Two Conceptions of Time

This one is about aphids, sucking the sweet juice from the stem of the chrystanthemums. They consume so much juice that they excrete sugar: honeydew.

“We are those aphids.” said Master Lee as he passed through the garden. “We fight each other for who is high on the chyrsanthemum bush and who is low. The one who is high on the chrysanthemum bush drinks much sap, lays many eggs, has many sons. The one who is low on the bush drinks less sap, lays few or no eggs. When he is gone his life leaves no trace. Like a dream.”

“But the other aphid the one who lives high on the bush, he leaves no trace either. “

“You amaze me.” said Master Hong.

“But I do not convince?” asked Master Lee.

“You do not convince.”


“The archetype of plant and aphid, producer and consumer, lives high above the aphids and the chrysanthemum bush. High above this world, and one could also say, to vary the mode of speaking, closer to the source. And high above that, is the Tendency of Things. And it is the Tendency of Things that determines that there should be archetypes and aphids and what will flow forth, and what will return. And one could say that this is the chrystanthemum bush, and you and I, as we endeavor to think through it, to process its sugar, and secrete our own honeydew, are aphids.”

“Did I not say as much? asked Master Lee.

“You did not. Or rather, you did not, until I explained your saying to yourself.”

“I am amazed.” said Master Lee.

“But you are not convinced? asked Master Hong.

“I am not.”

“Tell.” said Master Hong.

“There are two conceptions of time. According to one, it all happens at once: you, me, our disagreement, the aphids, the chrysanthemum bush with its white flowers, their spheres of fleshy petals, the archetypes, the Highest, and the Highest of the Highest. And according to the other it does not. First there is the the knowledge, then the thinking of it, then the speaking, then the mistakes, you and me walking in the garden, the sun setting, the sky becoming blue then white, then grey, then purple, then black.”

“Two men, each with one conception of time?” he asked.

“Not at all. One man breathes in while the other breathes out, perhaps?”


“They call them ant cows. You might as well call the ones who make milk for our morning coffee human aphids.”

It was cold. Master Lee tightened the cloak around his shoulders and hurried to the dwelling. Master Hong ran his fingers up and down the stems.


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