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,
incorrect or apt.
The window has a wonderful view of a lake,
but the view doesn’t view itself.
It exists in this world,
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.”