POSTCARD#42: Chiang Mai: Don’t know why or how it can be like this, but there’s a sense of joyfulness, today – floating free. An easeful vertigo that’s comfortably not lost its balance. I’ve been looking at the building under construction next door, and seeing it expanding upwards daily. It’s like something sculptural. The floors and wall surfaces that will hold the enclosed space we recognize as rooms and corridors are not complete, just the shape of the space within which things exists, a 3 dimensional photographic negative in the mind’s eye. The builders do everything in negative form.
They’ve done one new floor since I last wrote about it [structures]. Bricks and mortar with foundations deep in the earth. So fast, almost like everything is made out of paper, no gravity, no heaviness, and we’re in the realm of birds and flying. The guy in the red shirt seems to be the one who always goes up first; climbing into the sky. I don’t know what his life can be like, maybe bonded to his job, burdened with hardships, and struggling with the contractor over pay… but how could he not feel good today, standing up there in the cool morning and looking out, blue sky as far as the eye can see.
These builders are the heroes of the story, men and women in their wide brimmed straw hats, faces covered with cloth to protect the skin from the sun and regulation hard-hats squeezed down over the straw crown. The big bankers and investors might open bottles of champagne when it’s finished, but they’re nothing compared with these ordinary folk on the scaffolding who climb up into the sky on their flimsy structures and boards and the building follows on up behind them. It’s as if there was a hook in the sky they attach their ropes to and from there, can haul the building up, suspended.
Buildings are the mountains of the city and the created world. These builders are rural/urban migrants; they’re from the villages and the mountains themselves; mountain climbers who build the mountains they climb. And seen from where I am, on the third floor, this mountain/building next to me appears above the tree line and looks strangely separate from the ground below – I can’t see the foundation, there’s sky above and (I assume) sky below. It’s a floating building.
A strange illusion, I’ve seen it in Switzerland, on walks around Dhammapala Buddhist Monastery. When you’re high up there on a steep incline, with trees near enough so you can see the forest floor below, the mountain above the treetops looks like it has disconnected itself from the earth, drifted away from its moorings; a gravity-free mass of rocky earth and vegetation floating in the sky. Thinking of the floating Hallelujah Mountains in the Avatar movie; based on the Huang Shan mountains in China.
There’s a light-headedness about this because, today, I’m somehow free from attachment to things in the mind. Considering the possibility that one reason human beings tend to be in a state of ‘holding’ a lot of the time, is that we’re all earth-bound creatures; attached by gravity to a spinning planet and the default mindset is this holding-on thing – can be difficult to feel comfortable about letting go. But today I feel released from that pressure; climbing the mountains in the mind. This freedom has always has been like this. I just didn’t notice.
‘The Buddha taught that clinging was the ninth link in the chain of Dependent Origination. In that chain, craving led to clinging, and clinging to “becoming” (bhava), i.e., to continued stuckness in cyclical existence. There are two places where the chain of dependent origination can be broken: at the point where a pleasant feeling turns to craving, and at the point where craving leads to clinging. We can break the link of craving through awareness of its dangers and insight into where it will lead us. We can break the link of clinging by simply letting go.’ [Seth Zuihō Segall]