Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday Night Ramblings

It's noisy in (my part of) London. I hear sirens day and night, going right by my flat about every 10-15 minutes. I am told that the next neighborhood (Peckham) has the highest gun crime rate in England. We (four blocks away) are close behind.

It's noisy too in my flat. The walls are thin. I can hear/take part in conversations in the next room over or the hallway, or with the people a floor below me. What's worse is that my room is next to the kitchen. I'm growing to associate food with noise. I know exactly when half of my flatmates eat. I'm growing to dislike people who eat late.

Our sink clogged this week. My flatmates wait for it to fix itself (like it did before). And it will, again, after I scoop out the water, plunge it a bit with my hands, and eventually buy drain cleaner to pour down two or three times. (this time even that isn't working)

A couple times this week I've made precious progress on my ph.d. thesis and upcoming (March) panel presentation. But at this rate neither will be ready in time.
And, worst of all, Kelly and I are quarreling. Some of it is small stuff like dessert selections for our wedding. Sometimes it's bigger though, like how we handle and what we need under stress. We have only known each other for seven months, so these changes can be frightening. When we first met she was, to use a label commonly placed on her, a superwoman. She had grace and confidence and inquisitiveness that I found… intoxicating. I couldn’t wait each day just to see her again (thinking about it reminds me of how much I love her and how grateful I am to call her my fiancée). I was apparently not so bad off myself: meditating, living close to nature, grounded.

Today, however, we are far apart from one another. Both of us are in spiritually toxic environments, her in DC and me in S.E. London. The other night I was disturbed around 2am by some young students returning to a neighboring flat when one of them screamed at our security guard, “Wake up! I’ll git you sacked! I’ll git you sacked!" and to his friends, "Eeeez sleeeepin’!” All of that (and things not appropriate to post here) was repeated several times as his friends apparently corralled the young man into this flat.

Deep down I know this is all a lesson. And that life is flux, and that we mustn’t cling.

But I still get frustrated. I didn’t come here for lessons. I didn’t come to learn about contemporary issues in British immigration and gun crime. I didn’t come to learn about navigating relationships in difficult times. I came to get a (bloody!) university education. I came, and paid – oh so much money – to be free to be immersed in the ambrosia-like waters of Buddhist Ethics; to eat, sleep, and breath Buddhism and philosophy.


Gosh oh golly, I guess life had its own plans for me.

The important thing, according to my Kantian-Buddhism, is not how well I do here or the particulars of my relationship with Kelly at any given time. The important thing is staying connected with my core - grounded, acting instead of reacting, observing and smiling. It is when we are connected that we succeed. It was being grounded that (I believe) helped me get here in the first place, and made me so handsome and irresistible to Kelly not so long ago.

Breathing, listening... at about 2:30 each night the sounds of the city are replaced by song-birds outside my window. They make me laugh. They remind me of home. At the same time they bring me here, they teach me to let go of how I want it to be and to love how it is.


Kelly said...

Ahhh, babe. We'll get through this, I promise. I think it's not so much that we're quarreling, as it is that we're both so miserable that it comes across *as* quarreling with the other.

The distance, of course, makes it that much trickier. We have less than 2 months of this, so let's focus on the positive and look forward.

Maybe we should take silly pix of ourselves and send them to each other every day so that we have something fun to look forward to?

As I was walking to the Corcoran Gallery today, even though it was cold, the light was just right and I found myself wishing that you were with me to take pictures of the environs!

So, what say you? Shall we?

Love, Kel

Tom said...

MOVE! In what sutra does it say you have to suffer and not relocate? Bodhidharma went to China, after all. You can go to some other section of London. Find a quiet cheap motel room and dedicate yourself to eating, drinking and sleeping Buddhism and Hegel. Screw the lesson; get another place to be. [Not to worry; Kel'll pay for it out of that trust fund she hasn't told you about yet.]

AND, don't let THAT WOMAN distract you with her sexy pictures. Work, work, work, work, work.

Oh, and because of my infinite compassion, I will solve the dessert imbroglio: Donuts.

[soto voce: god, i'm so good at fixing everything]

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Kelly - right. Silly pix! Well, my inclinations tell me to un-plug a bit and curl up in a library for the next seven weeks - but... 'tis worth a try.

Tom - :) Yes, it's in the duhkhaduhkhaduhkha sutra (I believe it's apocryphal).

And yes, again - my inclinations say throwing money at a problem or trying to alter external conditions is the chump's way out. January has always been a tough month for me - if I could just get through the month... (but then February isn't the best for me either - I NEED SUN)

So, yea, I'll see about moving to another place in the student accommodation complex (they have us on contracts, so this'll be the best I can do for now).

My inner-Buddha speaks: grrr, grumble grumble, grrr.

Saint27 said...

Hang in there man. This time of year is hard for all spiritual people. As the sun returns so will all the energy that we crave.

Once spring has sprung and you are back into an environment of your choosing.....everything will be right as rain....just as soon as you finish eating that cookie.

Don't ask why that quote from the Matrix jumped into my mind.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Heya Chris - I hadn't thought so much of the sun issues, though I know SAD has crept up on me in the past. It's a very good point. Soon the longer days will bring easier smiles and yes, more energy! :) Thanks.

Nienke said...

hey Justin,

Hope you dont mind me reading your blog :). Like you, i think this year is one of the lessons in our life, i just hope that i'll survive it...I must add that i'm a person who is very aware of life's vulnerabilities (perhaps a little too much...). I don't really like this neighborhood, but if i thought worse (as in more scared) of it, i'd grap all my money or an extra loan and move. Very dramatically stated: what's the importance of money if there is no life?

I know batavia mews a little bit of what i've seen, and although i like your flatmates, the place itself isn't all that great, no [severly understated]. Although people can be fun, living together can be really hard and jeopardize the friendship severly. I'd like to spend more time with you guys, but moving to BM for me isnt an option. I know the dislikes of BM and the irritations towards people kitchen's behavior would ruin it all for me...

I must say i'm very happy in raymont hall. My corridor has 4 people and 4 empty rooms, so we're lucky to share a kitchen with only 4 peepz. I do get annoyed sometimes, because some people really have terrible kitchen behavior. To me, a person is only social if she/he can have a good chat (without being fake), but also tries not to disturb people (at night, morning, or whenever, by being quiet, cleaning up there dishes etc.) However, i think not a lot of people in this world are (brought up??) this way...very saddening yes.

This is what often annoys me, most people really think about theirselves...i'm not sure why i'm writing this, because i dont want to take you away from BM, but i do think (or hope) your life in London could be a little bit better, nicer, easier and more enjoyable. I think the walls over here are thicker and most of the days i wake up with the sun shining in my room (but i confess i still have to work on waking up with a smile everyday...). However, you once said this neighborhood around RH even scared you more? How come? (I don't really agree :)). Maybe you can ask the Accommodations Office to test living in another Hall first, before you make a decision?

take care, Nienke

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Hia Nienke,

No, it's great to see that you're reading this - solidarity in the New Cross/Goldsmiths craziness!

4 empty rooms! Hmmm... Fancy a new housemate? I might have to check it out at least - oooh and morning sunshine!

Ahh, I think I could get used to that neighborhood. I think it's actually much better than here. I just didn't like that it is a 15-20 min walk from the college...

But yea, *thank you* for saying hello and reminding me of Raymond Hall.

Nienke said...

Yes the 15(till the library)-20(till BM/loring hall) walking is not always enjoyable. I admit that the bus is very tempting...till i made a calculating of what the costs of that per month are. Dean House in that perspective seems the best opportunity, but is even more expensive.

I see the walking now as a way of clearing my mind and as i don't do any other exercise then that, it's a necessity for me, i'm afraid.

There are disadvantages as well of course:

* Sainsbury's far away and other supermarkets are more expensive (i combine grocery shopping with going to college and try to limit it)
* Quietness at night (not always a good thing...).
* People tend to do here less things together, i think, but then again, there are so many people over here, you can always find someone to talk to.

If you consider it, it's reasonable to ask the Accommodations Office for a test'drive' :). Maybe all of BM can move to Raymont Hall, but the noisiest ones to different corridors, preferably ;).

Patia said...

Some advice? Give Kelly free rein to make all wedding decisions!

What do you care what's for dessert? Women have better sense about these things.

Sorry if I sound extremely ... retro on this subject. I'm not usually so old-fashioned.

But it's a wedding!

Tom said...

Pfffft. Patia sounds like a retro Clinton voter.

Thing of the future! Welcome change! It's not 'unmanly' to have a cultured sense of what might be a proper wedding dessert! Break the Hershey's chocolate ceiling, Justin! YOU can choose the dessert. YES, YOU CAN!!!!

Patia said...

Oh, this from a guy who thinks DONUTS should be served for the wedding dessert. Do nut listen to Tom! Let Kelly decide!

And I'll have you know I'm supporting Barack Obama.

Tom said...

I'll have you know the donut is the culinary ensō, and that in addition to representing enlightenment, it represents strength, elegance, the universe, and the void.

Picture this: Drizzled with milk chocolate, the color of Barack's skin. [It's an election year; Obama's a candidate for the history books; Montana's a pivotal state; We all must do what we can.] And then, a flurry of colored sprinkles. Served with fresh Folgers, representing humility.

Patia said...

El Niño/Southern Oscillation. ENSO is a general term used to describe both warm (El Niño) and cool (La Niña) ocean-atmosphere events in the tropical Pacific.


Anyway. I could maybe see powdered sugar donuts at a wedding. But chocolate? And colored sprinkles? No way.

Here's the thing. I have no idea whether I'll ever get married. But if I do, my wedding will have a dark chocolate cake with huckleberry filling, vanilla cream frosting and artfully placed huckleberries.

Like me, and like most women, Kelly has probably had this all figured out for years, whereas the thought probably never even crossed Justin's mind until three weeks ago.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Nienke - what is your corridor/room #? I'll be over tomorrow morning to have a look! :))) I checked Dean House and wasn't impressed with the views at all (less sunshine than Batavia in the rooms I saw).

Patia, Tom, Thank you, thank you for your help. :) I think..

We'll figure out the wedding thing. Our initial aspiration way back when was to be very modern and share all the decisions and planning. We were going to get married in nature and have a potluck - but then there were our travels and then our families got involved.

I think we've got 90% of it squared away now and the last 10% will wait until we're together in March and April :)

Oh, and ensō is Japanese for 'circle', a Zen symbol of perfection in simplicity. :)

:) - oh, and I think we're having muffins and ice cream - or whatever Kelly says :)

Nienke said...

B25 :) if you're on the B-floor, go to the left, then the room the closest to the fire exit ;P

i have class tomorrow from 10.00-12.00 :( or do you think you're here before 9.30?

I think DH looks at the worst part of New Cross, and i heard it is noisy; lots of police and kids playing in the play installations behind DH. But then again, it's close to Goldsmiths...

Oh yeah, internet in the rooms depends on the corridor/room over here.

Tom said...

Justin, butt out! Patia and I are in negotiation. So far we've settled on donuts.

Patia, How about huckleberry-filled glazed donuts? In exchange I'd be willing to be open to your ideas on a less-humble coffee. Still, I'd like to honor Barack in here, somewhere. Any ideas?

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Nienke - cool. I'll get over as early as possible and give you a knock if it's before 9:30. Yea, DH didn't impress me, especially at US$50 more a week. Kuan, your old roommate and now mine, says she had B26 and it was great, so I'll see if I can get a look at her room. We might be neighbors :)

Tom - sorry 'bout that. But at some point someone should clue Kelly in to all of this, right? Or... did I miss something? :)

Buddhist_philosopher said...

ohhh... huckleberries... I think that was definitely on Kelly's list... Ooops, that's me butting in again. Sorry.

Tom said...

" some point someone should clue Kelly in to all of this, right?"

No, no. Weddings should be a surprise.

Kelly's OK with all this so long as we don't go forward with plans replacing you as the groom.

We had a guy in mind -- who actually buckled down and GOT his doctorate -- but she stills wants you ... anyway.

Nienke said...

Yeah, just knock, sometimes i'm leaving (too) late and i'm still there at 9.45.

B26 is across from mine, i think. I'm not sure. The numbering is weird. But that would mean it's not looking out over the garden, but it does have a balcony :).

Neighbors sounds nice! But over think it well :). The 3rd 'room' on the balcony side plays some music/films sometimes... (I'm not sure if B26 is across hers or mine..) Hope to see you tomorrow!

Patia said...

whatever Kelly says :)

Now you're learning, Justin.

Okay, Tom. Huckleberry jam-filled cake donuts with a vanilla glaze and chocolate sprinkles.

And vanilla ice cream.

And French roast coffee. Shade-grown, of course.

Tom said...

Patia: Deal!

See, Justin and Kelly? Grown-ups can make hard decisions that satisfy everyone with no rancor or bruised feelings.

Patia said...

Yeah. Aren't you guys glad you have such mature, helpful friends?

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Thanks guys, dessert solved :) Now, a favor: could you pop by Kelly's blog and say hi - let her know she's truly loved and wonderful and, hey, if we can solve dessert menus, we can get through whatever life throws at us. Thanks again :)