Koans for a Carmic Age

A dog inside a car that’s running over a dog.

Poor people buying machines with ten thousand moving parts in order to travel a half mile.

Calling a space travel machine with ten thousand whirling bits “basic transportation.”

Ten thousand thousand such machines.

Subsidizing such machines from the common pot.

The extravagant and violent complexity of the networks invoked to keep such machines mobile.

Calling such machines auto-mobile.

Believing that the combustion of the engines in such machines is internal.

A lone walker rampant on a field of golden taxis.

On a taxi bumper, a squashed bug that isn’t yet a child.  The kiss as a compression of moving bodies.  The bumper still hungry for a human child.

Environmentalists flying to conferences in airplanes.

The idea of just five percent of people on the planet having ever flown.

Environmentalists flying to conferences.


Environmentalists carefully distributing carbon monoxide upwind of urban children in a process called ‘going to work’.

The combined gaseous poison distribution of all environmentalists going to work as a massive scientific study of human fumigation.

Misplacing the results of the study.  Of all useful studies.

My having spent most of 1960, at two years of age, with my brother, throwing rocks at cars along the highway near our trailer court in Golden, Colorado, while my mother worked at the state registry of motor vehicles.

The having obtained the above information, not from the lady in charge of us, but from a lady in a different trailer.

The annual vehicle miles of travel in the U.S. in 1960 being seven tenths of a trillion.

The trillions of VMT being estimated, for 2010, at five times that of 1960.

The brute fact of hundreds of millions of Americans believing, despite that last fact, or despite the plain facts before their windscreened eyes, that building highways “eases” traffic congestion.

My having stomped the car roofs of peaceful G20 protestors as if I had trouble telling what team the drivers were on.

Every Americaman with a car.

Every Chinaman with a car.  Ten thousand billion moving parts.  The world’s having ended.  The survivors having carried on.

My agreeing to teach a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl to drive.  Her practicing by driving to the hospital in Seattle where her brother lies dying from a car crash.

A bicycle on top of a car.

A cyclist in one breath breathing ten million toxic nanoparticles from adjacent cars.

A driver in a Volvo in a garage.  Volvo windows open, garage door closed.
The engine running for ten seconds.  The driver reading an article by an expert on climate change (for or against, it doesn’t matter).  Reading the article until the ten seconds of fumes have dissipated in ten minutes or ten hours.

Imagining ever driving for more than ten seconds.


Head injuries from a Crown Victoria.

Two bikes and maybe a canoe on a Volvo with a dog on supple cowskin, all together running over a squirrel that isn’t, for the time being, a child.

A driver berating a cyclist on a point of protocol.


Bumper stickers with opinions—on car bumpers.

Breathing one’s own nanoparticles, instead of tendering them to cyclists.

Pretending not to understand things because they’re poetic.

The justice of poetry.

The elegiac feel of a memory of an event that has not yet taken place: the child—are we there yet?—suspended in mid-air after having been struck by a car traveling at precisely the speed limit.  The having no one to blame.

The tenderness we feel, all of us at the same time, considering the limbs of the child gently unfolding in the air.

The petals of a flower opening in springtime, conceived as a mouth silently screaming.

DAVID Ker THOMSON lives on the south coast of ‘Canada’ in Toronto face-to-face with the north coast of ‘America’. dave.thomson@utoronto.ca.  Today’s article was brought to you by the numbers ten thousand, five, five (again) and ten million, and of course seven tenths of a trillion.





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