Blog N0 9. On the Road again

20 01 2009

It is time to leave. Once again I wake and instead of just puttering about I look at the time,. I pack my tiny rucksack until it is almost bursting but still forget my hat.Never mind! How many hats have I left behind me in my peregrinations about this strange old world.. I think about a hostile state following my hat-trails, checking their DNA. The absurdity takes my mind off the discomfort of severance. I am leaving behind kind people I have met and become close to. This time I fell a little in loveI (is there a ‘a little’ in the matter of love I wonder?) Especially as, in this case the female in question was a laughing , bouncing, affectionate little girl of five years who ran to hug me every time I returned to the house.

I must leave. Sometime, I tell myself, I must examine my drug use. It is not chemicals I must look at but distractions—canned music, T.V. low-level sociability, novelty—all those things that prevent me inspecting myself deeply and ruthlessly as I must. I think, as I load my folda-bike on the bus, that I have been moving about like this for a long timeI. But I love novelty, observing different cultures, tasting different foods, meeting different people. It is all a bit like being a child again. But I am no longer a child . I am not as intelligent as a child any more.. What am  I learning?

A long time go I stopped visiting ruins-the dead bones of yesterday’s military,religions and domestic structures.I am ruined out and it is not what I seek. I decided that i was moving too fast, too far. I was reducing all my experience to a three dimensional travel documentary that faded in a short time because the impressions were so fleeting and shallow and superficial. Now I wanted to go deeper into other cultures, I decided, until i knew people, and their characters, and they me and mine. I began to stay longer in places I liked. It worked. I was slowly becoming acculturated. And I decided that I didn’t want to visit cultures where people were not being kind to each other. And just as I had abandoned England, the land of my birth, because of its unkind class system , so I rejected India after six months because of its brutal caste system and the cruel mistreatment of the Harijans and  the poor and lower classes.

I get frustrated that we seem to be unable to understand that despite appearances to the contrary we live in a small room. All joy, all sufferings are public and communal. Yet we tweak the controls of society without identifying the sources of our public discomfort—homeless people,drug addiction, prostitution, industrial slavery. Yes, yes we all vote for equality for women. But does that mean ‘equality’? Of course not; anymore than it means equality for men. It just means equality of opportunity under certain conditions. But for those born less gifted in terms of brawn, brains, or beauty-not to mention economic inheritance. – it means no equality at all  It merely means the status quo. The only equality we are born with, even in the most liberal of cultures, is spiritual equality. In material terms that means no equality at all.Can you imagine how wonderful it would be in our world if no one was suffering . Heaven and hell are not destinations in the hereafter. They are our lives, here and today. Imagine all the people(John Lennon)

Increasingly as I age I am disturbed by coming across homeless people in Vancouver and round the world. I can no longer separate my comfort from the discomfort of others. I am frustrated by our political priorities—by the realization that we have gone to the moon, built great bridge  and cathedrals and cities and yet still leave  part of our public family suffering in daily discomfort and deprivation. I hear people say “Most of them are on drugs” But wouldn’t most of us be on drugs to blot out such discrimination if it happened to us? Do we really think that these people enjoy being addicted, and sleeping outdoors and being hungry, desperate and freezing cold and wet? And even if benevolence wasn’t enough to urge us to ameliorate their conditions, surely our God Economics, who we worship so ardently, would motivate their succour! Poverty, addiction,desperation spell out petty crime and crime and policing it is intensely expensive—far more expensive than social programmes. But I rant. I rant!

Many years ago as |travelled I began torealise that I was meeting my teachers , Buddhas on the streets of Asia . To begin with as I talked with the locals I realized that  almost anyone who had a job of any description was supporting a relative—no matter how remote.Unlike in the west where theopposite was true it was a rarity to meet someone who kept his/her wage packet for their own disposal. This began a new awareness in me. I began to rcognize these people as my masters. I etched their behaviours indelibly in my memory. I who had never been able fully to accept he teachings of so called gurus or religions found my teaches among street people, the poverty stricken.My sense of culture shock became reversed. It was not he structures of Asian societies that now shocked me.. It was coming back to ours-in my case Canada. I remember many years ago going down to Vancouver’s notorious East \hastings area. I was just coming down from an L.S.D. high and was still highly sensitized.The streets were, as now, filled with drunks, addicts, the homeless, crazies.I had to wait as a drunk helped an even drunker friend safely across the street, supporting him protectively. The solicitude of these destitutes for each other’s safety amongst the whole ambience of desperation, despair and social neglect impacted me. Yet their unconquerable will to survive hit my sensitized psyche with such force that the incident is with me still as is its footnote telling me that I was normally culturally desensitized to such things—a voluntary blind man wrapped in a protective armour of conventional attitudes and value judgements. It was not a comfortable experience for me to realize how much I partook of cultural insensitivity.

Now I am back in the noise in old Bangkok, plagued by the snorting , snarling , sputtering  Tuk-Tuks that interrupt all conversations a hundred times. But the Tuk-Tuks are an integral part of Bangkok’s transportation of goods, produce, and people . Traffic may be slow at times in Bangkok but it is always faster than in Canadian cities because there is never any waiting. You just jump in the next Tuk-Tuk and haggle ferociously and you’re off.If it is rush hour and you are adventurous and in a hurry taxi motorcycles are the only traffic that move rapidly, weaving in and out of the vehicles and buses with inches to spare on each side and playing hell with road rules. Despite the noise, the atmospheric pollution, I love Bangkok.

I live opposite a market towards the end of a dead end street. If there is one thing that characterizes Thais it is their sense of ownership of the streets and sidewalks.. At about seven a.m.the sidewalks begin filling up with hundreds of stalls mostly selling food but also in some places, clothing and gee-gaws and knick-knacks ,souvenirs. Thais will not hesitate to invade street space with their  portable kitchens, roasting, boiling,deep frying,and sauteeing a thousand different and delicious snacks or full meals.The air is full of the haze of hundreds of habachis, made from old metal buckets lined with clay and the smoke carries the scent of the food to hungry nostrils.There is a kind of ongoing dynamic.Along very busy streets and bus routes the stalls have surrendered to motors. On less busy thoroughfares the stalls spill out into the roads. On the road on which I live the people have permanently claimed ten to twelve feet of road space with an assortment of plants in pots of every description, permanently parked vehicles, birds in cages,piles of recycled plastic , seats and tables outside stalls and restaurants and a myriad of  other statements of ownership. Parking meters? What parking meters? Bangkok has rejected the idea. The streets were built on public ground and belong to the people. Those thieving mechanism of rapacious local governments, parking meters, don’t exist and neither does the urgency and anxiety they generate. Nor does private enterprise collude with government in the scurrilous business of stealing people’s cars and then ransoming them back.  When the state steals how can we expect the individuals to be honest?

For three or four days I have sat around doing nothing, writing nothing. These tropical climates can really drain the creative juices.The warmth, the security, the easy carefree life can suck the ambition out of one like psychic dysentery. I am even acclimatizing to the insane noise level. I remember Tennyson’s magnificent poem The Lotus eaters, in which the addict-like lotus eaters plaint asks ‘”Why should we only work , who are the most of things?” They could, perhaps, have been monks.Love to you , dear world, Laurie.




One response

3 09 2009

Dear world I read with delight, Keep up the good work

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