POSTCARD #165: New Delhi: I’d like it to be a windswept hut made of bamboo on a beach on an island, but we’re looking for a place to rent in South Delhi – a small house or a duplex. Right now I’m being driven around at high speed by the agent looking at houses, buildings, one after another which all seem to be part of the same interconnected vast network of habitations; neighbours pass through your room on the way to somewhere else. Arrive at another street, get out of the car, go inside, there’s a staircase, corridors and empty rooms, nothing here. Stare at the wall… a painted flat surface. Can I see us here? Not impossible, what are the criteria? Searching for the ‘right’ place – try to estimate ceiling heights… windows, doors, floors. Birdsong from a nearby tree enters the empty house in an irregular chord of strangely related notes… walk over to the window. Look at what’s out there; the agent talking about this and that, and all I can think of is what Hipmonkey said: there is no ‘out-there’ out there that’s separate from what’s in ‘here’.
Outside invades inside, I’m back in the agent’s car and we’re off to the next place, slooshing and splooshing through the crowded streets at breakneck speed, talking as we’re going (she does this driving thing for a living), her livelihood is set in this river of noisy, crazy traffic that’s consistently doing unexpected things. The urgency of it all going past too fast… I can’t look, it’s too much, avert my gaze to the side window instead, and see out there, the reflection of myself in the glass shop windows flashing by opposite, focus on the shadowy face looking back at me from one window to the next, somehow staying in the same position – it’s the world that’s rushing by, not me.
Trying (but failing) to understand the Buddhist term: sati-sampajañña, clear comprehension (the absolute clarity of understanding), whilst stumbling over all the indistinct, half-seen, misunderstood truths, and eventually I realize it means the clear comprehension of everything, including the confusion; the mistake, the mix-up, the puzzleheadedness. The fact that I don’t understand this is what’s causing this problem. Don’t ‘do’ anything with it… I see it now. An epiphany, revelation, insight; the experience of total confusion – random things just seem to fit, the recognition that all related parts and everything come together, anyway, according to their circumstances; parallels link parts of the story together with a kind of inevitability.
It’s an all-inclusive world, the ‘self’ comes with the software. I’m playing a role integrated with one whole consciousness – dimensions within dimensions – acting the part; being this person living in these rooms, being that person in those rooms, finding my way through this curious illusion, looking for words to describe that it’s a construct through and through. No way out, I know because I stopped looking for the way out a long time ago. In the 30 years of learning how to get along here in Asian society, I think I’ve let go of that remembered fiction about where I come from – migrants from Europe have experienced this in North America since the 17th Century. Long ago I learned, involuntarily at first, to be at home with other people’s preferences and relinquish my own choices, in time forgetting how I figured out how to be comfortable with it. So when there’s an opportunity to have a place of my own, I return to the old default, surprised to see it’s still there, and how shall I do this? Let’s see, the bed goes here, the table there, and my chair…
‘We are members of a vast cosmic orchestra in which each living instrument is essential to the complementary and harmonious playing of the whole.’ [J. Allen Boone]