Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Traveling Tips: Across the Universe

As you read this, you are traveling 136 miles per second across the galaxy, a distance that would take around two hours by car, unless it's rush hour. And if you're reading this in a bullet train, you have to factor in the theory of relativity, in which time slows down the more you accelerate.

          After the thrill of this infomercial wears off, though, you might want to stop thinking about it for a couple of minutes, or maybe forever. Because not only unseen but also unknown forces are at work everywhere, always, and, because we are not really very intelligent, our ignorance is easily mistaken for bliss.  For a fraction of that secondabout 20 galactic milesyou wonder what else you don't know that's absolutely vital, because you probably don't have a clue.  How can you ever know?

          Here's a clue.

          My teenaged children and I moved in with my motherinto her houseseven months ago, after she had heart surgery and I needed to cut costs. Yesterday I hung a very large painting on the living room wall of my childhood home. To do so entailed removing several of my mother's smaller pieces, but I rationalized that since she rarely enters the living room, it makes sense to put something I like on the wall of a room where the rest of us spend a lot of time. Check.

          Today my mother rearranged the spices alphabetically in a little cubby above the stove, three rows deep and very snug. Although I do most of the cooking, she reasoned that it's impossible to keep order without a system; therefore, the top shelf is Nutmeg through Turmeric and the bottom is Allspice through Mint. I use cumin every day, but I can't see it unless I take out the cardamom and coriander first. Checkmate.

          No, really, here's the clue.
          I was lying next to my first wife in bed...you know, and I was irritated. She must have been going on and on about something and she'd gone to sleepand I kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream. I went downstairs and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than an irritated songrather than 'Why are you always mouthing off at me?' or whatever, right?...and I've sat down and looked at it and said, 'Can I write another one with this meter?' It's so interesting. 'Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup/They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe.' Such an extraordinary meter and I can never repeat it! It's not a matter of craftsmanshipit wrote itself. It drove me out of bed. I didn't want to write it...and I couldn't get to sleep until I put it on paper... It's like being possessedlike a psychic or a medium. The thing has to go down. It won't let you sleep, so you have to get up, make it into something, and then you're allowed to sleep. That's always in the middle of the night when you're half-awake or tired and your critical faculties are switched off.John Lennon, 1980

          Listen. It's not about statistics or science or facts. In a world that's constantly changing and where reality is always under suspicion, our greatest threat to awareness is certainty.

          If that's true, then our greatest teacher might not be a person but, instead, something more like faith or surrender. Jai guru deva om. Honor your divine teacher. Listen for that inner voice that is both you and not-you, and then just give in. 

Thoughts meander like a restless wind
Inside a letter box
They tumble blindly
As they make their way across the universe.

          You may even travel further than 136 miles per second across the universe and transform a pissed off exchange with your partner into pure poetry. Nothing's gonna change my world. So, my darling, just surrender.


  1. Its been three weeks since you wrote anything Charlotte. I'm glad you are back at it. Your post are both intriguing and refreshing. I don't know you at all but keep writing. There are many of us out there in the void who take pleasure from the lives of others.

    1. Thank you, Roma (out there in the void)! You're very kind. I've read your comment about 50 times today and each time it's like pure oxygen.