I Am the Rhinoceros


“I am the rhinoceros… Well, that’s not strictly true, but it sure seems that way sometimes…”


She lifted her head away from the silk sheet that separated his heartbeat from her ear, tilting her elegant chin up and raising her eyes in a fruitless attempt to meet his gaze, which was fixed on a point some miles above the ceiling.


“You know that koan about the rhinoceros fan? Where the student is asked to bring his master the rhinoceros-horn fan… and when the student tells the master that the fan is broken, the master asks for the rhinoceros instead?”


She nodded silently, still craning to see his face; she'd heard this story before.


“I think I have it figured out, to the extent one figures these things out.”


“Oh. Really?” she moused, trying to decide whether or not she was feigning interest in an explanation.


“In the story, the student is dumbfounded by the question, and is only enlightened when a second acolyte writes the characters for ‘rhinoceros’ on a piece of paper and hands it to the master.”


She had decided she was feigning interest.


“It’s a lateral move, you see. The paper is a lateral solution to an intractable linear problem. It’s the weird answer from left field that not only solves the problem, but illuminates it in a fresh way.”


“And you’re the rhinoceros?” she asked, bringing her head back to rest on his chest.


“Well think of it this way - this koan thing. It’s been the rhinoceros. Like, since we broke up, things were bad for me, you know? But then I started doing those koan meditations. And then things started to turn around. I mean, you know I don’t go in for that crap. But here it is, and it works. And in the sense that there is no separation between one’s self and one’s path… that kinda makes me the rhinoceros.”


She let out an agreeable but noncommittal sigh, and wondered how long he’d hang around for today - she had stuff to do.