Chiang Mai: Traffic congestion at the intersection and everything comes to a standstill. The tuktuk driver makes some remark, I ask him what he’s saying and out comes a whole string of words I think I can’t understand. Then I start to recognise a few familiar vocabulary items and can reply with the same kind of observation. He laughs and says this thing I’ve never heard before: jai yen-yen (heart stay cool) jai ron mai dai (heart hot – not okay). So what now? He looks around to see if we can do a U-turn; not possible, we have to wait and see, and he switches off the engine. Sit back, relax, silence, it’s strange to be suddenly quiet after the large sound of the 2-stroke engine stops with the flick of a switch. Seems like another world; sitting on a sofa in someone’s living room, decorative chromium bars – an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor on wheels? The driver has photos of his family stuck above the windscreen, and decorative flower garlands swaying in this slight wind. No walls, a canvas roof and the outside world enters my space, like it’s always been here; the inside merged with the outside. Birds could fly through… it’s odd, just metallic creaks and the sound of other engines turning over. The smell of fuel, tarmac; this is somewhere in some part of town. Ah well, I’m glad it’s not too hot, we might be here for a while.
I could send someone a text message …reach for my phone – then resist the urge. Okay, so, what’s the plan? All things are now directed here: the Plan; an habitual thing from long ago, frequent updates, always in line with current changes. It’s a comfortable space I create in the mind and that’s okay but sometimes I feel compelled to have a plan about the Plan. Then a plan about the plan about the Plan. The Plan is an end in itself, detached from its location in some future time, it’s now placed in present time – more like a plan for the present moment. We’re always only part the way through anything, anywhere, anyway and never at the end – we just don’t know what happens after that. Nobody ever came back from What Happens After That to say what it was like… we just don’t know.
Nothing is permanent, anicca, but the intervals between change may be immense; it doesn’t change for a very, very long time – then it does. I have a vision of it coming to an end one day… there goes the world, collapsing like a dead star, all matter reduced to an atom… all gone in a flash. Or maybe it’ll be slower; bits start to fall off and you hardly notice. And there’ll come a time when the System and all who sail in her will begin to fall in on itself like great empires do that have spanned the centuries; in the end, become too unreal and like castles made of sand and all things subject to collapse, tumble to the sea – nothing is permanently permanent – eventually. But it depends how you choose to see it, of course. In a different kind of temporality, it would just arise again and pick up where it left off; a continuous unfolding transformation and that’s how it is, even as we speak.
Something happening up front, cars beginning to move, the driver switches on the engine and it starts up immediately, a few turns of the throttle and we’re suddenly not there anymore, away in an exhilaration of speed and noise….
‘For many lives I have wandered, looking for, but not finding the house-builder who caused my suffering. But now you are seen and you shall build no more. Your rafters are dislodged and the ridge-pole is broken. All craving is ended; my heart is as one with the unmade’ [Dhammapada v.153-154]