Manufacturing Mayhem with Metaphysical Meditations

Two English newspaper vendors are spruiking their latest editions in a public space. Unashamedly, they seek to outdo one another, not only vocally but also in the gravity of the news they have to bestow on unwitting passers-by. The graver the news the better, is the obvious thinking as they strip away headline sheet after headline sheet from their respective billboards. Finally, one of the vendors withdraws a knife and stabs the other to death. He then strips another headline sheet off his billboard to reveal a new one telling of the slaying.
This hilarious skit, from circa the early 1980s, was the brainchild of Britain’s incisive Not The Nine O’clock News quartet. The foursome’s ability to be equal parts laugh out loud funny and clever social commentators was perhaps only rivalled at the time by their UK stablemates Monty Python, even if they rarely went to the zany extremes that John Cleese and co. frequently did.
But after enjoying a belly laugh at the warring vendors one might then pause to ask what it is about dire news that people, apparently, find so enthralling. No less than Leo Tolstoy, via the narrator of his exalted tale The Death of Ivan Ilyich, would have us believe relief plays a large part in it. The gallery of characters waiting on the expiration of the titular hero are comforted that it is him and not them who is about to turn up the heels.
What an exceptionally hardhearted lot they must be, I thought reading this twaddle, as well as temporarily blind to the unshakeable fact of their own mortality somewhat further down the road. Does a similar Gee, I’m glad it’s them and not me! attitude sum up the majority response when we ingest news of death and disaster? Is it this that the media is relying on to boost their ratings and sell their papers?
In fact one does not need to go to extremes to actually or potentially manufacture a bit of mayhem in our age of permanent high terrorist alert. Kidnapping someone and filming their beheading, for instance, is hardly necessary. Going back to the era when terrorism came into vogue, the equally stage-managed tactics of the Palestinians who kidnapped a group of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, or those Baader Meinhof in Germany and Italy’s Red Brigade employed for years around the same time aren’t a prerequisite. The servile media, who lap this sort of stuff up like a hungry cat laps up milk, might be a tad slower to respond when no bombs are exploding or blood running. But they will waste no time flocking to the scene if they happen to discover something really is on.
Understandably enough, the United States was on edge for a long time in the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001. The country had effectively been my base since 1998 though I was far from there when the terrorist attacks occurred. I had begun the application process for permanent residency months earlier but been in a limbo status since. Believing the events of September 11 might delay action on my case further, I decided I would go to Canada rather than return to the States. I set up work on Vancouver Island, fully prepared to bide my time there for however long was necessary.
In due course, early in 2002, a recorded message over the phone made mention, as far as I could tell from the gobbledygook, of a positive development. The day of my return to the USA finally arrived. On a sunny July morning I boarded a flight for Los Angeles. Travelling as light as ever, I checked in just the one bag, toting essentials in a solitary carry-on.
Among those ‘essentials’ was a slim, pocket-size volume that I was in the habit of bringing with me in transit. Titled Metaphysical Meditations, it contained pages of thoughts and affirmations of my guru Paramahansa Yogananda. For me there was no better way to pass ‘dead’ time on a flight than by taking one of more of Guruji’s affirmations and dwelling on it in peaceful reverie.
So I did on that quiet, uneventful flight from western Canada to southern California. But evidently I became too interiorised for my own good. I ambled out of the cabin at our destination but partway along the gangway realised my omission. Metaphysical Meditations was still on board, where I had left it, all but concealed behind the tight flap of the seat pocket behind which I had spent the flight. Desperate at the thought of losing the copy – determined that this would not happen – I slowed in my walk and about-faced.
I had not proceeded far in my quest when I heard the clamour behind me. The sight of a passenger going against the flow in such circumstances, unusual at any time but boding who could say what menace still less than a year out from September 11, was big. Maybe real big. Thinking back I was perhaps fortunate lights did not flash, six shooters were not aimed at me from all points of the compass and I was not thrown to the vinyl arms akimbo and legs spread. With sticky beak bystanders capturing the lot on their cellular phones as the airport shifted into lock-down mode.
No, I explained that a little blue volume was the reason for my attempted re-boarding of the flight I had just left at LAX. Someone retrieved it for me. All breathed calmly again and off I went, this time in the proper direction. My entry to the City of Angels was not as fraught with mayhem then as the one Rowan Atkinson made in the feature film Mr. Bean (1997). But it wasn’t a bad attempt. I could relate to Bean and the strife he caused. Incidentally, it was none other than a younger Atkinson who played one of the vendors in the Not the Nine O’clock News skit.


About owenlindsayboyd

I am a follower of the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda - author of Autobiography of a Yogi. I begin and end each day with meditation, a spiritual base from which all else proceeds. I am a personal carer, writer and traveller, among other things, originally from just outside Melbourne in Australia. I lived in my hometown until 1984, obtaining a degree in Arts, with majors in sociology and communication studies, in 1980. I have spent a considerable amount of time since the late eighties living and working in a wide range of communities in many different parts of the world. I have lived and worked with homeless people, disabled people and refugees. As a writer, I am principally a novelist though I also write shorter pieces, both fiction and non-fiction and have published and self-published poetry, articles, short stories, memoirs and novels. In addition, I write screenplays and have made a number of low-budget film productions. In recent years I self-published a trilogy of novels dealing, principally, with the themes of healing and reconciliation. 'The Unintentional Healing of Soul' (Changeling / Trafford 2003) was followed by 'Proper Respect for a Wound' (Changeling / Trafford 2005) and 'Thanks Be to the World' (Changeling / Trafford 2009). 'Proper Respect for a Wound' was also published in e-book format by Jaffa Books, Brisbane, Australia in 2013. I self-published a two-book travel memoir, 'The Second of Three' and 'From a Caregiver's Point of View' early in 2014. It is distributed on smashwords. Later in 2014 I plan to publish a book of stories.
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