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Diary Excerpt

J.D. Smith

Today I had a Buddhist day, or what I thought a Buddhist day would be like. To be precise, I threw some thoughts together and called them Buddhism. Many do. At least I didn’t turn those thoughts into a bestseller, or an expense-account retreat for executives who needed enlightenment in a weekend. I was different.

And I began to wonder what was the price of looking down on authors, or seminars. It had to cost me further incarnations. My system ramified: skimping on a tip would mean two more lives as an invertebrate. Accidentally stepping on a worm would lead to three incarnations as a series of small burros, under heavy loads, in a desert broken only by steep mountains. Flipping off the driver who nearly clipped me in a crosswalk set me up for a dozen brief existences in a housing project, or a long life that would begin and end there.

With these principles in mind, I outran an old woman to a cab; I would thus inhabit eight successive bodies as a migrant farm worker. Taking a second newspaper from the machine, just because, ensured that I would be, at least once, a woman in Afghanistan. There were heels as well as toes to step on, white blouses where coffee could be spilled.

I called in sick from a payphone and, hanging up, I clotheslined a bicycle messenger with my umbrella. With a harsh glance I would buy myself untold passages through strange lands. With a single epithet I could earn the chance to be the race I slurred.

I was made an encyclopedia, with untold volumes forthcoming, the flesh of paradox. Though the hours flew, by dinner-foie gras and penned veal-I had a notion of eternity.

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