Monday, 19 February 2018


"You're so quiet you're almost 
   -- Ocean Vuong, Night Sky With Exit Wounds

I'm trying to imagine the door closing behind me. I feel it as an act of immense kindness. No anxiety at all. When it begins, so do I. What might be a little heartbreaking are the goodbyes across the next five months, beneath skies with too many stars, and no horse.

I remember reading, a long time ago in this room, a brief biography of a Korean Zen monk. It talked about a three year retreat he undertook, the first six months of which were confession and purification practices. But such was his sense of joy after six months of those practices that he decided to dedicate the whole three years to them. And as I sat there reading, something deep inside me shifted its coordinates very quietly, very precisely, triggering the GPS system that is my unconscious. I knew where I was going. And I knew that even if I forgot about it entirely for years at a time (and I did) I would still get there, eventually. That equation - of solitude and confession and purification equaling sheer joy - was now safe inside me, a living thing almost, locked into place by something as simple and untraceable as a brief moment of reading permeated by faith.

But there's a second level of solitude that extends beyond the confines of the three years of retreat. After the physical solitude comes a biographical one. It involves letting go of any sense whatsoever of 'becoming' someone - of becoming someone special, either in one's own eyes or in the eyes of others. How to come back out in 2021, 'with no direction home, a complete unknown, like a rolling stone...' -- that's the real challenge.

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