evening, the even-ing

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.


Complied with excerpts of a previous post. Photo by Jiab in the south of Thailand

finding suññatā in Lucknow

16maya3POSTCARD #249: Lucknow, North India: A short flight from Delhi brought us here, hired car to the Ambedkar Memorial Park. A vast space of nothing but polished marble flooring – no trees, no earth left uncovered. Two and a half acres of marble paving rising in a gentle slope, with some monuments and an avenue with hundreds of life size elephants carved in stone.

The panorama of it, an oasis-mirror-like flatness as far as the eye can see; a heaven realm… hold that thought, from two thousand five hundred years back in the distant past, comes rushing towards us now, into present time, 2017, the Buddha’s First Noble Truth – as valid as it was all these centuries ago.

‘The Noble Truth of Suffering’, yes, I’ve been wondering what that bad feeling was, gnawing away at the innards… the urgency of the human condition applies to everything I can possibly experience or do, or think concerning the past, the present or the future. The relief is in knowing the Buddha has a name for it.

That’s what it is, situated at the heart of everything, caused by the constant craving for something, anything that’ll satisfy a created hunger; the yearning for it not to be like this, please, no, I want it to be better than this. Thus, relentlessly on the run from what we don’t want it to be, towards what we want it to be; that just-out-of-reach object, or state of mind, or any way of seeing it, by any means possible.

This great marble-floored landscape of Ambedkar Park is exhausting; it needs to have something immense in it. The sense is of something huge that’s missing perhaps. Or is that what it’s intended to be? Can’t think, there’s nowhere to sit, then we see a marble bench over there, so we head towards that and stop for a rest. Thinking still of those who are caught in the conundrum of chasing foreverness, conditioned by society into this way of thinking.

dr-bhim-rao-ambedkar-samajik-parivartan-sthal-in-lucknow-images-8-1Now I’m in fear of this floor dissolving under our feet into a lake of water, grasping at anything and everything, but I’m sinking anyway. Then I see something I can hold on to coming towards me as if it were a boat… but it’s not a boat, it’s dry land, so it must be me who’s on the boat. Step on to this small island… a space opens in the mind: this must be the neither-here-no-there place… this gentle detachment from things, neutrality, “the middle way”… and I find there’s room enough to see how I can think about what a thought feels like without getting involved in the content of it. Flames of desire flash all around but do no harm. Allowing it all to ‘become’ without becoming it. Recognizing the sense of self without that solitary aloneness of the enclosed ‘me’.

There’s just this huge space, maybe one day filled to capacity with the ‘many crores’ (millions) of people gathered here, to be part of this vision of Shakyamuni Buddha as a political and social reformer. According to Ambedkar, a person’s unfortunate conditions are not only the result of karma or ignorance and craving, but do also result from “social exploitation and material poverty – the cruelty of others.”

Until that happens, there’s only the empty space, a sense of the vast no-thingness, suññatā.


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Top photo source, with Gratitude. Centre photo source, with Gratitude. Lower photo, the author with two Theravadin Monks at Ambedkar Park. In the centre Thai, on the right India.
~  G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E  ~

all that is born

img_3877POSTCARD #244: New Delhi: Early morning light, people wrapped in shawls, long scarves bound around the head and tied under the chin. Dark faces, eyes looking out and they see me for an instant in a diamond eye-lock as I struggle to look away. They look with curiosity; I think they see me as one of those lost in maya, not in the real world for them, I’m living in a dream. They might laugh to themselves, but not in a hurtful way – I’m pretty sure they see me as a naïve person, like a grown up child, dependent on support mechanisms I pay for with an impossible wealth, as far as they’re concerned, removed from everyday values. They’re right, from where they stand. It’s true, and I’m in awe of them, their existence is unreachable. The actuality of their lives, I know nothing about. My ongoing practice of ‘self’/’no-self’ investigation, and awareness of awareness reflecting upon itself, is maybe something they know about so completely and utterly that if I were to ask the right question, I’d be swept away in the tidal wave of their wisdom. A received knowledge from generations past, centuries and thousands of years for them is the same as today, an ordinary reality.

Inside the dark interior of their houses, I see shadows moving in the dim light of an old-style incandescent 25-watt bulb, flickering in unsteady current, candles, oil lamps and small cooking fires. Pots and plates, carefully placed on the stones outside to dry in the open air, and I feel these things should be inside the house, in a plate rack in a drawer inside a cupboard, which closes with a magnetic door-fastener click.

A pregnant woman gazes at me for a moment as I go by; deep eyes, there’s something supernatural about this woman. I look away. Everything in this neighborhood is alien to me. The houses all look like they’re only partly built. Bare brick walls and there’s one incomplete upper floor, or some part of the house seemingly under construction. I heard it’s because they don’t have to pay tax if the house is still ‘being built.’ These half-built houses are everywhere; a family living on the ground floor and upstairs there are bare brick walls reaching up like pillars with just the sky where the roof should be. There’s an underlying uneasiness about it all, it seems to me, inadequate shelter, no protection, and a fierce tenacity of holding on to life.

There are others in more hazardous circumstances, street people and those with no dwellings at all, the dispossessed. Beyond that the sadhus, bearded men with matted hair in yellow robes, colored pigment smeared across the forehead, incense and candle-wax – hovering in a kind of other dimension – a living statement that all that is born, ceases. We die because we were born, there’s birth and death in every moment. So obvious, but almost all of the time I can’t see it.

Death is drawn to sound
like a slipper without a foot,
a suit without its wearer,
comes to knock with a ring,
stoneless and fingerless,
comes to shout without a mouth,
a tongue, without a throat.
Nevertheless its footsteps sound
and its clothes echo,
hushed like a tree.
[Death Alone by Pablo Neruda]


Photo by Melinda Ruck
~ G R A T I T U D E ~

hidden in plain sight

img_0006bPOSTCARD #234: New Delhi: Traffic comes to a standstill, fierce displays of male feathers in ritual acts of outrage, shouts and gestures through wound-down windows. Eyes sparkling with diamonds of malice… but even this settles down. Things aren’t ‘held’, the silence of no-thought is possible. At least for me in the back seat of the car, disengaged, conscious only of sensory awareness in a body/mind world. It’s not meditation; I just have to remember to not be caught in thought stuck in the traffic jam of Mind.

Particularly these days of push and shove, and the fierce, blunt Donald Trump intrudes with his collection of body-slam syllables that make up a name which rhymes with: bump, lump, rump, thump, sump. The strategy of devil’s-advocate one-liner tweets, “better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”, make it necessary to wake up and feel the urgency of mindfulness – this politician has extended reach. Be aware of puzzle-headedness. Stay poised, balanced and alert.

Otherwise, in forgetfulness, I may go back to stir the ashes of defeat; return to that place of locked-in conditioning, reading pedagogy of the oppressed, the myth of freedom and other demons itch like a skin irritation you have to scratch. Isn’t it remarkable that outrageous remarks, in-your-face disregard and proud indifference wins the Presidential race… what does this tell you? Pre…tty scary. I need to remove myself from here, forget I ever knew such a thing was possible. Turning a blind eye? No, it’s not that. What I’m scared of is the unspoken denial, “I see no ships”, (Horatio Nelson turns a blind eye at the Battle of Copenhagen). People know they’re expected to turn a blind eye – not turning a blind eye is to be labeled conspiracy theorist. I try to stay free of what all this means, meditation is about the skill of staying with the feeling of all the tugs and pulls of it demanding attention, but undisturbed and steady – just letting the mind unstick itself.

In the East the world is an illusion; a discussion point that goes back at least three thousand years. There’s only the quality of experience, nothing else. Gone is the ground beneath our feet, there never was anything there in the first place. The opposite of how it is in the West where we are embedded in the illusion, overlay upon overlay, believing it’s real and uneasy, of course, about the intuitive feeling that it’s not. As a rule, politicians speak with forked tongue; doctors say there’s something wrong with you, take this medicine. There’s no one else to turn to, so we’re feeding the craving of the mind with consumables to quell the fear… but it’s never enough.

Thus we arrive at the core of the illusion itself: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” (Adolf Hitler, große Lüge). A sleight of hand (this must be when I pretend to not see it), and before your very eyes, ladies and gentlemen, the Truth is hidden in plain sight… now you see it, now you don’t – those not turning a blind eye fall into a yawning chasm wherein everything is sucked away not held on to with tenacity of grip, as with all things inexorably lost, Amen Or, a better idea, you can disappear off the grid and become a Buddhist.

The traffic is moving now, engines starting up, and we are on our way. I console myself with the thought that there’s a possibility DJT will root out the bad guys hidden in the woodwork for decades, albeit for the wrong reasons, he and his cronies will just take their place, but somewhere in there we will stumble upon a revelation and things take a turn for the better…


 

these days of illusion

e39f71_4f5a5a5ab85244aa87fb261af997e524POSTCARD #233: New Delhi: There’s an alertness in listening to the story, subject-object narrative, and I find I’m not caught in thought about what’s past or what’s future, knowing and recognizing how I feel, what I think, and who (and to whom) I have been who I am, who I was in former times and in quiet holy places, where it is always a historical here-and-now, anywhere and anywhen, over endless horizons of time.

A slight sense of foreboding these days where any serious applied thought seems to have gone right out the window, unless it’s got to do with greed or personal gain in some way. Thus we’re driven by nothing sensible to think about, craving for something, anything of substance. Hand-held remote glued to fingers in a multi-channel TV state of anything’ll-do, but finding nothing except the urge to find something that’ll fill that overwhelming sense of ‘lack’. Despondency of ungratified longing, dukkha; world-weariness and I see the only way out is to go in.

And it’s as if it were a light shining in darkness of mind (suffering is caused by wanting it to not be like this), thought processes maintain themselves hesitantly for an instant and fade away. Unless I consciously reach out for the next thought item, there’s nothing to think about in here (what ease there is to be found in that…), just a transparent curtain, through which I see a transparent stage, set in a transparent theatre. All the actors, transparent with background seen shining through, backlit and everything filled with light. Dazzling sunbeams in a snowy white blinding of the eyes. We cannot see we are filled with God because we are filled with a concept of God. World crashes into my small consciousness and reflected out again in a micro imploding ‘big bang’… oneness of time and space so utterly present the past tense has disappeared completely, taking the future with it.

Was the ‘Big Bang’ of all big bangs in fact caused by another big bang before that? And so on, and so on; big bangs inside other big bangs, consecutively reducing, smaller and smaller like Petrushka dolls fit inside one another until we reach ‘the nothing’? Is it that the origin of cause/effect stretches back so far, everything falls into the vacuum caused by it not being there during the time taken to find a good answer to the question? Or I could say, and it seems reasonable to me, the origin of it was/is neither existence, nor non-existence, the matrix – the quality of darkness because there is no light of sensory perception.

Here in India, to cut a very long story short, Brahman (God) is the original cause and the world we see around us is the effect. It leaves me thinking if there’s a context wherein I find myself  – yes or no. Without the cause, the effect no longer exists. Everything is real when seen with Brahman but false when seen independent of Brahman. Those of us who are unable to grasp the meaning of Brahman are living in illusion māya. It says a lot, really, about the way things are, these days of illusion, delusion and a glitzy casino owner for President…


Header image: painting by Jill Lewis

 

before after

IMG_0015b1bPOSTCARD #201: CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: The phone alarm goes off. I was expecting it to do that because somehow it’s been part of the dream I’m having… that thing about the order of events happening – was it before or is it after? Sweeping long-arm reach around in search of the alarm, slide it off with fingertip over glass screen and it seems like so much has happened since… who what where when how? My phone’s blinding white light in the silence fades and everything goes black again… the time is 5.30 am.

Something that’s new in my life these days is every morning, noon and night, I have to check the contents of two small carrier bags full of vitamin pills, pain pills and other pills contained in bottles, small, medium, large, with labels which tell me if it’s a ‘before’ or an ‘after’ – one of three events: breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s the kind of thing that gives you a headache but enough said about that. I have to be up early enough to take the before-breakfast meds before breakfast and I’ve forgotten… my niece M stumbles into the room in a daze. I have to see if there’s anything she needs or wants and realize oh no, the ‘before’ meds so they have to be included in the ‘after’ meds. Okay, double-check, is it ‘after’ already, or is this still ‘before’? Something in me fights rationality with a reasoning that begins somewhere after the event and travels back to where things were around the time it started, just to see if that fits okay with how we’re now forming an idea of what this is about.

I have to get to grips with these medication bottles, fumbling with childproof caps in the alarming nearness of ‘seniority’… my goodness, is this a test! Select each capsule and put it on a small dish on the table. There they are, visitors from another universe. Then, swallow, swallow and swallow. Gulp and swallow again and stop to think, where are we now… did I take this pill already or have I yet to do that? If I’ve managed to do all this correctly then the rest of the day is easy. My niece M stumbles into the room in a daze and I have to see if there’s anything she needs or wants and it’s a good thing I didn’t forget about the before-meds.

There’s a dream I had once and wrote it down on a scrap of paper as soon as I woke up. The paper has been lying around for a few years, all scruffy and folded. Hard-to-read scribble so I better get it in print before it’s faded away in time. It goes like this: I’m standing at a bus stop, waiting for the bus. It comes, and I get on. Instead of ordinary bus seats, there’s furniture, sofas, armchairs, a small coffee table, TV, curtains on the windows, and it’s laid out like a room interior. I find a place and sit down. Other passengers on the bus are sitting up properly in unmatched furniture, everybody looking around for the person who comes to get orders for snacks and drinks. Nobody comes, there’s a long interval of nothing happening at all and after a while I realize it must be because the bus hasn’t left the stop yet.

At the same moment I remember I left my shoes outside the door at the bus stop. This is because in all houses in Asia you have to leave your shoes outside when you enter. Yes, but something about this worries me – is there enough time for me to go fetch my shoes in from the doorway before the bus leaves? I feel my body trapped by something unknown, unable to move… ok, I’ll just leave the shoes there and when I get off the bus I’ll have to take someone else’s (it does happen).

But there’s something not right about this idea. I’m searching and searching, so much and with such intensity it’s extraordinary and I become convinced that I must have forgotten what it is I’m searching for. This could be a problem but I’ve convinced myself I’ll be able to recognize what is when it appears… how will I be able to know what it is then if I don’t know what it is now… hmm? Well, we have not reached that point in time yet, so let’s see. Everything’s in a shambles and disarray inside this bus, chairs and sofas all facing slightly in the wrong way. Why is it like this? Must be the constant movement of the bus going along, furniture gets shifted around – we swerve round a couple of sharp corners, and everything slithers off to the side again…

Intuition is a suspension of logic due to impatience. [Rita Mae Brown]

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deities in the hall of mirrors

article-2378854-1B00FA8A000005DC-995_634x1281POSTCARD #156: Chiang Mai: I arrive in the hospital waiting area with the pain, this intrusive stabbing pain in the head and neck, postherpetic neuralgia, a permanent headache; sounds worse than it is – could be I’m getting used to it. There’s a flat screen TV and a coffee place, maybe I should order something? I have the iPhone to fiddle with, get busy with that… not interesting. Okay so try thinking about something else, but at this particular moment, there’s nothing else to think about – only the pain all around the right side of my head and neck. Think of something… thought itself is a free app I have the option to download on the mind/body device (namarupa) but even though I don’t have to download it, some of it seems to be here already, appears involuntarily. I hear the thoughts, the ‘voice’ inside the machine shouting out: Hey! the pain is happening to ‘me!’ It’s not happening to you, or them, or him, or her, it’s happening to me! The pain is ‘mine’, I am ‘possessed’ by it. Everything I love and hate, everything I love to hate – it belongs to ‘me’… it’s ‘my’ enemy!

With the pain swirling like a dense, dark cloud around my head and neck, I step carefully over to the TV that nobody is watching. There’s a remote, so I can flip through the channels and see where that gets me. Bend down to get the remote and the storm of pain happening to ‘me’ is there again, overwhelms everything, too much, for a moment I give way to it… and it’s then I notice there’s a space of somehow being detached from the pain, it’s something that’s not felt anymore, enough of an easing back from it to see the pain is an appearance, like everything else.

Sit down in front of the TV. Focus on the remote, press the buttons… so many channels. Some channels I recognise, then up into higher and higher numbers; places I’ve never been in before. Almost all of the channels are hazy or white-noise then I break through into a place that’s loud, clear and colourful. A Korean game-show, dubbed in Thai. It’s as if the storm of pain is all around but outside of this curious place – I’m safe in here. The scene unfolds, all the characters are lipsticked and painted with cosmetics like grotesque clowns, with amazing hair and impossible teeth, an embodiment of consciousness deeply obscured in layers of ‘self’. Man created God in his own image; a mirror reflection of the ego.

It’s a serious competition about trivialities; guests make appearances, have to tell anecdotes related to the question to gain points. They gaze at each other and see themselves as their own reflections; deities in the hall of mirrors – adults dressed to look like ‘cute’, children (kawaii), a real live dream-world; and the winning of the prize! Lights, colours music, the reward, congratulations, created laughter, spontaneous and heartening applause…

Just then, the nurse calls my name, I have to go and see the doctor. I get up from the chair slowly and take my pain away from the transparency of this kind of joyful TV state that’s doing its best to cultivate a desire for everything that is pleasing and a loathing dislike of everything that’s displeasing, perhaps unintentionally encouraging the hating of it, the not-wanting-it-to-be-there inverted craving, that contributes to the intensity of driving the economic machine… a kind of mental captivity; never seeing that the business of the actor is in the nature of appearances. The art of the illusionist, the politician…

Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. [Robert Louis Stevenson]

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Photo showing a product that creates a lower eyelid bulge. Source

9/11/2015: perception

September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02A Buddhist Reflection: Survivors describe how, after the debris and dust settled, there was only blue sky where the twin towers used to be. It was as if the awful devastation hadn’t occurred, mind turns away… natural reaction, a kind of sleight-of-hand,  conjuring trick – one thing becomes something else, what is seen and what it appears to be merge together. Human beings have a deep familiarity with the illusion – everything we see, hear, smell, taste, touch is perceived. Consciousness of the world unfolds and thought rationalises how it appears to be. It’s this, it’s that, the illusion insists on being there until things hidden and obscured are revealed and we cannot return to the unknowingness of how it was before… ignorance is a kind of ignoring.

Form and formlessness; there are planes, explosions and buildings disappear. The video running continuously on YouTube for 14 years, I know the sequence in detail. I also know how the mind habitually joins up all the loose ends of awareness input, interpreting reality, perception is interpretation. Now you see it, now you don’t… a technology that can break up the molecular structure of concrete, turns buildings to dust – hoover it all up, remove melted steel remnants and everything is gone. I try not to think about it anymore; war and disaster, samsara of violence, distress, pain, fear and that underlying sense that something about this is not what it seems to be… learning to live with that uncertainty.

Mind is powered and driven by TV news – forgetting that it’s just a presentation, a performance in the studio. Hair-styling, cosmetics, the newsreader is an actor reading from a script. TV news is a created product based on an event manipulated to get it to fit into media format. TV news producers create a scenario of righteous anger, Sodom and Gomorrah retributional justice; it’s all ‘their’ fault, not our fault, blame and guilt… complicity. The tendency to contract into self, ‘I’ caused it to be ‘wrong’ – no, I don’t want to think about this anymore, don’t want to dwell on anything sinister…

People living in war-ravaged countries (such as Iraq for example) know that when a traumatic event takes place everything changes. After the disaster, our surroundings are seen in a different way; in the aftermath of this truly catastrophic circumstance we come to realise that the smoke was actually dust. What we believed in before this happened disintegrates, a basic truth now included in our worldview… nothing is permanent – history taking place before our eyes. Fourteen years after the experience, some ease can be found in simply knowing the ‘terrorists’ created a shockwave that unknowingly opened a window of awareness to world attention.

Dependent on the eye and forms, visual-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. With what one has mentally proliferated as the source, perception and notions resulting from mental proliferation beset a man with respect to past, future, and present forms cognizble through the eye (Majjhima Nikaya, I, 111–112).

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Photo source: Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02.jpg#/media/File:September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02.jpg
[See also earlier posts:
9/11 2014,
9/11 2013
9/11 2012]
Related source: ‘Working with Perception’ by Ajahn Sucitto

 

there and then, here and now

IMG_2188POSTCARD #134: Elgin, Scotland: It’s a fleeting transitory thing, sometimes so clearly seen – as now on this bus following the coastal route and scribbling down words in my notebook (almost illegible writing due to the motion of the bus). I’m visiting Uncle P who is over 80 and lives in a care-home. The photo above was taken from the bus going through these small villages, and it was shortly after that I got off at Buckie.

Then it all comes back to me, the call of seabirds and smell of the sea. Huddled in my coat in the cold wind looking down at the same street surfaces; pavement cracks I recognize from the last time I was here, years and years ago? What is it? Just a feeling, awareness precedes thought, no words for this kind of thing. Incidental people pass by on the street. I think I know them from long ago, but it’s possible I never spoke to them at all, we were always like this, seeing each other in the town and only that gentle familiarity, glance, eyes meet, strange recognition… do I know you? It’s like I never left this timeless non-objective moment – there and then is here and now.

And they would say it makes no difference if I’ve been away in foreign lands, North India and Thailand, Chiang Mai, Bangkok and living my butterfly life. Coming back here is like stepping into the same instant of existence. It’s like it was yesterday, except people are older, aging, settling into a comfortable gravity. And a feeling of how everyone is near the end – I don’t know the young folks, of course. People I used to be friends with are inexplicably gone. It’s like the estuary leads out to the sea – water from the mountains flowing through so many different circumstances, on the way to joining the oceans of the world.

I get to see Uncle P and he looks well but almost all that he says is subtly incorrect, wrong dates, gives people all the wrong names and I agree with everything he says. When it’s time to go, he takes me to the exit, but we get lost, pause at the dining room and he’s puzzled why everything has been tidied away – I ask a staff lady in the kitchen who assures me that Uncle P had his lunch already. He forgets things; she tells me out of earshot – shows me the exit. Last I see of him, he’s going back down the corridor with the kitchen lady and telling her he’s looking for his wife. But she passed away a year ago.

On the bus to Elgin I have a little weep about Uncle P, and when the bus gets there, find an Internet café to write this.

‘Wandering through realms of consciousness like a refugee, thought looks for a home. Thought thinks that perhaps by clinging to this or to that, it can find a home. In this way, thought forms attachments with names and forms, with concepts such as “is” and “is not,” “self” and “other,” “me” and “mine,” and with emotions like envy, pride, and desire. It is the mission of thought to form these attachments in hopes of finding a home. Thought wants to own its own home.’ [Thought Is Homeless/The Endless Further/ 2012 July 16]

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the construct

IMG_1192OLD NOTEBOOKS: East Anglia: [post written in New Delhi] A group arrives at the mall coffee shop sorts out the chairs, a few remarks, laughter; look at the menu the waitress comes over. Give their order, then there’s nothing left to say. Silence. Each one pulls out a mobile device, phone or iPad, stares at screens whose reflected glow illuminates the face of the user. Heads tucked in to examine the picture, body crouched over in fetal position; hypnotized, fascinated with the object, unlearned, never thinking of the question ‘WHY?”

Dominated by thoughts of, who am I? How do I relate to everybody else: you, he, she or it – we, you they? “Me’ as an individual doesn’t seem to be anything more than just a member of a particular socio-economic group. From this way of thinking, I can see (my) self situated favorably – or it could be unfavorably if I’m caught in being the victim; subject to the karma of former circumstances – product marketing gently nudging at the elbow. I need to be thinking about the next option – expectations, responsibilities, things I ought to be doing. Thoughts thinking thoughts, thinking more thoughts and thinking about things to the extent that it all becomes habitual – embedded in the self-construct I recognize as ‘me,’ subject to causes, conditions in the world, which is also a construct, I am some kind of imaginary character in a fictional landscape.

There is so much that we cannot know, limitations of the senses, including the cognitive sense. But everything arises due to thought, the duration between one thought and another is non existent – thought knows nothing of it because thought only knows an object; all objects appear only in thought – no object, no thought. STOP THINKING and there’s the enigma… the empty space where that thought used to be. Nothing there now, if it is just ‘nothing’, I’d need to have ‘something’ there to confirm it is nothing. I can’t find the ‘something’. So it’s not ‘anything’, it’s ‘not something’ – it’s a feeling of no-thingness. But then I’m thinking about it again… it’s an easing-away from that heaviness of thought, that which built the construct; buildings, welded metal, concrete, brick and iron embedded in stone. All of it can be demolished in a day. It all just fades away. ‘Melted into thin air… the baseless fabric of this vision… we are such stuff as dreams are made on…’

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small-complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” [Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859]