OLD NOTEBOOKS: Geneva, Switzerland: (originally dated September 29, 2012) I get on the Airport bus crowded with people and all their baggage, but I’m not going to catch a plane, I have to teach a new English class in the airport building, and feeling a bit nervous about that. Staff entrance, visitors’ ID, then I’m led along corridors to an elevator and down two or three floors into a network of underground rooms. Door opens and I’m in this claustrophobic space. No windows of course, a large white board, the smell of whiteboard markers, harsh penetrating fluorescent tube lighting. Find the air vents, adjust the air flow by remote and I can breathe better.
Three large athletic men enter; customs officers and senior security people, I see from my notes; shake hands with everyone. There’s a relaxed informal locker-room awareness of each other; deference among them, recognition of something about one individual I guess must be the most senior. Anyway I’m the foreigner in the group, and I have to give an account of myself.
Introductions over and we get started with the class. Pretty soon, something comes up, one of them stands, as if to attention, asks me a question about the use of ‘anything’ rather than ‘something’. After he’s asked the question there’s a hesitation, as if he’s going to say something else, then I notice he’s just observing my body behavior, the professional investigator…
So we’re looking at each other like this, and after I realize he’s finished talking in fact, I’m giving an answer to his question while gradually realizing I’m having a kind of out-of-body experience. I can hear my voice saying the words; the echo in the concrete room, feel the moisture and movement of the mouth but everything else is somehow unfamiliar.
It seems to work ok, I manage to articulate properly and tell him that ‘anything’ is usually used either in a negative context: “I don’t have anything”, and it’s also used in the interrogative form; you might ask a person: “Do you have anything to declare?” Me saying this with a smile, thinking of the Customs Declaration, and hoping to get the intensity to lighten up a bit.
No reaction (maybe he didn’t understand). So I continue with the example: “If you thought that person did have something to declare you could say: “Do you have something to declare?” Still no reaction from this hypnotic look and I’m feeling really weird. He sits down and discusses with the other two in French and they seem to agree about this. I’m still kinda not ‘here’… maybe it’s the underground room, the intensity of the officer’s stare
Somebody else in the group asks a follow-up question and an interesting discussion follows on from this. I sit down with them and can feel myself get back to ‘normal’ – learn not to pay attention to ‘the look’. Class time, comes to an end, shake hands (everybody shakes hands in the French culture), and I’m up in the elevator out along the corridors to the exit and the fresh air.
Wait at the Airport bus stop, it comes, and we’re off into town. The bus is full of wide-eyed people just arrived from distant parts of the world, large suitcases blocking the passageway. How can I say that there is no self, because, if there is no self, who/what is it that realizes this? There’s this feeling that I’m not here – clearly in the public eye but vanished away, invisible. Bus speeds off to town with passengers all speaking loudly in different languages.
Are you an object being watched by another Presence? Or are you the Presence in whose view an idea of yourself is watched? [Mooji]