The view from bar-do’i srid-pa
When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t intending to write anything this year to commemorate your death. I had thought that I had finally said everything that needed to be said last year. But I find that perhaps I do have something else to say, or rather, to ask.
It was my thirty-first birthday last week. I spent the evening with friends loading myself up on sushi–I don’t know which tasted better, the company or the fish. The next day was Thanksgiving; it’s been five years since it last landed so close on my birthday.
Life here in Belgium hasn’t been terrible. Most of my friends are still around, and my MPhil thesis proceeds slowly but surely. I have decent living quarters, although almost all of my belongings are in storage at the moment. My finances may finally be stable again.
But Belgium isn’t Kyrgyzstan. I wanted to be in that beautiful country so much. To see Bishkek in autumn, to spend a year beneath the Tien Shan mountains, to happily suffer the freezing cold winters and trip over the cracked pavement–that’s what I wanted.
Since I was stranded in Leuven two months ago, I have been working 10-12 hours everyday, trying to keep NewEurasia semi-functional while attempting to make an academic deadline at the end of January. I have also been trying to deal with a difficult situation in my private life.
The results? My organization has withered before my eyes, and although I’m enjoying my research topic (Claude Lefort), I’m still no closer to figuring out precisely what I want to say — and whether whatever I end up having to say shall earn the grades necessary to finally bring me into the PhD program.
As for the “difficult situation”, I have rolled the hard six to try and change it. It was a controversial decision among my friends, but the die has been cast, and what happens next is largely out of my hands.
My life exists under a tyranny of should‘s and ought‘s, some external, many internal. The paper of my to-do list streams out of my back pocket like a monkey’s tail, and its prehensility wraps around my neck.
Astrid, this wraith is tired of limbo; I am a soul seemingly trapped in bar-do’i srid-pa. Can you help me find the way out from this intermediate state? Can you help me pry open my eyes, to look away from light and shadow alike?
In the meantime, I have resolved that if I cannot get to Kyrgyzstan in my body, I can get there in my mind, in my heart. Since last week, I’ve attempted to throw to the wind all the should‘s and ought‘s, to be grossly irresponsible and do something I’ve always wanted to do, maybe something I should have done a long time ago–I’m writing fiction.
That’s all I should say at the moment, lest I jinx myself, and all the responsibilities and demands on my time, which circle around me like phantoms and ghouls waiting to pounce, pile up again and crush the creative steam out of me. But I’ll say more.
As of right now, I’m nearly at 100 pages in my novel’s rough draft. Perhaps what’s driving me is just escapism and avoidance, self-medication via the imagination, burn-out through other means. Yet, it’s been exhilarating, freeing, as though the doors of Bardo have cracked open just a bit, and a glimmer of a horizon beyond has peaked through.
i have been privileged to see and feel so many things
but the most dangerous act would be to interpret them
suspend the mind, levitate my judgement
let experience waft over me like curtains of Tibetan prayer flags
i am gently ushered into the inner sanctum
and buried upon the peaks of the Tien Shan
there is an important distinction between happiness and felicity
– place|state outward|inward existence|essence –
yet i do not understand their dance, their dialectic
even mountains have roots
but Plato cannot be correct, nor can Hegel
there is intimacy, yet not quite sublation
then a finger presses against my lips:
hush, listen to the geological whisper
the song sung in hints
ancient lamas beat their drums and chant
tantric in the rhythm of erosion
and amidst them i find an I
a shard of mind puzzling over patterns in a chunk of quartz