Trains of Thought
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XXVIII. progress?

A bulky man in a jacket wears a gold watch and brown suede slippers. The lowest button of his jacket is done up in spite of his girth and the rules. Good rules are based on good stories. The story for the button rule is that Edward VII became so fat he couldn’t do up the last button on his waistcoat. In solidarity members of the court all set their last button free. This jacket is cream, beige, green with an orange square pattern.

Two North Americans: He is wide, bulky with a Mammut jacket over a checked business shirt. His attention is focused on his phone. His wife is bored. He shakes his legs like a novice poker player excited by a mad bluff.

The woman is slender, thin, younger looking. Her ears sport two large pearl earrings, her ring fingers carry jewel-studded rings. She is looking at her phone as well, but it is not the greedy look of the man. She has no choice. He is not paying her any attention and the landscape is unspectacular. Her partner moves his face incessantly, moves and chews and fidgets with the coffee cup. Suddenly he points out his “granny and grandpa” on a photo. They talk about who the other people in the picture could be. He sneezes and she pays attention: “bless you.” She coughs into a void. Another picture: “did you know Larry?” “Yes I know that face, what happened to him?” “I don’t know he passed away.”

Removed from himself, a man bangs the keys of his laptop. He can’t hear himself with his large headphones.

The chief executive of a “property, residential, construction and services group” is writing emails on his iPad. “Looks like South Africa is off par.” His screen shows his family on holiday. His calendar is filled with pink entries, but he has some gaps this Monday. His newspaper is the Independent. His email inbox is clean, down to zero. Pad and Phone are synchronized: he completes a draft email with his phone and sends it.

A man’s features, the bone structure and the tissue which covers it, are the product of a biological process; but his face he creates for himself. It is a statement of his habitual emotional attitude; the attitude which his desires need for their fulfilment and which his fears demand for their protection from prying eyes. He wears it like a devil mask; a device to evoke in others the emotions complementary to his own… It is a screen to hide his mind’s nakedness. Only a few men, painters, have been able to see the mind through the face. Eric Ambler, The Mask of Dimitrios

A young passenger wears blue suspenders that flap loosely over his shirt. The suspenders are attached to his grey scaled trousers via large light brown leather loops. A gold bar crosses the dark blue material 10 cm above those loops. His hair is short-cropped and he works on a ThinkPad.

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A woman with shiny pale pink lips and blonde bleached, black cropped hair wearing a shirt with a tessellated pattern and her scarf dropped onto the floor is absorbed by a book titled “Death of a Nurse.” For a moment she frowns out into the sun through shiny red rimmed glasses.

‘I make progress.’

‘Where?’

‘I just sit and forget.’

… ‘What do you mean, just sit and forget?’

‘I let organs and members drop away, dismiss eyesight and hearing, part from the body and expel knowledge, and go along with the universal thoroughfare. This is what I mean by “just sit and forget”.’

‘If you go along with it, you have no preferences; if you let yourself transform, you have no norms. Has it really turned out that you are the better of us? Oblige me by accepting me as your disciple.’

A.C Graham, Chuang-Tzu – The inner chapters

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