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Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
Hello there 👋
Welcome to the 52nd edition of the Lighthouse! What should actually have been 52 weekends of the Lighthouse in 2021, has now spilled over to 2022, but again, who’s complaining, definitely not me.
When I started out, I thought a one year anniversary would include some grand fireworks and such, but come to think of my grandiose plans of dominating Substack with my publication, those plans can now rest. With my thoughts and life gravitating towards wandering through life with no said purpose or ambition, except to observe its numerous facets, this event too shall be a part of it. And hence, my thought:
Apart from the standard formatting that follows, I’m extremely happy to share the works of two close friends. Such a proud moment when friends publish books!!
Oh and by the way, Harry Potter fans, please forgive me for using the title for this week’s post; if this rubs you on the wrong side.
So, here goes.
I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I stood leaning on the wall facing the road, arms crossed over the wall and resting my chin on them. It was a warm summery evening, the sky hued with brilliant shades of yellow and orange, interspersed with birds returning home. The fading blue sky fathering them. I turned my attention to the lone vehicle passing by and simultaneously towards one of the thoughts passing my mind.
Do thoughts have a life of their own? Like a river, perhaps?
What about rivers? A river originates at a sacred source, from some mysterious orifice in the ground and navigates its way around every possible obstacle to meet the ocean. The water originating at the mouth of the river and the water bathing the shores of the ocean seem like polar opposites - strongly attracted to each other. No matter how long the journey takes, over space and time, water from the river eventually communes with the ocean. An estuary is a poetic spectacle - akin to two lovers embracing each other after a painfully long wait - and a wonderful sight to behold. The journey, the hardship, and yearning, all meld together at this point.
What of thoughts then? Thoughts arise from some mysterious source in a remote corner of the mind. Thereafter, they race along its narrow crevices, encroaching swathes of consciousness, escaping every effort of the will to restrain them. But contrary to the river, what purpose they hold and what draws them out is still a mystery to me - and it will probably remain a mystery because unravelling it may cause seizure of thought itself. And without thought, there may be no existence. Treading this path will take me on a completely different journey, but right now, I don't want to take that fork in the road - it is for another day, and probably another time.
Coming back to the vehicle and the accompanying thought - there was just one vehicle and thought to begin with, but soon I would realise that the thoughts would far outnumber the vehicle. One thought led on to another and soon there was a train of them. And these thoughts didn't have an end in mind. They just made way for other thoughts. Who knew thoughts could be chivalrous? Long and extremely delicate, these fragments of thoughts were held together by a fleeting alliance between them. Their fragility was evident by the common occurrence of losing track of these thoughts. When it would seem like I was going off the rails, I would dart swiftly on the back of these thoughts - like a Basilisk Lizard does on water - to go back to where I started from. But every once in a while, I'd lose my footing and fall hurtling through a swarm of these, frantically trying to hold onto the last one so I could make it back to where the adventure started.
Over the years, the busyness of life chased out instances of boredom from my life and I missed taking these trains. I'd forgotten the thrill of boarding one of them and also the adventurous feeling that accompanied finding my way back. Now, as I slowly make my way past the humdrum of life and the constant drivel of information, I realise the busyness and the immediacy life demanded was probably a damned lie. A few days ago on a random evening walk - to run an errand - I consciously made it a point, to drown myself in a train of thought, letting my mind wander, amble around the dimly lit streets of my past experiences, the concocted meanings of life, and reached the station where this train departed from. It’s not an easy one to find, especially having ignored it for decades. You forget it's on a platform similar to 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station - it's there hiding in plain sight, but only available to those who really know what they're looking for.
Here's how my experience went - the train of thoughts started from the varying intensity of the sound of a honking horn from a passing vehicle, going down to wondering what made Doppler think about this and come up with the Doppler Effect and the transmutation of this principle into so many wonderful pieces of equipment which broke frontiers in medical technology and space exploration. They then latched on to the days when my wife got her scans when she was pregnant, and meandered onto our multiple rides to the Ob-Gyn in our bright Red hatchback, and why hatchbacks were no longer in vogue; to how challenging it is going to be to replace the traditional automobile with an electric one. I don't remember where I alighted from the train but it always used to go like this. Seemingly random on the outside, but connected under the hood. Connected for you, and connected by you. This last part, I realised is the specialty of these moments in life - they exist purely for you to savour and thereby enrich your life.
While reading Robert Pirsig, I wondered why the narrative was so captivating? Why was ZAMM clawing its way into my heart? Why did it grab at the core of my consciousness and make me reach out for it again and again? Come to think of it, the mind-wandering approach of putting Phaedrus' life to words is what got to me. One thought leading to another. From the physical to the philosophical. In the end, for me, Pirsig ended up putting words to life. I've lost count of how many times I've reached for the book, recognised something new every time I did, and experienced some watershed moments in those pages.
In between memories of childhood, and the pages of Pirsig, I've found my platform nine and three-quarters - a secret place to hop onto my own Hogwarts Express, to experience a journey that adds flavour to my life - to give my thoughts a medium to ride on. As they say, in the end it is the journey that matters.
May you find you platform 9 3/4 as well!
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Somethings to read
Imitatio Machina by Luke Burgis: The more I read what Luke writes, the more I withdraw from what the herd wants. I was introduced to Luke by his book, Wanting - which is also awesome by the way -and now follow him regularly to disassemble many, if not some of the more commonly held notions of the larger public. Most of what we do today, and why we do them is not rooted in your own self or your conscious choice, but in those of others. And slowly we’re beginning to see a shift in that choice from what humans do, to well, read more in the post…
The degree to which we humans imitate machines, which are the works of our own hands – things which are necessarily derivative of us, yet which we endow with demigodish status due to their automagical power to perform tricks that we cannot – is the degree to which we will lose our distinctively human faculties. We become like that which we imitate.
The Thinker and The Prover: This was a 6 part series Jim authored on Twitter. Vatsal now has them collated on a single Notion page for lazy folks like me. A huge thanks to Vatsal for doing this. I haven’t seen anyone come close to Jim in writing essays on twitter. He has a special knack for doing that. But more importantly, he has that Jed Mc-Kenna-ish approach to tell us, look, and then ask us, what do you see. The next time someone sees confirmation bias lurking around, this is what its gonna get -
Here’s something to listen to
Eva by Heart, an album by Eva Cassidy
Lastly, two of my friends have published their books independently. They’re incredible and a worthy addition to anyone’s reading collection.
These are short stories centered around Lucilius’ experiences across his many lifetimes. Sometimes in the past and many times in the future, Lucilius voyages across lifetimes to understand what life is all about. In the end, you begin to wonder, whether Lucilius is just, you!
I have more than once held this book in my hand and lost myself - not just in the pages of the book, but heading off on a journey to some mystical place in another dimension. A wonderful little oasis in a sea of noise, Thomas’ poignance in bringing forth the finer and leisurely aspects of life is breath taking!
Here’s a thought I’m ruminating on:
“What will be the good of the conquest of leisure and health, if no one remembers how to use them?” ~ Bertrand Russell
Thanks and have a wonderful weekend!
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