Thursday, April 12, 2012
Albuquerque and Impermanence
My visit to Albuquerque was for work, but I lucked out and had a few unscheduled hours on Tuesday for seeing some more of this unfamiliar city. As it turned out, my fitting was near downtown, a short drive away from Albuquerque's aquarium and botanic garden. After trying on three outfits and being photographed holding a slate with my name on it -- a suit and two casual outfits in retro-1960s style, which meant tight pants and short breaths! -- and then going to an eye doctor downtown to have my eyes measured for costume contact lenses (to make my eyes look extra-terrestrial) -- I regrouped with a quiet stroll through the botanic gardens, enjoying the perfume of lilacs everywhere.
The aquarium is impressive in its own right, although the place was surprisingly crowded on a Tuesday afternoon. Lots of children and adults knocking on the glass walls of aquariums, trying to interact with sharks and stingrays and jelly fish in some way, posing for photographs, and so on. It made me awkwardly aware of my own humanity, staring at these living creatures on exhibit. It was darkly amusing to emerge through the exit, after viewing exhibits warning about the dangers of overfishing among other environmental dangers, and to be conveyed to a restaurant. "Hungry? Have some trout!" And the gift shop, of course.
Found an inexpensive hotel near downtown to flop before my early-morning call on Wednesday. Right across the street was a burger joint calling itself "Holy Cow" (refreshingly blunt) that also served cold beer, and wasn't very crowded. After some refreshment there, it was early to bed and early to rise.
Sometimes things seem to be going "our way" and sometimes they don't. One week, an exciting audition and a "featured extra" role on a blockbuster movie can make it seem like things are going great. The week following, things can look very different: you don't get the role, and the other gig turns out differently than what you were promised -- and that includes the pay.
In lay life and lay practice, times like these are an opportunity to watch the process of anicca, the law of impermanence. Even this is a creation of the mind. Things seem to arise and fall away, to the extent that we attach ourselves to mental objects. Gripping things with the mind is, like they always say, akin to grasping empty space. If we weren't gripping things due to fear and desire, it would not look like turbulence at all. It's just the music of this moment, unfolding in beautiful and surprising patterns like one of Bird's solos. On the days when I'm not gripping quite so tightly, it really does feel like there's a kind of rhythm to things. During my trip to Albuquerque, it felt like that. Improvising. Holding the expectations lightly and doing good work just this moment.
It felt like a very long day on set, outdoors surrounded by open mesa, with 55-MPH winds blowing dirt in our faces all day. When we were handed our vouchers at the end of the day and cued to leave, a crew member shouted, "Everybody works next week! We'll see you all next week!"
Maybe so. Maybe so.