Chained to a Rock

On The Phone

I am Chained to a Rock

Before I lift the handset of my ancient 1980s phone, I pause to have a talk with myself. Now, be on your guard, I said. You know that something in you dislikes bureaucracy and something else hates laziness, inefficiency and rudeness.

Just a moment, piped up the Secretary in my head: this ‘like and dislike’ business means that ‘Ego’ is present, doesn’t it? She’s like a parrot, my secretary, always repeating things she’s heard without having a clue what they mean or even having any interest in what she’s saying. But she has her uses.

She pulls out a piece of paper from her myriad files and reads from it: ‘If Ego is present, then certainly a wall of tension will be too. This wall constitutes the outer defensive ramparts’.

I checked the body. It was true. The usual stranglehold. If I have a shape inside, then it is always crumpled up from the top right hand corner in exactly the same pattern every time, like a coca-cola can that has been squashed.

Then I remember my breathing. This is not ‘Ego’ but a mystery, something I can begin to respect. I enter my body as I would a cathedral and let my breathing fill the interior. It is wonderful to have nothing to do but listen, and watch and ‘be’.

I lift the handset. A recorded voice invites me to punch a series of buttons and I obey. Finally, a female voice blasts into my peace. She is everything my prejudice could have dreamed up.

I sense the entire machinery of my automatism gearing up for reaction. The Head Prefect steps out of his box to warn me of a potentially messy situation ahead. But all by myself I remember my breathing, my legs appear by themselves, as if out of a mist, heavy and solid, as the rest of my body begins to materialise.

I hear a voice coming out of me, ugly and harsh. It is very strange to hear something in me speaking on behalf of all of me. I feel the injustice of it, I feel my helplessness, but now, for once, I wish to see what I am. It is very unpleasant, but I stay with it.

I am burning, burning. Is this the fire of Hell? The fire is consuming me, but for once that carping judge, the great Critic in me, is silent. I realise I have passed two important signposts, one saying ‘Recognition’, the next one ‘Acceptance’.

The handset has long been restored to its position on the cradle. The fires inside are still burning, but dying out. I have been purified. Myriad tiny tensions I hardly knew I had are gone. All is silent inside. The inside shape, like a cathedral interior, has been restored. Chain after chain has been broken, and I am free. I had been chained to a rock, a prisoner of myself.

John Killeen