Saturday, August 27, 2016

Opportunity lost and found

Opportunity lost opportunity. Whet can it possibly mean? What can it possibly add up to? Every day I was there I worked. I wrote. Intensively and intensely. I struggled with words, stumbled on words, did heavy lifting with words and word entities that pointed, reflected, advanced the ideas and experiences I encountered. Fought their way out of the dark thick obfuscation of the heated days, the impassive lagoon water, the baking sun, the power-laden light, the heavy smoke, the exploding birds, the portents of trouble I thought I could see. 

As I wrote the words, at the same time as I used them as tools, some heavy as iron and some light as a feather, I knew. Deep down, and from the vantage of thousands of feet above I knew. Knew that I was not taking advantage of the time. Knew I could never employ them completely enough. Knew there were whole dimensions missing in the word fabric I wove. Knew the stories were deeper, more numerous, mushroom in with more meaning than I could muster. Knew I was losing opportunity even as I used opportunity.

Wanted to go deeper. Wanted to recoil. Needed and sought language, ran from language or tuned it out. Flew in the wrong smoke-filled breezes to above the coconut trees, to look down on their infinitely tough baldness, a baldness borne of fiber, fibrous forces of millions of years of evolution in their photosynthetic presence. How could this not have been a waste of time? But what is time? What is waste? How is time wasted? It's like saying the planet is dying. No way. It's a rock around the sun and time, part of that planetary fiber, is part of that immutable reality. Can't waste it any more than you can kill a planet. Stop looking at things that way. 

Almost never set foot in their religious places. You see part of it was that I wasn't interested. Not needing to apprehend, to comprehend, those institutional blips on the landscape. But at the same time these "blips" could be seen more as pustules, more like the fiber-bound circulation around and through the seasons that is Eastern Province at its core. Religion and identity are so much to those people. But. I wanted to experience their identity not as they practiced it in houses of worship. More I wanted to experience it like they expressed it in their landscape, the banausic every day of going and coming, buying, delivering, riding, fishing and carrying. What a theory that made, could have made, if I didn't waste time watching it flow instead of spinning my trawlers net and pulling it in against at the current. Going with the current = wasting time? Not sure. 

To be fair I didn't go as well because I felt, and she expressed it herself, Janet's deep disapproval. Still hard to understand how you can disapprove of someone else's religious practice. But I get it too. Late in our stay at an evening kovil celebration on the beach we witnessed reenactments of religious stories, myths, personalities. They weren't violent but they threatened violence. They were messy, loud, liquid. They seemed chaotic and risky to the participants. What if he slipped? What if she fell? What if this blade missed its mark? You could see the potential. You could feel the promise, or at least the threat of violence happening. But it didn't. And maybe I would have been richer if I went to observe more. Or maybe not. What's inside? What's outside? What's full and what's empty? How is time used well or wasted? What's a conversation, what's the use of speech, when the words pronounce lies? Better maybe to lie still, stay low, crouch and absorb. I find there's a lot of knowledge that seeped in. Imperfect to be sure. But is there perfect knowledge? Let's be real about this. 

The Tamil Hindu devotional music. I've learned more about it now, that strange rhythmic air-filling background to almost every early morning and many afternoons. It's mantras. The mantras help you overcome obstacles. The obstacles are real or not, inside or outside of you, tangible or imagined. There are so many. The mantras are a medicine against obstacles. They can help you negotiate obstacles, enter them and find your way through, keep the walls just that far from your body and keep them elastic, not rigid. Like a body's bloodstream. Circulate. It's not a going forward necessarily. It's a fantasy and a reality, evolved through thousands of years of culture. Moving through and around obstacles. A finding? Not the way we experience these things here. The nature of experience. The same for every one of our species? Or different, different between cultures? Different between people? You tell me. I only have one experience. My own. 

So here I am every other morning in Cambridge in the basement gym off Massachusetts Avenue, deep in Central Square, deep in the sound of devotional music that was real (though canned and unattended by worshippers or the community around the kovil). The music comes through earphones and abides me through the first rolling steps of exercise, on a "stationary bike," exercise that I would have taken a few months ago on a real bicycle on the real sandy road to the real sound of the kovil music, my strongest impression of an atmosphere in that Sri Lankan place. The monitor reads the imaginary calories my body might be using at a given speed at a given setting. Convenient isn't it? To know your presumed heart rate and your hypothetical caloric use as you move through the imagined obstacles mental or physical with the presumed antidote to obstacles. The elephant is huge that rampaged through the jungle and clears itself a path through the vegetation. Those thorns and woody stems are no obstacle at all. Waste no time thinking they are. Just experience opportunity. 

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