Saturday, 23 May 2015

Another Lesson in Transience

36 hours ago I went through Vancouver International Airport.  An old flame complained about YVR and about the abbreviations for airports in general because the abbreviations follow no rhyme or reason.  I can't disagree with her.

Next to the International Departures gate of YVR there's a large jade (bronze, but jade coloured) statue that depicts a number of Native American characters (Raven, Bear, Frog, etc) coming to Turtle Island.  That statue has been in place for ages.  I remember being 20 and sitting in front of it, having dropped off the woman I was sure I would spend the rest of my life with, and slowly coming to the realization that she was never coming home and it would never work out.  It didn't.  She didn't.  That statue told me the truth.

I checked in, 36 hours ago, and got my tickets to Cape Town.  I kept expecting someone to tell me that I couldn't take the trip (I'd spent 5 hours that morning scrambling to disagree with someone who had said I couldn't take the trip).  I expected them to deny me because of my passport, because of my timing, because of the season, because I'd missed a detail, because I was wearing the wrong glasses, because I looked suspicious.  I expected to be turned away just because this adventure feels too big for me.  I expected to be turned away because somewhere inside of me I had the potent and un-addressed feeling that such a grand thing was beyond the reach of a human with a soul as dented as mine.

One time a long time ago I went to Costa Rica.  I felt, through the whole plane ride, that Costa Rican customs would turn me away.  I wrote about it.  "Why would they let a person so gray as I am into so bright and warm a place?"

It was like that.  Why would they let me do this?

I passed by that jade statue again.  Another time, more modernly, I dropped off a girl I had been in the process of gently falling for.  She was visiting her family in China.  She went home to parents who assured me, and her, that she would lose the approval and support (practical and metaphorical) of her family if she ever really committed to a white man.  I sat underneath that statue, tinged as it always has been for me with loss, sadness and transience.

Robert Pirsig wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which was a deeply formative book in my younger years.  His son died in San Francisco, stabbed to death in an alleyway.  The Zen monk who instructed at the monastery in San Francisco walked into a meditation class and announced "Chris Pirsig is dead.  This teaches us all a lesson in transience."  He continued the meditation as ever.  Just because the lesson was especially potent or difficult to face did not mean that the lesson should be turned away from.

This statue teaches me a lesson in transience.  YVR is a transient place.  My heart broke in Vancouver.  I'm going into isolation to reflect as deeply as I can on that... to make a little container for the heartbreak, a comfortable bed where it can lay down, storms for it to watch, an island for it to visit.  Maybe I can help it heal, maybe I can just learn to live with it, and maybe my travels will just be a lesson in how it is foolish to go to one of the most remote places in the world and isolate yourself from friends, family and loved ones at a time where your heart is broken.  I don't know yet.

All I know is that life has taught me another lesson in transience.  That jade statue, now as ever, stands as a reminder.

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