Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I wonder if someday I will stand, looking through a keyhole at myself looking through a keyhole. I heard a man once say he feared two outcomes: that existence would last forever, or that someday he would cease to be. He felt both options were tragic. I spent some time debating with his problem in my mind. I couldn’t find any answers there. Then I heard another man say, Drop Time and the question is no longer needed.
These are all texts that begin with the phrase “Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience.” I wrote using this prompt for 50 consecutive days.
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I am riddled with holes. Every belief hangs as tattered as the prayer flags I saw from that temple hill in Kathmandu. Yet still they hang from me, like I am the string that connects them and raises them to the sky. I do not wish to be the string, or the flags, but instead I wish to be those high mountains distant in the fog. So dark and menacing they seem, piercing the clouds, sharp edges that cut. Might I be them? Might I truly be the mountains, and if so, would I also be the earth from which they grow? Would I be the spinning sphere that soars the universe giving purpose to all the stars and moons? Would I have such purpose that even the void would reflect my presence and be undone and done by my coming and going? All I know today is the prayer flags flap inside me, and they would flap still, even if were everything. But if only I knew myself more than the string!
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I see my mind building castles–building, building and building. Even these words, this list, it has built. I look through the keyhole and my mind says I look upon the past. But this is only the castle of time. My tiny experience is now. And it only has size, it is tiny or it is large, because my mind has built castles of comparison. My mind has written this. These are not words that come from before mind.
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I have believed so much and so many times that I am a small speck. My fears have rocked me. One thought, only one thought, might destroy me. I have believed this. My mind has never stopped threatening to destroy me. I have cowered beneath its spell. For too long. For all time. Might I be brave and strong enough to see that the one which is threatened is a speck of belief, and might I know once and for all that this that I truly am cannot be destroyed by phantoms of the mind, that it stands aside and watches, and that the phantom is only a shadow dancing upon the wall, and the mind is the candle in the room. Where was I but writing the poetry in which the play of light was interwoven in the darkness? Might I love and be the power and weakness and realize I am ink and pen and tendons in the wrist that make powerful strokes upon a paper.
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I’m really not that sure I had any control over what thoughts came into my mind or what emotions came over me. And if that’s the case, what the hell is free will?
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I was a child a lot longer than I admitted. And when I finally did realize how much a child I was, about the age of 31, I didn’t quite care anymore. If anything, at that point I wanted to embrace my childish qualities even more (the good shit, of course, like wonder, in-the-moment awareness and water-off-the-duck’s-back forgiveness; not so much the other stuff, like wanting to be comforted by a woman like a spoiled little boy who ate too many peppermint candies).
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I see how my kindness protected me. One night I was leaving a supermarket in Goa, India. I started my scooter and, without looking, moved to reenter the roadway. I did not see the other scooter coming toward me. I swerved at the last moment, as did the other driver, so close our mirrors clipped. No helmets, wearing beach clothes and flip-flops as you do in Goa, we were inches from a major accident. I immediately pulled off to the side of the road waiting for him to do the same. Before I could get off my scooter, he drove up alongside, leapt off his scooter and leaned the bike’s entire weight against me. As I struggled to lift his scooter off my leg, he began to scream at me in Hindi, inches from my face. He was Indian and a big man, his hair long and dark, wearing a sweaty Bob Marley tank and blue jeans. His fists were clenched.
My heart raced, but somehow I felt centered in something. I kept eye contact and remained silent as he raged. I remember feeling that I could wait forever for him to have his say. Maybe I was just trying not to give him a reason to kick my ass. But maybe, just maybe, I sincerely did care for how he felt in that moment. Maybe I sincerely was willing to take responsibility for my part. Whatever my motive, clearly he was expecting confrontation. Probably he thought me another privileged, arrogant white European on holiday. He expected me to defend my pride. That’s not what happened.
“My fault,” I said. “My fault. Are you okay?”
He pointed at his bike and yelled something about it being damaged.
“My fault,” I repeated. “What can I do to help you?”
Even though it was very dark on that road that night, I saw something extraordinary happen. He stopped yelling. He stood now, quiet and still, looking at me. I touched my heart, took my wallet from my pocket and opened it, “Here, for your damages.”
He stared, then motioned to put it away. He said, “No. You a good man.” He touched his own heart, got on his scooter, and drove off. I never saw him again.
Maybe this is why I don’t often fear traveling in foreign places. I believe I carry my own destined experiences with me. If I bring anger, I should expect anger. If I bring fear, I should expect fearful things. And if I bring mindfulness, then maybe even the worst potentials will never be realized, and little miracles will transpire. (Actually these rules seem to apply in all circumstances, in every interaction and conversation I enter, not just when my suitcase is packed.)
I’m still surprised I didn’t shit my pants though.
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I search desperately for some semblance of solid ground. I seem to have a faint recollection of such a time. When I felt secure. When nothing was coming or going. When there were no goodbyes. As I search for that place I cannot help but pass my eyes over all the years that have been. And I feel an intense sorrow come over me. Where is that solid ground… Is it there? Or there? I look at every place I’ve roamed, the cities, the faces, the skies above me, and it all just turns and turns and turns over a distant horizon I can never quite reach. The solid ground, there was never such a place. There never shall be. What I mourn is my fading fantasy.
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, I did not have to wait for the next life to suffer my karma. My karma was instant. If I was angry at someone, I suffered my anger in that moment. I lost sleep that very night as my mind became frayed in resentment and I tossed and turned in anguish. My karma was in every present moment. My hell was now. As was my heaven.
Looking through the keyhole at my tiny experience, the times I intently listened in the hopes of hearing something that might bring me happiness, I wonder if it is wasn’t what was heard that most mattered, but that I was intently listening.