one day I woke up from the dream


POSTCARD 488# : Glasgow Queen Street Station: Dated 7th September 2022: Sitting on a bench with hundreds of people going here and there, some sitting like me, but they’re occupied with their phones, while I’m writing notes on pieces of paper, hoping I’ll remember when time comes to key in the gist of what I’m seeing here. Meanwhile, raggedy pigeons walking around my feet looking for scraps, they peck at this and that, maybe trying to give me a hint but I don’t have anything edible to give.

Everywhere there is the picture of a particular place in space and time presented before our eyes, a series of events tell the story, and this is how it happens: a child stumbles into the parameters of my vision, corrects herself, then loses balance again, falls over, and sits up on the floor, slightly shocked by the fall. For a moment I think she’s going to cry, arms held out, wanting to be picked up, but mum is carrying all the luggage and pulling a large case on wheels and there is no dad in the picture. Instead, mum stands there, looking back at her daughter and calls out, in a Scottish dialect, a little harshly, I thought. Daughter remains sitting looking at her options, shouts a one syllable utterance and mother replies with a short encouraging sound but I can’t bear to be in this picture any more.

If you’ve lived in the East for any length of time, or any Third World country, you’ll know that when people have to travel, they go as a family unit, able-bodied grannies, aunties, older sisters, cousins or paid helpers – there would always be someone to pick the child up from the dirty floor. It goes without saying, but here in Northern Europe they have more or less lost that kindness.

For the sake of the economy, the authorities disbanded the clans, ‘every man for himself,’ and we were each reduced to a single unit of consumable human energy, or left to survive by whatever means. (We mustn’t dwell on unhelpful thinking, nor chase after a fleeting happiness, to the extent we forget what we’re doing.) It happened like that because of a misguided belief in Self – there is no enduring Self [anatta]. “The self exists conceptually, dependent on mind and body, not an entity in itself.” [Dalai Lama].

Getting back to reality, I’m waiting for a train to Newcastle via Edinburgh. Meanwhile, situated here in Glasgow Rail Station. There’s a familiarity about this city, although so much has changed. I was at the Glasgow School of Art for four years. The constant sweeping along of things brings me back to the place where I started off from. It was here I had a belief in Self, as we all did, then one day I woke up from the dream but three decades had passed – why didn’t I get here sooner? It’s an adherence that looks more difficult to unstick from than it really is. There is no Self, nobody at home, Elvis has left the building. The concept of no-self can be applied here and now – see the nothingness at the centre of everything. The entire thing is a construct.

We call it a grain of sand,

but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.

It does just fine without a name,

whether general, particular,

permanent, passing,

incorrect or apt.
The window has a wonderful view of a lake,

but the view doesn’t view itself.

It exists in this world,

colorless, shapeless,

soundless, odorless, and painless.
The lake’s floor exists floorlessly,

and its shore exists shorelessly.

The water feels itself neither wet nor dry,

and its waves to themselves are neither singular or plural.

They splash deaf to their own noise

on pebbles neither large nor small.
And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless

in which the sun sets without setting at all

and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.

The wind ruffles it, its only reason being

that it blows.”

[Wislawa Szymborska]

8 thoughts on “one day I woke up from the dream

  1. Loved the lines “We call it a grain of sand,

    but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.

    It does just fine without a name,

    whether general, particular,

    permanent, passing,……”

  2. We call it a grain of sand,

    but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.

    It does just fine without a name,

    whether general, particular,

    permanent, passing, 🙏🙏👌👌

  3. Our physiology, our DNA, has a clock of its own. We are all familiar with helpless infancy, nursing at mother’s breast, and toddlerhood, as the tiny sapiens’ brain begins to operate; to walk, to talk. A stretch of childhood, the Wonder Years; growing to the size needed for replication, nature’s primary goal. Then the machines of puberty are activated to maintain the survival of the species. This period lasts until the early twenties. Middle age for our cave-dwelling ancestors. Fit and strong to raise children and feed the tribe. We remain capable of reproduction and caring for one another until “old age”, which modern humans refer to as middle age. For women, the change is obvious. For men, it is traceable, but more subtle. I think we overlook the development of the psyche during this period. When we’re young, our focus is defined differently. Children run and play with such abandon they often hurt themselves. Teens play contact sports and are generally more coordinated but focused on mating. Adults develop lifelong habits, regimens, and wisdom to maintain their status quos and security in the word. But at “old age”, when we make that next-to-last change, I think our brains and our focus matures as well. Perhaps maturity is a misnomer. Perhaps its partly the leading edge of geriatric psychologies and senility. As a songwriter, I’ve come to the curious conclusion that almost all “cryin’, lovin’ or leavin'” songs are written by young people. These are songs about the desire of courting, the heartache of breakup, the doubts and insecurities that lead to “leavin'”.
    “Will you still need me when I’m 64?” asks the 24-year-old Paul McCartney. Mature songwriters aren’t interested in any teenage hormones or dreamy futures. We (I include myself, as a 63-year-old songwriter that has composed both) write about our views on life from this perspective. The importance of home or family, the mysteries we now know will never be revealed to us. Nostalgia and melancholy for times past, tears for the world’s suffering. The simplicity of beauty in this world, and appreciation for it. Wistful reminiscences and a clear sense of hearing the ticking of life’s clock, an eagerness to share feelings and insights before the chance to do so has passed.
    So, partly the answer to your question “…why didn’t I get here sooner?” lies, in my opinion, on that DNA clock. Granted, there are motivating factors such as awakening and the pursuit of enlightenment. Even those lofty goals, and similar introspections, become easier and clearer with age.

    Be well,

    Slainte

    • Hi Paz, good to hear from you. The physiological piece you sent somehow gave me an energy boost. It’s not often I read something that includes the active seniors in the population who might otherwise be in that realm, remote and obscure, perhaps geriatric psychologies and senility. The answer lies in that DNA clock, as you say. This one reaches the parts other beers cannot reach, and from here I can see how the whole thing unfolded, enfolded and the exact or actual span of it.
      I like to think of the songwriter as part of society, not necessarily in it. I like the metaphor of the songwriter, the bard; he who oftentimes is out on the edge and that’s the story of my life except I think I always had too many words; listeners fell asleep or quietly left the group. Then one day I woke up from the dream and was an old man, childless and singing songs of the mind. I got into Buddhism, became a minimalist and no-self (anatta) reduced all the unnecessary words. You could say Buddhist Physiology goes like this: the inner sense and outer object are one and the same thing – the see-er and the seen are one and the same thing. The hearer and what is heard, etc., everything I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and think, etc. The world is seen, sounds are heard, food is tasted, words are spoken – things are done but there is no do-er.
      Morning time in Bangkok, energized for the day.
      Thank you, Paz
      Stay well
      T

  4. “Adults develop lifelong habits, regimens, and wisdom to maintain their status quos and security in the word.”

    Sorry, that should read “…security in the world.”

    Paz

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