Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Space In-Between

I am writing this from an airport lounge in Incheon, Korea on my way back to Jakarta. To be honest I wasn’t even sure what day of the week it is until I looked at my Blackberry and realized that my article deadline is due. The thing is I’m in transit coming from Chicago, which was a twelve-hour flight away and 12 hours behind Jakarta in time. Korea meanwhile is fourteen hours behind Chicago and two hours ahead of Jakarta.

I only stayed in Chicago for exactly two nights while the transfer in Korea itself is more than twenty-four hours. The flight to Jakarta is over six hours and again I will be travelling back in time. In the last few days I would have spent more time travelling than being on the ground.

So I guess it means for the last few days I’ve occupied that in-between spaces where time does not move in a linear fashion and where the words coming and going actually mean a lot of sitting around. A sort of still space where, depending on your state of mind, boredom or meditation reside. And if you occupy this space long enough, the restlessness of boredom will become the stillness of meditation.

Which makes me start to ponder on the notion of reality. Reality is invariably linked with a linearity of time, space and events. It is the passage of day turning into night and morning into evening. Of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Of youth turning into old age. Of sleep, waking up, doing stuff and then going back to sleep again and so on and so on until one day we just don’t have enough energy to get up and give up the whole linearity business once and for all. When we give up the ghost and return (or go to) that space where time and linearity as we know it don’t apply.

When I flew eastward I chased the sun to a place where people wake up, have breakfasts, go to work and celebrate birthdays earlier than we do in Indonesia. But then keep going eastwards then we continue to chase the sun not to where it is going but to where it came from and even further back to when it was still night.

And your body too, becomes confused. Your night is spent in wakefulness while during the day your eyelids are like lead. Mornings, days and evenings become a foggy concept when you’re stuck in a time capsule we call a plane for over twelve hours, pretending to eat dinners and breakfasts when outside is just the big sky getting darker when it should be getting brighter or vice versa. Sometimes it doesn’t even get darker. Other times, it’s a never-ending nighttime.

Because when we travel round the world, as the word specifies, we are not following a linear time. We do not exist in a reality as we know it. We are as it were, suspended in a time that has no hours or days until we arrive and land at our destination and we find that we have either gained or lost hours or days.

And there is a lot of stillness in this reality. Even as we are physically transported from one end of the world to the other, we ourselves spend most of our time not moving, whether in waiting lounges or confined to our little spaces thirty thousand feet above ground. Life is no longer about doing one thing after the other, all the while pretending to make some sort of meaning out of it, whether toiling away at the office or the house.

And when you have a layover that is over twenty-four hours, then you really start questioning about the meaning of life of in our reality - that is the reality when you’re firmly on the ground and subject to earth’s twenty-four hour rotation and linear time. And wonder if this type of reality is merely a diversion, a wasting of time and the finding of things to do, the whiling away of hours in chitchats. And I wonder if where I am now, in the space in-between, not subject to the linearity of time, is where genuine reality lies.

It is the space where we end up in when even our mind is finally tired of our boredom or of our incessant inner chatter. When even our most intense worrying, frustrations, anxieties lose their grip and we are left with a space that is so still like a pond on a windless and clear day that you can see right to the bottom.

At the bottom of this pond, reality is no longer about starting and ending conversations, beginning or finishing projects and following a schedule or fulfilling a deadline. It is about being and existing. And realizing that at the end of the day you’re just a physical entity taking up a tiny amount of space in the vast universe where there is no yesterday, today or tomorrow: That the meaning of life itself is the journey and not the destination.

And when you no longer inhabit that physicality, presumably in some other form that gave rise to your consciousness to begin with, then no doubt you will be part of that universal consciousness.

(Desi Anwar: first published in The Jakarta Globe)

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