POSTCARD #264: Bangkok – Chiang Mai flight: I could begin with the way the inflight experience is sliced up in manageable chunks and swallowed with drinks and gulps of air, which helps the ears adjust to cabin pressure, but the story of all that remains untold, replaced by the ‘impact’ of landing – in a manner of speaking. Time-and-space folds in on itself and suddenly we’re descending towards Chiang Mai… such a short flight. The plane is clearly pointed downwards, I become a little deaf, it feels like being underwater, and no amount of swallowing or holding the nose between thumb and forefinger and blowing of air into sinus cavities seems to clear it. Plane tilts over and makes a left-hand turn. Low sunlight comes in through the cabin windows on the right side and sweeps around the interior of our small space as the aircraft changes direction, circles around and goes further into descent. It’s as if it were in a flying house, spinning around on its axis and ‘we must be somewhere over the rainbow.’
Yawn and ears go ‘pop’. A whole new 3D sound enters…. didn’t realize how cotton-wooly it was before. Near to landing there’s the sound of the hydraulics, out go the flaps, down go the wheels and the earth rises up to meet us; 300 people all facing forwards in the direction of travel, looking out the windows of a structure the size of a building travelling at 200 mph on what could be a collision course with the surface of the planet. For a moment there’s a glimpse of samsara and the great yawning abyss of existential fear; I need something to hold on to, but there isn’t anything that’ll prepare me for such a colossal event. This is the ultimate roller-coaster experience – and… the aircraft’s wheels take the weight, first the one on the left then the other one on the right, and the deep lurch, sink-down/bounce-back – for a moment it feels like we’re going to tip out of balance and disaster looms, but we’re on level ground.
There’s something about this being in a public context, a shared experience, we’re all in this together folks, spectators watching an actual event in our own lives, the collective sense of a letting-go of something tightly held: woooooo! The perception of Self is relinquished; nobody at home… no identity, just this unattached feeling that couldn’t happen in any other circumstance. A riderless horse, the empty seat… footprints left behind in the place where he was. Symbols of the Buddha before the Greeks created the Buddha likeness we know today.
Awareness of breathing, deeply in and all the way out, like a huge sigh. Watch the breath enter the body again and go through the whole awakened experience. Knowing, consciousness, clarity and the mind settles into the quiet space of no thinking.
Out of the plane and following the exit signs. We’re all just seeing ‘the seeing of it’ as TV monitors here and there tell us stories built upon stories, swirling around events that otherwise take place wordlessly. Colorful banners pasted on every available space with words and images that’ll get our attention and Mind takes over, creates the story of ‘me’ stepping forward, and me as someone at the receiving end. Who’s that mirrored in the glass wall? There, again, stepping out with luggage on wheels, rolling along happily? Subject/object duality locks into place.
The story is everywhere, all around the departure gates and small cafeteria, episodes of it heard in the corridor with the sound of somebody else’s cabin luggage wheels going ‘click-click’ and the clatter of feet. Excerpts of the story overheard in the bar, acoustics muffled by a floor carpet. We’re always only part the way through whatever story it is before another starts up.
Beginnings, middles, and endings of short stories noted while waiting in the cash desk queue at Boots chemist. Stories using words I don’t understand in Chinese, Korean, Russian and a whole world of other languages speaking in stories.
Then I’m waiting in a seat by the exit, with my receipt to give to my taxi driver, just watching the breath and seeing the darkness of afternoon become evening; the even-ing, the smoothening out of wrinkles on a silk sheet stretched over the ironing table. Flat horizon line over an endless sea, the laying-out, as darkness sweeps over us.