Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Last View from a Troubled Mind 
Scene #20

The Norinko Ten and Their Demons
Psychological, and Otherwise

by Anthony Servante






A week ago, it rained. This meant that the homeless camps were facing eviction once again. As of this writing, 83 homeless people were reported encamped in the San Gabriel River bed. Complains from residents in the lower hills of Azusa overlooking the river have forced Sheriff's deputies to evict the illegal tenants of the concrete bed. As bulldozers razed the shanties, deputies estimated over 300 campers. Just over 100 were counted leaving the camp. About 100 were estimated to have left during the night when word of the eviction reached the encampment. About 70 were removed by City Emergency Vehicles and private ambulances. The rest of the estimated encampment were dead and removed in body bags. It took over 20 hours for the LA County Coroner's office to handle the removal of the corpses, but much of that time was spent determining the available facilities were capable of handling so many bodies. At least half of the bodies were delivered to the LA County Morgue on Mission Drive, behind the USC Medical Facility (AKA General Hospital).

After the riverbed was cleared and reporters and news crews packed up to leave, one hillside resident who complained almost daily to the Sheriff's office told reporters that maybe now the flying things would probably return to killing the neighborhood pets now that the main source of their attacks was evicted. No one asked the resident what she meant by "things". For some weird reason, the reporter from the local newspaper thought she meant the Sheriff's helicopters.

There was a secondary effect from the rain on the communities of the foothills: An infestation of dragonflies has covered the lush greenery of gardens, trees lining the streets, and the bushes used as walls to separate houses in Azuza, Duarte, Monrovia, and Arcadia. The dragonflies laid eggs in puddles left by the rainfall. Along with the hot weather, the showers provided the perfect environment for the dragonflies to spread in swarming numbers. But, it turns out, that's a good thing.

Dragonflies eat mosquitoes, and mosquitoes carry all sorts of sickness. I myself got bitten by a mosquito and my leg turned several shades of hue. It took two weeks, antibiotics, and steroidal ointment to shrink the itchy bite. Dragonflies also eat the pests that destroy the community's numerous citrus trees. But there is one drawback: The young dragonflies don't avoid humans; they crash right into pedestrians, windshields, and the windows of homes. The children are terrified of these strange-looking insects, which are usually uncommon to the communities. Flyers have arrived in the mail warning homeowners not to kill the dragonflies. Still, the streets are littered with their dead bodies. Beautifully colored insects with ten-inch wing spans are strewn about the side-streets, smashed into exotic designs on the asphalt. 

Which brings me back to the homeless. The dragonflies are literally rising from the multiple ponds left by the rains in the riverbed. When the Sheriff's department were moving out the river dwellers, the deputies found the majority of shanties had flypaper hanging in their makeshift homes, pest-strips covered end-to-end with dragonflies. Some deputies were saying that the homeless were eating them. No proof that this practice was taking place; still the rumors spread, and a new Urban Legend was born.

Then came the new rumor that some dragonflies were as big as a bird, and even the larger birds were not attacking them. The locals, a combination of Mexican-Americans, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Cuban, were in agreement that this dragonfly infestation was not beneficial at all, but was in fact a sign of something evil. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard people on the bus telling their children that the dragonflies attack children and aim for the eyes. No wonder the kids are scared of the harmless insects. 

The Vietnamese were the first to bring up the connection of the flying insects to the demons of Diyu, a correlation that my research could not corroborate. At times, one neighbor always tries to top his neighbor's account of the dangers of the dragonflies by exaggerating the risks of the flying insects. I tried to explain that flyers are arriving in the mail that detail the benefits of the dragonflies, but the exaggerators wave me off. 

When I told Priest Horaguchi about the dragonfly infestation and the superstitions of my neighbors, he did not laugh. He told me that the arrival of the insects is timely, that in Buddhist belief, each dragonfly is a soul that travels the Earth when Diyu, the Buddhist Hell, is overcrowded. Horaguchi further explained that over the last year, many, many souls have been taken to Diyu by the demons who have escaped due to our intrusion into their space. I told him that as a Catholic, and he as a Buddhist, our definitions of "demons" and "souls" were radically different. He agreed, but explained that the trauma was the same.

For instance, a Catholic alcoholic could turn to Alcoholics Anonymous for guidance, but not so a Buddhist alcoholic. One of the AA's 12 steps includes accepting a "greater power" over one's self. For a Catholic, that would most likely be God. For a Buddhist, however, such a power is within oneself, and this power grows each time one reincarnates. We try the best we can in this life, and then try again in the next, but with different circumstances. As an alcoholic in the last life, one (upon death) would be taken to Diyu and assigned to the appropriate level for punishment for our drinking problems and the problems we inflicted on others for our drinking. Once our punishment is meted out, we are ready to be reincarnated. The appropriate "demon" metes out the punishment; the creature from our level in Diyu makes sure that we are not reborn an alcoholic again. This doesn't mean we are perfect. It means we grew a bit spiritually. And with each rebirth, we grow some more, hopefully till we are perfect or we reach that state called Nirvana, when we are released from the cycle of death and rebirth. For Buddhists, Hell is a good bad place. It is better than AA.

Trauma for Buddhists is physical. Even nightmares, the remnants of trauma, are physical. Therapy treats the physical, not the mental. For Catholics, I believe, Horaguchi continued, trauma is mental and manifests itself with physical symptoms. You take pills. We make pajamas. Both treat the nightmares, but the drugs avoid confrontation while the pajamas face it head on. We deal directly with the demon behind the nightmares, in essence, the demon from our last reincarnation still hounding us with punishment. Or it could be the demon from the next level of our visit to Diyu preparing us for our next trial of torture. For Catholics, the demons lead you to Hell; for Buddhists, they prepare us for our passage to Nirvana. The suffering, the nightmares, the trauma is transitory but necessary. It's never personal. Catholic demons are evil and exist to create more evil. Your trauma as seen through Catholic eyes must seem evil; our group's traumas as seen through Buddhist eyes is medicine for our sick soul for a healthier new life.

But sometimes when we are stuck between two beliefs, two cultures, as we are when we have one foot in Hell and one in Diyu, we sometimes get caught in a loop. There are Buddhists who see demons as evil, but they are wrong to believe such. When we are caught between two reincarnations, we sometimes drag our demon out with us from death to life. The nightmares, the trauma, are the manifestation of the demons.

When we asked you to attend our "Buddhist" therapy sessions, we wanted you to learn to believe in a positive approach to your nightmares. Although you liked the painting approach, you've avoided the pajama therapy. Sure it's got a silly name, I admit that, but it's nonetheless therapy. We want to remove the demon from your nightmares, not the Catholic demons, but the Buddhist demons. And if this all sounds crazy, well don't forget that the AA provides therapy to a "higher power". How crazy is that? We want you to find your own higher "self". The trauma is part of you; just as the demon is a part of you. The cure and healing are also within you. When you reincarnate, you are given an opportunity to improve your lot in life. Think of this life as the reincarnation of the last. You are improving your life now, bettering yourself compared to your last life. The demon can be viewed as your conscience.

I said, But what about the elephant in the room? People have died.

He answered, No, they haven't. They've been reincarnated. The demons don't kill. They escort you to the next life.

I responded, Yeah, but they weren't ready to go. Their trip was mandatory. How can you defend the additional  trauma inflicted on you on your journey to Diyu?

He said, No one is ever ready. "Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me." It is not trauma. It is a cleansing of your old life so that you can be ready for the next life, to be in a better frame of mind and body. It is a transition.

I answered, With all due respect to Ms. Dickenson, they're taken to a waiting room where they are tortured.

He wasn't swayed: To a certain extent. But you are confusing Catholic "torture" with Buddhist preparation. Diyu is not punishment. It is strict preparation, just as athletes have strict regimens of exercise to compete in their sport. Diyu is a spiritual regimen to compete in your new life.

I had to ask, Then why is someone lying in coma, half dead, half alive?

He sighed, To quote your Church: God works in mysterious ways. Buddhism deals with life and death. It doesn't have answers for the in-between. That's the time for man, for doctors, for therapy. Each of The Ten in our group has a different demon to deal with. It's a matter of "self". Each of us must deal with the transitions differently. I cannot address matters where life and death have not been decided. We're not talking about pulling the plug here. We are talking about Buddhism and Catholicism. 

When you say "The Ten", do you mean the Norinko Ten? I asked, even though I knew the answer. But Horaguchi answered me anyhow.

Yes, the members of our group make up The Ten. And their Demons. With you that makes eleven, I guess. The source of the trauma is the demon from the level of punishment in Diyu based on your last death. I mean, you don't have to believe all this. We aren't looking to convert you to Buddhism. But if you understand how your trauma can be positive in the most spiritual sense, maybe you can learn to live with it better. For us, it's about readying ourselves for our next carnation. For you, it's about gaining a healthy perspective on this life in the here and now. We're very big on the here and now. We're surrounded by death, but so too are we surrounded by life. Let me email you a chart I made of The Ten. Read it with a grain of salt if you must. Or feel free to make a Catholic chart of The Ten if you feel that will provide for comfort for the traumatized. When next we talk, we can perhaps readdress "trauma" in a new light.

I answered, I'll get back to you. Please send me that chart. I do plan to put it on my blog, you know.

He laughed, Of course you are.

And there our conversation ended. The email arrived about twenty minutes later. I felt chills when I read it. How could someone believe this? Because they're Buddhist, I answered under my breath. I mean, how many people got chills and felt terror when they first saw the movie "The Exorcist". Anyway, here's the chart for my readers. As Priest Horaguchi advises, Read it with a grain of salt. And I might add, And neither defend nor deny. Understand, if you can.

The Chart

This is the research of Priest Horaguchi

Norinko  - Yuan Gui (ghost with grievance)—spirits of persons who died wrongful deaths. These ghosts can neither rest in peace nor go for reincarnation. They roam the world of the living as depressed and restless spirits who constantly seek to have their grievances redressed. In some tales, these ghosts approach living people and attempt to communicate with them to lead them to clues or pieces of evidence which point out that they died wrongful deaths. The living people then try to help them clear their names or otherwise ensure that justice is served.

Suzue  - Yuan Gui

Beniko  - Yuan Gui

Miriam Hernandez - Di fu ling (Earthbound Spirit)—refers to ghosts who are bound to certain locations on Earth, such as their place of burial or a place they had a strong attachment to when they were alive.

Evelyn Mitchell - Gui po (Old Woman Ghost)—takes the form of a peaceful and friendly old woman. They may be the spirits of maids who used to work as servants in rich families. They return to help their masters with housekeeping matters or take care of young children and babies. However, there are also evil gui pos with disgusting and violent appearances.

Deputy Steve Baker - Wuchang Gui (Ghost of Impermanence). Depending on the person it encounters, the Wuchang Gui can appear as either a fortune deity who rewards the person for doing good deeds or a malevolent deity who punishes the person for committing evil.

Detective Jian “Joe” Wu - Jian (Ghost of a Ghost)—Ghosts who cannot reincarnate. Ghosts who can reincarnate are terrified of Jians.

W. Chris Dubois - E gui (Hungry Ghost)—These hungry ghosts consume anything, including excreted waste and rotten flesh.

Martin Palomina - Jiangshi (Vampire Ghost)—reanimated corpse who feeds off the living.

Elizabeth Johns - Zhi ren (Paper Person)—dolls made from paper which are burnt as offerings to the dead to become the deceased's servants. These dolls are not exactly spirits by themselves, but they can do the bidding of their deceased masters. 


Notes
What role do these demons play in trauma of so many of our group?

The ancestors of the Hanasaki family were workers on the railroad. The deaths of so many Asians during the Railroad worker riots and nitroglycerin accidents caused many corpses not receiving proper burial rites. It is important to understand these rites to see how the Buddhist railway workers believed that without a proper burial, that they would not be reincarnated. In fact, they believed that they'd be cursed to wander the realm between life and death forever until they received a proper burial.

Mahayana traditions dictate a burial in a cave where the corpse left for birds to eat. The remains are then buried. This was not possible with a corpse. The Chinese and Japanese workers were blown to tiny bits by the explosions of the nitro deep in the mountain passes; not only ripped apart but buried in the cave-ins that followed. The caves, which are now freeway and train tunnels, are literally built with wooden beams and concrete mixed with the blood of the Asians.

The Levels of Diyu (Narakas)
  1. Hahava—punishment by lamentation and weeping from the cold.
  2. Raurava—punishment by screaming to escape the fiery floor
  3. Maharaurava—like Raurava, but animals and birds devour your flesh (note the common theme of being devoured by birds in burial rites and punishment).
  4. Avici—eternal hell (not Purgatory); reasons to be sent to Avici: Intentionally murdering one's father, mother, an Arhat (enlightened being), shedding the blood of a Buddhist, creating a schism within the Sangha.
END OF CHART AND NOTES


And here we take our leave. With a grain of salt, I find that our trauma and therapy series has come down to superstitions and religious faith. We found that such beliefs had little permanent influence on trauma, at times even having a negative effect on long term recovery. Still, it does work for some, just not enough. But who am I to say what is enough. My brother had the philosophy in the classroom that if he could just reach one of his many students, then he has succeeded as a teacher. With this series, I hoped I have reached more than one. 

I, for one, have learned to live with the daily burden of remembering the deaths of the people I sought to help. Hearing in the news of death caused by bad weather, homelessness, or the Will of God, is always a reminder of the helplessness one feels when trying to help people people who can't be helped. Lifeguards are trained not to try to save a panicking drowning person lest he be pulled down with the panicker; they have to wait till the person is to tired to struggle and then carry the swimmer to safety while they are too weak to fight the lifeguard. For me, I waited for these people who needed my help, but I waited till they couldn't drag me down with them. That was my mistake. I waited too long. They drowned before I could reach them, or rather, they died before I could provide the assistance they needed. 

I don't count the hundreds, no, thousands I have helped over the years. I always count the ones I didn't save. Not couldn't. Didn't. It feels worse when friends and family tell me, But look at all the people you've helped over the years. It doesn't help, and I've isolated myself from my friends and family so that I wouldn't have to hear it anymore. I came to Facebook and started a blog, two faceless social entities where I could disappear. Thanks to the Trauma & Therapy series, I've at least learned to connect with flesh and blood people again. And I owe it to these people in my therapy group to try to help The Ten, especially a little girl whose friends believe may one day wake from her coma. 

That's my recovery, my day to day life with trauma--learning to help people again the way I used to. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Update 15

Trauma & Therapy

Pajama Therapy
Flight of the Second Dream Drifter

 as Told to Anthony Servante


Design of pajamas for Bridget, who remains in a coma.
Drawing by Norie.




Introduction
I hate to wake up, often sleeping for up to 12 hours a day. I am not tired. I am not depressed. I am not hungover from drink or drugs. I simply do not wish to leave my dreams. They seem so important, and I don't mean as a sleep device; no, I mean important in the stories they tell, the plot-lines that I get caught up in. I want to get to the ending of the story. And each morning, each dream is different, yet the stories are real, real enough to involve me so much that I want to stay there longer than I have to. I know that I can wake up, have some coffee, and start my day, but the story of the dream is only in the second act. And I'm aware of that. I know I have to stick around till the third and final act roll around. But it never does.

This new type of dreaming has replaced the nightmares I used to have when I was taking anti-anxiety pills and pain killers for my bad back. The dreams have become more cohesive. They unfold in the same manner that my writing unfolds. I am one step behind the action as I write it, for this action will lead me to the next action that needs to be written. At most, when I write, I know only the ending of the story or only the beginning. The story unfolds on its own. Now my dreams unfold on their own. I can only try to keep up. But that requires time, which in turn means extra sleep, extra time in bed.

Only when I know that I am chasing a dragon, so to speak, a story without ending, do I wake up to start my day. But that requires about three extra hours of sleep. Before, I slept on average 7 to 9 hours a day; now it is 10 to 12 hours, with those three extra hours waiting for the ending to the story in the dream.

Long ago, I would often finish these dreams and they in turn would become short stories or poems. The dreams would end. And the best dreams were the fever sleep dreams; they were complexly structured plots with vivid characters. So last week when I was sick with a mild flu, the fever dreams returned, only this time they didn't end, but the writer in me began to chase them. And chase them. And chase them. It's been over a month and I still hope to complete one dream story.

But I know that's like an addict saying that today is my last fix or my last cigarette. I fear sleeping 12 to 15 hours a night in search of that final fix. Today I slept 12 hours. I missed the first half of the football game that I wanted to see. I was awake in time to see it, but, instead of getting up, I turned over and went back to sleep. I forced myself up at 2:30 pm. I had cobwebs in my mind and dried tears in the corners of my eyes. I splashed cold water in my face, drank some hot coffee, and sat down to watch the game.

I don't even remember a single bit from the dream. That's what happens when they don't end. They turn to vapor and rise.

With the weather turning cold after the shortest Summer on record in the San Gabriel Valley mountainside, I can add an extra blanket and wear my Autumn Jammies. That's when I remembered the glove the girls made for me. Tonight I'll wear the pajama glove shaped like a wing of a bird. I contacted Norie and asked about the pajamas (since I'm not attending the Pajama Therapy sessions at the temple). She told me that she saw the pictures that I put in the last update and sent me three drawings that she made and two by Suzie.



Design of pajamas for Norie.
Drawing by Norie.


Design of pajamas for Suzie (rejected by Suzie).
Drawing by Norie.



Design #1 of pajamas for Suzie.
Drawing by Suzie.



Design #2 of pajamas for Suzie (selected by Suzie).
Drawing by Suzie.


Then Norie told me about Suzie's dream with the pajamas that she selected (see above), and that's what brings us here today for this update. In our last update, Norie shared her dream with us while wearing her Plumage Pvnk Pajamas (see above), designed to fight off nightmares. Now we shall hear from Suzie.

Anyway, I do want to wrap up this last "therapy" series before moving on to the Horror Philosophy essays. So, without further ado, let's get to Suzie's therapy session with her new Plumage Pvnk Pajamas.


Suzie's Account 
I am afraid to sleep. I am wearing the pajamas that my mother made for me. They are soft, but my body slides around when I turn on my side. My mother caresses my hand and hums a song familiar to me since I was a toddler. A single candle lights the small bedroom. The window is cracked open. An ocean breeze moves the curtains and the flame flickers. I adjust my cap shaped like the head of a swan. I didn't have the heart to tell my mother that it looks more like a duck, kind of like Norie's drawing that she made for me. That looks like a duck too. A fat duck.

I am cold. I was going to ask my mother to close the window, but she is gone. I get up to close it myself. The window is wide open. The curtains are gone. I float out the window. I am flying over houses. There is the house of our English teacher. She is dead. There is the house of the school bus driver. She is dead, too. There is the house of the janitor from the school; the lights are on in every window. He is alive, but he is afraid of the dark. There is the house of the Detective. He is dead.

I am tired of counting the dead people, so I turn south, toward the ocean. I am being followed. I am afraid to fly over the water, so I turn into the freeway tunnel. It is dark. There are no cars. Then there is light. Red light. Moving light. Flickering. The followers tricked me into coming in here. They get closer to me. I hear their wings. I hear their beaks clacking. I hear their voices, half human, half squawking. They want me to turn around. I am flying toward a black wall of rock and shadow.

Norie is there. She is flying toward me. The flapping wings snap with fury. The followers see her. They seem afraid. Then I see large crows with human legs and human arms flapping their wings in long spreads to glide silently up behind Norie. I try to warn her, but my arms must operate the wings, so I cannot wave to her, and my voice is choked by fear, dry fear, so I cannot call to her. I see Norie's eyes lock with mine. She sees the followers catching up to me as I see the crows catching up to her.

The pajamas don't work.

I open my eyes. My mother is shaking me awake. She takes me in her arms. She is crying. I am trying to scream, but my throat is so dry, I cannot make a sound, only little rasps and coughs. Something warm is spreading down my chin, down on to my pajamas.

It is blood.
***********



Editor's Note: I received the above dream description in an email. The entire piece was in one block paragraph. With permission from the parents of Suzie, I broke the block into smaller paragraphs with spaces between paragraphs. I arranged the writing in such a way to add "drama" to the piece. I also want to point out that because the Pajama Therapy is being conducted on minors, I have gotten permission from the parents to write these updates about Norie and Suzie, and to some extent, Bridget, who remains bedridden, but whom we address in these updates. I'm glad that Norie and Suzie choose to read my updates to their friend, although, in a coma, she may not even hear the words. Still, there is always hope. 
Anthony Servante