Mum, Rebecca and I visited Gran and Dar-Dar today. In a frenzy of not-tiring-Dar-Dar-out, Mum took us to Number 16 beach, which she likes because not many people go there. The weather was amazing - a little piece of summer tucked into the middle of the Melbourne transition from winter to spring, like an Easter egg that you find in the grass days after the Easter-egg hunt ends. Mum was in a good mood and so were we. We all talked more than usual...I think that I might have talked too much, and listened too little.
Mum said that she loved the beach. I asked her why, and she said that she goes to forget about everything else. I told her about Ram, who I had met the previous Saturday night at a Sitar concert, of all places. Ram is the student of the master who was performing for us. He told us that he spends five hours playing music each day, on top of the masters or PhD thesis that he is doing - in accounting, of all things. I told Ram that I thought that playing the sitar must be a very spiritual thing to do.
"Spiritual?!" he exclaimed (silly me, what a ridiculous thought). "My sitar playing is anything but spiritual. It's an escape from reality!"
Ram told us (me, Michael and Dave) that he had been sent to Australia by his rich father to get an education ("either law or accounting...not art"), and that he lived everyday in guilt at the comfortable life that he led, while millions of people lived a life of poverty in India. Music was his way of forgetting - it was his drug of choice.
For me, the beach is a spiritual place - I sense the presence of God at the beach more than in a church or a city laneway or even in the mountain ranges that frame the northern horizon of the home I grew up in. I have never considered that I might go to the beach to forget, in the same way that Ram plays his sitar to divert his thoughts elsewhere. But then, maybe we're all describing the same thing in different ways. Maybe forgetting the details that plague us throughout the rest of the day is a way that we centre on God - a way of imagining what might transcend beyond our everyday guilts and problems. I'm just thinking that maybe this 'forgetting' is really a sort of 'giving up' - a conscious releasing to God, while allowing us to be embraced by Her love, in the form of the music of the sitar, or the roar of the waves. Maybe it's tapping into a deeper reality.
I'm not sure. Just some thoughts.
Dar-Dar has cancer at the moment. Lymphoma. He's in his 80s, but he's so strong and fit. I really think he'll be ok. He seems so much better than last time we visited. I told him that he seemed more "normal" and he laughed. He told us about all the lovely people at the hospital who treat him like he's their only patient, and they've been waiting all day to see him. Gran says it's a special gift that people are just born with. Dar-Dar told us that they draw a dart board on his tummy and then throw needles from 10 foot away, and that's how he gets his injections. He was in good spirits.
It had been Fathers' Day last Sunday, so Bec and I got Dar-Dar a card and a book of Rumi poetry. The poetry went down a treat, which was great, because it was a bit of a risk. He said he thrived on things like that. Phew. What did NOT go down a treat was the card. It was a Spike Mulligan cartoon, and had picture of a person being carried in a coffin, about to be put into a hole in the ground. The person had lifted the lid of the coffin and was saying, "I demand a second opinion!" Now, I thought it was funny and Rebecca agreed that it was definately Dar-Dar's sense of humour. A risk, yes, given the circumstances, but risks often produce the best results. Dar-Dar pulled the card out of the envelope and we braced ourselves in the silence that followed, expecting an eruption of laughter when he had read and digested the humourous message. Dar-Dar peered at the front cover, brow furrowed in concentration. He turned the card over, reading the bio about Spike Mulligan. Still nothing.
He turned to me. "So it's a man being carried...?"
"Yes," I started. "In a, um, coffin..."
"Oh. Well. Yes, that's funny." Dar-Dar put the card down.
Gran picked it up and said, "Oh yes, ha ha, that's very funny!"
We all sat awkwardly for a while. They say timing is everything. Mum said later that giving a man a card with a person in a coffin on the front while they are battling cancer is bad timing.
I guess that risks can also produce the worst results.