This moment of personal planning is colored by the reactions of the world around me to the "end" of the Osama drama--jubilation on the one hand, and a sceptical wary disbelief on the other, the mixed emotions of the public to events they have no ability to influence. ("Was that on TV or in real?") I lie awake pondering this decade of global rubbernecking, ten years of natural and economic and political disasters and debacles...curiously taking place on a screen projected for entertainment and edification. No wonder I stopped watching news and listening to radio several years ago. (It's been more than a little coincident with my deepening involvement with Taoism, these trips to Wudang. This upcoming trip feels like a senior seminar, the fourth-year summarization of independent study and practice. Graduation? A degree? Immortality?)
It was just a few days after I returned from a trip to Hong Kong in 2001, one of the last in a series of fairly frequent regular visits since the mid-'80s, that I was awakened at 4 a.m. by a friend who phoned. Pre-dawn phone calls are never good things, at best wrong numbers, but in this case, "Turn on your TV! We're being attacked." (Never mind that the attack was in New York City and we live in Honolulu, as if there were something we could do by turning on the TV).
The Wizard, not completely diplomatic when he's awakened just a little too early, sarcastically responded, "I'll be sure to let the President know." Then, of course, we turned on the TV to watch in sad shocked disbelief the images which are now etched in my memory as vividly as mushroom clouds, a slain president in a convertible, a guy standing in front of a tank with flowers (was that 1989 or 1968?). Movies that rerun in memory, as vivid as Gone with the Wind or It's a Wonderful Life.
The same friend who made that early morning panic call sent me a text a couple days ago that I didn't see until 24 hours later. (Texting is not my preferred method of communication. I get texts, but rarely initiate them. Like I get a lot of lunch invites, but rarely suggest them.)
"R U watching news?"
The next day I replied, "No, but I see Osama is dead." Who could miss it? (To say nothing of the Royal Wedding, which people who had stayed up late to attend kept telling me about, somewhat against my wishes. I wasn't invited, I didn't care. But which reminded me that Diana was killed just days after I returned from a different trip to Kong Kong, 1997, during the Handover. I also remember I didn't pay much attention to that early '80s wedding either, except to think that she was all wrong for Charles. Why are all these events linked in my mind with travel?)
"Yay 4 our troops and intel folks" my friend instantly replied to my very late text-back.
Despite not watching a bit of this on the TV, I am bombarded by internet discussion -- hard to avoid when you're on line a lot. And it got me to thinking about all the decade's events to which I have been a witness, if not exactly a participant. Hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, corrupt elections, financial meltdowns, escalating wars in hopeless regions of the world, disease and starvation (why would anyone put melamine in milk, anyway?). Ten years used to seem like a long time, now it seems just a long tedious movie, one I really don't want to watch again. And the trivial markers in my own life...I come across a bottle of nail enamel I first used on that trip in 2001...I thought it was new; it's ten years old. (But remarkably still fluid.) I've changed jobs three times in the decade, moved on, and on, from endless daily invented office crises (all of which had to do with the bottom lines of money or politics or both) that in time are as fleeting as the rain that fell and has since recycled into the atmosphere. As the rain that is falling right now as I write this. The shit that just keeps happening, all while I keep on moving on.
Beyond the mild anxiety about my visa (the true meaning of anxious), the rest of my trip planning is as routine as going to the office. I have become that seasoned. My list making consists of about six tasks which I didn't really need to write down anyway. It's just nice to monitor the progress. (The only things left are "pack" and "get a haircut.") Some people seem awed when I tell them I'm going to China on my own for three weeks. "Oh I would love to do that, but..." All you have to do is do it. Leave behind the obligations, the fears, the daily news, and just go. Live your own life, the shit will keep happening whether you know about it or not.