Pause for a Mindful Moment
Sometimes, if you want to travel half way round the world, all you need to do is step a few paces outside your own back yard. Because of where I live, if I want to get anywhere in the Metro area, 675 is almost always my first route out into the great wide world. So pretty much… every day, I have driven past, and gazed fixedly at, the tall collection of sculpted adornments which collectively posit the appearance of what is obviously a Buddhist temple. Intrigued, I would always promise myself a moment to go check it out up close and personal, then life would get in the way. Just too much to do every day: too much time spent at work, too many moments that belong to something else, the down payment on Time having already been paid, the amortization must be kept on schedule. Still, every day, I would fix my eyes on it for just a few seconds as it slid away behind the intervening trees, small spiny spires stacked along the stepped tiers of its roof, silhouettes of snake like dragons sliding down the ramp of the forward stairs.
I have always been a fan of the design aesthetic of the Far East; indeed, there is almost no expression of human engineering made anywhere I won't appreciate for its beauty and uniqueness. And there is such a distinctive appeal to the intricate and often, to be honest, overblown qualities to the mesh of art and architecture that is the common offering from the distant eastward corners of the earth. Like so many facets of the culture itself, it can be at once, both garish and sublime, haughty yet demure, unabashedly noisy yet focused and disciplined. It screams for your attention, then somehow quietly invites you in for tea. Which is why, sometime around last October, when my brother had come to town for a visit, we decided to pull of the highway and get a closer look.
It was a warm Saturday afternoon and we had just come from lunch at Vortex in Little Five Points. He was wearing his t-shirt declaring: "After Monday and Tuesday, even the calendar says 'WTF?!'" Gotta love that! To find the temple proper, we had to leave the relative comforts of 675 and take a couple obscure side streets to get over to Conley Drive, where the temple is nestled among groups of pines and a train of steel pylons dragging along their overhead power lines. A driveway of dirt and gravel ground under the wheels as we pulled into the parking area and came to rest. Getting out of the car and stepping tentatively up the hill toward the shrine, no one else was evident anywhere. All the signage up to this point had been openly welcoming and directly inviting so we strolled on up to the temple itself. It sat patiently there among the pines, basking in the afternoon sun, which highlighted all its pointed reliefs and details sharply against the pale blue of an afternoon sky draped with wispy autumn clouds. Only the occasional breeze winding its way through the pine needles or the continuous whisper of highway traffic on nearby 675 provided any sound track to the scene.
We wandered about for a few moments among the golden Buddhas, facing down the horned dragons serving as the ornate banisters of the entryway stairs. Their waving backs, gleaming emerald and gold crested in the sun, I'm guessing would ward off evil spirits, but not us. At the top of the stairs, richly decorated doors stood open, leaving the interior exposed and bathed in the languishing light of the approaching evening. Buddha sat to the far end of the room, gilded and content, surrounded by the accouterments of devout adoration in the otherwise empty space. Sometimes at home I like to go online and listen to recordings of Tibetan monks absorbed in tantric chanting. Husky, gravelly voices all in unison, like the buzzing of a hive, human sized bees entranced in the thrall of the mantra. No such sound reverberated through this silent space, though it was easy for my imagination to fill in the blanks.
My brother and I meandered loosely through the premises, not speaking, each lost in his own thoughts. Quiet moments are some of my favorite things in all of the living world, so why do I so often neglect to find time for them? Or how about the time for the other cherished aspects of my life? What is the natural role of Man in the world? In the cosmos? And why the hell had Rachel Ray convinced my lovely wife to put nutmeg in her homemade tomato soup? Man was that ever a mistake. These are the considerations of the world of man.
But as all moments must, this too had to pass on into the flow of time, lost in the past to make way for the new and ever encroaching next moment. Almost wordlessly, my brother and I agreed it was time to move on. We made our way back to his car, got in, drove out of our little bubble of temporary sanity back into the oncoming rush of the world. The moment, however, still lives, a resident in the house of my memories, awaiting my return.