On my bike the other day, I saw a thick, long earthworm thrashing about in the middle of the pavement. It passed my field of vision so quickly that I wasn’t sure whether I had run it over or not. Strangely enough, the thought of running it over was even more horrifying to me than the mere sight of its thrashing – which, believe me, was bad enough.
I have a rather special relationship with earthworms. Their physique itself is unpleasant to me, but it is when they move that they deeply attack my usual comfort level. Their squirming hooks my mind with its unpredictable, sickly jerks, threads itself in with its cunning wind ups and unexpected twists, so consequently I’m the one thrashing about with the sensation of seven panic stricken hearts beating inside my stomach, pounding, lifting the scalp off my head. I cannot forget the image of the writhing earthworm, an image that disturbs me deeply. The emotion moving earthworms stir in me has nothing to do with pain or hatred. It is the pure essence of disgust, a kind of sickness, a feeling I wish I never had to feel. Ever. Even hatred is more enjoyable, and I am not a fan of it.
Worms seem to move in constant death throes, and yet it is the clearly visible determination of a living thing in their blind, aimless wriggling that makes my every pore swell and contract in a kind of retching motion.
I hold no malicious feelings against earthworms, and have never been mistreated by one. Which makes me feel doubly bad every time I see one and encounter herm (worms are hermaphrodites) with this rare breed of animosity. I feel guilty. Earthworms are friendlier and much more useful than humans. They modestly eat their way through the dirt of the earth and turn it into fertile soil. They spend endless nights preparing welcoming beds for flowers, trees, and shrubs - the very cucumber I had for lunch probably spent her formative years praying to the divine Earthworm.
And yet I cannot like herm. So after one more tragic encounter, still struggling with my body’s violent response, I speak a silent prayer. “Dear Earthworm. I genuinely hope I did not run you over. I appreciate all the useful work you do for this earth daily, and from which my species benefits immensely. I wish you that you may find a way to leave the unfortunate expanse of concrete you have wound up in. May you return safely to a happy life of digging. Dear Earthworm, Thank you.”
It is when I formulate the last two words of my prayer that something strange happens. As soon as I think “Thank you!” and concentrate on bundling through these words whatever gratefulness I can find in me, the earthworm on my mind dissolves. It instantly vanishes into thin air.
Which makes me repeat these two magic words all the more enthusiastically. THANK YOU! I am so genuinely grateful that I hear myself say them out loud, my mouth erupting into a monstrous smile as I ride my bicycle past a group of high school girls in their uniforms. “THANK YOU!” I beam. They look at me, and simultaneously say “You’re welcome’ like it automatically escapes them.
The disappearance of the earthworm was an epiphany to me. It was, I am sure, not just a peculiar coincidence. It was exemplary of a phenomenon. When the earthworm disappeared, the puzzle pieces of this realization magnetically attracted each other and clicked into place. As soon as you shoot the vibrations of Thank You into a creature, an object, any unit your mind is able to perceive, it assumes exactly the shape it would have in your ideal world. With Thank You, you create your ideal world. In my ideal world, an earthworm is invisible.
So thanks to the earthworm I met that day, I understood one category of the word
“mu”, meaning “nothing” or “none”. It is an old Zen concept, used by samurai, ninjas, mountain ascetics and other people who encountered far more unpleasant situations than thrashing earthworms on a daily basis. If you encounter something truly disturbing, emit the feeling of Thank You, and its disturbing nature will transform into whatever shape you may choose for it in your ideal world. Which just may be: 無 - nothing.
The divine invisible earthworm will forever be my friend.
Thank you, and welcome to Paradise.