I’ve had an Epingphany. It’s a bit like an epiphany, but it involves the use of Ping Pong as a metaphor. As I was experiencing the terror or trying to fit all my worldly possessions into a Hong Kong-size apartment, it occurred to me that I am in fact a cosmic ping pong ball, being batted back and forth between East and West. From London to Singapore then via various places (see previous posts) to Manchester and now to the romantically-named Special Administrative Region. Who are the players in this giant game? Are they gods, or merely blind forces which, when not given to anthropomorphisation (if indeed that is a word – if not, consider it coined), we call Fate, or Physics, or Karma, or… er…. Mojo. I stroked my chin for a while to contemplate then had a San Miguel.
The standard answer to this kind of blossoming self-awareness is to slow down. Take things easier. Look inward and meditate. Inhale deeply the aroma of coffee, flowers, yak dung or whatever it is greets you as you tread upwards on your spiritual path. But if that’s all I had to offer, then why would you be reading this? A thousand other gurus would tell you the same. And they’d all be right.
No, Existential Vacation has another answer for you,one which it has taken literally minutes for me to think up as I sit at the Peak Bar with my Saturday afternoon coffee, watching the people on the escalator glide up the hill to the evocatively-monikered ‘Mid Levels’. If you feel that the world has made you into a ball in a giant game of ping pong (or pinball, or rugby, or whatever your favoured ball-oriented metaphor may be*), the answer is this: speed up.
Being the adventurous sort that I am, the first stage in my quest for speed was to flag a taxi. The door swung open mysteriously on its own, as if some ghostly force wanted me to enter it. “Go, lah!” I instructed the driver. “Go fast!” He tried, but sadly the roads of Hong Kong conspired to obstruct us in our journey. Twenty minutes later we had covered a total of three hundred metres and were being overtaken by an old lady collecting cardboard boxes. I paid my fare and alighted, determined to find some other way to achieve velocity.
I decided that I would need to be in shape for the speediness of my new life, so I joined the Pure Fitness Gym and paid a frankly stupid amount of money for personal training sessions. Gratifyingly, my trainer is called Gun, an excellent name for someone who inflicts pain for a living. Three mornings a week he tortures me in various ways. I ache. All it seems to do so far is slow me down.
I therefore decided I needed to be more creative in my interpretation of speed. Perhaps, as a musician, what I need to do was play music fast. So off I went to my local bar, the Peel Fresco Music Lounge, which is great because it has music, a wide selection if drinks, a jam night on Tuesdays where anyone can get in stage and play, and paintings on the wall, some of which feature naked breasts. What more could you want? I borrowed a guitar, plugged in and moved my fingers as fast as I could. Widdly widdly widdly widdle, I went. Diddly diddly wee! I turned the volume on the amplifier up to eleven and repeated. Sadly the rest of the band were playing smooth bossa nova jazz, and the customers were pressing their palms to their ears in pain. I was asked to leave. Some people have no appreciation of good music.
Not to be discouraged, I headed for Happy Valley, named sarcastically by the first British settlers there because they all got malaria. These days, Happy Valley is famous for horse racing. I approached the officials at the race track and demanded they let me ride the favourite in the first race of the night. Inexplicably, they declined. Despondent, I watched the race. The horses whizzed past in a thunder of drumming hooves and flying sweat, a thousand people shouting their lungs out to in encouragement and waving bits of paper. It was then that I was struck with an idea: perhaps if I put bets on the horses, I could get rich, and then none of that enlightenment or meaning stuff would matter! I pulled out a wodge of cash and hot-footed it down to the betting hall. After some thirty seconds of examining the form and latest odds, I confidently staked a portion of my hard-earned savings on a horse with a funny name. I must in fact be a genius, because the horse won the race… I collected my winnings, a total of thirty three Hong Kong Dollars. This, I could sense, was the beginning of something great.
However, despite my obvious talent in horse-picking, it just wasn’t quite fast enough for me. Thus it was that I flew down to Singapore, my old haunt, for the Singapore Grand Prix. Ear plugs duly inserted, off I went with a bunch of friends to watch the ‘fast broom brooms’ (Oli’s name for them) go round and round. It was there that I realised that you can find the Tao as much in the scream of a Formula One engine as in the petals of a lotus. (Well I am pretty sure it was the Tao. Actually I don’t really know what that is, but it sounds deep.) I had come close to the ultimate in speed. After the race, we went onto the track and walked around it, soaking up the petrol fumes. I came home to Hong Kong happy, confident that my life would pick up ever greater velocity and I hurtle towards Nirvana.