most journeys begin with a why disguised as a what. an object of desire, a thing to have, to hold, to be. an opportunity too painful to forgo, too sweet to resist. before long, this what morphs into a how, a path from desire to promise. steps are taken, moves made and sidetracks averted until, at last, promise is met. satisfaction is had. and then a new what emerges. different to last, in shape and feel, yet this one seems more…true. a question arises, why makes its presence known. to tread, and if so, how far?
baby in the quiet carriage
context: several people working quietly in quiet carriage - me reading book titled ‘pathological altruism’. all carriages have plenty of space. two people take seat behind me and begin talking. within 10 seconds, person opposite me turns and informs them it’s a quiet zone. they are quiet for rest of journey. 30 mins in, a person with baby enters quiet carriage. the baby makes shrieking noises. the parent plays with baby. the carriage grows tense. no words are spoken to parent. below are reflections on the remaining 2hrs 40mins of my time on this journey
why, as a social contract in context of ‘quiet carriage’, is baby allowed to make noise when friends conversing are not? why is the piercing shriek of a baby more allowable than the soft murmur of unaware adults? in labelling the carriage ‘quiet’, the variable under question is decibels - not number of people, not smelliness of food, not wealth - decibels. If carriage is to respect the social contract of ‘quiet’, surely it makes sense for constituents of carriage to hone in on the greatest outlier(s) of social contract?
but what is the social contract? respect designated area unless capacity/extreme circumstances dictate otherwise? uphold the needs of child rearing parent above those of ‘average person’? what about of ‘average people’? at what point is the need of parent outweighed by that of group and vice versa? does context matter? what part does culture play? where does burden of responsibility lie? mind begins to clutter and persists
strictly speaking it is not baby, but parent of baby who breaches social contract in context of ‘quiet zone’. with plenty of space in other carriages, i label parent first as ignorant and then as obnoxious. i remain in this state of judgemental paralysis for 25mins or so - wanting to get up, not getting up and building in anxiety. what is this anxiety? guilt? i feel anxious around the appropriateness of response to their imposition on quiet. quiet is important to me - disruption gives rise to righteousness in me and i don’t want to go overboard. i feel guilty for not speaking up about my needs. i feel guilty for not standing up for what i perceive as a collective desire for quiet. i feel guilty about hiding behind my desire to protect them from my desire for them to be quiet. i feel guilty for wanting them to be other than they are. i feel more and more anxious the more conflicting thoughts i try to solve in a reductive way. mind continues to clutter, becoming increasingly rigid and inflexible
conflicting thoughts intensify and i become further attached to ‘my right for silence in the quiet zone’. does it bother me? why does it bother me? self absorbed parent. self absorbed me. a desire for quiet turns to a binary want for silence. i remain seated. anger simmering. ’silence that cretin’ i think. i look over at person across walkway. they wince with each shriek and shake their head - face darkening with anger. seeing their anger manifest physically is the mirror i need to catch myself. my face softens and i laugh internally - had by my self-importance. sitting in stillness for the next hour as righteous anger leaves my body with each breath. clutter dissolving
judgemental thoughts reduced - mind clearer. baby still shrieking. can it be as simple as ‘this is a quiet zone - you are not quiet - please be quiet or leave’. yes, it could be, but i get a feeling that’s not ‘it’. i’m still attaching to a want for things to be other than they are
i’m reminded of the contextual labelling of space as ‘quiet zone’ - and my subsequent attachment to ‘quiet’ in this context. my attention turns inward. what is this ‘quiet zone’? mind begins to mull. to attach to label of ’quiet zone’ is to seek validation of an internal need (my need for quiet) from an external source (a zone outside of self). buddhism teaches this only leads to further suffering - it’s also my experience. there is no such thing as ‘quiet zone’ other than with oneself. falling victim to desire for control of external is therefore an admittance in denial of one’s own chaos. surely that’s where to focus one’s attention
breathing in, i find stillness in my abdomen. breathing out, tension released. this practice takes me through to my destination
reflecting on journey: there is a soft unspoken way of relating in this world that requires self-ownership, mutual cooperation and respect to function - some people get this, others less so. one thing i revisited today: we don’t desire/despise what we’ve accepted in ourselves