POSTCARD #188: Bangkok/Delhi flight: The journey is by way of a series of crowded corridors connected like tubes in a telescope, one inside the other, becoming smaller and smaller, reduced to squeeze us into the self construct; the way we are and the lifetimes lived with it. The ‘me’ in the body, the voice in my head, the narrator telling the story. This is how it is… and already there’s a sense of distance from the world (‘this’ was). Keep moving, we pass through security as if it were the eyepiece of the telescope, examined through a lens; cameras watch us standing in line. We are subject to causes and conditions… shoes off, gentlemen remove belt, anything in your pockets Sir? Take off watch please. Enter the X-ray cubicle, stand with legs apart, arms extended, wind blows clothes aside and hair ruffled. I’m suddenly aware the viewer behind the lens can see everything underneath clothing. Shoes on, thread belt through loops, pick up watch and things. Collect computer from tray put it back inside bag and get organised. Step out of there, aware, balanced, easy breathing and it’s okay right now (except piercing high frequency air-conditioning sound, waiting for pain to arrive but it doesn’t come), sensory mechanisms function without my involvement. Continue with the slow foot shuffle (high pitched voices, mysterious kerfuffle), but we’re all moving along here. I’m like an antenna receiving data; seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and cognitive functioning receptor, waiting for things to happen.
Hand passport to officer, look at the camera, facial recognition, the self I inhabit… this is who I ‘am’ (the same as everyone else ‘is’). The officer stamps twice, thump… thump (the sound of it), walk through and out to the duty-free extravaganza (piercing light enters neural pathways), suddenly blinded for a moment in the reflected glow of gold watches, jewelry, the made-up lips and eyes in vivid, max-pixel pictures, videos of popular celebrities, cosmetic dentistry, facial alterations, images in unflawed focus and good-looking lighting; commonplace works of art, masterpieces of trivialities. I could use the television analogy; I’m watching this channel and all the other people are watching their channels – and if there were separate channels for every single being in the world, that would be the correct analogy.
We’re in another tunnel sloping downwards, becoming smaller at the end where painted ladies wait, show me where I have to go; turn right into an even smaller tube with seats on either side of a corridor, and I’m in my numbered seat. It’s made to measure, low ceiling, knees touch the seat in front, elbows touching the guy next to me, hairy arms. It’s like being on a bus at night, except less space. No view from the window, can see only the blank video screen at eye level, 18 inches in front of me… everything is too near and a feeling of blackness. Try to read my book on the Kindle but the words appear strange, three-dimensional, as if embossed on the screen, the lines of text are not straight; flowing in a gentle curve. Then I feel the pain behind my right eye like a sharp steel knife entering my head, and pushed right up to the hilt. Gasp! The painted ladies bring me a plastic glass of water. Searching in my pockets for the meds…the huge pain has reached its max, the steel blade withdraws; a devastation of everything, catastrophic, frantic looking for something to hold on to, or let go of, and it all tips over like a building falls on its face in slow motion, desolation, wreckage and some relief as I see it’s not happening to ‘me’ – it’s not ‘my’ pain, too big for that, much too big. It’s the force of pain on its own, like the huge wind blows, the vast rain falls, a storm at sea. Swallow two capsules, lie back, close my eyes and the curve I was seeing earlier becomes the curve of a thick dark smoke rising up from my head, swirling up through the paper-thin structure of the plane, the sky above and space all around.
Relaxed with the seat back, pain gone and all that remains is the sound of the engines at 600 mph and altitude 38,000 feet. The mind makes a ‘story’ out of it, a stretched sense of reality that includes the video I’m watching in the darkness. Memory allows all kinds of out-of-context events to be there and acceptably part of it.
Landing, bump… bump, long lumpy runway to get to the airport buildings, then the clamber and struggle for overhead baggage, push, shove. Intrude, squeeze as they do here, full body contact with total strangers, and out into a tunnel again, more tunnels becoming wider, wider then a corridor and out onto the miles of ochre coloured carpet with patterns of planets and stars. High speed moving walkways and we’re in India.
“God is a mythical word, a mumbo-jumbo word that is the invention of the priesthood. Actually, to ask whether God exists is absurd. God is existence, the very isness. When we say God exists we create something out of the word God, then God becomes a thing. But God is not a thing, nor is God a person, he is pure existence. The word is misleading because the word personifies. It is better to use the word existence. The totality of existence is God.” [Osho]