nothing extraordinary


photo-1POSTCARD #02: London: There’s a crowd standing around the entrance to the Underground Station. It looks like an emergency, police cars pulled up on the pavement, and an area is cordoned off with white tape stretched across entry points to the station entrance. All traffic is redirected and pedestrians can’t get through either. A policeman gives me directions to the Underground station entrance on the other side; so reassuringly calm, I’m made to feel convinced there’s nothing unusual about this situation of flashing lights, bulletproof vests and loud crackling voices on the police audio system. Pay no attention if there’s a slight urgency in the air and the world seems like it’s falling apart, it’s all being taken care of…

Strange circumstances, we all think, realising what we are expected to do is adjust to it, stay within the familiarity of ‘self’ mode, conventional reality. Mesmerised by strategies to keep the population from mass hysteria. No, really, everything is perfectly allright sir… and I feel a hesitation; it wouldn’t be polite to ask the policeman what’s actually going on here, to take up any more of his time with awkward questions – no, and thank you, you’ve been so nice about this, thank you very much – very English. You hear the word ‘thank you’ constantly; THANKYOUs are everywhere, staying with how it appears to be; nothing extraordinary here, no, no… but I sense something catastrophic; a great yawning chasm opening up beneath my feet. Things are clearly not allright and there’s this sudden desire to be absent, distance myself from this location ASAP.

tube pic1Depending on a self that’s seemingly in ‘here’ creates the objective state – I am inside looking out through the eyes; seeing what’s going on out ‘there’ – a world separate from where ‘I am’. Duality. It’s an illusion, and part of this illusion is that the mind is maintaining the illusion. The policeman is maintaining the illusion, media, culture, everybody I meet reinforces the illusion because we’re all doing it. Even when I can see there’s no self to speak of – nobody at home – the mind is always telling itself there is a ‘self’ in here. And this is the situation; seeing past the ordinary self where there’s a ‘me’, a GPS locator: YOU ARE HERE. This is how it is that I arrive at the Underground entrance by way of the small backstreets, following the crowd. Then down two long escalators, deep under the ground, down and down to the depth of what feels like a ten storey building. At the very bottom of this is the tunnel and the track. Heavy old metal train careering in with a great whoosh of tunnel air, I get into the carriage and we’re off clattering through the blackness of the underground network, rattle-bang-clink, rattle-bang-clink, rattle-bang-clink….

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‘… the distinction between an ever-changing experiential response to the environment, and the concept of a reified continuous self living in an objective world,’ [Gay Watson, ‘I, Mine and Views of the Self’]

Upper photo: Newcastle Rail Station, lower photo: London Underground train

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