Friday, July 25, 2008

Ghosts in Transit

Ghosts around me. Caught in between, not really gone, not yet arrived. An airport terminal - hard to say which city or even which country. A duty free shop, a Starbucks, groups of Japanese guys sitting on the floor around pillars with power outlets, typing on their laptops, maybe blogging how the German is sitting there with her laptop, maybe blogging.

Ghosts caught in transit, trying to stay in touch with their loved ones, talking to their cellphones, checking their emails. Lost souls, staring at the CNN news, dragging their children around, munching pizza, sipping coffee, queuing at the restrooms. Another Japanese circling around, searching walls for an outlet to plug in the lifeline. A guy next to me, smoker’s smell, attempts to cough out his lung, every breath an instant message of rotten tissue. A bit more ghostlike is what I’d wish, and look for a different place. Make a detour through duty free and cover myself with perfumes that carry names like Miracle, Pleasure, Innocence.

Somebody opens an emergency exit door, the alarm shrieks. The ghosts sit stoically, continue to watch CNN, the oil price, the banking crisis, an advertisement for a frequent flyer program. A recording repeats endlessly the terminal will be checked for a possible fire. The alarm blends into the background noise, last calls, paging passengers with unpronounceable names, security advice: do not leave your baggage unattended at any time.

Eventually, the shrieking stops, a child starts crying. The lost souls hold on to imitations of permanence, paper cups, iPods, credit cards, a BlackBerry they sleep with in exchangeable hotel beds. I wonder about the ghost’s stories, is he married, does he cheat on his wife, is she happy? Will the little boy clinging to her leg in ten years try to completely ignore her? Is he going to a funeral, is he well prepared for the job interview, does she have cancer? How many lost souls are stuck in airports, trampled upon, disapproved by security because they leak out of tightly sealed plastic bags?

A ghost in transit is what I am too, no longer in the past and not yet in the future, caught between where I’ve been and where I want to go - if only I knew where that is. I have the urge to rebook and fly to elsewhere, some country with a long unprotected border, vanish and settle down in ghoststate. Run a hotel maybe where burned-out businesspeople can recover. Be a painter maybe, sell paintings of flowers and fish to dentists. Be an interior designer maybe, a writer, a teacher, maybe I should use the restroom before boarding.

Ten hours later, another airport, another city. Miracle, Pleasure and Innocence have faded away. Thank you for flying with us, make sure to take all your personal belongings. The smoker’s cough still among us. The BlackBerry welcomes me to Canada, emails have piled up: a traffic jam on the 401, a broken water pipe, a conference participant cancelled, a late notice, a Facebook message, and another forgotten referee report. If Toronto is your final destination we wish you a pleasant stay.

How global can a soul be before it gets lost?

14 comments:

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

A most beautifully written and yet almost overwhelmingly powerful melancholy note. The picture you paint is so vivid, as it takes in so much reality of the moment. It has the setting and feel of a waking dream, yet without the forgiveness to be forgotten. Therefore, I suggest your resign yourself to sleep, for I’m certain with the morning the ghost will have vanished and the person be regained and found once again.

Best,

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

"I write of melancholy, by being busy to avoid melancholy. There is no greater cause of melancholy than idleness, no better cure than business."

Robert Burton - The Anatomy of Melancholy - 1621

Best,

Phil

Anonymous said...

"A procession of thoughts like little elderly animals filed through the Consul's mind."

Malcolm Lowry, "Under the Volcano".

I think of this line each time I take a long flight.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Then you might ask what connection can be made with science and this Robert Burton? Well what can be found also in ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ is the following quote:

"I say with Didacus Stella, a dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself."

While Newton may have been original in his science, he is thus shown to have simply borrowed his prose. You have demonstrated with this and other things that you need not do so with either.

Best,

Phil

Garrett said...

Non-places

X said...

Hi Bee,

“How global can a soul be before it gets lost?”

You answered your own question:” The alarm blends into the background noise”. CBR I guess.

“Some country with a long unprotected border… be an interior designer maybe, a writer, a teacher, maybe… ”

You are welcome. Long ago I had remarkable student. He was PhD in theology from Vatican, grown man. I asked him simple question in physical optics. Suddenly he started to cry. I was shocked: what the matter? “I wanted to learn and understand physics from inside. I never imagined how difficult it is.”

Sadly, I never saw him after that.

Regards, Dany.

Plato said...

We are our memories. We must fight to preserve our heritage and our landscape . . time changes most things, but it is important that we all realize that what binds one generation to the next is memory - and that's what I paint." James Lumber

Where Dreams are Born or, Get a Horse

For some reason, people tend not to believe that they can leave an impression, beyond, what a memory may impose upon us.

I think people's "definition of the artifacts" can be taken further, as I mentioned in relation Kip Thorne and Wheeler.

This is a "progressive picture" of our reality?

Plato said...

.... or, Get a Horse

X said...

Hi Plato,

“For some reason, people tend not to believe that they can leave an impression, beyond, what a memory may impose upon us.”

I admit that I never understand what you want to say. If your comment somehow connected with mine, what I said (in math) is that the only things that really count in physics are invariant under time translations.

Regards, Dany.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Thanks for your kind words. I didn't know that the origin of Newton's quotation goes back to Burton! That's interesting indeed, the Wikientry even said it was quite a commonplace saying at that time. Funny how things change.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Garrett,

Non-places sounds in itself like a very postmodernist wordconstruction. I'd probably have said that the non-places are links instead of nodes, you're not supposed to be there, they are just necessary for you to get elsewhere, to connect to somewhere, to interact with something. It makes me wonder though what happens to society if there's less and less nodes but only more links, if there's more and more transit but less and less permanence. Especially America seems to have grown a culture of mobility through translation invariance of physical location that seems to point back into a time of nomad life. Best,

B.

Neil' said...

What about those "ghost" particles in physics, just how "real" are they - at the risk of bringing up offbeat meta-physics again, if anyone cares to try more than a cursory answer. I'd like some physical insight, not just about some "solution" to weird equations, tx.

X said...

Hi Neil',

“What about those "ghost" particles in physics, just how "real" are they?”

Vacuum fluctuations are real. In contrast, “ghosts” tell you that the math language you use is not adequate.

Regards, Dany.

William said...

I liked that!

Nice imagery and thought portrayal ... captured the scene and the gestalt in a really vivid way.