TBD: Liberation Through Hearing
My personal thoughts on experiencing Radix Theatre's TBD: Liberation Through Hearing. Photo by Michael Sider.

I have begun my 21-day journey with Radix Theatre in TBD: Liberation Through Hearing, an immersive theatrical experience inspired by the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

This piece is not intended as a review; instead it catalogs my personal reactions, solely as a participant.

Saturday, Nov 14: Rebirth

Finally! The re-birth mobile took up a position behind that Roundhouse Community Centre, which was also the location for the final gathering that night. Between Saturday errands, my partner dropped me off so that I could experience the re-birth.

The TBD Re-birth Mobile
The TBD Re-birth Mobile

The re-birth mobile turned out to be a U-haul equipped with a hammock behind a velvet curtain. I took a photo of it (left). I’m not sure why I decided the photo should be taken at such a weird angle, but somehow it seemed appropriate.

Once comfortably nestled in the hammock with a warm blank wrapped around me to give that full womb-like feeling a soothing women’s voice took me through the re-birth process. Basically it was helping to remember what it was like to have been born – that time of innocence before there was fear or judgement. It was actually quite profound, and even as I am not a spiritual person, it did resonate as a quiet reflection on perhaps how we forget sometimes about a simpler time, and perhaps it is worth remembering.

I’m not sure why, but I though for sure I would be told what my new body would be, but that wasn’t part of the process.  I was disappointed. Perhaps I missed something and maybe I was supposed to decide who or what I wanted to come back as.  As I got back in the car, my partner asked if I’d been reborn as a poinsetta. He thought that was particularly funny, but I’ve always thought I wanted to come back as a gay man’s cat.

The final TBD gathering
The final TBD gathering at the Roundhouse Community Centre

Later that same day, the final gathering of participants took place at the Roundhouse Community Centre. As we entered the theatre we were asked to remove our shoes and find a place to sit on the stage, which was set-up with random chairs and gymnasium mats and equipment (photo right).

After a few minutes, cast members began arriving with their young children in tow. At first it was a couple of babies and then a few toddlers also showed up. One young boy was particularly fun to watch as he seemed fearless wandering in and out as the rest of us watched. It was a nice reminder of what it was like to be a child (including the one who was whisked away after saying she wanted to leave).  After a few moments the event was over and the cast took its bow (photo below).

All that is left is to summarize my personal feelings about TBD. I’m going to give it a couple of days so I can give it more thought. A more comprehensive and less personal review of may follow.

The cast of Radix Theatre's TBD
The cast of Radix Theatre’s TBD

Friday, Nov 13: Almost!

The “re-birth mobile” made an appearance in my neighbourhood. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to get away I got a text telling me it had moved on.  Now I’m really panicking about experiencing this final act. TBD.

Thursday, Nov 12: Still waiting for rebirth

Still no re-birth. I started to wonder what happens to those of us that don’t get re-born? Does TBD account for what seems like a very real possibility? TBD.

Wednesday, Nov 11: Still waiting for rebirth

I’m still waiting for the “re-birth mobile” to come to my neighbourhood. I hope I don’t miss the opportunity. TBD.

Tuesday, Nov 10: Waiting for rebirth

I’ve been watching and waiting for the “re-birth mobile” to come to my neighbourhood. TBD.

Monday, Nov 9: Entering the Bardo of Rebirth

Since I have not achieved enlightenment, I am searching for a body for my rebirth. I am determined to be pick wisely. TBD.

Sunday, Nov 8: Enlightenment achieved?

Today I received a text message asking if I had achieved enlightenment, and if I did I was to text the word PERFECTION to a specified telephone number. From my understanding that would mean I would not be reincarnated and have to go around one more time. I didn’t send the text message. TBD.

Saturday, Nov 7: A visit with the polar bears?

Tonight was another of the few field trips. Since I missed Friday’s field trip the Mountain View Cemetery, I was determined to make it out before I had to make my way to Granville Island to see and review Death in a Dumpster that same evening.

Visiting Stanley Park
Visiting Stanley Park

Making my way into Stanley Park just as the rain was letting up, I found parking based on the supplied map. After lining up to pay for my spot (it was surprisingly busy at 6pm on a blustery Saturday night) I made my way into the park at the base of the aquarium. I stumbled (almost quite literally) across two others who asked if I was looking for TBD. I said I thought it was just up ahead, but for some reason they decided to go in the opposite direction. Once I confirmed I was on the right path I called out to them to follow me. I didn’t think I looked that scary, but they kept their distance even as I held up my phone’s flashlight to help guide the way (it was very, very dark).

Arriving at the old polar bear pit at the base of the Vancouver Aquarium (I’m pretty sure there haven’t been polar bears in there for quite some time), we discovered the two men standing to one side, as eerie music and some funky lighting lit the area. I watched as other approached the two men and I followed suit. As I stood before them I was handed a small ribbon wrapped box that said “do not open yet”. No words were exchanged. I think I even forgot my manners and didn’t say thank you.

Without further instructions I had no idea what to do so I stepped back from the guys and whispered to another participant and asked if there was more. There response came: “your guess is as good as mine”. I left the park but while it was all strangely beautiful I was a little frustrated that was all there was to it.

I’m curious what is inside the box. TBD.

Friday, Nov 6: Life happened…

Today was one of a couple of “field trips” that were to take place during the course of the 21-days. To be held at Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery, sadly real-life got in the way of my being able to attend. In the end given the storm that passed through that evening I’m not sure if it was a blessing in disguise? I do wonder what I missed. TBD.

Thursday, Nov 5: So this happened…

Our TBD visitor

We received a rather odd visitor tonight (photo left).

Arriving just as we were sitting down for dinner, I was asked to choose between two colours on a card; I chose the brighter of the two. Apparently that colour meant that the visitor would clean-up our kitchen. Dressed in a black unitard from head-to-toe, she even brought her own rubber gloves.

Loading up our dishwasher and tidying the counters, we ate in near silence as the visitor finished up her work.

No explanation, just some help with the dishes. I was amused but mystified. My partner was pleased because it was his turn to actually do the dishes.  I wonder what she would have done if I had chosen the other colour. TBD.

Wednesday, Nov 4: What would I take?

It was a double dose of TBD today with a postcard in the mail (see image below) that asked: if your house was burning down, what’s the one material object you would save? First though, I must say the photo of me is kind of creepy with a satisfied smile on my face and blazing home behind me. TBD

Tuesday, Nov 3: Met any tutelary deities lately?

Today’s interaction comes by way of text message again directing me to the TBD website with another quote from Tibetan Book of the Dead. With the walk on the seawall and house visit of the last two days this was a little anticlimactic, although one supposes everyday can be exciting. I had to Google the word “tutelary”. TBD.

Monday, Nov 2: What would I take?

It was a double dose of TBD today with a postcard in the mail (see image below) that asked: if your house was burning down, what’s the one material object you would save? First though, I must say the photo of me is kind of creepy with a satisfied smile on my face and blazing home behind me.

Since my partner was not an “object” (although he feels like one sometimes, I think), I had a tough time with this one. But my evening visitor helped me to focus a little more when I was asked to place an object inside the bag that had importance to me. He wouldn’t say whether I would get the object back (although I can’t imagine them destroying it), so I was a little hesitant at first.

I evenutally landed on a small hen from a collection that belonged to my mom. I had bought them for her during a trip to New Zealand and they fit nicely into her growing collection. It was one of the few things I have that I kept of hers to remember her. I do have five others in the collection so I wouldn’t be heartbroken if it doesn’t come back … but … I guess we’ll just have to wait to see. TBD.


Sunday, Nov 1: A walk along the seawall


On one of the dreariest days we’ve seen in Vancouver in some time, I spent some time walking from Third Beach to Siwash Rock to deposit the salt I received a few days earlier into the sea. The walk was made deadly silent from wearing noise cancelling earphones, which did a good job of removing most of the distractions as I wondered what I was to encounter further on. Along the way I encountered others moving in the opposite direction backwards along the seawall like the fellow in the photo (you can’t tell but he’s really is walking backwards in the photo).

Invited to throw my salt into the water and contemplate where I had come from and where I was headed, there was a spirtituality to it that I am still having a tough time reconciling.

I brought a guest with me today, who happens to be a very spiritual person and her verdit was it was “cool”.

Another person appeared to be profoundly affected by the experience. I later found it came from the place she just happened to be in her life right now.

It was a beautiful walk along a gloomy seawall in the rain. I appreciated my surroundings. I appreciated the members of the Radix Theatre collective who were so committed to the project that they would stand in the rain for four hours on a Sunday. TBD.

Saturday, Oct 31: What is the colour of wisdom?

Another text link brings a dense quote from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Interestingly, as I take to Google to discover more context, the quote actually comes from “The Third Day”. I’m not feelin the religiosity. TBD.

Friday, Oct 30: In the rain

“On this day, the pure form of water will shine as a white light.”

It felt entirely appropriate that today’s text should come with a quote to do with water. It comes with a warning though: be wary of the light. Good thing the nights are getting darker. TBD.

Thursday, Oct 29: Checking in

“Can you hear us? The hearing is always the last to go.”

This is the amount of salt that was in my body when I died.
This is the amount of salt that was in my body when I died.

This morning I left my home to discover two notes posted to my building. My first reaction was to think about what my neighbours might have thought. I was asked to call to let them know where I was, and how I was doing. I hesitated in calling immediately (figuring even the dead deserved to not get a phone call before 9am in the morning).

Eventually calling the listed number, I was asked how things were going in the Bardo and if I had seen the “clear white light of perfection”? I decided not to leave a message after the beep; I figured the long distance charges between the Bardo and life would have been astronomical so I hung up.

I had a ghostly apparition make an appearance at my place of work today as well. Handed a burlap sack, I was told it contains the amount of salt that was in my body when I died. I was asked to keep it with me. It now resides in my shoulder bag beside my umbrella. It also makes a great substitute as a stress relief ball.

To be honest though, I’m having a tough time immersing myself in the experience. Life always seems to get in the way. But I am now curious as to how this all fits together. TBD.

Wednesday, Oct 28: Day Three in the Bardo

“As you listen to my voice…”

Day three included another text message, this time a link to a video podcast. As the soothing male voice continues to say “as you listen to my voice” guiding me from my attachment to the living world, I can’t help but think of hypnosis. Perhaps if I was able to fall into a hypnotic state there would be more resonance. I’m having a tough time imagining myself in this Bardo state. I’m becoming frustrated. TBD.

Tuesday, Oct 27: Journey into the Bardo State

The contents of my brown bag.
The contents of my brown bag.

“Noble one! What is called “death” has come to you. You are not alone; it happens to everyone.”

I left my home this morning to find a brown paper bag on my doorstep with my name on it. My immediate reaction was that it contained some sort of prank (or worse), never making the connection with my TBD journey. Carefully holding the bag away from myself as I tore it open, I saw the Radix logo and it finally clicked.

Inside was a small bag of dried fruit and a letter welcoming me to the Bardo of the Dying. I was invited to taste the fruit and asked if it tasted different or was difficult to swallow now that I was dead. I was assured this was normal. I find dried fruit unappetizing in real life, so I chose not partake. I hope it isn’t the only sustenance I receive on my afterlife journey though.

I was asked to answer three questions on a small card that I was to carry with me in my wallet. The were a reflection on my life – who were you? what were you like? what was important to you? I’m told that it is for my own use and no other eyes will see. I have decided to honour that truth.

I shared the words with a friend who with a little explanation finally said “wow, that is intense”. It is a bit. It’s still tough to put myself fully into this new “state”. I’m worried that the experience might be a little more spiritual than I had anticipated. TBD.

Monday, Oct 26: My Death

“You will now listen to a story. The story of a death. Not just any old death. Your death.” So begins my second day with TBD in the form of a podcast, sent via a link in a text message.

As I listened to the soothing female voice tell me of my death from a ruptured blood vessel in the middle of my brain, it was difficult to put myself into that place. Afterall, I’m still alive. Despite my desire to concentrate on her words, my mind drifted onto the mundane of life; what will I wear to work tomorrow? What is on the schedule at work?

As I forced myself to listen more carefully though I started thinking, “okay I’m dead, what happens next?” I am intrigued by the possibilities. TBD.

Sunday, Oct 25: Orientation

Besides registering and signing a waiver, we downloaded the Life360 app to our smartphones. The app will help track our whereabouts over the 21 days, which will be used in some of the interactions. A brief introduction to TBD was followed by a performance of four songs from the Threshold Choir, a group of woman who sing “at the bedside of those seriously ill or dying”.

While listening to the choir, I consciously reconfirmed that death is not something that particularly frightens me. I don’t consider myself a spiritual person, and am a lapsed (recovering, if you prefer) Catholic. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve attended a funeral, including that of my mom. Coincidentally this weekend would have been her birthday, which added a certain poignancy, which may have accounted for some of the melancholy that enveloped me today. It is the same feeling I get when I listen to music – a strange combination of deja vu and sadness. It is not a particularly pleasant feeling, so I’m hopeful that it is not one that lingers over the next 21 days as I continue on this journey with Radix Theatre. TBD.