random continuity

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POSTCARD #103: Delhi: Traffic congestion at the market area and there’s this old black and yellow taxi in front, with red lettering on the back. I take a photo of the misspelling of ‘keep distence’ (distance) and ‘power break’ (brake). It’s this tradition they have here of keeping everyone informed with written messages on moving vehicles [check out Google’s image page: Horn Please]. Also the curious illusion of the ‘OK TATA’ slogan appearing in the back window of the taxi as if it were stuck on with tape. A closer look tells me it’s actually painted on the back of the yellow truck in front, seen through the windscreen of the inside of the taxi. The OK TATA’ slogan is everywhere; OK (ti-kae ठीक in Hindi), keep your distance… that’s close enough.

The car moves slowly through the market area. Delhi streets are compelling, always something going on. My view of the world is a sequence of unrelated events except that the movement of the car seems to link them together in a random continuity of space/time. A curious connectedness that seems to make sense; it’s all of a oneness [not-twoism]. The frame of reference extended so far it’s all-inclusive; everything out there is connected to ‘me’ in here; the truth of separation and the illusion of I/ you/ he/ she/ it, in the place where we appear to be.

Car moves through the crowd and there’s a woman at a bus stop; suddenly she goes into a whole complete turn of the body, graceful extending of the neck and head… completes the movement just as I pass in the car. Can’t think what she’s doing… then afterwards I realize she must have been looking to see if the bus was coming.

The elongated, ambulating long-limbed walk of a man wearing a gathered-up white cotton garment around the legs and jacket on top. Exactly at the moment I see him, he steps down from the high pavement to street level and there’s deep bounce of limbs and musculature – stretchy ligaments taking the strain.

At the traffic lights, a very thin man slows down on his big old bicycle and his naked brown foot reaches down to come to a stop; leather shoe on dusty street… pause, rearrangement of limbs; sitting on bicycle seat, allow for distribution of weight, rest in this new posture and wait for the lights to change.

There’s a deep familiarity about this… coping with human form, weight, corporeality – I know how the man on the bicycle feels. I experience it subjectively; I am a mind/body organism, inseparable part of the whole construct. It’s something mechanized, organic with articulated joints enclosed in a warm pulsating fluidity and the sensation of the breath in nasal cavities.

Seeing the events without the story like screenshots in a sequence; a few gestures and there’s a pause, taking a moment to receive the data… mind decides whether it’s important or not. It’s as if there’s a small seed of wisdom buried deep in the layers of unknowing; lying dormant, waiting for things to evolve and the right conditions to be there in order to wake up.

“What you are basically, deep deep down and far, far in, is simply the fabric and structure of existence itself.” [Alan Watts] (source openobserver.wordpress.com)

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a world of lost passwords

IMG_3069bPOSTCARD #102: Delhi: I’ve forgotten my password… fearing my papers might be stolen, password discovered and, of course this is how the whole paranoia of Identity Theft unfolds, I dreamed up some devious way of encrypting it then forgot how I did that. Now it’s gone… this elusive quality passwords have, they slip away secretly if you’re not holding on to them or buying into the created anxiety scenario that sells the product; insurance to cover the insurance to cover the unforeseen event; an imagined disaster. Rearrange the furniture of the mind; if you’re a Buddhist, having your identity stolen is no big deal because it’s an assumed identity anyway. There never was an actual ‘self’ in here, anatta, selflessness, and spiritual generosity. I’m pretty sure there’ll come a time when banks don’t offer loans to Buddhists anymore; they don’t meet the criteria, don’t have the credentials; that tenacity of clinging to ‘me’ and ‘mine’ is noticeably absent… Buddhists are not a safe bet, at any time they may close the agreement and happily give everything away. Banks don’t like freedom from suffering; enslavement to sensory input keeps them in business.

So I feel reasonably okay about losing my password, what’s gone is gone. It’s my Thai account and they will fix it up for me – I’ll be there in 2 weeks so I’ll be able to explain the situation; go and see the same bank teller lady I’ve been visiting over the years, who will look up when I come to her desk with my queue number ticket and a recognition comes into her face: You’ve forgotten your password again, right? It did bother me at first; aging, memory loss, an inability to retain passwords, and also that she might think it’s all a made-up story… how could anyone forget their password so often? And the real reason for coming to see her again and again is that I’d like it if we could get to know each other better… we can’t go on meeting like this.

But there’s a sadness in her eyes…. it’s been so long now, years pass between our meetings, I go away, forget my password and come back and see her again, she gives me a new password and we observe each other silently. She looks well, but older. It must be this job she does; working in a bank, selling security for finance that may or may not bring wealth or ruin, manipulating a hypothetical danger… unwholesome livelihood, hovering always on the edge of anxiety. Even now I can see the lock-down procedures starting in my head – falling into the trap of believing it’s real. Let it go, let it go.

It’s a death, it’s gone, my password dwells now in the world of lost passwords where there’s no urgency about who is who or what or which object belongs to who or whom and the things we cling to, the clings we thing to, have no adherence, glue dissolves, unsticks – structures collapse, fall… form and formlessness

“… like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel. Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon, like a carousel that’s turning, running rings around the moon. Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face, and the world is like an apple whirling silently in space – like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.” [The Windmills of Your Mind, 1968]

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Photo: Jiab’s visit to the Southernmost tip of Kerala looking out towards Sri Lanka

transparency

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POSTCARD#101: Bangkok Suwannabhume Airport: Looking out from the interior of this coffee shop into another interior; the glittering glass-paneled B concourse, and through that glass window to what’s out there; blue sky, a concrete horizon and planes taking off. I am contained in a transparent interior, inside a larger interior, contained in a reality construct, the steel and glass of this moment. It’s the same place I was in last time, and the time before that (the ‘Mango Tree’ coffee shop, near gates B1-B6, if you’re ever in this neck of the woods). We started coming here a year ago and Jiab comes when she’s travelling on her own… sends me phone-pics of fruity drinks and ice creams she consumes after the photo is taken. This is my departure lounge; the Delhi flight leaves from this coffee shop, rather than gate C5, which is simply the entrance to the plane. A kind of applied personification in an airport vastness, anonymity and incidental eye contact with a few individuals. I see their birth, their death, their merging in a sea of people all on the way to/from somewhere else… going or coming. We’re all just passing through.

Long columns of us waiting to be X-rayed, instructed and directed by officials guiding us into and out of security portals like water passes through rocks and stones in a continuous flowing stream. No resistance to it… the coldness of regulations; a physical sensation in a body that’s somehow become transparent. I notice how the energy feels rather than how I can ‘be’ negatively energized by it. Everything is so much not what we think it is, there can’t be any assumptions; just letting it take place and being okay about it is enough. Disengage from thinking it should be something other than what it is, and everything that’s currently bothering me about that disappears for a moment – long enough to be able to see it’s possible to let go of all the shoulds and shouldn’ts completely… the peace that’s in that.

Surveillance cameras protrude into the space I’m in and suck out all data, send it to a room containing video screens, dark and gloomy, where security people with bulged-out eyes scan the images of the crowd, zoom-in, zoom-out. I feel I’m being looked at, studied… I’ve just been jostled slightly, pockets rifled. I can’t see them but I know they’re there. This whole thing is a performance, there’s a sudden urge to do a song-and-dance act. Maybe it’s a more serious drama production; Japanese Kuroko stagehands, dressed in black, appear on stage with the actors and rearrange the scene as the play is going on. They’re there for everyone to see but become invisible. The mystery of how we can be unaware of things in plain sight – mesmerized by politicians, illusionists’ sleight-of-hand; everybody acting out the story of their lives without questioning it, improvised dialogue according to the karma of causes and conditions.

Coming near to the end… the last camera, passport stamp, thump! And I’m suddenly through the barrier, blinded by the lights of the glitzy duty-free, gold Rolexes, impossible jewelry and stumbling towards my place in the coffee shop. Waiting for the flight to be called, the great leap up into the sky. A heightened feeling, a quickening, I know all this is happening – mindful alertness, awareness creates an awareness, aware that it is aware…

“The vastness created these human circuitries in order to have an experience of itself out of itself that it couldn’t have without them.” [Suzanne Segal, Collision with the Infinite

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‘… awareness creates an awareness, aware that it is aware’ – reference: Is Awareness Aware Of Itself?

 

all of the above

IMG_1632POSTCARD#100: Chiang Mai/Bangkok flight: Look out the window and there’s the wing of the aircraft I was looking at when we were on the ground and taxiing for takeoff – reassuring to see this part of our plane structure out there, seemingly holding us stable in this strange void, moving at 600 mph, in a great whoosh above the surface of the planet. The wing seems to extend into the clouds, like the perspective of a highway leading off into the sky. A curious illusion, although no more curious than the illusion that’s all around; world as a projection of the senses, everything tailored to fit and unbelievably believable… I can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, and taste it. It looks real but it’s not there; it’s only ‘my’ perception of it, a mirror reflection of the world – I need to remind myself it’s like this, the illusion is so compelling. I am the ‘self’ that inhabits this body, appearing in the being-ness appearing in ‘me’ and part of the whole thing, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end….

The seat next to me is empty – sad to think my Thai niece, M, aged 10, who has accompanied me on so many other journeys is not able to come along this time. M’s school holidays are over… parting of the ways, she goes back to school, I go back to Delhi, stopover in Bangkok – another long journey in the air. Stewardess comes by, looks at me (who you are at any moment is determined by whom you’re talking with). I ask her about the empty seat, she says nobody will sit there now, so I can spread out my notes and papers over two seats. It’s strange not having M beside me anymore. This empty space where she used to be, this solitude, aloneness or loneliness. No chattering conversations and statements presented with the alertness of a small bird; intelligence like a receptor opens, data enters and triggers the creativity of constantly making one thing into another thing. The energy of her artwork; scissors-clipped paper-craft objects held together with Scotch Tape and ‘Fluorescent Color Glitter Glue’. And the performance; playing with words, gestures and the dreamlike ‘self’ function; playing a part in a story in her head so well she believes she’s the character being acted out – being a somebody, then being a somebody-else.

Flitting from one self to the next, her presence is a self-reflexive act. No difference between the self-construct and acting the part, it’s just there; an all-inclusive, ‘all of the above’ experience of awareness receiving itself. A total act, ‘theatre’, illusion, samsara… just immersed in the story of it all. The ‘world’ is a constructed/collapsible experience – unfolding, enfolding, no holding – automatic pilot, nobody driving the plane.

‘… the question was raised: “Why can’t we know this secret of the universe?” And the answer given was very significant: “Because we talk in vain, and because we are satisfied with the things of the senses, and because we are running after desires; therefore, we, as it were, cover the Reality with a mist.”’ [Swami Vivekanada, Maya and Illusion]

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agreement

Thai house carvings, Chulalongkorn UniversityPOSTCARD#99: Chiang Mai: The day before yesterday I got my computer back from the repair shop… the stress of these last three months with it crashing all the time has been too much. No reliable way of getting it fixed because I’m travelling all the time and things being as they are in these Asian locations, making do, and looking out for an opportunity all the time. Meanwhile having to use the WordPress app for iPhone – really too small and going cross-eyed. So I bought an iPad mini which my 10-year-old niece (M) grabbed immediately and I had to go back to using the iPhone again – this is how it is…. Then when the laptop came back there was this small revelation – maybe it was just the relief that the stress wasn’t there anymore. Hard to say how or when it changed, some time after what we call the ‘now’ moment – perception arises after the event, it occurs in hindsight… things are seen to be in agreement. Everything attached to the former is suddenly gone… there’s something in the air.

Even before it happened, there were signs that it all seemed to be moving towards this kind of integration. Walking down the lane to the main road, mid-morning traffic, I see a tuk-tuk (3-wheeled taxi) arriving, just as I emerge on to the thoroughfare, and it stops right in front of me. I climb in and off we go; no traffic hold-up anywhere, no red light at the junction, just one large right turn and down the straight road to the mall building. Get out, pay the driver, into the mall, up to the second floor and I’m thinking the repair shop’ll not be open yet… probably have to get a cup of coffee or something. But all the lights are on, staff behind the desk, no line of people waiting… how can it be as easy as this? So I go in and hand the guy my creased and crumpled stapled-together papers with repair-job number and signed receipt for $680(!) They had to send for the parts from Singapore (incredible) and it’s taken a month already; there’s a kind of grumbling discontent hovering like a shadow at the edge of vision; grumble-grumble-grumble, and I’m waiting for the trigger: he’s going to tell me it’s not ready yet… I’m going to fall back into the justified-outrage film-loop thing that plays in the head… but it wasn’t like that, the man comes out from behind somewhere and he’s holding my laptop, says it came back yesterday. Here you are, he says, and gives it to me.

Unbelievable, put it in the bag: thank you very much, bye-bye, and downstairs to street level. Another tuk-tuk just happens to come along, get in and away on the long straight road; no red light for the second time, wide swerve left and along the narrow lane to the apartment. Up in the elevator, get inside and searching for the power cable for the laptop – can’t find it, maybe it’s lost… oh no, grumbling discontent returns… ‘self’ as the victim-of-circumstance default. Then while I’m looking for that, I find another power cable, the one for my little projector, wow! I’ve been looking for that for months… and sure enough, I find the power cable for the laptop; it was where I left it. The missing pieces of the jigsaw fit exactly, and it’s a huge relief to have my machine back.

The rest of that day just vanished, busy getting things re-installed, and I wasn’t able to put up the post I’d intended, so now I’m two days late. The world is reflected upon in hindsight. I was going to write something about 23 October being Chulalongkorn day in Thailand and, by chance, it was also Divali in India (lunar calendar)… there goes that agreement thing again, celebrations all around. Another factor in it all is that this is my 99th postcard post, something satisfying about that number. Then there’s this awareness that everything is in agreement, a renewed certainty in the way things are. The return of the laptop puts everything right, it means also that M now has unlimited access to the iPad, and she’ll most likely fall heir to it around Christmas. So I’m glad I’m glad I’m glad, and I’ll be able to read all your posts again, thank you…

“The search for a spiritual path…has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.” [Bhikkhu Bodhi]

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for the upper image source, click on the link: ‘Chulalongkorn day’ on this page

enigma of hiccups

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POSTCARD#98: Bangkok/Chiang Mai flight: M has the hiccups but can’t remember the English word for it and asks me: How you say sa-oog in English Toong-Ting? Thai onomatopoeia describes it well – and just as she’s asking the question, by way of example, the involuntary existential hiccup arrives. She recovers from the small jolt and looks at me with a kind of inner alertness. I tell her it’s a hiccup and she laughs – it’s the name of a character in a cartoon movie [How To Train Your Dragon 2]. I show her how to hold her breath for as long as she can, take a quick in-breath, and then keep on doing that. But no worries, we’ll be landing soon and that’ll divert her attention. The descent is quite bumpy… turbulent hiccups in the outer world. Luggage compartments overhead rattle and creak in the vibration. For a moment there’s an awareness of tremendous velocity, vulnerability, and the mind conjures up some kind of explanation for it. I feel like we’re on a road in the air, bumps caused by an imagined uneven road surface; a highway in the sky… a bridge that spans the distance from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – descending from the heavens now on this huge curved span all the way down to the surface of the planet.

There’s the sound of hydraulics, down go the wheels and the earth rises up to meet us. We are 300 people contained in a structure the size of a building, careering along at 200 mph in a collision course with the Earth. The deep uncertainty of our situation fills my awareness for a moment, then there’s the soft bump and we’re down. Wheels take the weight, first one side then the other, the deep lurch, sink-down/bounce-back as it settles and the engines roar like the dragon in M’s cartoon movie. The end of quite a long journey; Chiang Mai/Hat Yai, via Bangkok and home again for M. It’s just another arrival for me, there’ll be a departure again on 30 October; I’m traveling most of the time. Thirty years on the road, the default link with my own culture is not as important as it was. Thailand is my country of choice now and for the rest of my life. I can be M’s teacher of English until I’m old and grey – one of a minority of West/East migrants assimilating with the host country. The story of how the US came to be… identity is a created thing

Out of the plane and along the corridor, M walking along beside me with her little bag; the totality of her being, head to toe, is inside my field of vision… so small. She seems to be all-right with everything and all the events so far; hiccups are gone and chatting about all kinds of stuff I can’t quite hear. I have to guess what she’s saying and comment with appropriate responses like: really? oh yes, hmmm… and that’s working okay until there’s something that sounds like a question: Toong-Ting, when you were in your mummy’s tummy, before you were borned, you didn’t breathe, right? and I say, Right! confirming this truth. She’s still thinking about holding her breath to stop hiccups. After that there’s a fairly complex observation on the enigma of hiccups and life in general. Sounds interesting but I can’t quite understand it because I missed the first part. We walk on through the long corridors in the arrivals and out to the taxis: really? oh yes, hmmm…

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‘As all waves are in the ocean, so are all things physical and mental in awareness. Hence awareness itself is all-important, not the content.’ [Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That (261)]

worlds

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POSTCARD #97: Bangkok 06:00 hours: Heavy rain, the sound of it is hypnotic. M sits at the breakfast table, eyes glazed over and chewing in slow motion, falls into a dream in mid-chew and needs a gentle poke to remind her to keep going… not properly awake yet; this world emerging from the one before. Somebody says there’s no time left – got to go now. M holds up her watch to look at the time and beneath her raised elbow the plate is taken away to the kitchen sink, clink-ding, and all around there’s a kind of speeded-up blur of movement – things vanish, table top is wiped. M, still in the dream maybe, looking at her watch, unsticks it from where it’s gotten slightly adhered to skin; it’s a blue and yellow bubble-like kiddy object, I ask her if she is good at telling the time, she looks at the flower-patterned dial and thinks for a moment; I no can tell you Toong-Ting (her name for me)… meanwhile all around us, doors open and close, toilets flush and there’s a clatter of voices as the whole scene gets folded into itself and packed away… suitcases zipped up. It’s as if there are at least two versions of this particular reality running at the same time.

I ask M if she learned about telling the time in school; only the Thai way. I don’t know in English how to say… I’d forgotten about the Thai way of telling the time, of course, it’s a slightly different system [link], and I’m reminded there are other perceptions of the world that run parallel to the Western way. No time for discussion, we’re hustled out the door to the car that takes us to the airport – but unprepared for the huge puddle at the gate. M gets her feet wet as she’s climbing in the car, sits in the back with me, takes wet foot out of rubber slipper and asks me for a tissue; something to dry her feet with. I don’t have anything except for a crumpled one in my pocket; unfolding it carefully and she says, Did you sneeze in it Toong-Ting? I tell her no I didn’t; looks at it doubtfully… dries her foot.

The rest of the journey is about the car making its way through flooded areas and the sloshing sound beneath where we are sitting. M looking around wide-eyed, listening – there’s another world out there through the thin fabric of the vehicle… so near. All kinds of splashing but the rain doesn’t last long, we can see it starting to ease off and when we reach the airport there’s blue sky and sunshine, as if the rain had never happened.

Out of the car, and we have to say bye-bye to mummy who’s not coming, a hug and they’re a bit tearful. So there’s only us now but we’ve done this before, been on a few journeys together. Through the Xray, the check-in and into departures. We find two seats and M wants to use the iPad for her Minecraft… all kinds of apps with their sudden ringtones wake me up in the night reminding me they need to be upgraded. Sharing the iPad with M means I don’t get overly attached to it and when I do have access, there’s a sense of urgency; writing as in text-message minimalism. A lightness too, because being with a 10 year old who speaks English as a foreign language reduces gravity and the slow moving dinosaur of thinking about things for too long.

Shortly after that we’re boarding, the flight leaves on time and the great leap up… catapulted into the sky, 5 miles above the surface of the planet. M is quietly looking around, a discrete twirling and spinning of small head, checking out everything inside the aircraft and out through the window; fluffy clouds in a pale blue heaven realm – the world is a simulation, overlay upon overlay of illusions I feel I’m deeply familiar with…

There is no thing there. There is no real substance, no solidity, and no self-existent reality. All there is, is the quality of experience itself. No more, no less. There is just seeing, hearing, feeling, sensing, cognizing. And the mind naming it all is also just another experience.’ [Ajahn Amaro]

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prevalence of ritual

imagePOSTCARD#96: A village near Hat Yai: I’m at the wedding of my nephew in the South of Thailand, the only foreigner in the family… nothing for me to do in an event that’s complex and requires all kinds of engagement… mindfulness.  I just watch the proceedings, pleased with this sense of generosity in everybody just being here. I have M, my Thai niece with me and she corrects me if I get it wrong. We set off from the groom’s house in a long convoy of cars, a 20 minute drive, then stop on the highway and walk the last 200 yards along the path to the brides house. Musicians up front with Glong Yao drum, cymbals and reed pipe; an eerie, almost discordant kind of wailing song. I wonder how it must feel like for the bride, waiting in her childhood home, and here comes this haunting, archetypal sound of her future husband’s clan calling to her – getting nearer and nearer and louder and louder until it fills the small room she’s in. I’m thinking of tribal things, fertility rituals and magic that changes the course of karmic events. For me, there’s only this; the sense that the ceremony is heavy with meaning; perhaps too, something about belief I used to think was real a long time ago.

The sad truth is that in the West, divorce is about as common as marriage – religion got deconstructed; the story we believed in came to pieces. No myth to feel connected with, except perhaps the myth of no-myth. In a sense, we’re all married to the economy, worship the consumer god, seek refuge, gratification, fulfillment and consolation in the purchase of goods and services. What’s left over after that, in terms of ‘belief, we have to figure out any way we can.

It’s different here, divorce is rare, maybe it’s the prevalence of ritual that – come what may – locks the marriage into this unbreakable bond. The marriage date is selected by an astrologer, taking into account all of the every-day catastrophes and natural disasters, about which most Western folk are happily unaware. Any begrudged spirits are appeased so that a date can be selected which is completely surrounded by joyful blessings and good fortune – the belief that the spiritual world is real is what causes it to be so. I feel like I’m watching a different movie, maybe more meaningful than the cultural movie we watch in the West, maybe I’m drawn towards this version more, now that 30 years have gone by – or maybe it’s too restricting for me and I’m on the outside looking in. Maybe that’s okay too.

Lengthy ceremonies for many hours, Buddhist monks chanting, holy markings made by an elder’s fingertips dipped in special paste and pressed lightly on their forehead, and a sacred cord sai monkonor is placed on their heads [see below]. They kneel with their arms on a decorative pillow, palms together in the ‘wai’ position, and family members take turns to pour water over their hands.

It was a long day for me sitting outside the house under this huge pink canopy. My niece M came to join me later, and I was facing away from the main group so I make a face of bored weariness for her and she laughs. Do the face again Toong Ting and I try to do it again, but can’t get it right. Do same face you do before Toong Ting! She insists. So I try all kinds of grotesque weird faces, a whole anthology of faces that go on and on until I’m thinking I’m going slightly mad, and she laughs a lot, but obviously tired. Somebody had to take her home. It was a long day for the couple too, when I saw them eventually, they looked exhausted, although the bride was strangely wide-eyed and alert – I was astonished, something about a kind of awareness that takes place at the end of something endless….

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‘The fact that we can never “fully know” reality is not a sign of the limitation of our knowledge, but the sign that reality itself is “incomplete,” open, an actualization of the underlying virtual process of Becoming.’ [Slavoj Zizek]

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The title of this post is taken from an anthogy of Romare Bearden collage artworks

a house in the trees

washing line

POSTCARD#95: Fifty miles from Hat Yai: Exotic birdsong from the forest, it’s early morning and I’m hanging out the laundry on a washing line tied between trees… dogs bark, chickens scatter. Heavy rain all through the night but the days are usually bright and sunny. Then back in the house and there’s time to find an unoccupied bathroom. The house is crowded because today there’s a wedding; some people still sleeping, others preparing costumes, looking in mirrors. Everybody hoping it won’t rain… fragility of perfected hair styles, lacy gold costumes, and eye-liner painted like a work of art.

In a room upstairs I find M, my Thai niece, putting on makeup using the iPad screen, switched to front camera, a mirror-image unreversed… can this be what we really look like? And I’m thinking, do we have to have the mascara? She’s only 10 years old, spinning her head around like this, trying to see herself from the side. Wearing the face that’s seen by others, the glassy-eyed gaze that looked-at eyes have. It’s been four months since I’ve seen M and now here she is as a miniature adult, but still a child. She puts a piece of tissue in her mouth and holds it there: too mush lip sticks… English is a second language, I want to say it’s a non-countable noun, like air, it’s a mass noun – there’s only one lipstick in the world. But I don’t say that because it’s boring and she’d think I was starting a conversation about cosmetics.

garlandLet her get on with it, it’s a girl thing; I have to prepare myself too for the main event of the day. Not difficult, ironed shirt, combed hair, shoed, socked and I’m done; the only Caucasian in a guest list of more than one thousand, all of whom are all related in some way, including a local politician who goes around smiling at people. This is M’s family on the maternal side – on the paternal side she’s Taiwanese/Japanese… same old sad story about an absentee father. Everyone here is curious about her, they’re all of a oneness, share the same ancestral pathways – they even look like each other. They believe in all of this, a deep familiarity with the clan. The familial matrix, if there’s a question about the lineage, it’s addressed by an elder who can remember who was who in the old days, and the received knowledge. But most of them are shy to delve into it, just watch, observe, depend on each other for confirmation, looking at each other often, trying to see the familiarities – there is no individual ‘self, everything I see is ‘me’.

We’re all standing at the door, ready for the 7.30 am pickup of a multitude of people, and just as the minibuses start to arrive, M comes downstairs dressed in Thai costume. There’s a kind of collective gasp, she looks like a mystical being from the Deva realms. She carries it well, knows there’s something about her that holds the attention of the local people. Yet, this is her heritage, following the lineage of the old families. She tugs at my arm, pulls me down so she can whisper in my ear: can I borrow the iPad, Toong Ting? (it’s her name for me) A little uneasy about the naïve stares of these ordinary rural folk, and glad that I’m a bit of an oddity here too, so some of the staring will be deflected on to me. We agree that she can do her iPad activity as soon as I’ve taken all the photos of the wedding procession and I keep talking with her so she can be seen to be engaged with what I’m saying and that seems proper – quick sideways glance dodging between the eyebeams focussed on her, just to see who else is here, then back into her pose of averted gaze.  We are in the first minibus, get in the front seat behind the driver, and the whole convoy moves off, following the musicians…
[to be continued]

“Every one of us is an aperture through which the whole cosmos looks out.” [Alan Watts]

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Lower photo shows reflection of M in the rear-view mirror as the minibus follows the musicians in the pickup truck, leading the procession

interconnectedness

photo-3POSTCARD#94: Chiang Mai: I’ve been without my computer for about two weeks now. When I tell people this they’re shocked; but how are you able to… I mean, survive without the internet? This is it exactly, no words to describe it; grief, loss, mourning. It’s like somebody died and the world just moves on regardless. The empty space in the middle of the desk where the computer used to be is gradually becoming a convenient place to put things; a cup of coffee, a book, odds and ends – it’s returning to the original ‘desktop’ state (no metaphor intended). I write with a pen on lined paper in an actual ‘notebook’. Back to the basics… oil lamps and candles, I want to live in a cottage in the forest, grow vegetables, chop wood. But instead of that I’m in Chiang Mai City and have convinced myself that walking two miles every day (there and back) to a nice Internet cafe is good exercise.

Heavy urban traffic, often no pavement at all and obstructions like a temporary structure, fried chicken vendor/street food cooking place set up in the pedestrian area – getting the customers’ attention – I have to negotiate with the environment to get through. Cooking smells and traffic hazards, locked-in loving-kindness in conscious mind is necessary. Mindfulness is necessary in order to not be flattened by a passing cement truck. This is the developing world, Asian cultural behaviour just allows it to happen, everything in close proximity to everything else. Take a photo of the hundreds of cables slung between poles I think are phone lines. Connectedness, the true meaning of the term, extended family; people have to have contact with each other all the time. There’s no such thing as overcrowding, it has always, always been like this.

In pre-modern times perception was more associated with the narrative, the story by-word-of-mouth about how it all came to be like this. Now it’s a different kind of reality, a reality without a myth – or a myth that evolved over time to include the social order mechanism, television, and now it disincludes the Godman, the DIY awakening factor – don’t be too concerned about that folks, the Centre of Worship is doing it on your behalf. Not so, here in Asia, that uneasy feeling in the core of my being cannot be filled with some kind of truly invasive commercial product. It’s not a ‘hunger’ aroused by created opportunities we are encouraged to keep seeking. It’s a received knowing that extends through all and everything, a kind of interconnectedness that’s always there, an awareness of the uncountable cells in an organism and multiple organisms within organisms – all of it.

Out of the street and into the cool interior of the Internet cafe. Nice people say hello as I find my place. Log in and download the text file I sent from my phone earlier in the day. Having no computer at home means I have to write my posts using the phone keyboard one-fingeredly and awkward, but learning how to develop skills in defeating the spellchecker that goes around changing all the words unasked-for. Something interesting arises in the engagement with it; having to invent solutions to problems I’m not immediately familiar with. Intuitive reaching must be something I have learned through living with local people in Asian countries for more than thirty years; trying to understand the world as seen through their eyes.

An aloneness, maybe… it motivates this reaching out. ‘The internet is an extended sense organ’, all known bloggers in the world scattered around in their geographical locations, but really all contained in conscious awareness – we couldn’t be anywhere else! I can’t see you, or hear you. I can’t touch you and will never ‘meet’ you in the normal sense of the word, I just know you’re there, or here inside me, or where we all are… curious how it’s the awareness of loving-kindness that activates it.

‘… Not a single particle out “there” exists with real properties until it’s observed… reality is a process that involves consciousness.’ [Robert Lanza]

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The internet is an extended sense organ,’ from a comment by Michael in the post titled ‘grounded‘ Excerpts from other comments included here.
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