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Near Life Experience.

Ex Nihilo

UNITED KINGDOM | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [16506] | Comments [16] | Scholarship Entry

Growing up mostly on a caravan park, buried in a valley of the Scottish borders, I knew what 'nothing' looked like well. The nothingness of empty cupboards. The nothingness of dead air in the night-time. The nothingness of your own company in a place without television, without telephones, barely a radio signal. The nothingness of being nowhere.

But in all that nothingness out there hid something. In another valley, north of the site, stood a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. Kagyu Samye Ling. My parents drove me to it one afternoon, for most of the journey I refrained from believing that it even existed. I had only ever heard of Buddhist monks in books.

But there it was. Ethereal red and gold against the decaying greens of the landscape. Set back off a forestry road, it was truly alien to my young eyes. I rarely saw a working washing machine, much less a towering gold statue of an ancient deity perched upon a cobra snake larger than any man-made car. Monks wandered the grounds, composed of shaved heads and blood-orange robes. Deep in conversation that transcended the wants of my growling stomach, or the pain of my bruised feet, produced by my disregard for shoes out in the wild.

We entered the temple and people sat in silence on the floor, talking to someone I have never been able to hear. The alters were composed of foreign treasures that glittered fearsome in the light, made in lands that seemed trapped in time in my head. We were shown a tree in the grounds that was wrapped entirely in ribbons, all colours, all textures. Some worn, some immaculate. People made prayers and wishes upon these ribbons and then tied them to the tree. I wanted so much at that age, but right then I would have traded my next meal for a few inches of cloth.

My parents had the difficult job of explaining to me that even though the monastery was decadent, the monks actually owned nothing, they held no earthly possessions. Their religion was their life. This gave them an existential purity, a divine nature. I thought of the vacancy of our empty cupboards and tried to compare it to the materialistic vacancy of the monks. Other children had taught me that not having was something bad, that it made me less than those that had. I had never considered that there were different kinds of nothingness.

Elsewhere I was a child trapped in a static caravan, with a lot of nothing to buy nothing. Out there I was closer to an immortal god, with a lot of something you cannot buy with anything.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship



For the first time, I really love the entry of a scholarship winner. Fantastic story, well done!

  Isabelle Jun 29, 2015 6:12 AM


I could not agree more with Isabelle. This was a great piece from beginning to end. Congratulations!

  Vicky Jul 6, 2015 8:46 PM


There were some errors that annoyed me: north should be North, decadent is not the right word in that context, commas are not used well...

but I do have to say at least it was actually a good story and generally well-written. for once a reasonably deserving winner

  amanda ostuni Jul 10, 2015 12:29 AM


Excellent, lovely.

  Intercity Adventures Jul 18, 2015 9:13 AM


Excellent! Well done.

  Cynthia Aug 13, 2015 12:09 AM


Beautifully vulnerable! I can see why this piece won. Good job ! Also, I hope to one day read your memoirs. Please keep writing. You have a real gift!!

  Stephie B Aug 18, 2015 1:37 AM


This is wonderful - you are a very talented writer - congratulations on the win. Keep in writing :)

  Denise Tench Aug 25, 2015 2:52 AM


Holy cow - this was brilliant. I am an editor and to the person earlier who pointed out the very minor grammatical errors - those things do not make a difference, at all. That's what editors are for. Writers write. Even the best writers have editors. Never edit yourself while writing. Just get it out of your head and onto the page. This story was a wonderful read and rightfully deserving of the win. Would like to read more from this writer.

  Rose Jun 3, 2016 2:20 AM


Beautiful story. Lovely writ

  ruthibelle Jun 8, 2016 1:35 AM


Thank you all for the kind comments, if you would like to read more of my work please go to http://www.e-x-n-i-h-i-l-o.tumblr.com/

  evelynhollow Jun 8, 2016 2:11 AM


How interesting - great!

  DJRaby Jun 12, 2016 1:42 AM


Wow. I really enjoyed reading this. And the beautiful lesson laced in between just made it perfect.

  xceptional43 Jun 12, 2016 4:27 AM


Quite a poetic piece, I love it. I hope now your nothingness means something. Keep writing, the sky is no limit.

  Laryx Ochieng Jun 20, 2016 10:01 PM


Quite a poetic piece and very engaging. I hope your nothingness now means something. I loved it, good job. Keep writing, the sky is no limit.

  Laryx Ochieng Jun 20, 2016 10:03 PM


Incredible. Chockablock with imagery, guts and talent

  Kali Jun 27, 2016 11:39 PM


Lovely story...one that gets better with each read.

  Meghna Jun 29, 2016 1:31 AM

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