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Whatever Gets You Through...

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Sunday, May 25, 2008


Whatever gets you through the night ‘salright, ‘salright It’s your money or life ‘salright, ‘salright Don’t need a sword to cut through flowers oh no, oh no

Whatever Gets You Through the Night, John Lennon


Getting through a journey is a lot like that. Maybe. Depending on how you take John’s meaning.


One way I take it—whenever I find myself on the road—is that there are always simpler ways to solve life’s conundrums than may, at first blush, spring immediately to mind. And ways more rewarding than calling on a corps of engineers to erect a bridge when a raft wafting lazily down the river might just as easily work.


Well, at least, it’s something to keep under consideration.


One of the points of this blog is to remind us all that one of the points of the peripatetic life is to enjoy the journey—to keep our eyes open, our ears attuned, our noses aware, to ensure that our brains are engaged—to treat, in short, the journey as if it is the purpose, rather than a means toward some other purpose. Because if we treat it in the alternative, then we won’t abide by any of these sensory commandments and then our trips merely amount to work. They become transformed into a grating on the psyche; a waste of 8 or 10 or 15 hours in our finite store. They become a metaphysical equivalent of the stack of books planted in the path of ants heretofore trying to move from Point A to B. Sure, give them a little time to get over their astonishment and they’re guaranteed to find a way over and around the books—no doubt about that—but for what purpose? Merely because they were forced to in order to join the begnning with the end point. Maybe greater social concord will result, but it is unlikely that enlightenment or moral benefit will follow.


Even so, for me, there are times when my various peripatetic forays reduce me to that state of anthood. One more queue to join, another form to get processed by another functionary with a worn atttitude and a badly frayed uniform. It is times like those when I counsel myself to abide by Lennon’s lyrics: do whatever it takes to get by, make your way through. Any way you can; just get through it, as simply as possible.


Which—don’t get me wrong—doesn’t mean you have to do everything in accord with someone else’s agenda. Not at all.


Thinking about it, I am reminded of this woman I spied as I was walking one morning through a subway station in Tokyo:

  







Sitting right there on the cold marble floor. On her very own polyurethane prayer mat, legs tucked into the lotus position, back resting lightly against a concrete pillar, hands clasped, breathing under control, eyes clenched in concentration, mind seemingly deep in the throes of meditation. This amazing feat achieved as hundreds of commuters bustled by to make their 9:15 meetings, to catch their 10:10 class, to complete furtive assignations, to try to forestall cockamamie blackmail schemes, to engage in a shaky gambit or two, to get through the grueling paces of their grind-it-out daily lives. None of it mattering to her, this woman on the floor of Tokyo Station, squatting in supplication, on her makeship worship sheet. The woman with the suitcase tucked off to her side, pausing along the trek; doing whatever it takes to make it through . . .


John would surely have the been pleased.



 


Whatever gets you through your life ‘salright, ‘salright Do it wrong or do it right ‘salright, ‘salright Don’t need a watch to waste your time oh no, oh no

Then there’s me. Peripatetique extraordinaire. Always on the way to somewhere else; always ticking off boxes on the checklist for something next. Maybe not the best way to appreciate the process, I’ll grant you that. But I try my best to fill up the moment, rather than just setting my sights on the next thing that has to get done. Understanding that there are few absolute “wrongs” and many ways to get anything right.


And, if nothing else, at least I have a part of it right: abiding by John’s admonition about watches. Me, I haven’t bothered to wear one for years. Sort of as a challenge. Like setting out to sea without a compass. And even so, I manage to make just about every train, and haven’t (yet) missed a plane. Besides, it isn’t that great a risk . . . there always being someone to my left, right, or center who keeps a timepiece. And, besides, in any language “do you have the time” is a sure conversation starter. Sometimes I ask just as a way of breaking the monotony; a way of hearing a new voice; opening a new doorway, placing a foot into a new adventure.


 



 


Whatever gets you to the light ‘salright, ‘salright Out the blue or out of sight ‘salright, ‘salright Don’t need a gun to blow your mind oh no, oh no

Recently I’ve taken to carrying a ukulele when I travel. Lightweight, easy to maneuver, provides companionship, brings out a different voice from within, cuts down on boredom. And, talk about a conversation starter. Ukes certainly go over big with kids (and the occasional middle-aged woman). So much better than a gun—stringed instruments are—especially since they let ukes through customs and onboard planes. As John says, there are ways to expand consciousness other than through implements of terror.






Aside from books, travel is the best way I’ve encountered thus far. To expand consiousness, that is. That’s why I do it as often as permissible.


It’s just those rough patches in-between; those spaces when a little something extra is required, that puzzle that one has to solve. For in every journey there is going to be the problem of how to contend with the unwelcome lull, the intrusive rustiness, the resistence of inertia, the noise of bodies ground to halting stagnation. 


For those conditions, it is essential for the peripatetique to take a meditative pause, to pluck a few chords on a music box, to snatch at a random conversation in an airport lounge. For everyone it may differ. But whatever it is, you have to find it, grab it, use it, pursue it.


Whatever gets you through . . . on the way there. However briefly, however trivial a thing it may seem to be . . . it may still prove significant in the course of the journey. So . . .


go for it.

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