July 17, 2011

Of air travel, bardos and hell

El Cabrero is WAY out of town this week. At the moment, I'm in Siena, Italy and will be hereabouts for around a week. It's a beautiful city, about which more later. But getting here was another story.

One way of dating myself is to say that I'm so old I remember when flying was cool. Maybe it always is to kids at a certain age. Nowadays a long flight, with all the layovers and such is a pretty miserable thing, especially for those of us who only fly economy class.

When I'm going on a good trip, I tend to rationalize it. The misery of getting there is a ritual of purification. The misery of getting back is a way of paying, in part anyway, for any good times that were had.

Airports kind of remind me of the bardos of Tibetan Buddhism. Bardos are transitional states between one life an another, liminal "places" where one experiences reflections of one's own karma.

Since one reason for my trip is to join the Spousal Unit who is studying Dante in Italy this summer, airport time also reminded me of how in his Inferno the souls of the damned are anxious to get to their destination, no matter how miserable it will be. It occurred to me that when one is on a long series of air trips, one longs for the next leg, no matter how cramped and sleepless it will be.

This time around, however, I'm pleased to say that even on my first day here the misery of the flight was worth it.

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