Spot of tennis, Nathan?

About 12 years ago or so, around the time when I was in Japan, I remember plucking up the courage to give Nathan Gill a call, to spill my spiritual beans and try to get some help. I’d written to him after reading his book Clarity, and felt close enough to him, and fraught enough to get in touch.  I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I do recall very clearly the feel of it.  I’d been talking to him about how intense and painful my seeking was, how trapped in it I felt, with this constant feeling of anxiety which rubbed up against another feeling of things actually all being okay.  And then, as I was speaking, something repositioned in me temporarily, and I found myself saying something new.

“I suppose,” I said, “perhaps just feeling anxious in itself, isn’t all that bad, really, is it.”

And he said to me, “Well, Jamie, when you start seeing things like that, it’s really the beginning of the end.”

We talked a bit more, and he asked me about my hobbies, and I told him I loved tennis and had spent my whole childhood playing the sport.

“In the end, mate,” he went on, “it’ll be the tennis that is more important to you than any of this stuff.  Really, for me, the only change is that things can get a bit boring after all this seeking stops.  You’ll get back to your tennis, you’ll see.”

(Nathan Gill, 1960 – 2014)

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Devil you know

It’s all ok.

How the hell do you know?

I don’t.

You don’t know?

Yes.  I don’t know.

Well then, why are you telling me it’s all ok? How dare you! What right do you have to say and think that?!

Because it all feels ok.

I don’t give a shit if it all feels ok to you.  It doesn’t feel ok to me.

That’s ok too.

Oh, fuck off, you arrogant arsehole.  You clearly think that you are enlightened, or something, that you’ve reached some kind of higher perspective.  But there are higher places than you’ve reached, believe me.  You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

Yes, you’re right, I don’t.  By the way, I don’t believe in enlightenment.

What?  You don’t believe in it?  Jesus, if you don’t believe in it, why are speaking as if you do?  At least for me, even if things don’t feel ok, at least I know there is something higher, all kinds of places, and I’m trying to get there.

Good luck. And another thing, I also don’t believe that it’s all ok.

What, what the hell are you saying now?  You’re going round in circles, contradicting yourself.

I know, I can’t help it.  Things change.  I just say stuff.

Well, stop it.  It’s confusing and annoying.  I’d rather be in my shoes, speaking sense, things feeling not ok but at least I know what the hell I’m talking about.

Whatever

What is staggering to me, is just how thoroughly optional my being here is, how insanely “whatever”, and how you reading this is so fractional, the thinnest, lightest slice of your life, layer upon layer of “just-so-happen-ness” holding things together here, refraction upon refraction, until the point when we are floating, suspended in place of complete importance.

Away Day

“Saturday never came for us, darling, did it”, he said to his little boy, leaning over to unclip him from his car seat.  They’d had such a lovely time together, first driving excitedly to the pool as it began to rain, where they swam for too long.  He almost fell asleep back there but the excitement of fish and chips for lunch kept him awake and then, after that, down they went into town to look for a cinema which they never found, but instead an aquarium and then an ice cream van.  “It never came, did it, but instead this strange alternative where we find ourselves together, so closely.”

In Absentia

Thinking back to that time he walked from his car to his gate, one evening after work, head full of plans and numbers, then catching sight of an enormous white cloud miles above the modern cornered building, then recalling the sound of that garden bird, its cutting voice slicing deliciously across his throat and chest, then on to the sound of that young child, calling out to herself a few gardens along, enthralled by the summer evening…“Where, oh where is the quality control now?” he laughed to himself, overcome with relief.

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