a misplaced bestiary
Part 3: The Inverted Owp (Mobius Transversus)

Contrary to the original mythology practiced by all currently organized topologists (and typologists), the Mobius Strip, that extension of mathematical ingenuity, was not invented after the appearance of the animal which most required it, which most brought it forth as a working example of what many call “binding wholeness” (or, in other contexts, “blinding wholeness”), that singular example of exemplary living and dying, a creature of only one extended message, The Inverted Owp

This bird-like animal, compellingly valuable as the sense of all inversions is valuable, bears claim to the oldest major (or significant) branching of the animal kingdom at a later stage of its evolution.  We have thought that it was the Cariolis effect which may be signaled as the first step in the birth of this new species and is seen in the spiral turning of such plants as the bindweed or the morning glory, who could not extricate themselves from their spiraling, whirl-winded, indeed pre-fixed patterns, a condition which has locked them into an evolutionary dead end, spiraling toward a well known “species death”, the ultimate distancing, a term called up by those of us who remember the immense parade which has gone before us and which we know, or think we know, we are required to join.

It is therefore with the greatest interest that we have discovered the fossils of this rare and certainly not widespread species, layered in the deep beds of the Cocomino Sandstones and Angel Shales of the Grand Canyon (indeed, an exemplary section from “the vast parade” of evolutionary grandeur).  The Inverted Owp, it has been determined, entered the world of our earth 150 million years ago, perhaps as early as the end of the Permian period of the Paleozoic or perhaps as late as the beginning of the Jurassic, and probably moved through its significant life as a species, we estimate, for about 5 to 10 million years.

It is important to remember the larger climatic state and overall geologic conditions of the earth at that time, an earth far more humid and oxygen-laden and, through its small oceanic area, broken into a great many smaller seas.  Mountain ranges arose in places where we now encounter deserts. Deep abyssal plains were even then filling the earth with the debris of hundreds of millions of years of sediment, like a formerly luminous dust, slowly sifting into their raised bottoms.  And land, constantly denuded by prolonged drought, leached of its deposits and empty of all but slow, languorous motion and  a cycle of ceaseless sift and drift, was slowly growing more fertile. The real plants, the cycads, the seed-bearing ones, dicots or monocots, had not appeared, were far in the geological distance. Finally, the oxygen content of the earth was perhaps slightly greater than it is today.  So we have hypothesized.

And in this moist and humid world of shallow seas and tropical, low-lying landscapes, creatures which had long fallen into their genetic ruts and others which were somehow working themselves out of theirs and into new methods of flowering found themselves in a world which they could not change and had never thought of changing,  as had the earlier ribbon of that parade that had gone before them. So it has been with uncountable numbers of species, operating under Gershgoren’s Ultimate Law of Unwillable Change (GULUC), which states that change, an absolute given, cannot be forced and must, and does, operate with “frictionless motion”.

However, it was at this point in the real history, a "long" one indeed, with its five million year footprints etched already into the earth, that choice itself was born, born to a species which pointed the way, some have ventured to say, to the exponential growth of our own species, Homo Sapiens sapiens, the so-called “wise men” coming with ambiguous gifts (some have said), the species which thinks it has invented such an item as "choice".  (And to give it its due, it has.)  But, unknown to it, that posturing of intellect, a dialectic of constant mental gymnastics, was set down ages ago, in a time of far different conditions but under circumstances which have recently proved fruitful for our own kind and kindred, though it must be said we have had no way of predicting this opening.

I am referring, of course, to the growth of genetic opposition or the symbolizing of both sides of every coin—good and evil, matter and mind, up and down, found and lost, and any other which you would care to posit in our species—one creation, in short, divided, only yet to merge into the one, unified whole and after a period of confusing molecular handshaking, fissure again.  But for the first time—and it cannot be emphasized too greatly—this self-dignifying and self-defining creature, The Inverted Owp, had been "unified" as an endless succession of opaque and untouchable opposites.  And in the genetic history of the species (that is, within that long, more than lengthened parade of which it knew itself a part), it functioned like a genetic traffic light at some unique intersection of this stage of evolutionary flowering, a signal light switched on and off, on and off for these passing ten million years of its existence.

The Inverted Owp had developed, we think, from some ancestor of the bindweed or from some other spiraling primitive plant of that era.  As the plant and the animal kingdoms so often do, the one began to watch and then to imitate the other.  So with the Venus Fly Trap and so with the flounder or stone fish, Gershgoren’s Law predicts that “imitation proceeds preservation.”  The Owp twisted itself along its proto-history into an “uncompleted spiral,” only one twist, and then found that it was incomplete and managed to join both beginning and end into one—we must use that modern word again—Mobius Strip, what we might call the “beginnings of an almost skin-deep mindfulness.”  And thus, it distinguished itself (in the lengthening parade) from all other creatures before its time and from most after it, a genetically magical trick of unenforced definition. 

In the world of The Inverted Owp, everything was pure surface open to light and sifted through the fundamental, slow moving elements. Everything encountered its unreflected surface. Everything turned toward its uncreated opposite without the least awareness of motion and moved nowhere within the abolition of time and the consequent elimination of all other units of space and time.  And this was its heroic position, the position, if we could call it that, of the Inverted Owp, heroic and immortal as a singularly and perfectly realized creature who had no need for the dichotomies of others, who saw nothing inherently incomplete, and who went to great lengths, and only lengths, to show, no, to implore all creatures within its purview to follow the path which it had, perhaps, we might say, chosen to take. 

If the animals and plants of that time had listened—and we must assumed they did listen—they would have heard, with their combined selves rather than with their limited orchestrations of beings, and there would have been one animal, instead of the uncounted millions of species which now inhabit our life-abounding and overburdened planet.

Instead, we find an unresolvable question at the bottom of the well of our minds, one we have dug with our ever so fertile thoughts—the puzzle of why.  Why, we ask, did the varied and variegated creatures of that time choose to ignore this genetic message the way a car may choose to ignore a red light at an intersection at 2 in the morning and find that it has succeeded in passing through one barrier without seeing what it has missed? Or rather, did they see the Inverted Owp for what it really was?  Did they look with jealousy on the completeness of a creature they could only bow down to and never, they felt, begin to imitate through the joining of their ends with their beginnings? Perhaps the Inverted Owp vanished for this almost obvious reason.  For how can any being, locked into its spiraling genetic parade and moving within its genetic position among so many various others, find another key to open a door which never sticks and which has only one side, which is always looking out for itself and which has no self-reflective, inward consciousness and no tribal mysteries to create and therefore to maintain against and with all others; in short, how can a creature exist with no extractable ego, with no reflective, multi-layered image of self, in fact, how can it even be noticed by itself and by others defined as others and, if noticed, acknowledged?

If the Inverted Owp had been killed by the collective weight (or open-formed trajectories) of all the species of its time, has its discovery so recently had another meaning, which none of its contemporaries had been able to see and, if able to foresee, unable to prevent?  In other words, was the Inverted Owp a so-called “time capsule” (some have maintained) meant for only us to open; for we, it is supposed by these speculative devisers, are the new attempt by the genetic demon to return the world to that enclosed plant and its only inwardness.

O, what a proud thought this is, but "proud" in the older, deeply negative, deeply critical sense, for here lies the lesson of this clear-pressed and presented fossil we have found resting now in the layered beds of its dreaming, not only in the body of the earth but also in our own bodies, our own oceanic minds: Its death and glory were one. Its vision now for us is one, which we must strive to reach through into the highway, that is, “high way,” of vision which lies beyond the senses themselves or attend to an expanded attention to merge every particular at every moment into our existence—perfection and balance with no thought of perfection or balance.

Is it possible, we ask ourselves, to become this creature, to return to its spiraling genetic completeness, for become it we must.  We are, as are all living things, pursued by the demons of our strict and definition-distorted partiality, are such desperate, disparate demons who cast their cape-extended shadows over our trembling, wavelength-laden visions as they widen the soundless crack between what we are today and what we want to become in some extended future, create within us, through their desperate divisiveness, more and more the projection of greater and greater desire, greater and greater desperation.  Yet, we are striving, with our total collective efforts, to become one creature without sides, without division, to see purely and completely the other side of the shadow, the other side of all objects, to glimpse the sound of the world before the world was made, to touch the first truly native plant in the denuded wastelands of our limited claims to existence.

And it is there that we must find our final example in this time and space we inhabit and see to it that all the species of our world, all that see, like us, with their partial minds the visions of their existence, see with their partial bodies (partial in both senses of the word), and our species as well, see that all these species (and ourselves included within them) do not, in their collective, volcanic upheavals of indecision (a direction stuffed with fear-directed pride), swallow this creature which speaks to us more clearly with each moment over these 150 million years of found and founded development, take care that we do not swallow it into disappearance.  For we have lessons in our own recorded particulates, lessons enough to tell us how the forces of partiality must be treated, those immense energies which are the very mold of the world and its rind wrinkling on the very skin of the planet. And so we hope we may succeed; for it is in the nature of all things, living and unliving, to succeed. Our striving demands it, and, of course, we shall.

The Brooklyn Rail is proudly featuring Lost and Found Animals as a web exclusive serial through the Fall and well into 2017.


Sid Gershgoren

Sid Gershgoren has published six books of poetry and prose: The books of poetry: Negative Space, Mutual Breath (a book of 65  villanelles), Symphony (a medium long poem in a "symphonic" form), Through the Sky in the Lake (a book of "lines"), The Wandering Heron (a book of haiku), and two prose works, Past Rentals (a fictional "catalog" of a company that rent its "customers" space, place, and situation in a particular area of the past within a particular time, place, and situation), and The Extended Words (an imaginary dictionary). Sid Gershgoren has published widely in various magazines and anthologies.