THE PAINTING OF THE TWO BIRDS

‘Master Wang is a strange fellow. He’s full of riddles. I have no idea why I’m his only student. I like Meizhen though, we did some watercolor painting today. I miss you Dad.’ Zara reads her diary entry, and as she does a memory plays out in her mind, in the Wang family courtyard in Beijing…

Meizhen demonstrates the technique, her slender but steady hands painting the tree before them, when she stops dead in her tracks gazing at two birds in the tree. “Look Zara, look at those two birds, see how one hops from branch to branch tasting the fruits. Tell me, what do you see?”

“Birds, I see two birds.”

“Good, but the bird on the highest branch, see how it simply observes the other bird flittering to and fro. It just watches.” Meizhen breathes in deeply and smiles, her eyes widen, “See that! The lower bird just stopped in its tracks to take a look at the higher bird watching; as if it had seen a mirror image of itself. Tell me, if one of those birds was dreaming it was the other, which one would it be?”

“I think it’s the higher bird dreaming the life of the lower bird—” Zara pauses for thought— “Meizhen, does the Universe dream up the life of the higher bird?”

Meizhen smiles at Zara, giving her an affectionate hug, “The Universe as we know it, is as we are—think of it like a never-ending painting.”

“So, the Universe paints itself?”

“I suppose it does, Zara. I suppose it does.”