lonesome highway


IMG_0063POSTCARD07: Bangkok: Travelling along the highway to the airport in a taxi that has past its best – seen better days. It’s veering off to the left, trembles for a moment then corrects itself. There’s another problem, the driver has it revved-up because the engine stalls when we slow down, so the sound is a bit alarming. We stop at the tollway to pay the fee, engine stalls, driver gets out to push. Fortunately there’s a little slope at the tollbooth and the car moves forward easily. Driver jumps in, ignition on, and the engine comes to life. Big sigh of relief, driver apologizes to me: koh tod khrap, polite. A nice guy, just trying to earn a living with a rented vehicle that’s barely roadworthy. The Thai compassion for this kind of predicament means it’s tolerated more than it would be in other Asian countries.

In a moment we’re accelerating down the road again with this huge noise and there’s still about 20 km to go. I’m thinking that if the engine fails, we’ll have to stop at the edge of this long and lonesome elevated highway with nothing around except sky up above… this really is the middle of nowhere. I drop into a state of alertness; being mindful is exhilarating, the inclination to be awake, watchful. All senses switched on, an awareness that sees also, at the edge of this, some anxiety – the Buddhist term: samvega/pasada describes it – a sense of urgency. There’s clarity too, even though things are not looking good at all.

It’s like a death, just stopping at some place on the road, anywhere’ll do and that’s it, engine conks out. Nothing extraordinary about death; we die and come to life again from one moment to the next. Physical death comes along and instead of coming to life in another moment, we find ourselves in another lifetime. This is how it is, according to what I’ve read, and it could be time’s up for our taxi, it’ll die anytime now. Worst case scenario is waiting in the heat of the tarmac with no air-con running because there’s no engine and hoping another taxi will come along – unlikely… empty taxis don’t normally go out to the airport. What to do? Ah well, miss the flight, I suppose, go tomorrow – yes, but I’m getting ahead of myself here, it hasn’t happened yet.

In the end, the taxi holds on to life and we arrive at the airport okay. Get the bags out of the car with engine still racing and the last I see is the driver heading off in the direction of Arrivals; hoping he’ll pick up another passenger and make it back to the city again. I wheel my luggage into the cool airport and go look for the check-in row. Doorstep to the world. Goodbye Thailand, next stop Delhi…

BKKairport‘The universe I’s (using the word ‘I’ as a verb) in the same way that a tree ‘apples’ or a star shines, and the center of the ‘appling’ is the tree and the center of the shining is the star, and so the basic center of self of the I’ing is the eternal universe or eternal thing that has existed for ten thousand million years and will probably go on for at least that much more.’ [The Essence of Alan Watts, Vol. 4: “Death”]

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Upper photo: approaching BKK tollway. Lower photo: BKK airport departure gate area

4 thoughts on “lonesome highway

  1. What a nice analogy for death. It makes me a bit nervous to be relying on such transportation for my arrival at Suvarnabhumi on December 24th. Speaking of which, where will you be in the two weeks that follow that? I’m trying to plan my time between Bangkok, (hopefully) a retreat in Myanmar, and elsewhere in Thailand and would love to know of your plans.

    • Thanks for your comment, I think it helps to be aware of the death that’s present in life. There’s a nice text: ‘there’s more to dying than death’ by Lama Shenpen Hookham <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Theres-More-Dying-than-Death/dp/1899579680” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”> About your arrival, December 24, it could be a busy time at Suvarnabhumi. While you are still inside the airport, check out the AOT Limousine service after the Immigration queue, inside Arrivals at the end of the luggage belt area just before you exit. If they have no cars, follow the signs for Airport Rail Link, about 2 or 3 levels down. Ask for the express train to Phaya Thai in central Bangkok, (links with BTS Phaya Thai, Skytrain route). I’ll write to you by email with details…

  2. This is beautiful. As always, your posts bring me deep inside my own self…and yet out…at the same time. I, too, have been thinking about death lately. Ever since the birth of my son – six and a half years ago. The everyday kinds of births and deaths — even the “death” of this inhale and the “birth” of this next exhale. Somehow reading your words about how death in this lifetime is just like dying and then coming alive in the next moment — like we do everyday, with every breath – softens my fears even more. Thank you! Lisa

    • Thanks for these words, there’s not usually an opportunity to contemplate death, except for these small ordinary “deaths” in this lifetime that you mention here. This is when it’s possible to take on the idea of – whatever you want to call it – a greater consciousness? (that’ll do). Then seeing that worrying about it is an invented thing. You’re right, it softens things, gets it all into perspective.

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