Epic of the Four Cousins


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The original names of the four cousins were Fred, George, Dave & Leo and they hailed from the four intermediate points of the compass, northeast, northwest, southeast & southwest. But in advanced age each converted to a strictly southern discipline and each made such rapid progress that they needed much more imposing, and southern, names.

So it happened that Fred became Acharya Sunya; George became Pandit Non-dual; Dave became Rabbi Einsof; and Leo became the Philosopher of One.
And they each became expert in a dead or nearly dead language, mutually unintelligible. Each language is built around the concept of not-any-thing, which of course is not a concept. And each not-any-thing is uniquely itself, unlike all the others.

But that’s impossible.

Now they sit down together at a last banquet, in a manner of speaking.

They call it sitting, though they might as easily call it standing, since their sitting is so awkward.

And they call it a last banquet, though it might easily be called a first, for calling it a first would only invite speculation on the next, or controversy over whether this indeed was a first and not the reflex of some prior event. What they surely want to avoid is unnecessary argument, for they are all devoted to the one argument necessary. So they are radical in that respect, though they are all in conservative dress, right out of the oldest bazaar or the newest catalog.

The four cousins are now all confirmed southerners, but differ one from the other in robes of contrasting colours: the Acharya in white, the Pandit in saffron, the Rabbi in red and the Philosopher in black. And yet their robes are all distinctly similar, with identical cut and in material of identical gauge.

In the end, they cannot be distinguished, one from the other. And even to say that they either can or cannot be distinguished is a terrible diminution of who they are not

Still, if you said that they are not to be distinguished, you would not be wrong.

But you would hardly be right.

And yet the four cousins are all very distinguished in the sense of being noble. Their nobility doesn’t consist in this or that quality (which can’t be distinguished) but in an unlocatatable clarity. Their opaque expressions & manners of speaking render them completely transparent & unobstructed.

They trust each other, complicitly, but they don’t trust themselves. Everything they say or think can and will be used against them. Every sentence leads by some circuitous route to a snag in the river. The river clogs, and the fields are flooded out of season.

They sit uncomfortably on rickety folding chairs at the corners of a square oaken table, precariously balancing buffet plates on their laps. The table is scarred by knife cuts from repeated carving, scorched by cigars & matches, and gently smudged by melted wax, but they hold none of this as evidence of any prior banquet. No evidence is truly evidence, they all agree. All evidence is sign, and the sign points elsewhere & nowhere.

And they think it cruel to bind evidence down along a single axis, chaining one exhibit to the next against some thudding wall of fact, without adequate air & sunlight. They would give all evidence the freest range possible. And so they give evidence its just due.

The table is covered with a variety of crystal vessels, glasses, beakers & pitchers in green, gold & red, much like a table set in the tent of a knight before a tournament.

Banners & pennants fly over the tent, which is pitched between a small wood and the list. Sunlight pierces the tent as easily as it pierces the wood, illuminating the vessels of the knight’s table, as it illuminates the vessels here.

But unlike the knight’s table, the table of the four cousins is set nowhere that can be named. Still, the vessels are filled, identically, with nectar & soma, doubly filled to overflowing.

The four cousins pour for one another as they pose their self-canceling arguments with an air of distraction. This air of distraction is the perfect medium for their purpose, communicating over a vast distance with little loss of energy or heat, in the utmost cool.

But their frail arms, making all signs & mudras as they lift, pour and pass along, badly negotiate the tangle of vessels, tipping some, chipping others, shattering a few and spilling soma & nectar across the table. Shards of glass glitter like sparks as they fall, and from some nowhere two servants arrive to clean up the mess.

Sophie Western and Tom Jones, a fresh & handsome couple, wield their rags with great dexterity. They gather the shards and reorder the table, though they mistake the original order of the vessels they replace.

The banquet temporarily, precariously reordered, they set up a wicker throne at the foot of the table (which has no foot), and undress. Nakedly & intimately, Sophie sits astride Tom’s lap, fixing eyes to eyes & lips to lips.

Murmuring in the first language, or the last, they recall all their adventures to this point in a country of lakes, hills, heaths & villages, of comical squires, parsons & holy courtesans, and a thatch cottage rises up where they now sit, next to a small wood by a great field, a cottage with openings all around for the peering in of sheep & cattle, with four frail-armed willow trees reaching around, one at each corner, witnessing what they enact.

Tom’s profile is strong, honest, knightly & noble. Sophie’s generous lips & true-hearted eyes are even more beautiful in the candlelight, framed by the nebula of her black hair.

They consummate disorder with order. The four cousins weep the way only very old men can weep: with a joy that no one understands.
Maybe you're talking about action versus inaction, but I don't think the four people you described at the table have any equivalent in life. Very few people like circular arguments or are moved to tears of happiness by the concept of sex. If anything, sex is the nectar mixed with shards of glass that was spilled, and the wicker throne was made of thorns. That is why they were crying.