A few weeks back I was reading a newspaper…or maybe it was a magazine…and came across, as one does so often these days, a reference to a young blogger who apparently was gaining a lot of readership for the things he was writing about and the interesting way in which he was writing about them. An Indian blogger based in the US.
Finding a fresh, new blog with its own unique mix of topics that the blogger’s chosen to write about, is, I now find, very similar to discovering an author that you’ve never read before. Except that a blog unlike most good books generally go on and on without end, and if you’re lucky will be updated, multiple times, on a daily basis. I made a note of the website address and later that evening I typed in the blog’s address and with a short pause designed to heighten the anticipation, hit enter.
The browser page rolled itself up, held its breath for a couple of seconds and then unfurled a new look…The virginal white expanse of the google page replaced by a page with two broad blue borders and a white center with words running across it in neat black type. I don’t quite remember all that I read and saw on the page, but I do distinctly remember liking the writing style, finding the choice of subjects eclectic and the overall aesthetics restful on the eye. Some of the posts were accompanied by photographs…and were all so clear, they looked like someone had taken a scrubbing brush to them…so clear that the edges seemed to have a faint glow around them.
One particular photo-post caught my attention. The title said simply, “My Brother”. It showed a curly haired guy sitting intently at a desk, in front of a computer. He wore specs and was smiling…something on the screen was evidently funny. It was a pleasant smile. The brother. There was another guy standing to his right, leaning in towards the screen, one hand on the edge of the desk, the other on the chair that the first guy was sitting on. Also smiling. While the post didn’t say so it seemed clear that the guy standing was the blogger himself. His features are vague in my mind.
Even weeks later the picture is fresh in my mind, though I’ve forgotten virtually everything else that I saw and read on that site. For two reasons, primarily. One, There seemed to be an easy camaraderie between the two brothers. It had a rather cosy feel to it. You wanted to get to know these guys…you kind of knew they’d make good friends. The second reason was the caption. It said: 48. Kill at 48. I saw the caption before I saw the picture because I had started reading the blog from the earlier posts and was scrolling up the site versus down. The caption sent a chill down my spine…and the lack of congruity with the picture itself was puzzling. Even more than that, it was disturbing. Suddenly I became aware that night had fallen outside…that I was now sitting in the dark leavened only by the glow from the laptop screen. I looked at the picture for a long time…trying to figure out whether the caption was a joke or a declaration of malicious intent…trying to get my rising dread to settle back down.
That’s when I woke up…with a start...and an aspirated "phew!". I’d been holding my breath in my sleep out of sheer tension. I was back in the log-cabin-like living room of the Jikoji Zen Temple and Retreat Center, at the bottom of a valley in the Santa Cruz mountains…having fallen asleep helped in equal measures by enervating heat, a surprisingly sumptuous lunch of marinated and baked tofu squares sprinkled with crunchy sunflower seeds.
I was on a two day silent retreat – having committed to not speaking during that period in addition to not reading, writing, watching TV, listening to music, surfing the web or doing anything that might distract me from my conversation with myself. Sleeping, however, was acceptable and I’d managed to do a lot of it that first day. And apparently the withdrawal symptoms from not having web-surfed for a full 24 hours had, unbeknownst to me, so ravaged my subconscious in that short time, that my superego had given into my id and manufactured a fantasy blog for me to read in a place where no Ethernet port had gone before.
Dusk was falling outside – just as it had in my dream and that told me that I had missed the mid-afternoon meditation session, on top of the mid-morning one – both due to the soporific nature of my internal conversations. It looked like I was already late for the final session of the day – a walking meditation that was supposed to take the group up a dirt-path to the top of a nearby ridge to watch the sun set. I scrambled up from the couch; wondering what I could do to redeem myself – my fellow retreat-ers couldn’t scold me without breaking their vow of silence but they were still allowed to glare. Seeing the sun was still hanging around on the horizon – I decided to try and catch up with the rest of the group- of course to truly redeem myself, I’d have to meditate my way up (versus just run up) to the ridge-top and hope the sun hadn’t set by then. The philosophical riddle (wikipedia’s description, not mine) – If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound – seemed particularly apt in this situation. Perhaps if I was quiet enough no one would notice that I hadn’t already been there when they arrived – and that would make me not-late.
So, I started up the hill at a determined trot, meditating furiously all the while.