day.

The snow was falling in hundred yen clumps when we arrived at the Utano Youth Hostel. I didn’t expect it to snow in Japan, but it did. The hostel was way out in the country. It was a relief to get away from the neon jungles and Blade Runner sights that most of Japan offered. I could finally get down with that Shinto philosophy of “being one with nature.” The countryside was incredibly different from the big cities. It felt eerie. So still, so quiet. The rest of Japan was fast and bright and screaming with motion. The countryside was calm. Ancient and cryptic.

I’d been in Japan for a couple of weeks with my brother, Michael, and his girlfriend, Erin. We went to Kyoto to check out the ancient temples that have survived for thousands of years. Temples that Buddhists would spend their entire savings to make pilgrimages to. Temples where monks still lived and worshipped in an ancient Buddhist lifestyle. Temples where stupid American tourists didn’t “get it.”

And so here we were, in the snow, just outside of Kyoto. The snow started falling when we arrived, or so I’d like to think, and stopped when we made it to the path. But before visiting that relic, we went to the temples.

The temples were beautiful and frozen. Virgin snow lay in the pillowed gardens, long rounded icicles hung from frosted miniature cherry trees. Everything felt white. White and clean. The temples looked like a wedding cake or something, like you could just eat the crystal plants and bamboo, the icy sculptures, and candied pagodas, the sleepy carp in the glassy ponds (well, I guess you could eat the carp). The temples were huge playgrounds.

But it wasn’t just the temples that were amazing. The “Path of Philosophy” was the attraction that changed my life. The five-mile path was constructed hundreds of years ago and winds its way alongside a small scenic stream. Some legend says that while you walk along the path, you should think of questions and at the end of the stream you will find the answers. I thought that this sounded like a good idea, besides this was the perfect opportunity to get in with nature. I started the big hike, and kept trying to find a question to think about, but just couldn’t concentrate. The noise from my boots in the snow reminded me of crushing aluminum cans. I couldn’t get the sound out of my head, the vibration out of my feet. I doubted that I’d gain anything from the path, but I kept trying. At last we made it to the end of the path and stream. I never got an answer to the question that I couldn’t think of. I felt let down and pissed off.

The bus ride back to the hostel was really crowded and I had to sit by myself in a single seat, while Michael and Erin sat together across the aisle a few rows back. I was thinking about the path when I started to fall asleep. But before I was out of it, I heard someone giggling. I looked up at the people standing in the aisle. There was a guy up front staring at me. He was about 35 years old I guess, and wearing greasy navy blue overalls. Most of the people in Japan were not used to seeing Caucasians. They’d stare at me all the time. I was used to it, and there really wasn’t anything unusual about it, except, this guy was different. He started giggling in girl pitches. Then started to hum a little song, “doo dooo doo do dooooooo, heeeehiieeee.” I ignored him, closed my eyes and dropped my head on the headrest in front of me.

I started to dream that I was at the barbershop, and the stylist was tightening the apron around my neck. I could feel the lotion-filled pores of his fingers as he snapped the metal button into place. Just having the apron constricting my neck is usually enough to make me uncomfortable, but this time the metallic freon button was sending shivers through my spine.

My brother yelled at me. I woke up not knowing what was going on hearing Michael screaming in English, “Hey! Hey man, what the fuck are you doing?! Wake up, wake up!” I was mad as hell at him for yelling at me, and I turned a sourpuss face across the aisle towards him when I heard Erin scream something in Japanese, “Akemashte Omedito!”

“What the fuck?” I realized something sharp was stabbing my neck. My stomach tequila-ed, my heart jackhammered, and my skin, well, it crawled. I heard giggling again, “hoo oo oo, hee iiii!” I snapped around and saw the crazy guy leaning over the back of my seat with a twisted paper clip in his hand and a sick grin on his face. He didn’t even seem to notice me, and lunged forward to stab me with the paper clip. I screamed, “Ahhhh! Michael, say something.” My brother and his girlfriend started screaming in broken Japanese for the man to stop, but he didn’t seem to hear them. Nobody on the bus even noticed the bizarre commotion. I remembered my first night in Tokyo when I saw another crazy guy on a subway quacking like a duck. He walked right up to people, got in their face and quacked. No one paid any attention to him either. I freaked out as the guy grabbed my shirt with one hand and stabbed with the other. I slapped his arm away.

“Move up a seat,” yelled Erin. I quickly jumped forward to an empty seat, but he followed me so he was right behind me again. Wigged out with fear I watched him and waited for another attack, but all the guy did was laugh and sing, “heeeiiii heeeiii heee… doo doo doo do da doo humm humm. Heeeiiii!”

After a few hour-long minutes the bus came to a stop and the guy got off and walked away. I looked over at Michael and Erin who were stunned and speechless. We all broke out into laughter and I thought I was going to piss myself, but instead I just drooled onto my crotch.

That was eleven months ago. I hadn’t thought about what happened until the other night when my friend Alex told me that he’d dreamt that whole thing two years ago. He knew Michael and Erin back then, but not me. In his dream, someone really close to them was sitting on a bus in Japan when a crazy guy stabbed them with a twisted wire. Now if that’s not psychic power, than I don’t know what is.

I haven’t been able to get the whole affair out of my mind since Alex told me that. But know I now what happened. The guy with the paper clip was a messenger, a prophet. He was sent to me from Buddha to give me enlightenment. He must have appeared in Alex’s dream for the same reason. Buddha is trying to tell us something, but I don’t know what it is. I didn’t fulfill my end of the bargain, I guess. I never came up with a question for the “Path of Philosophy,” but now I think I know the answer: “don’t fall asleep on public transportation.”

And this is the word of God? I don’t get it.

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