Monday, November 22, 2004

Dear Emily

So I went out to lunch, and ordered an enormous omelet and a pile of potatoes and two biscuits, and began to write. "Dear Emily," I began. I know no Emily. Who was I writing to? It shifted as I wrote. By the time I was done writing, in any case, she was gone.

"Let's pretend," I wrote, about halfway down the first page, "that I was someone who could just do what he decides to do. What would today look like? What would he do?"

And I wrote down some plans, a list of the various things this fictional person would do, & how he'd do them, and what he would do when he met an obstacle.

The first thing he would do, this person who can always do what he decides to do, is meditate. So when I got back to work, I checked my mail for anything urgent, and finding nothing, I settled down on my cushion, murmured my refuge prayers, and let my eyes unfocus.

Builders were building something on the other side of the wall. Drills buzzed, amplifying to cut-off shrieks when they broke through to tougher material. Strange knocks and booms. This second-story floor is oddly unstable; it rocks even when people just walk past through the cubicle hall. With every boom, I bobbed up and down like a duck crossing a boat-wake. Keyboards tip-tapped. An Indian voice, endlessly patient, on a telephone. Very easy, under these circumstances, to view appearances as empty and dreamlike. I don't know if we Buddhists are grateful enough for the assistance lent us by corporate surrealism. What would be much more difficult, would be viewing any of this as real.

At some point in writing down my pretend afternoon and evening, I understood that it was not only possible for me to do what I had decided to do. It was inevitable. It had in fact been inevitable since (at the very least) I left the office with the conviction that my drift had to stop.

When I got up from the cushion, I wrote the emails I had to write, figured out what I needed to do to get access to this and to find the documentation for that. All with that odd sense of fatality on me. Life is even weirder, I think, than it appears to be, and that's saying a lot.

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