Chapter Fifty Three I
Ex-Leper: Yes sir, bloody miracle, sir. Bless you!
Brian: Who cured you?
Ex-Leper: Jesus did, sir. I was hopping along,
minding my own business, all of a sudden, up he comes, cures me!
One minute I'm a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood's gone.
Not so much as a by-your-leave! "You're cured, mate." Bloody do-gooder.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Now back home, we go to shower. Kara pours the others a glass of wine.
James, “What did Kim say?”
Chris, “He teaches that we are all students, no matter how high we rise in martial arts. The only time I’ve ever heard him acknowledge himself as a student is to his now deceased Master in Korea. Tonight he bowed to Janah as the Master, made himself the student.”
James, “He didn’t seem surprised.” It isn’t a question.
Chris, “He’s not easy to read. I would agree, he wasn’t surprised. I think he has seen this before, just not in America. I think it brought him back to Korea, to things he thought he would never see again. His bow to Janah was more than a bow of respect.”
Kara, “Then of what?”
The word brings a thoughtful silence over the room.
Kara asks, “I don’t understand. What do you mean reverence?”
Chris, “In Kim’s world, Janah is not merely a Master. She is not merely a priest. She is an entirely unique being that has human form.”
Kara, “Oh my. We don’t need to get into this with Janah do we? It seems like a lot of, I don’t know…pressure…it seems overwhelming. And we don’t even know what it really means.”
James looks at Chris, then at Kara and hesitates.
Chris, “What James wants to say, I think, is that Janah already knows.”
Kara, “What do you mean? Knows what?” She looks around at the others, “Am I the only one lost here?”
Susan, “No, I’m in the wilderness with you.”
Chris, “Master Kim openly acknowledged Janah tonight. It’s not politeness, or even kindness. That’s not how a Korean martial arts master operates. He sees Janah as master of a skill, Qi control, at a level that takes upwards of twenty years at a minimum to develop…to a minor level. Janah is 14. Clearly she has brought it far beyond a minor level.”
She continues, “When Master Kim acknowledged Janah tonight, Janah accepted his bow, not with any pride, rather as if she recognized it as appropriate. There was no blush or ‘aw, shucks, it’s just little me.’ She accepted it with the dignity in which he offered it. All of this is only a mystery to us. It’s not to Janah and I suspect not to Daphne either. James?”
“Couldn’t have put it better.”
Susan, “So sarcastic, mini skirt Daphne is aware she is the other half of a mystic, a spiritual…what? I don’t even know what to call it.”
James, “I think every advance Janah makes she makes not ahead of, but because of Daphne. They use each other’s brains to enhance their own. I’m coming to think of them as one incredibly powerful self sufficient entity in two bodies.”
The family is quiet, silence more frequent as the mystery of their daughters reveals ever deeper layers. They are dealing with the vast gulf between themselves and two young girls that are supposed to be teenage daughters. That are supposed to be text messaging their friends about nail polish or the color of their IPhone case.
Susan, “I wonder if Daphne knew what Janah was going to do?”
James, “I want some clarification on that myself. Perhaps we should ask the girls. I’ll go get them.”
I come alone, “I made her go to sleep. She’s such a chatterbox, she would keep me up all night if I let her.”
Susan, “Sure, she’s a real motor mouth.”
“No mom. Really. She mentals me all the time. Sometimes I tell her she needs to have one of her experiences so she’ll be quiet for a while. It makes her giggle. I get one of those Janah smiles that makes the day. She knows I could listen to her voice in my head 24 hours a day, I’m always tuned to the Janah channel.”
Susan, “Janah says she’s always tuned to the Daphne channel.”
James, “It’s the same channel.”
Kara, “So, she doesn’t keep things just to herself?”
“Good God no. With the stuff in that girl’s head? She’d explode.”
Kara is relieved, I ask, “What’s the question, guys?”
Susan rolls her eyes, “Well Ms. Get to the Point, we were talking and a question came up about the healing. Were you aware that she was going to do that, or was it a surprise to you too?”
“I knew she was going to do it. I didn’t know it was going to affect her like it did. She didn’t either. It was very painful for her.”
Susan, “Painful? Why’d she do it then? Dumb question. Okay, why’d you let her do it?”
“It wasn’t a matter of let for two reasons. First, I was asleep. Second, it wouldn’t have mattered what I wanted. Janah decides to experiment, I go along. She wanted to know, any pain would just be part of her finding out. In a way, it tells us it’s working. Lots of what we do is painful.”
Kara, “What? This is new.”
“We press the ability all the time. It’s quite literally stretching our brain and our bodies. There’s almost always pain when we get intense. We call it growing pains. It’s part of it. When C-mom is challenging a muscle group, there’s pain, then the muscle rests and grows. Our stuff is similar.”
Susan, “Neither of you complains about it.”
“What’s the point? We don’t have to do this. Chris doesn’t gripe about her muscles aching. Why would she? She does it to herself.”
Susan asks Chris, “Do your workouts hurt that much?”
Chris, “No pain no gain isn’t just a trite truism.”
James, “She didn’t have an idea of how it would work?”
“We weren’t really sure. She made me sleep so that my thinking wouldn’t interfere with the process. She can do that for me, get me to sleep I mean,”
James, “How does that work?”
“Very well actually.”
He laughs, “Ok, but help us out here.”
“All I know is that she gets in my head, I let my mind go and she does the rest. I can feel myself getting drowsy. Then the next thing I know it’s morning. It’s great, I wake up totally rested. Janah never dreams by the way. I tell her it’s because there’s nothing going on in there. I think she can have my dreams if she wants to. When I dream, sometimes it’s about us. When I wake up she’s staring at me with that Janah smile. Don’t ask what I dream about, it’s probably just hormones.”
Chris loves it, Susan says, “You are so bad!”
“That’s not what Janah says.”
Kara says to Susan’s relief, “Thank goodness, at least something is normal about you two.”
“Well it’s just dreams, so everyone get their heads screwed back on.”
“If there’s nothing else, she’s getting a little restless in there, I need to go to her.”
I hug them all and slip away to Janah.
Kara, “She is an absolute treasure.”
Susan sighs, “There is so much goodness between them, so much caring. That I can clearly see and understand, otherwise, they totally mystify me.”
For that, there is silent agreement.
Chapter Fifty Four I
The tiniest is one with the huge
All boundaries and realms wiped out
The largest is one with the tiny
Extremes no longer to be seen.
Sheng-ts`an, 3rd Chinese patriarch of Ch’an
Janah is a qi master. What is qi? Is it real? Qi Kung, for westerners is chi gong, or qi gong, the pronunciation is the same. Q in Chinese is ch and k is a soft g. Chinese is an old language, with many variations.
We are alone in our room, I’d just finished showering and drying my hair. I lay next to Janah, already in bed with a book.
Janah, “I’ve been studying ch’i kung in The Shaolin Grandmaster’s Text. Hidden Valley style ch’i kung is reputed to have developed from a place of that name visited by certain Tibetan monks to learn it. It is a completely energy based method of gung fu. The idea is ultimately to avoid conflict without physical effort.”
“You mean I’ve been doing all this practice for nothing?”
Janah giggles, “It keeps you out of trouble, and I like watching you practice, so you don’t get off the hook.”
“So what’s the book say?”
Janah reads silently, I read what Janah reads in her mind, “Hidden Valley style has three training levels, yin qi, yang qi and tao qi. The first level (yin) concerns adapting all of one’s martial arts training into moving meditation. The artist places himself into a hypnotic state by learning to move ever slower. This allows the subconscious to surface more readily at the command of the disciple; it further teaches the autonomous reflex arches to come under conscious control. Completion comes when even the simplest set takes so long that many meals pass with no consumption, and when the priest can will his blood flow to slow noticeably.”
“How are you going to go without many meals?”
Janah giggles again, “Follow along, level two, yang qi, ‘the priest must move his thoughts from his body to allow all of his movements to flow in accord with Tao. Yang Qi accomplishes the ideal of complete submersion in the actions and being of now. Total immersion in the action of the moment.’”
“You already do that.”
Janah, “Finally there’s level three, tao qi, which occurs ‘when the priest has body mind and spirit under complete control and no longer needs his physical body to affect his surroundings. He has additionally attained the power to heal or to disrupt bodily functions.’”
“You have the healing part. At least some of it.”
Janah, “Yes, but the other implies more than hands on healing.”
“Like breaking a rock or moving someone without touching them?”
Janah, “Yes, I think so. I’m not sure.”
“But you are anti-control. What do they mean complete control, like their brain says do this and it happens?”
Janah, “For me, it means complete harmony. It has not been my experience that the western sense of control, as in reigning in, accomplishes much.”
“When I feel what you mean by harmony, there is no sense of creating harmony. It’s just there. The universe is always in harmony. Thought can’t create what already exists; it is our confused thought that creates disharmony.”
Chapter Fifty Five I
A Muslim, a Christian and a Jew walk into the Zen café.
They have tea and talk for two hours.
Three human beings leave.
The monk who waited on them throws their labels in the trash.
Janah and I have fun letting Mrs. Epstein fuss over us. We are going to have dinner with them and the family Saturday night, stay overnight at the Epsteins, then go to brunch with Mrs. E on Sunday.
We put away our clothes for tomorrow’s brunch before joining the parents in the living room. Mrs. Epstein’s living room is about the size of a half basketball court. She wanted it to look like an old world hotel lobby, and it’s pretty close. It gave guests lots of room to relax.
The parents were discussing plans for the next day. Kara, Susan and Chris made definite plans to avoid all plans and laze about the condo. Drs. Epstein and Svensson would watch whatever-ball and talk a little shop. They’d have the game on, if you asked either of them the score, they wouldn’t know. They like their work, it isn’t punishment for them to talk about it on weekends.
We walk to a loveseat, turn together, sit on the front half of the cushion. We each cross our right leg over left, and rest our hands on our knee, left hand over right.
James thought no one noticed, then he saw Dr. Epstein studying us, his head cocked slightly. James had seen him do it for years when he was absorbed in a particularly interesting patient. His eyes followed every nuance of body language. What people do when they don’t talk is often more informative than when they do. What their bodies do when they are talking is even more so.
James recalled Janah’s way of putting it, ‘The body leaks truth, the mouth often just leaks.’
Mrs. Epstein is saying, “You guys can watch basketball, or whatever it is they show between beer and car commercials.”
“I wonder about the juxtaposition of beer, men having to go to the restroom a lot and drug commercials about men who have to go to the restroom a lot. There’s an ironic symmetry in that.”
Susan, “Daphne, only you would make that connection.”
“I’ve picked up a vast amount of disease and pharmacology information just watching TV. Janah insists on wasting time reading the actual literature.”
Mrs. Epstein, “I have a theory that men don’t actually like sports. They like advertising. No person in their right mind would sit and watch what is essentially the same ball game played over and over with only minor changes in outcomes and personnel.”
I slip into Queens-speak, “In the local parlance, baseball schmaseball, you seen one game, you seen ‘em all.”
Mrs. Epstein howls, “Exactly dear. I’m going to use that at the very next snobby fundraiser I’m dragged to.”
“Speaking of which, wouldn’t it be more efficient if people didn’t spend thousands on jewelry and designer rags and just give that money to the charity?”
Mrs. Epstein, “Then they wouldn’t have the chance to get all gussied up and strut their stuff for Vanity Fair. It’s not about the cause, it’s about the people who attend the fundraiser. Most of them wouldn’t get near a diseased child.”
“Aren’t you a bit too young to be so cynical?”
Mrs. Epstein, “Thank you, angel. Flattery will get you new outfits.”
“I meant to say too young and too beautiful.”
Janah punches me on the arm and rolls her eyes at Mrs. Epstein.
Susan, “I saw a channel on TV that plays nothing but old football games.”
Dr. Epstein, “Those are classic games my dear.”
Susan, “That’s what I said, old football games.”
Mrs. Epstein is beside herself, “You see, Bernie. It’s not just me. I’m telling you, there’s something weird about spending three and a half hours watching a sixty minute game. I know what you’re going to say, and I agree, there’s something equally weird about trying on endless pairs of shoes.”
Dr. Epstein, “I suggest we all move our collective neuroses to the restaurant.”
When we arrive, the maitre’d greets Mrs. Epstein by name. She seems to have a personal friendship with every maitre’d, headwaiter and chef in Manhattan. Her time on Wall Street, she likes to say, was not wasted merely dealing with money.
Mrs. Epstein, “The real reason I like to go out with the girls is entirely selfish, I get so much better treatment. That, and the stares of the patrons. It’s very exciting. I feel like I’m hanging with movie stars.”
“Mrs. E, you get great treatment everywhere because you’re so nice to everyone.”
Dr. Epstein, “You should see her negotiate a business deal, Daphne. She’s so polite, very soft spoken and walks away with scads of money. She’s always taken a different tack than her Wall Street counterparts. She loves them into submission. Afterwards they can’t quite figure out how they conceded so much and why they feel so good about it.”
“Janah does that! She has teachers or kids at school trying to get something out of her and she just smiles and nods. They keep talking and she just smiles and nods. Eventually they’re satisfied. It’s so amazing. Mrs. E and Ange Blanc could negotiate world peace.”
Mrs. Epstein, “I appreciate your confidence in us, Daphne. I wonder though. If people really wanted world peace, there would be world peace.”
Janah, “Too much talking, not enough listening perhaps. It’s hard to see how peace arises from endless discussions about national interests.”
Dr. Epstein, “It’s a negotiation isn’t it? Don’t there have to be settlements of the issues that divide them?”
Janah, “Are the issues real, or are they a product of poor or misguided thinking?’
Mrs. Epstein, “Can you give us a for instance?”
Janah, “Well, not to beat the Middle East to death, it is an easy example. There are fights about who did what to who for over two thousand years. Then there are fights about what piece of dirt belongs to which side, and what site is holier for one religion or the other. Dirt and buildings aren’t sacred. Lines drawn between countries are purely imaginary. Dwelling on past injustices merely creates fuel for new injustices.”
Dr. Epstein, “So the premises of the discussion are not real?”
Janah, “They are only thoughts. There is no line in the dirt, think of a photo of the Earth from a satellite. It’s the same dirt on one side of the imaginary line as the other. Something is holy only because someone said it is holy, and other people believed them. Because they believe some act that took place there makes it holy. If I put a stick on my shelf and pray to it every day, it will become holy to me. I’ll start attributing things that happen in my life to the stick. The brain is not discerning, it doesn’t have any beliefs except those we put into it. The so called issues they fight about aren’t real except that thought says they are.”
Mrs. Epstein, “If a Palestinian kills a Jew, isn’t that real?”
Janah, “We never question what is a Palestinian, what is a Jew? Take away those ‘ideas’, that’s all they are, ideas, and there are only two human beings. Take away the idea that a particular spot of ground is holy, the fight goes away. Lose the notion that something that happened to my father’s father has to be avenged today, there’s one less murder. All these are beliefs and ideas aren’t real, yet people treat them as if they are. There is no end to fighting over illusions. Negotiations by confused parties cannot create peace, only more confusion. There will be temporary respites, some quiet for a time. But as long as the beliefs are there, the continued conflict is inevitable.”
Susan, “People are a long way from dropping their beliefs, Janah.”
“Then the killing will be endless.”
Chapter Fifty Six I
“When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone,
"it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
I take over, “Let’s move on to something we can actually do something about, like ordering dinner. I have to keep Janah reined in on thinking. Lately she’s been telling me about how people rationalize. Janah is studying decision theory. She’s always jabbering on about fear of regret, heuristics, biases, availability, overconfidence and a pot full of other judgment errors people make. I need to constantly remind her to focus her attention where it belongs, on me.”
Mrs. Epstein, “It’s good of you to assist her in making priorities, dear.”
I turn to the moms, “See, Mrs. E understands me, please take note Sis.”
Susan, “How inconsiderate of Janah. We thought she gave you her undivided attention. You mean she actually takes a moment or two for herself?”
“She has the most irritating ability of being able to think of two or even three things at once. I’m simply making sure she has the list in the proper order.”
I count out on my fingers, “One, Daphne, two, Daphne, three, whatever.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Well dear, tomorrow we’ll have a long brunch and do some shopping. Perhaps that will help you forget your deprivations for a few hours.”
I glow, “It’s good to be the Queen.”
Mrs. Epstein is loving every bit of my nonsense. She raises her wine glass, “To the Queen.”
Susan, “Now she’s really going to be impossible.”
I say, in a low, elegant, British accent, “We are not amused. Off with her head!”
Janah, “You have Victoria confused with the Red Queen.”
“Queenie schmeenie, you seen one royal, you seen ‘em all.”
Mrs. Epstein whoops a laugh, a few diners glance our way, “Only Daphne could claim royalty and dismiss it in the same conversation.”
“I am beyond contradiction. That’s how I avoid dissonance.”
Dr. Epstein says to James, still laughing, “I think she’s on to something. We should submit a paper. Rising Above Dissonance by Ignoring Contradiction. How could we have missed it? It has the elegance of simplicity.”
Janah, “Daphne hardly invented that. Politicians and marketing departments do it every day.”
“Excuse me. Those sorts do it to sell their ridiculous schemes to a clueless public. In my case, it’s due solely to the complexity of my intricate personality.”
Mrs. Epstein, “And a fascinating personality it is dear.”
Susan groans, I giggle, “It’s okay Sis. I’m abdicating my throne for Janah. Although I was looking over some personalized stationery, HRH Daphne Sylk.”
Mrs. Epstein, “Perhaps a few sets of monogrammed bath towels.”
Dr. Epstein asks Janah, “Your father isn’t unduly influencing you to think about a career in our profession is he? I mean, when you don’t have other more important matters to attend to,” nodding towards me.
Janah, “It’s very interesting, trying to figure out why people do what they do.”
Dr. Epstein, “It is fascinating. I am delighted you are turning your extraordinary brain to it. Are you planning a trip through medical school, or a PhD, both?”
Janah, “We don’t know. Daphne and I have a lot on our plate, and my studies don’t need to be at a university per se. I’m afraid I’m not much for classes and papers. Lately I’ve been giving thought to more tangible issues.”
Dr. Epstein, ‘Such as….”
Janah, “Individual violence and cruelty, child abuse, domestic violence. Topics too gruesome for an wonderful evening out.”
James caught Dr. Epstein’s quick glance at Mrs. Epstein, who raised one eyebrow a millimeter in response. Janah’s comment had struck a chord, he would question Bernie about it some other time, privately.
Dinner finishes up, the chef appears, greeting Mrs. Epstein. He is youngish and quite handsome in the offhand, unshaven, spiky bed head hair sort of way that young women find inexplicably attractive. He’d left his toque in the kitchen thankfully, I never grasp the point of those things, it’s like a marshmallow is growing on your head. He is very attentive to Susan until she introduces her partner Chris. He keeps his composure beautifully, saying he can certainly see they are perfect for each other. James intercedes with a list of compliments on each course and the subject turns to dessert. Chef asks if he might be permitted to create a selection for the table as a gift from him
He asks James and Kara, “This adorable young lady is clearly your daughter, Dr. Svensson. Excuse me, but you and Dr. Epstein are both well known and highly regarded at the hospital. My father is on staff, Dr. Jarreau, perhaps you know him?
Dr. Epstein, “Of course, oncologist, very good one too, Matt Jarreau. He told me his son is a chef. I see the resemblance quite clearly now.”
Chef Jarreau continues, “He says the two of you have greatly enhanced the hospital’s reputation. Your seminars on diagnostics are attracting physicians from around the country and the world.”
James, “Why, how nice of him. We do our best.”
Chef, “And I will make the best chocolate dessert Miss Daphne has ever tasted and for Miss Janah, I have a very special fruit compote recipe I have been saving for a special occasion.”
Susan, “I would like the same as my baby sister, if I may,” grinning mischievously at me. The rest said it would be fun to be surprised and off chef went to arrange dessert.
Lots of oohs and aahs for the chocolate extravaganza, Chef Jarreau saves his compote for last to present to Janah, “a pure white fluffy French vanilla crème topping for the most stunning pure white hair I’ve ever seen.”
When he leaves, I say, “Men are such suckers for blondes, particularly the real thing, when they’re smart enough to tell the difference.”
Susan, “He’s very cute.”
“You have him drooling you flirt, batting your eyes and tossing off that coy smile. Poor man, he has no chance of competing with C-mom. You’re such a tease.”
Susan winks at me, “It’s good to be the Queen’s sister.”