POSTCARD#57: Bangkok: Early evening, M asks what kind of walls I’d like to have in the house she’s building for me. It’s the Minecraft game, everything created from virtual terrain, mountains, sea, sky and a square sun. She looks up from the iPad window and turns to me with enquiring lift of the eyebrow (a nine-year-old veteran). I say well, how about stone – walls are made of stone, aren’t they? It’s an unimaginative answer lacking in conviction – not paying attention properly. I ask what the choices are. She taps the screen to show me: gold, lapis, and you could have diamonds. Generosity. But I’ll just have the stone, please – keep it simple (thinking to myself is she going to come out soon from this digital dream she’s fallen into? Come out, it’s late and you have to do your homework. Be mindful and attend to things in the real world?) But there’s no ‘real’ world here. M says, what kind of roof you want in your house, Toong-Ting? (It’s her name for me) and I’m drawn into the discussion again. You like floor tiles Toong-Ting? I say what I’d like, and that looks nice (trying to reach her by telepathy, please, please emerge from the iPad window soon and think about the homework always in arrears!) For a moment it seems like she’s going to close the iPad but no, it goes on: why do you want that one? This other one looks nicer, does it look nice to you Toong-Ting?
I find answers that fit each question, but there’s no end to it; I know now the point of the exercise is to indulge expansively in this great wealth of choices. We have to try them all. No such thing as a final choice. The iPad is a forever window, a deep lake of astoundingly rich colours that’s difficult to surface from after you’ve fallen in – everything else in ‘real’ life is sadly dull. M dives into the forever window simply because it’s there. The containment of it is the context. The question answers itself, no need even to ask, cause becomes effect, timelessness without end.
Then for a moment she emerges from the dream, a flicker of alertness in her eye. Quickly, grab the opportunity! Act out a continuation of playfulness and joy, extend the interest to our surroundings and she decides to follow. Good, yes! It’s like guiding someone dismayed by sensory overload. Now let’s close the forever window for a while, shall we? Life is the same as it was but it’s quite nice out here. Fetch the school bag, heavy with stuff, reach inside and pull out a scrumfled homework book from the tangle of scraps of food wrappers in there, bits of tissue, and an overall blueness from a pen that flooded its ink inside the bag, a long time ago. My fingers are always slightly blue after visiting M’s bag; I go wash my hands while she considers her homework.
They have to make a simplified pop-up book page; the double page you open and a whole scene pops up. Wow, we never had homework like this when I was a kid! The teacher has given her a model of the folded-out paper mechanism she has to copy. A small spark of interest. Can do by myself now, Toong-Ting, she says, goes over to the sofa and pulls a large cushion over her head: but I have to think it first… stays under the cushion for quite a long time and I’m beginning to think I should ask if she’s okay under there. But next time I look M has cut and formed the folded-out bit with a scissors, glued on the picture that’s supposed to ‘pop up’ and it works – yaay! Well, not brilliant, but homework is not supposed to be a fun thing, it just gets ‘finished’. It’s done, put it away, now where were we? A voice says: may I borrow your iPhone, Toong-Ting?
‘We have a duty to befriend those aspects of obedience that stand outside of our house and shout to our reason, “O please, O please, come out and play.” For we have not come here to take prisoners or to confine our wondrous spirits. But to explore ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light.’ [Hafiz: ‘We Have Not Come To Take Prisoners’]