change in plan

IMG_1935POSTCARD #124: Bangkok: Ah well, life’s like that, we made a last minute booking after M went to Koh Krabi and Jiab and I got a flight to Bangkok. No traffic on Sunday so we were at the house before we knew it. The plan is Jiab goes to the Bangkok office on Monday, leaves for Delhi Tuesday and goes to Kathmandhu in a few days to organize the rebuilding, after the earthquake, using local staff. ‘Bare-foot technicians’, on-the-job training, they get paid quite well, mostly clearing rubble and then re-establishing infrastructural stuff. It could take a long time. For a more up-to-date account of how things are check out garyhorvitz’s blog: Kathmandu Komment, Everything is Everything and more recent posts.

IMG_1369I’ll go back to Ch’Mai and continue with care-taking duties of M until 16th May then back to Delhi. If I stop and think about it, I find I’m starting to take a position against it, locked into the suffering and looking for some kind of punishing way to develop the problem – a grasping reaction, I have the cause but no effect. Let the mind unstick from it, the karma of cause/effect/ flowing like a torrents in a river. Present time contained in the here-and-now of where I am, as if it were contained in a book I’m reading… open at the page where I was, re-enter at the same place and time when I was last here. I am a character in a story about a world seen through clouds of thoughts thinking thoughts embedded in this self I recognise as ‘me’.

How am I to inhabit what remains of this lifetime, feels like I’m at the end of the railway track, can’t go any further, step down from the train and there’s this open view out to sea.

“Lal Shabaz was wandering through the desert with a friend as evening began to fall. The desert was terribly cold, so the two pilgrims began to gather wood for a fire. With their pyre neatly constructed, they realized they had no way of igniting it. Lal Shahbaz’s friend suggested that he transform himself into a great bird and fly down into hell to collect coals for a fire. Lal Shahbaz considered this a wise suggestion and flew away. After many cold hours Lal Shahbaz returned to his friend empty-handed. Puzzled, he asked why he had not returned with fire to keep them warm. Lal Shahbaz replied, “There is no fire in hell. Everyone who goes there brings their own fire, their own pain, from this world.” [William Dalrymple]

upper photo: a Thai mythological creature guarding the gates of a Buddhist temple.
lower photo: a Buddha Rupa unharmed in the Nepal earthquake
With thanks to Gary Horvitz ~   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   ~

17 thoughts on “change in plan

  1. Funny how trying to live in the past or future always turns around and bites us, yet we still keep doing it. Maybe because living entirely in the present – without aspirations or regrets – is considered so immoral and pathological other people will likely step in and impose their plans upon you. Though I guess you wouldn’t worry about that possibility if you weren’t trying to live in the future.

    The Australian utilitarian moral philosopher, Peter Singer, actually measures the value of lives according to how comprehensive their aspirations are (so he believes it is not immoral to kill a disabled infant because it has not yet begun planning its future). So by Singer’s measure, the life of a psychopathic despot who dreams of a Thousand Year Reich is worth infinitely more than that of an enlightened being who never looks beyond the here and now.

    • I just had to have a quick look at this Singer guy on Google, sounds like he enjoys all the controversy, it’s his favourite thing. The best thing would be to try to get him into a room, unplugged, and throw away the key, but anyway…
      Most people are so busy working they don’t have the peace of mind to consider the present moment (that’s the way it was planned of course), so they can’t be blamed for not understanding. What to do? The kinds of things we’re talking about here develop in adversity, like what are commonly known as weeds, which do seem to proliferate at a surprising rate. What we need are some exceptional young academics looking for a unique PhD subject and it could be the study of weeds.

      • I think you’re right about Singer and controversy. When you speak to him he’s reasonable and polite and mostly seems to concede any points you make against his ideas or his methods of promoting them (which tend to stigmatise the disabled, for example). But a few days later someone sticks a microphone in his face and he’s making the same old assertions in the same old offensive way. I guess it’s a sort of academic ju-jitsu in which he only pretends to engage with different viewpoints. I find it hard to believe he would be well known for his moral philosophy were it not for the controversies. A kind of philosophical shock-jock.

        His sister is actually a prominent disability activist who takes a strong stand against precisely the sort of stigma Singer promotes, but I’ve never heard her criticise him directly.

      • The sibling thing can be complicated. As for Singer, if he can change personalities like that, he must have a screw loose and using the eccentricity to create something he thinks is special.

      • he must have a screw loose and using the eccentricity to create something he thinks is special.

        Funny you mention that. According to Koenigs, et al, strongly utilitarian morals are indeed correlated with having a ‘screw loose’ (i.e. damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex). Mind you, I’ve always thought pathologising those who have different moral, social or political views is a bit of a cheap shot, but nonetheless think it ironic that a man who claims the lives of the disabled are worth less than that of others may think that way because he’s seriously disabled himself.

      • Interesting article. Who knows, it’s not impossible that one of your VMPC patients would be able to select the right size/type of screwdriver and carefully get in to tighten up Singer’s loose screw and all would be well… maybe that’s just wishful thinking

      • I don’t know if busy-ness is really an explanation for not being in the moment.
        You can be working very hard while ‘in the zone’. What’s more, doing so is generally productive and enjoyable.

        One of your commenters recently pointed me to an Alan Watts lecture on youTube in which he argues that we’re taught from childhood to always defer enjoyment and that’s why we’re always planning for the future that never comes. I never took cameras on my travels and was always bemused by people who seemed to think the point of a holiday was to show the snaps to people later. It must be even worse now that you can post today’s photo montage onto Flickr or Facebook tonight instead of having to wait to get home to inflict a slide show on family and friends.

      • Could be a simple case of cross-purposes. Alan Watts is right but explains his stuff on a very basic level, people in those days didn’t understand – and so it’s bit like looking at old photos of people who’re dead now. The karma/vipaka thing is vastly complex. Activity, creativity generates karma, the fruit is borne when the time comes – maybe a very long time. This is another one of those things that interest me enough to try writing a post about it, but how to begin…

  2. Sorry you sound so discouraged! But out of the bad can come giant steps forward on the path, even if you cannot see it. Hope you will get a recharge. Great what Jiab is doing. Hope you can go on more excursions with M. The quote is very apt and enlightening. Take care, Ellen

    • Thanks Ellen, I didn’t mean it sound so bleak; the day you die will be an ordinary day, the bird will alight from the tree branch enroute for some other place and the branch will spring back to its former position. Life goes on…

  3. Is the prognosis so dire? Don’t feel you have to answer. Yes, the day we die will be an ordinary day and the birds will still sing and that is the cruelty of it all. For those left behind hearts will be broken never to heal to original state, Toon Ting. You are precious and okay, maybe merely one in 8 billion forms of consciousness but a unique form and irreplaceable. Tears.

    • Yes, of course, this is how it is… just sad to think I’ll not see M grow up. Sad to think more than 6000 people died in the earthquake. But, as you say: “… out of the bad can come giant steps forward on the path, even if you cannot see it.” Thanks for this Ellen…

      • So everything comes to an end while nothing ever finishes?

        If time exists it must be nothing but a series of stop-start interruptions. Another dimension of separation.

      • Another chapter in the story, you’re right. It’ll take some time to adjust to the fact my health took a sudden jolt recently… must be a slow-learner. I see M’s attitude has changed towards me since it happened… a series of stop-start interruptions 🙂

  4. I see that little baby,
    Sleeping in her bed.
    I see the days and weeks and months and years
    that lay ahead.
    Her mother and her brother,
    All her kith and kin,
    This whole great, wide world around her
    All the same beneath the skin.

    I see angels all around me.
    Angels you can see.
    Living, breathing angels
    Right where they want to be.

    Seek peace,


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