Sunday, November 4, 2012

‘Chambre sans frontières’

In Freemasonry, particularly its French traditions, there is what’s called the Chamber of Reflection, which is a small room outfitted with a number of symbols that recall mortality, regeneration, and the essence of being. The aspirant awaiting his possible initiation into the Craft is conducted inside, and is given time to contemplate existential matters free of any conceivable distraction, save for whatever may emanate from his own heart and mind. His task is to quell even that.

About twelve hours ago, electricity and heat were restored to my home, only six days after Sandy’s visit. Whether she indeed was a hurricane or not seems to be disputed, but I leave that to meteorologists and insurance companies. In the calmness that followed the devastation, thousands of people were left in a world without necessities (shelter, food, potable water, etc.), and millions of lucky ones like myself were robbed of our creature comforts. I’m not even well equipped in that department. My television, which I rarely use, is a 25-year-old Sylvania. My computer is a four-year-old Mac. I have no smart phone, tablet, laptop, or any other modern portable communications device aside from my old LG cell phone that cannot open any of the attachments Lindez or Davenport send me.

So during a dark, cold, and mostly immobile existence of 115 hours of decreasing daylight without lights, heat, and passable streets, I enjoyed the luxury of not checking e-mail, perusing status updates, or surfing either web or channels. Light was provided only by a couple of flashlights and the beeswax votives I purchase in bulk for “ezzo-deric” personal work. Mass media flowed in one direction only, via a battery powered Bush clock radio (with an analog face!) I bought in London in 1990.

There was darkness, but it was darkness visible; my home was cold, but still was my home; I sat in solitude, but in league with millions; the week was interminable, and turned out to have been too brief.

Of time, the Freemason and poet Khalil Gibran writes: “But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons, and let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.”

The luxurious gift of a chamber of reflection without walls or sands of time was not lost on me, and I will not forget how it was delivered or the prices paid by so many others for it.

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