RIP, Roy Batty

I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments will be lost… in time… like… tears… in rain. Time… to die.

Rutger Hauer, Roy Batty from Blade Runner, died last week.

Despite all the contributions that make Blade Runner a classic – the imaginative creation of LA of the future, the direction of Ridley Scott, the atmospheric music of Vangelis, the story of Philip K. Dick, the script of Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, the acting of Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer and others – I’d argue that it was the final words of Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty, that are primarily responsible for Blade Runner’s status.

Roy Batty’s words resonate because of everything that leads up to the moment on the roof – the parallel experience of Roy Batty and Deckard, the injured hands, the broken bodies, the loss of loved ones, the desperate scramble for life.  The words resonate, somewhere deep inside of us, in a way that is hard to articulate.

With a few brief words that appear nowhere else in the movie – Attack ships on fire, the shoulder of Orion, C-beams, Tannhäuser Gate – Roy Batty tells us of the uniqueness of his replicant experience, full of beauty, awe, richness and longing. Just like any other human being, unable to fully share with another, one’s experience  of the mystery of consciousness.

Then, with the next sentence ,  “All those… moments will be lost… in time… like… tears… in rain,” Roy Batty yokes his experience to our human experience of the universe, finite, yet infinite; unique, yet part of a multitude; universal, yet distinct.

Finally, with, “…Time to die”, Roy Batty accepts his fate, spares Deckard, and like a human, goes from Form to Emptiness. Like a human at the time of their passing, unable to control the transition. Something left behind, something going away.  Neither sufficient by itself, each part necessary, the whole greater than the parts.

Truly, “more human, than human.”

Thank you, Rutger Hauer/Roy Batty, your moments will never be lost in time, because you showed us what it means to be human!

I Was So Afraid I Would Die

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“I was so afraid I would die, you know,” said my barber as I sat in her chair, while she cut my hair.

We all have these moments when we are not in control.

I sat down in the barber’s chair, politely asked her, “How have you been?” and then relaxed as she started her story.

She tied the neck strip, and draped the barber’s cape around my body. “Oh, I just came back from Vietnam. I was visiting my family there, you know. I had just got there, when I started getting pain in my stomach,” she said. “It was so bad, I thought I was going to die. I thought, ‘Am I having a heart attack? I’m vomiting, I have a fever. Why does it hurt so much?'” The scissors clipped my hair as I saw her reflected in the mirror.

“I went and saw a doctor, and he said, ‘You have gall stones, and need to have surgery right now.'” Her eyes were focused on my head as she kept going around the chair, her hands darting and taking off errant hair, the click-clack sounds creating a rhythm, puffs of hair dropping in my lap, onto the barber’s cape.

“I had to go in for the surgery, and I thought – if I die, what will happen to my clothes, my shoes and my handbags? All my things, you know? Back in the United States? Who would take care of them? Where would they go?”

We don’t like to think of what will happen after we are gone, and when we do, there are more questions than answers. Answering these questions requires too many hard conversations with loved ones. So we maintain the patina of normalcy, and don’t have the conversations – unless, of course, we cannot ignore the premonitions of mortality provided by our bodies. Then, all of a sudden, the questions are irresistible, overpowering, suffocating, beating down the carefully maintained door of our consciousness, demanding attention.

“I had my surgery and it went well, and I am back here, you know, but I was so scared of dying in Vietnam.”

As I sat and looked at her reflection, I suddenly saw her as a full human being. Not just with physical scars visible on her body, but also hidden psychological scars on her mind, received through her experiences.

Just like all of us.

A Visit to the Hospital

Entry to the Cath Lab at Stanford Hospital

Cath Lab at Stanford

Yesterday, I had an unscheduled visit to Stanford Hospital for a relative. Chest pain, Emergency Room visit, then the Cath Lab. While waiting for the doctor to come out and give us an update, I reflected on the transience of life.

One moment and everything is different.

Thinking is clear. Priorities are uncomplicated. Relationships regain importance. Words have urgency. Time is finite.

Why can’t we carry over this clarity of thought into our daily lives?

Perhaps it is because we suppress thoughts of our mortality, that we will all exit stage right. Constantly thinking of our own mortality could lead to a defeatist attitude – why does anything matter anyway.

Perhaps we make ourselves the center of the universe, and think everything revolves around us. Since we are so important, of course, we will always be there.

Perhaps it is the mystery of an event that has no experiential answer. If there is no answer, why think about it.

Perhaps societal norms guide us to ignoring the finiteness of our bodies. No one wants to strike up a casual conversation about mortality. When such a conversation is necessary, it is accompanied by uncomfortable emotions.

Perhaps thinking about our own physical transience is accompanied by too much regret and remorse. We revisit actions that we would do differently, and mull over actions we should have taken.

Then the doctor came out and gave us an update. All had gone well, the angioplasty was successful, the patient was recovering.

But I am still reflecting on these thoughts and feelings and hoping to carry the urgency and clarity of those moments into my daily life.

 

 

 

Why Emptiness And Form

Enso: A circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.

Enso

Why Emptiness and Form

The words from the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra have been sufficiently meaningful to me that I named my blog after it.

Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness;

emptiness does not differ from form.

That which is form is emptiness;

that which is emptiness, form.

The same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses,
consciousness.

Emptiness does not differ from form, the physical self. Emptiness also does not differ from feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness, the creations of our mind.

If we had the benefit of a longer time scale, we would be able to see the cumulative effect of changes taking place in a physical object. For example, even a rock changes over a million years. Similarly, we cannot stop the changing thoughts and feelings going through our minds.

Once we get beyond the names and labels we apply to objects, thoughts, feelings, actions, and even consciousness, we realize that these possess an intrinsic quality that is insubstantial yet real, common and interconnected with everything, and is permanent, unchanging and formless. We suffer when we cling to labels, resist change and loss, and lose sight of of this underlying interconnectedness and permanence of all things.

Losing sight of relationship between emptiness and form, is like forgetting that we have a set of glasses on our face. The glasses are always there. We don’t have to put them on to see through them. We practice deeply to realize that we are wearing these glasses, so we don’t forget that we have them. But there is nothing to attain, since these glasses are always there, and anything we see can only be seen through these glasses.

Practice deeply with nothing to attain.