Department of English and Modern Languages

  • English
  • Does Infinity Drink Tea?

    by Ji Young Lee

    (a story fragment)

    There was once a time when two honeybees, Ada and Evan, were the sole collectors of the sweet honey-ambrosia in Paradise. They were special. They were Original. Their task was a special assignment ordered by Mother Earth; she told her two little foragers to roam free, to help themselves to the bloom of nature. And so, every day, Ada and Evan brought back just enough pollen to their hive, whereupon they were able to produce a viscose, amber-gold nectar that tasted as sweet as anything ever could be. This, of course, was Honey, a magical, healing, reinvigorating type of sustenance which Mother Earth was very, very fond of. The honeybees loved their hard-earned honey, and they loved sharing the substance with Mother Earth, who would sit by their ornate honey-comb nest every twilight eve for what she called Tea Time.

    Tea Time was a time for delicious delirium, energized by the regenerative power of Honey infused in Water, the life-force, to make for a potion she simply called ‘tea’. Mother Earth, along with her two honeybees, indulged this concoction daily. During this time sweetness could be heard in their laughter, and their laughter could be seen as sparkling ripples in the air, like a sheer silk cloth gently dancing with the leisurely breeze. And the airy joy of this dance could be felt by all other living creatures as an invisible caress upon their skin, an affection which would awaken the butterflies inside their bodies; and these butterflies would flutter like pleasure, and tickle their souls, until it could not be but helped that every breathing thing at twilight had to laugh, too, laugh in euphony with Mother Earth and the honeybees, the joy-bringers.

    Laughter gave birth to butterflies- and not just in a figurative sense. In the primordial era of Paradise, butterflies flew out into the world from any mouth which laughed, because laughter back then was Happiness, and happiness was the emotion which freed the butterflies into nature; you could smell their happiness as a sweet fragrance. Nowadays, of course, people do not have enough faith in their laughter to birth such butterflies- so these butterflies stay inside of us, waiting, anticipating their release, until they knot together in a flurried clump at the pit of our tummies. This creates the nervous sensation of what we now know to be a kind of mixed anxiety- a feeling of anticipatory hope coalesced with a little insecurity. As the expression goes nowadays- these are the butterflies in our tummies.

    Anyway, in the time of Paradise, these butterflies would go out and kiss all the flowers, in pure bliss, tinting the flower-pollen with a touch of greater sweetness. This helped make for good Honey when the honeybees came to collect their ambrosia. It was a cycle, a circle with no end or beginning- only processions of happiness, which would beget more happiness. There was no question for whether the honeybee came first, or the flower, or the butterfly- they were all First; back then everything with everything else proceeded in such a harmonic state of flow that you would be hard-pressed to define where one thing ended and another began, or which caused the other. Nothing was supposed as being divided in the first place, so one would never have doubted that the world was, in fact, Whole in itself- complete without beginning nor end. The modern term for this idea is Infinity, as you might have guessed- something everybody learns early in school and spends the rest of their lives trying to fathom.

    There is something you should know about the etymology of ‘Infinity’, actually- I’ll have to go back to the story about Tea Time. So, imagine it, imagine Tea Time, with Mother Earth and Ada and Evan the honeybees; when Mother Earth had her taste of Tea, she would rub her rounded belly, utter a melodic sound of satisfaction, and say ‘I am ready to create Tomorrow. See you, my dear honey-bees. I shall return for the ever Unfinished tea’. Then, Mother Earth would mysteriously disappear, perhaps into the very air, perhaps melting into the sticky-sweet gold of the honey-nest. They never really understood how she could be with them and then not, even though it always felt to them as though she was always sort of there anyway. Regardless, she would always, definitely, return to them for Tea Time- for ‘unfinished tea’, which Mother Earth meant as a perpetual non-farewell greeting. ‘Unfinished Tea’ meant Mother Earth would come back to unfinish her tea more, and again, and over and over, because Tea Time to her was not something she ever intended to finish in the strict sense of the word.

    Whatever the case, it was clear that Tea Time never finished-it only paused, or rather, suspended- like an ongoing, endless ellipsis. Her ‘Unfinished tea’ habit became known in the living Paradise as the colloquialism ‘Infinished tea’, because the trinity of ‘I’ sounds made it easier to pronounce, and this became a catch-all phrase to refer any Absolute Pattern, a constant- like the sun, or the perfect recurrence of the four seasons, and so on. Eventually the ‘sh’ sound was dropped- maybe ‘sh’ sounded too much like an extraneous hush. The term was then further shortened to something akin to ‘Infini-tea’, the latest variant of which is now ‘Infinity’ as you and I would know it. There you have it, then- Infinity really just began with Mother Earth and her unfinished tea.

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