YUI THE LEAF PILER & THE LOST TRIBES OF OD
Updated: Aug 9
meditations on fear and control
“Once upon a time there was a sailor who was controlled by the need to control. He controlled his boat very well. He was an excellent sailor. The Sea Gods were so impressed
by his sailing they granted him the boon to be able to control the Seas of the Earth.
Of this too he did an excellent job. The Gods of Outer Space who watch over the Gods of the Elements of the Earth, were so impressed they awarded him a further boon. “What shall be thy boon?” they asked of the excellent sailor and contoller of the Seas of the Earth. “To control you!” he replied. “So it shall be!” said the Gods of Outer Space. The Sailor was now the Supreme Controller of Space and Time. “Ha, ha!” he shouted proudly across the galaxies, “who controls me now?!” Yet although he had thought his question to be rhetorical, an answer came back through the stars “I, the Need to Control, I control you, most excellent sailor!” Yolol, Prophet of The Tribes of Od. “In the air be as a bird. In the water as a fish. In the mind as innocence.” The Trigal, unwritten doctrine of The Tribes of Od.
Once upon a time, in the promised land, even before it had been promised, in the years immediately preceeding The Great Flood, when it was still only drizzling - when Noah and his team of carpenters could still hammer and saw outside, under the open sky; when everywhere you went was not yet one big ocean, and it was common to see people slip and trip and skid along the milk and honey and rainwater soaked city streets and country lanes - there lived a humanoid race known as The Tribes of Od.
Some say mention of The Tribes of Od was erased from all antedeluvian literature, even the Five Books of Moses, by the censors, by the pens of those whose bloody swords slashed and stabbed most successfully – those who later proclaimed themselves rulers of the visible world, and sought to mould and control the memory of humankind – much as today our legally imposed school books exploit the plasticity of the brains of the children we love.
Others say The Tribes of Od - aware of the cruelty of which the human arm and mind are capable - themselves elected to vanish from human history, and human awareness - and that being masters and mistresses of physical transmutation, grew gills and fins and tails, and swam away, and swim on to this day, happily, at depths to which humans don´t go.
But exist they did, alongside us, once upon a time, in those drizzly days of misty winters and steamy summers... although, even then, most of them kept their distance from us. “The Momo Crogs” they called us – meaning “those who are afraid of life, of existence - and of each other, and themselves”.
The Tribes of Od lived in the forests, or with the forests, or as the forests - away from the cities and towns, away from the worlds of buildings and streets our Momo Crog Ancestors erected around themselves so that the unpredictability of the natural world would not feel so challenging, or uncomfortable, or humbling.
At night The Tribes of Od would transmute into trees – and sleep peacefully as Yew, Juniper, Carob and Cedar; Oak, Jujube, Cypress and Mulberry, each according to their predilection - until they awoke renewed, each new dawn. When the children of The Tribes of Od reached adolescence leaves would sprout from their ankles and elbows and knees. They wore no clothes. They ate sand and moss. They had no pens or paper, and didn´t read or write – but the music they made with sticks and stones could break and heal a weary heart.
And just as we had our Noahs - our Prophets of Morality and Codes and Control – The Tribes of Od had their prophets too. Radiating kindness, they would wander through the ever-wetter cities and towns of the foolish and numb Momo Crogs, preaching The Trigal. That was the name of their doctrine. It is a difficult doctrine to explain, but in essence, it avowed this: that everything perceivable is relative, even up and down, even in and out – that the only Absolute is Grace.
"Where is your holy book?" the damp, intellectually-challenged Momo Crogs of the cities and towns would heckle - frightened, somehow, by the leafy flesh of the Prophets of The Tribes of Od. "Where is your written proof?" our ancestors would demand, as-if-reasonably. "This is our book" the Prophets of the Forests would reply, upturning the palms of their hands, upon which raindrops would scatter, sparkling with self-evident argument. "Well, here then - here´s a whole lot more of your book!" the mobs of the cities and town would mock - and they would chuck buckets of rainwater at them with hilarity. (Yes, it can be embarrassing for us to hear this - to be reminded of the behaviour of those from whom we are descended - those who once breathed, and walked about, and had strong opinions, as we do now).
As the intellectually-challenged, on-edge, interminably dripping and ostentatiously-compensatory mobs congratulated themselves loudly, one man - a nasty, little, autistic man named Yui Tong, a devout city dweller, a firm believer in pavements and crossroads and walls, a man who could recite the Jerusalem Traffic Manual by heart, a man with a particular fondness for one-way streets, a fanatical moralist, an idealist driven by visions of centralized control of the multi-directional flow of life - did not laugh with the mob. "Who do they think they are - these tree-mutant hybrids?" Yui mumbled to himself, spitefully - and spat. "I´ll show them! There is nowhere that cannot be controlled! The Trigal indeed!" he muttered scornfully, and stamped his right foot decisively in a nearby puddle.
Yui was fifty five now - and nearing retirement after a frustrating career at The Ministry of Milk and Honey in downtown Jerusalem - a career that had begun with high hopes, but which had led nowhere. "One day we shall plug every leak of milk and honey through every orifice in the Earth´s surface! We will all walk safely, sliplessly, forever!" he had declared ambitiously, impressively, at his initial interview at The Ministry. But after decades as a Milk and Honey Leak Plugging Clerk his visions of a dry and slip-free Earth had faded. Milk and Honey was still leaking unplugged everywhere, and now - as if to dilute his dreams still further - it didn´t stop raining!
Young Yui had quickly become something of a leak plugging protocols protégé – The Ministry´s go-to-beaurocrat for detailed information on regional milk and honey ´leak and slip´ bylaws. It all came easily to Yui. He was a natural. But because his autistic fingers could furl and file papyri, unfurl and unfile papyri, and refurl and refile papyri without the need for thought - both nightmares and dreams could wander freely around the judgmental corridors of his mean, but tidy mind.
On his darker days Yui would be tormented by images of faraway forests where milky waterfalls splashed freely, and cork oaks and strawberry trees and prickly pear cacti dripped heavenly honey. The unclothed, unsupervised children of The Tribes of Od would be laughing irresponsibly. And worst of all - leaves would be falling everywhere, over everything. These were terrifying, turbulent daytime-nightmares of chaos, of uncontrolled liquids, and wild, stirring winds.
On lighter days Yui´s mind would waft through well-pruned, charming, homely gardens where birds sat still, politely; where, because there was no wind, leaves, when they fell, would fall into neat piles; where the tusked boar were born with muzzles; where riverbeds were peacefully empty; and where, above all, the unpredictable, irrepressible Tribes of Od were nowhere to be seen – having, he hoped, been overrun by plagues of ravenous lotuses or small, squeaky frogs.
Today, as Yui strode across the marble floor of the imposing vestibule of The Ministry of Milk and Honey, his right sandal soaked, his mood was neither fearful and wet, nor peaceful and dry - it was fiery, red, determined and decisive. “While the foolish crowds dump buckets of water on the heads of the sub-human, superstitious Prophets of The Tribes of Od, and our own pessimistic prophets predict storms and doom and build rafts and arks and canoes, I – I, Yui, Son of Temo, Grandson of Not, descendant of the house of Tong Stik; I – Yui the most renowned of Leak Plugging Clerks at The Ministry of Milk and Honey; I will preach a different doctrine, a different destiny – a powerful, defiant, glorious destiny for humankind!” he said - uncharacteristically loudly – and his voice echoed, yes, somewhat prophetically, around the venerable Ministry vestibule walls.
Into the office of the Chief of Leak Plugging he strode, stormily – unstoppably. “I, the once-promising Yui Tong, resign!” he asserted, hotly. The Chief was gobsmacked. “We were going to plug the milk and honey leaks that were flooding the countryside and ruining our harvests; we were going to tie balloons filled with silver and potassium iodide to flocks of pigeons, and geoengineer the weather; we were going to spray the sky with vile, evil, sulphuric curses – and clog up the stratosphere and block out the sun - we were going to make life safe! Safe – at last! But what have we done? Nothing! Nothing, I tell you! I have been furling and unfurling papyri for years – to what end? None! None!” And with these blazing, utterly unforeseen, final, departing words - Yui span around haughtily, and left The Ministry forever. The Chief of Leaks, still in shock, mumbled something about antediluvian pension papyrus BC1000, even though Yui had gone.
“Life CAN be controlled! Life CAN be controlled! ALL life can be controlled!” Yui hummed to himself, over and over, like a mantra or a marching song, as he picked up the items he felt he´d need from his apartment, so conveniently situated, all those years, just around the corner from the Ministry...
A hemp canvas for shelter, his cotton hammock, some flax rope, a knife, a clay pot, a fire flint, his favourite ox hoof toothpaste, a fishing hook, papyri, a reed stylus and ochre ink, a few clothes – Yui was off to the forest! It was a daring lifestyle choice. But someone had to make it! He was going to show them all! It COULD be done! “Damn the primitive Tribes of Od! Damn Noah and The Prophets of Guilt! Damn the flooding streets! Damn the drunken, idiotic mobs! Damn the Ministry of Milk and Honey! I will be the man who tidied the forests! I will be the man who made the forests safe - for everyone, forever! Me, me, I, Me, Yui...” he insisted to himself, manically.
And so it was that Yui Tong, Son of Temo, Grandson of Not, descendant of the house of Tong Stik; Yui the famously gifted yet unexpectedly-resigned, autistic Milk and Honey Leak Plugging Clerk, became Yui the Leaf Piler, Tidier of Forests, Herald of a Tidy Earth, Prophet of Total Control...
A walking stick in his left hand, a cloth bag with his select possessions slung over his right shoulder, pilgrim-like - witnessed only by destiny, by the impenetrable sky, and by time –Yui set out through the irritating rain, upon his grand and ominous quest.
Day after day, night after night, Yui walked on. Here he saw a milk leak, there he saw a honey leak – and everywhere he walked he was disgusted. Were there subterranean bee-farms and bovine-farms tended by The Tribes of Od, he wondered. It wouldn´t have surprised him! Were there great underground caverns where gravity was reversed, and cows grazed upside-down on cave ceilings, and liquids flowed upwards, seeping out into the above-ground world – deliberately designed to make life messy? He wouldn´t have put anything past the disruptive, anarchic Tribes of Od!
Finally, and most awfully, Yui entered the pine-forested hills where, unlike the perfectly flat, obstacle-free, refreshingly lemony-clean, well-mopped marble Ministry floors – so mathematically reassuring to the eye – underfoot, everything was mulchy and mushy and mouldy and stank - and clumps of leaves and twigs and god-knows-what rotting organic matter hid dips in the path where a less cautious, less resentful human being (or their child, or their donkey, or their dog) could easily trip and fall, and if not crack a bone, at the very least get splattered in dirt.
“Here it is! This is my nightmare! Here I shall set up camp. Here I shall preach! Here I shall pile leaves into piles. I will make this forest habitably safe for decent, careful human beings. I will set the example for the generations to come! We will not regress into the incoherent mysticism of The Tribes of Od! We shall not succumb to the rights and wrongs, and guilt and shame and masochism of Noah and his Rain God! Nor shall we numb ourselves with wine and fight in the mud like swine! We, the Human Race, shall establish our dominion - our domination! All things shall know their place! And we shall put them there! The atom itself shall do our bidding!” he declared, presciently, brilliantly - to the pines and oaks and ivy and wild, fruitless grape vines.
And Yui did set up camp, there in the soggy forest. And his camp became his home. The days passed, the nights passed – and the rain fell incessantly upon his canvas, beneath which his hammock hung dry. And there he would sleep. The rain would fall, conveniently, straight into his cooking pot – upon the nettles and borage and mallow and dandelions he´d forage – and this he would heat and eat. And so it was that Yui survived - physically. But emotionally, all was not well...
Yui would spend his days pushing leaves into tidy piles. Sometimes he would push with the palms of his hands until they were filthy and swollen and blistered. Sometimes he would push with rakes he´d fabricate with branches and twigs and vine. But morning after morning, when Yui would awake to inspect his previous day´s pushing - he´d find that his piles were gone. Sometimes it was foxes, sometimes it was boar, sometimes it was the wind – but mostly it was the rain. Night after relentless night it washed Yui´s perfect little leaf pyramids, his offerings to the God of Tidiness, desecratingly – back into the undifferentiated carpet of rot and rebirth that overlay the forest floor.
Throughout this time the children of The Tribes of Od spied on Yui through the undergrowth - watching in confused amazement as he pursued his evidently-unattainable goal. Mostly they felt sorry for him, but sometimes they would giggle, and sometimes Yui would suspect he heard them. “He´s not the Grandson of Not, he´s the Grandson of Nut! Because he´s as nutty as a fruitcake!” they would joke. (Such is the antiquity of that unlikely expression: an association between madness and baked dry fruits that we have inherited from our antediluvian ancestors – ancestors who picked walnuts and almonds and dates from trees that were the ancestors of the trees from which we pick our walnuts and almonds and dates, to bake our fruitcakes, today.)
At night the children of The Tribes of Od would recount Yui´s antics to the Elders of the Tribes, who were beginning to feel not only sorry for Yui, but concerned. They became especially concerned when Yui fell ill.
Perhaps it was the damp. Perhaps it was the diet. Perhaps it was the suddenness of change of lifestyle. Perhaps Yui was being eaten away from the inside by his own insanity. Perhaps it was the fire of his rage that was burning him up. The Elders of The Tribes of Od began to visit Yui at night, while he slept, and watch over the odd Momo Crog plaintively. They would place calming hands upon his fevered limbs as he tossed and rocked in his hammock. “We can ease his suffering, but he will die unless he lets go of his frantic battle with reality” they agreed, learnedly.
The Elders would discuss Yui the Leaf Piler, Prophet of Total Control - whom they saw as an extreme example of the addiction to fear that so afflicted his species. “Even if they could control reality, they would still be controlled by the need to control!” remarked one Elder, disbelievingly. “They´d still be controlled by Crog!” another Elder concurred.
Then the eyes of one of the most venerable Prophets of the Tribes of Od began to spin, and as if in trance, he predicted “there shall come a time when the Momo Crogs shall all be numbered, and their numbers written in a great, invisible book. They shall be permitted to change their names, but not their numbers. They shall be unable to travel unnumbered. They shall consider it the mark of civilization to be numbered. Even their dogs shall be numbered - their numbers written beneath their fur!” The children gasped. The adults gathered closer. “They shall build their houses upon each other´s houses. Their cities shall be like ant hills, or beehives” the Prophet declared, “they shall study the mechanics of things, yet know not the things themselves; they shall measure and weigh and time all things, yet feel not the mystery or sacredness of anything.” The children gasped. The adults gathered closer still. The eyes of the Prophet rolled on. “All shall be watched; every doing shall be written down, though not by hand; and every doing shall be remembered, though not by mind. Numbered, and forced to work every daylight hour, they shall nevertheless consider themselves free – so enamoured of control shall they be! And so enamoured of the mechanics of things shall they become, they shall dream of becoming things themselves!” The children gasped again and again. Some of the toddlers cried. “I think Yui would like their future” said one toddler, gently. The adults were somber. Of course - this was the future towards which their fear was leading them.
“But what about Yui?” the children called out – having grown fond of him while spying on him, day after day. Eventually it was decided that a gnarly old Shaman would present a medicinal question to the fevered Yui – a mercurial question which, if received without resistance, would glide through his blood and mind – and perhaps, potentially, as-if-by-grace, apparently-magically heal and transform Yui – saving him from his mission, saving him from the fires in his body, and even saving him from the Great Coming Flood.
Did Yui know he was no longer cooking for himself - that he was being fed a soothing broth prepared by the cooks of The Tribes of Od? Did Yui even know where he was any more? No, he didn´t. Yui was now in a psychological land, a dreamland, beyond leaves, beyond forests, beyond Ministries, beyond Prophets - the land known to The Tribes of Od as “Yoolooloo” - an inner landscape, a psychedelic land beyond time and space, a land beyond rights and wrongs – a land of music and vibrations, resonances and possibilities - a land where grace wandered idly. And there in Yoolooloo, the Land of Questions - though he knew not that the voice he heard was the voice of an elderly Shaman of The Tribes of Od, Yui heard these words:
“Yui, Yui – it rained and it rained. It rained until the ocean came. It rained until there was only ocean – until everywhere was ocean. Yet upon that ocean there was an arc. And aboard that arc there was a master sailor, an expert navigator named Noah. To survive the ocean´s storms no human, nor animal, nor bird could have wished for a better captain than he. Yui - can you see the ocean? Can you see the good captain steering his arc?” Yui could, indeed, see an ocean, and waves as high as the sky - and a confident captain smiling broadly, riding great waves - and he wasn´t sure, but it seemed to him that the person who was speaking to him was a fish.
“Good. Very good, Yui” said the fish-like Shaman of the Tribes of Od, “now Yui, tell me this – if the good Captain Noah can navigate his arc through the ocean´s storms – does that mean he is therefore in control of the ocean?”
To Yui everything looked blurry... the ocean seethed... it was pouring in Yoolooloo... had it been raining forever?... there was a storm at sea... and that storm was inside him... and the neck of the head with the mouth that was speaking to him had gills... was he underwater?... perhaps he had drowned. And, and, and... there was a question – he knew there was. What was it? It was a question about the ocean, and Noah, and navigation, and control...
“Noah can navigate, not control” Yui blurted, conclusively – not understanding, in that instant, the consequences of his statement; not understanding the passage it had opened in his psyche – not understanding its consequences for his mission, his prophethood, his mental health, his body, his consciousness, his universe...
In that instant, despite Yui´s lack of cognition, the shaman´s question slid all the way down into Yui´s belly, and Yui experienced an unprecedented joy. It was as if he had swallowed trust. It was as if trust was dissolving a lifetime of emotional indigestion. He saw images of himself as an autistic infant trying to pile dewdrops on top of dewdrops, which, of course, would just slip and melt in his tiny hands. He saw images of himself in rags in the forest, piling leaves on top of leaves, which, of course, the wind would sweep up mischievously, delightedly, into the air – laughing. But now Yui laughed too! Yui laughed with the wind! And he looked upon his selves - and laughed and cried and gave thanks for this fresh, new freedom from obsession.
“Momo Crog, you are a bit less croggy now” said the Shaman of The Tribes of Od, wryly. And as the Shaman leaned over him, Yui was sure he could see the Shaman had fins. “Are you a fish?” he asked. “Take your time. You´ve been in Yoolooloo, the Land of Questions. Now you´re coming back from that dreamland” the old Shaman explained, gently. Yui felt... something new, something unfamiliar... it was happiness. It was surprising it was so easy to let go of years of tightness and nastiness and pain. It was surprising it was so simple, light and easy to let go of his vision and mission and ambition. “I feel such a sweetness in my belly and chest - it´s so oddly easy to let go” he told the Shaman, curiously.
“But where have I come back to? Where am I?” Yui asked, with uncharacteristic calm. “You couldn´t pile leaves anymore, you were too ill - you were lying on your back on your hammock, day after day, night after night – dying”, said the Shaman. Yes, he remembered. Yui blinked and squinted, and stretched his eyes, and looked around. It seemed he was surrounded by fish! Was he... could he be... was he underwater?! He was.
And once again, Yui was surprised. He was surprised he wasn´t shocked - or afraid. He was surprised by his own immediate acceptance of this new, alternate, aquatic reality. And feeling an itch under his chin, Yui raised a nail to his neck, and recoiled – though only slightly. He had grown gills.
And fins. And a tail - like a merman. He´d been right about the Shaman! “You´ve been in Yoolooloo for weeks. The Great Flood has come. Yesterday Noah´s Ark broke its moorings. We ourselves had already decided to transmute, and swim far away - to where the Momo Crog don´t go. It was transmute-you too - or leave you to die” the Shaman explained.
Perhaps this explanation should have mattered. Yui had once loved explanations. Explanations had given him a sense of intellectual dominance, and importance. But what seemed to matter more to Yui now was the kindness in the eyes of the shoal around him. He had never really liked anyone before, or been-liked-by anyone before. And although he was a fish now, he had friends. That felt new, and nice. He flipped his tail about a bit – and that felt nice too...
As Yui wriggled in ways he now could, a huge shadow passed overhead. It was the shadow of Noah´s Ark! As it passed above, the newly-marine Yui and the newly-marine Tribes of Od could hear the chirping and growling and hooting and howling of the many species Noah the Guilty had saved - and that happy cacophony made Yui and The Tribes of Od smile, and wriggle and leap...
Possessed by their new marine instincts, Yui and the Tribes of Od found themselves leaping, dolphin-like, in arches over the Ark! The animals on the Ark looked up, and laughed and jeered, and sung and danced - each according to their nature. Even Noah and the Faithful smiled – hesitantly though, as there were no clear scriptural directives for such an occurrence.
Mark the Mystic Activist.