Christmas in Nowhere


By Tim Smyth.

Vipassana is usually not my kind of thing at all. Twelve hours’ meditation? My attention span has been shattered by checking the progress bars on film streams and by refreshing Guardian Football Minute-by-Minute reports. ‘A happiness beyond the distraction of sexual misconduct and intoxicants‚’ say the MP3 recordings of Goenke. These are my favourite. Vipassana is using the word ‘equanimity’ a lot. Equanimity – a Joycean word, and surely he’s got the last word on that one. ‘Vipassana is the art of living well.’ I’ve long given up on that, in my haze of commuter stress and plastic-wrapped ‘meals.’ ‘This is not an empty rite or ritual: it is merely a technique to see the things of your life as they are – not as you wish they were, as you wish they had turned out, as they might be. Just as they are,’ says Goenke. Who’s ever wanted to see that? I like my TV insulation, my daydreams, the little fantasies I nod into to make bus-journeys, waiting rooms and nights out that bit more bearable. Without even my Kindle and its teem of digital words, ten days’ silence is going to feel very loud indeed.

And yet. Lately words have begun to weigh on me. In my flat there lies an unpublished novel in its drawer/coffin, beside the abandoned PhD thesis. There’s the piled offcuts from every story, essay, poem and article that ever did or didn’t survive to completion. There’s the shelf of twenty-odd black notebooks, their matte shine like so many external hard drives. I can hear my head grit through their data: the missed moments, the ones caught not quite right and ruined, the ones I can’t even get back to because my handwriting’s so bad.

What I want is to be ‘here in pastless now‚’ as Samuel Beckett writes in Worstward Ho. I want all those pages to compress to a single blank of consciousness, on which only the most vivid immediacies can write themselves and fade. Sensation’s come and go, nothing more: no drag-weight of memory, no screen of words between me and things as they really are. Silence scares me because I know I need it.


[This is a short extract, the full article is available to read in Issue Two]


Tim Smyth is a freelance writer and correspondent with Reuters, Vice, the Irish Times and the Scotsman. His fiction, reviews and non-fiction have appeared in Totally Dublin, The South Circular and The Quarterly Conversation. He lives in Mexico City.