Zia Hassan

Stillness On A Rollercoaster

Try this: bring back a memory of yourself on a roller coaster or theme park ride. Whenever I do this, my memory doesn’t play back like memories of other events. That is to say, when I think of my high school graduation, it plays back like clips from a movie. Sometimes in these memories, I am not the point of view, I’m the observer. Maybe I’m actually having s memory of watching the video of graduation.

But when I think of a roller coaster memory, it’s different. There’s no real motion in my mind movie. It’s a still frame. I’m upside down on a steel coaster, the sun invading my corneas from a cloudless sky. And it’s quiet inside of this moment.

Or I’m next to my cousin who’s mad at me for whatever reason. I see her angry face right as we hit the bottom of a drop. There is a stillness in the midst of this dance between potential and kinetic energy.

How can it be that such a chaotic memory is recalled as a moment of stillness? Perhaps when we ride a roller coaster, we lose ourselves. It’s nearly impossible to be in our own head, and we are definitely not thinking about what’s for dinner. We are observing our sensations, like the Buddha. We have no other choice. Our lives are gently at risk, and yet we feel safe. There’s no comparable experience.

And now in my 30s, roller coasters give me headaches. But I will forever be in search of experiences that gently meld together feelings of safety, exhilaration, and stillness.