POSTCARD #114: Chiang Mai: When we get back to the apartment, M flings off her shoes at the door, goes running along the corridor and comes back with her two cute little doggy toys; shakes them sideways and their tails wag. For a moment I’m caught in the illusion they’re alive. Children can reveal the ‘moment’ – something magical. M animates a self then animates another self; skipping away from one identity to the next, like an actress constantly engaged in playing a role has developed the skill in letting go of her individuality – she can ‘be’ anybody.
It must have been like this for all of us when we were kids, a direct understanding of the definitive present moment – the ‘now’ I experience was the future for me when I was in the past? The extraordinary moment, no need to analyze it, the ‘now’ moment includes all moments everywhere that ever there were; millions of years of present moments combined and reduced to this single experience of the here-and-now phenomenon.
M is wearing stage make-up today; she had her school performance. Sadly, nothing glamorous or interesting, it was a presentation about the human body. I ask what part of the human body she played? She was the esophagus – pronunciation of esophagus is perfect. So what did she do in the performance? I say my words, Toong-Ting: “I am the esophagus, I convey food and fluids from the mouth to the stomach.” So totally memorized it flows out in one complete utterance without pause. Then I stand in my place with the other body parts. Not exactly a major part… did she have a nice costume? No costume, just a box… doesn’t want to talk about it, no grace, embarrassing. An exercise in patient endurance, respect for an imposed structure; putting up with an idea the teacher had that nobody in the class liked but accepted without question – very Thai. M’s friend was the brain and another friend was the heart and that was ok. Twin boys were the lungs: ‘We are the lungs, we convey oxygenated blood to the heart.’ The lungs couldn’t remember their lines, got stuck every time with the word ‘oxygenated’. Teacher often made the whole class stay late to get the rehearsal perfect – everybody blamed the lungs for it.
M is ten years old, nearly eleven… childhood becoming distant. I feel just a tinge of sadness; spontaneous behavior restrained by ‘preferences.’ We look at some old photos in the computer, find the one of her and the tiger with another set of twins, and I ask her if I can use it for this post? She looks at the photo, smiles like an adult… yes, there’s the tiger, of course, but that girl was someone else, compared with who she is now. Tells me, yes you can, if you want… (deference, and limited by using English as a second language). How about the tiger, were you frightened? No, she says, no further discussion – that time has passed, not relevant anymore.
‘… there is no gain or loss; one instant is ten thousand years. There is no here, no there; infinity is right before your eyes. The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished; the vast is as small as the tiny when you don’t have external limits. Being is an aspect of non-being; non-being is no different from being.’ [Seng T’san]