Laurel and I took Amtrak to Seattle last weekend, leaving Salem Friday and returning Sunday afternoon. I loved the train ride. Laurel hated it. Go figure. But vive le difference (or is it “viva”? my one semester of French got me reading “The Little Prince,” but that’s about it). If Laurel and I were the same, I’d be her, or she’d be me. In either case, what would be the point? Conversing with myself, or hugging myself, or ______ ing myself (you fill the blank), why, it just isn’t the same as it is with Laurel, because she is different from me, which is why I love her.
Still, the train ride would have been more enjoyable if I had remembered to bring an earplug for the audio-orifice that faced the side my wife was sitting on. “The air is stuffy.” “The seats aren’t comfortable.” “I don’t like looking out the side; why isn’t the window straight ahead like in a car.” “I want to be able to get out and walk around.” “That guy at the front of the car is drinking beer and talking too loud on his cell phone.” “The train keeps stopping for no reason.” “We would have been there by now if we had driven.” And these are just a sampling of Laurel’s Amtrak comments.
Me, I love Amtrak. It has such a wonderful retro feel. Plus, the simplicity and hang loose atmosphere is hugely appealing. If you just have a carry-on bag, you can park at the station five minutes before the train is about to leave and simply jump on the train. No seat assignment. No security checks. No instruction about how to fasten your seat belt and what to do in the event of a water landing, because there isn’t one, and you’re always on the ground. Once the train is moving, you can walk around whenever and wherever you want (on the train, that is). If the train is bumping and swaying along, you take your chances. No anal flight attendant telling you “sir, please stay seated until the pilot turns off the seatbelt sign.”
OK, so the train to Seattle was over an hour late. A freight train derailed. Is that Amtrak’s fault? “No,” replied Laurel, “its your fault, Brian, for buying tickets on this stupid train.” I thereupon admitted that I am also responsible for global warming and O.J. getting an innocent verdict, plus whatever else husbands are accused of by their wives. Guilty on all counts; that’s the easiest plea to make. Fortunately, I spent part of the trip up working on a talk about Taoism and Spirituality that I was going to give on Sunday to the Seattle branch of my spiritual group. Flow with life. Accept that sometimes things will be up, and sometimes down. Look on derailed freight trains and complaining wives as part of the natural order, which is all good.
One of the highlights of our trip, leaving aside a pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal of outdoor stores, the REI flagship, was getting to take a couple of spins around a parking lot in a Mini-Cooper S after I gave the talk. It would have been more fun if Laurel hadn’t been screaming, “slow down,” when I got above 10 miles an hour. As I noted in a posting some time back, I believe that God wants me to have a Mini-Cooper, and is sending me signs that such is in my destiny. Unfortunately, God hasn’t told Laurel of Her plans, so she (Laurel, not God) is not in tune with the divine design. But such minor details as (1) we can’t afford another car, and (2) a Mini-Cooper isn’t hugely practical for our driving needs, are insignificant speed bumps on the royal road of Fate down which I am traveling, en route to my meeting with the Mini-Cooper of my dreams.
When this happens, I have told God to leave a calling card of some sort in the passenger seat, and I will spend the rest of my life praising the nature of He/She/It who/which fulfills the prayers of those who are unworthy, but desirous. In speaking with the present owner of the Mini-Cooper S (who may find soon that he has an irresistible urge to give his car away), we arrived at a satisfying philosophical position that is fully compatible with a Taoist way of life.
At least, we were able to bend the ever-flexible tenets of Taoism into an autoholic way of looking at things. To wit: if it doesn’t matter whether things are this way or that way, whether one owns a Mini-Cooper S or doesn’t own a Mini-Cooper S, then why not have one? To be attached to non-attachment is itself an attachment. Thus, the Mini-Cooperist sage detaches from non-attachment, and attaches himself to an attachment, so that he remains centered on the stillpoint between detachment and attachment. Now, all that Bill (the Mini owner) needs to do to close the circle is detach himself from his present attachment, and give the car to me.
P.S. My computer is going back to Dell for repairs, so no postings for a few days.