POSTCARD #106: Bangkok-Chiang Mai flight: Waves of sunlight pass through the interior of the aircraft as it banks over in the ascent; wings tilt up towards the vertical plane at an alarmingly steep angle, and for a moment it looks like we’re going to tip right over and fly upside down… but it doesn’t do that. A rich dark landscape fills the window; reminds me of the Google Maps satellite image – click the little orange man on ‘street view’ and observe any house or street I choose. The world is a simulation, what I’m seeing is a physiological function of the brain, a projected image, back-lit like the computer screen … the place where (I thought) REALITY was, is occupied with ‘what-it-looks-like’.
A deep familiarity with the analogy – confirmed by others who smile, nod their head, yes, we believe in the resemblance of things… it’s easier that way. This is our agreed-upon certainty, the world as we know it, symbols and words, systems and processes; it’s a construct – the only possible answer the mind can come up with when asked the question: what is ‘it’ actually? Language identifies, can only provide a description of the thing – not the ‘thing’ itself. Everything depends on sensory perception, the (actual) ‘thing’ may be colourless and devoid of any recognisable quality, no odour, no taste, it doesn’t feel like anything; neither hot not cold. It has no sound. It has no weight, it has no form.
A fleeting insight into the vertigo of nothingness situated at the centre of everything. The ‘me’ I live with is not a substantial thing – so flimsy, it’s sometimes not there at all. Through the tiny window of the aircraft there’s this vast immeasurable space, extending above my head through the thin fabric of the aircraft. My Chiang Mai flight is a tiny speck appearing above a sea of clouds on the surface of the planet Earth; the characteristic ‘pale blue dot’, silver-white-sky-blue planet seen from outer space. That home-sweet-home feeling; a place shining with life in a region of seemingly dead planets… is this ‘my’ reality? Or is that an illusion too? The conditions that support life as we know it end here. Maybe we are surrounded by planets teeming with living beings who, like us, also believe they’re separate and alone in this void. And the reason there’s no evidence of it is that the software which operates our sensory mechanism is not compatible with theirs.
What I used to think was an amazing technological feat now becomes just the mechanistic nature of things; the great whine of engines and immense energy that catapaulted me up here, simply another aspect of the construct. Assembled pieces form the aircraft, wing structure is under the seating aisles so that passengers are sitting on top of a sort of swept-back flying crucifix.
Then there’s the ‘ping’ sound, as the seat-belt sign is switched off. Flight time to Chiang Mai is about 1 hour, stewardesses in pretty yellow costumes serve a small meal, it’s like going upstairs to have lunch in the sky; just enough time to have it and come down again.
“That which operates with conceptual ideas is the ordinary mind, whose characteristics include perceiver and perceived. All that is conceived in this way is false and will never touch upon the actual nature of reality. Any idea of existent, inexistent, both or neither—any such concept, however it’s conceived—is still only a concept, and whatever ideas we hold in mind, they are still within the domain of illusion.” [Ju Mipham]
Lower image source