After the long walk from the station I was exhausted when, at the end of the mud path, I saw the complex of farm buildings which made up the monastery. I threw my bag to the ground. Nothing in it warranted the pain it had caused me to carry it. I had been tempted to abandon it in a ditch during my cross-country hike. I felt as though it had engraved a permanent furrow over my shoulders. I perched on the gently swinging gate. Something I had perhaps not done since childhood. I had had enough of my memory though so I did not dig out an old picture of swinging on a gate and feed it into the projector. Maybe it’s true that mice learn to avoid harmful situations by memorising warning signs but I was no longer convinced memory was a reliable register in terms of avoiding harm. I’ve done little but harm myself in the name of honouring memory. Now I had arrived at a place where memory didn’t stop at what you could actually remember; here memory was largely what you had forgotten. Your other lives.
Beyond the gate was a no-smoking zone. Guru didn’t approve of wilfully doing oneself harm. That was the way to lose karma points. That was how you got reborn as a goat or a dragonfly. In the near distance I could make out Lulu the elephant. She was in her enclosure outside the barn. She was not wearing her coat of many colours. She was the closest thing to television here. Often it made you feel good to just watch her – when she made a game of balancing on a plank of wood or shook her ears while being hosed down in the yard. It’s always exhilarating to watch the flawless poetry of animals entertaining themselves. I suspect it’s a kind of jealousy that has always induced men to shoot them. If you leave sex out of the equation, the closest we humans have managed to come to mimicking an animal’s high-spirited celebration of the moment is the tawdry pantomime of the dance floor. Proof, I suppose, that if Guru is right and human beings are on this earth to learn lessons, we’re simply not paying enough attention, we’re too busy carving our initials in the dead wood of our desks.