POSTCARD #156: Chiang Mai: I arrive in the hospital waiting area with the pain, this intrusive stabbing pain in the head and neck, postherpetic neuralgia, a permanent headache; sounds worse than it is – could be I’m getting used to it. There’s a flat screen TV and a coffee place, maybe I should order something? I have the iPhone to fiddle with, get busy with that… not interesting. Okay so try thinking about something else, but at this particular moment, there’s nothing else to think about – only the pain all around the right side of my head and neck. Think of something… thought itself is a free app I have the option to download on the mind/body device (namarupa) but even though I don’t have to download it, some of it seems to be here already, appears involuntarily. I hear the thoughts, the ‘voice’ inside the machine shouting out: Hey! the pain is happening to ‘me!’ It’s not happening to you, or them, or him, or her, it’s happening to me! The pain is ‘mine’, I am ‘possessed’ by it. Everything I love and hate, everything I love to hate – it belongs to ‘me’… it’s ‘my’ enemy!
With the pain swirling like a dense, dark cloud around my head and neck, I step carefully over to the TV that nobody is watching. There’s a remote, so I can flip through the channels and see where that gets me. Bend down to get the remote and the storm of pain happening to ‘me’ is there again, overwhelms everything, too much, for a moment I give way to it… and it’s then I notice there’s a space of somehow being detached from the pain, it’s something that’s not felt anymore, enough of an easing back from it to see the pain is an appearance, like everything else.
Sit down in front of the TV. Focus on the remote, press the buttons… so many channels. Some channels I recognise, then up into higher and higher numbers; places I’ve never been in before. Almost all of the channels are hazy or white-noise then I break through into a place that’s loud, clear and colourful. A Korean game-show, dubbed in Thai. It’s as if the storm of pain is all around but outside of this curious place – I’m safe in here. The scene unfolds, all the characters are lipsticked and painted with cosmetics like grotesque clowns, with amazing hair and impossible teeth, an embodiment of consciousness deeply obscured in layers of ‘self’. Man created God in his own image; a mirror reflection of the ego.
It’s a serious competition about trivialities; guests make appearances, have to tell anecdotes related to the question to gain points. They gaze at each other and see themselves as their own reflections; deities in the hall of mirrors – adults dressed to look like ‘cute’, children (kawaii), a real live dream-world; and the winning of the prize! Lights, colours music, the reward, congratulations, created laughter, spontaneous and heartening applause…
Just then, the nurse calls my name, I have to go and see the doctor. I get up from the chair slowly and take my pain away from the transparency of this kind of joyful TV state that’s doing its best to cultivate a desire for everything that is pleasing and a loathing dislike of everything that’s displeasing, perhaps unintentionally encouraging the hating of it, the not-wanting-it-to-be-there inverted craving, that contributes to the intensity of driving the economic machine… a kind of mental captivity; never seeing that the business of the actor is in the nature of appearances. The art of the illusionist, the politician…
Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. [Robert Louis Stevenson]