Archive for July, 2012

Trisha and I are a Harlequin set. We match perfectly, in spite of our many obvious differences. I am tall, she is short, she is Asian, I am Caucasoid, she is very smart, me not so much…. we’re both golden blond and that shocks people who first encounter us.  What our hearts hold in common is too numerous to list. Despite our disparities we have managed to stay together for 24 years to accomplish all the things that people are supposed to do until they realize that  most of these things  have essentially been an unnecessary drag.

If I could turn back the clock to pick and choose what I would do over I would start by doing more of the happy things and far fewer of the other instances of nameless drudgery that people do when they think they are  ‘trying to do the right thing’. However, it hasn’t all been for nothing. We managed to retrieve our lives out of the fire-pits of ‘normalcy’ and  create an interesting and fulfilling lifestyle for ourselves and those we love dearly. The learning curve between our practical heaven and the past potentiality for sinking into the earth and sleepwalking until death has been steep.

Before meeting Trisha I had been an unrepentant traveler. I have written in the past that travel had saved my life. In time I had turned my love of travel into a very small business using Adam Smith’s model as expressed in his 1726 book ‘The Wealth of Nations’. I read this work when I was a young boy hiding in the city library  to stay warm during office hours as a respite to my life on the cold streets.I read prodigiously and survived the years that preceded my ability to obtain a passport.

Smith wrote “Take what is abundant and cheap and transport it to where it is considered rare and dear’. I took this sentence to heart and began to import the things I was discovering as I traveled, first to South America and then around the world back to Canada. By the time I met Trisha I was known as a guy who traveled the world full time to supply my boutique customers with exotic merchandise and was in fact a minor local celebrity among those who envied my lifestyle. Don’t forget that these were the days before guide books and backpacker travel hostels, international travel was still considered as ‘out there’.

Mixed race couples at the time were almost unheard of, but we fell hard for each other anyway. What she expected of me at first  I didn’t exactly know. I was wild and free and she was and is incredibly beautiful. We only knew that from the first moment we met that we had been together for thousands of years in previous lives past and worlds apart. We have been inseparable ever since. She had never left the country since her parents had brought her to Canada from Hong Kong as a child and I had a great deep seated fear of ever living on the streets again and couldn’t settle down.

A Hawaiian spirit that I had met as a teenager convinced me to take my bride  to Hawaii and get married on a cliff above the crashing waves on the Maui shore of the Ka’a na pali highland. In a Polynesian ceremony sung above the pounding surf, and with fragrant flowers strung through her hair, Trisha agreed to take another journey with me.

 

 

The muse of the media is powerful, educational, biased, destructive and informative. Every country has it’s message of nationalistic intent, a tribal psychology. Individuals fall prey to false messaging and the words of false prophets when the media is either limited by political voice or the intentional malice of a cabal or leadership clique. Good intentions can be muddied by the avarice of sabotage by those whose self- interests are at risk should the population move away from the status quo.

I hear from a lot of people who have regionally, nationally and geographically developed points of view. This was the way the world used to be, the way the leadership of dictators and the greedy fear might change with the oncoming world of free information over the internet and the medium of mass communication and social media. When I hear people speaking  the diatribe of a a particular leadership of religion or political ideology I know that theirs is a small world where spirit, worship, freedom and knowledge has been tightly regulated. I do not really like speaking to conformists, in this I am fortunate to live as a citizen of a civilization that worships freedom above all other ideologies.

When I travel I meet people of every race, colour and creed…of every ideology and religion. What I found extremely interesting when I first began to travel was how simple aspects of the geography had such an effect on the mindsets, cultures and principles of those people who lived there. A religion, race or creed could change by the simple act of trespassing over a mountain range or crossing a river valley. I was amazed that many of these people would harbor such deep traditional resentments against the people who lived ‘on the other side’.

I have lived for a short time with a tribe of Dyak who would hunt other tribes heads but had never seen a white man before. They knew all the power, witchcraft and evil of the tribe five miles downriver but showed an intense interest in my distant culture. On my first evening in the longhouse, they danced for me and sang their songs, the songs of their history and the forest life. They asked me to show them my dances, of course I had none to offer, they were amazed that white men don’t dance with the spirits.

But this is the modern age, the age of the internet and air travel. The world has gotten smaller. No thanks to guide books and easy credit.  I have been particularily sensitive to the messages bandied about by governments that are designed to separate people, as opposed to bringing us closer together. There are political movements and religious doctrines specifically designed to create hatred and animosity. I abhor nationalism, I have seen the results of fanaticism produced by national leaders.

I have a dear friend who is convinced that America and American’s are evil. I have heard the same stereotyping of races and nationals by people around the world, ‘what nonsense’. In some religions it is mandatory to hate the ‘outsider’, they have names for those who are not of their sect. Two of the world’s largest religions have at the heart of their ideology the specter of an end time where everyone currently living  has to die before any lasting peace can be achieved. I just don’t see how mutual mass destruction can be the solution to anything. A person would have to harbor a deep hatred for life in order to believe that.

Isolation, whether geographic, religious, social, fundamental, cultural, ideological, familial or tribal has bred ignorance and intolerance. In the past these evils were isolated by distance and geography. In the modern era these sects have escaped from their isolation to wreak havoc on the world, but this access cuts both ways. The message of freedoms enjoyed by the outside world will eventually have the effect of enlightening those ignorant and impoverished villagers and tribesmen who have been brainwashed by their tribal elders and religious leaders to think that the outside world is evil and profane . The violence of an ugly leadership and the tyranny of a sick and ignorant ideology has historically never been perpetuated when the isolation is exposed by the modern world. What we in the west think of as sending a ray of sunshine into the dark corners of isolation and ignorance, the religious and social leaders of those same centers of intellectual deprivation view as a rifle shot through the heart of the dominion over the hearts and minds of their populations and as such they fear and fight against any change that would supplant their self centered influence.

I want to think that the advent of tourism has been a positive outcome for the world at large. As we get to know each other personally we realize that people everywhere have similar wants, needs and desires. I am very hopeful for the people of ‘The Islamic Middle East’ as they have incrementally shed decades of spiritual isolation and dictatorship and that those countries open their doors wider to people from other parts of the world so that they may learn that great progress has taken place while they were suffering under the delusions of their leaders. It is my desire that those countries, so oppressed by a variety of dictatorships of the mind , spirit and body, will now develop into places where people no longer have to flee from in order to  live a decent peaceful life.

Someone said to me once, “When you’re as lazy as I am, you have to be very organized”. This came from a man who lived moment to moment, without a thought for tomorrow. In fact, as my life progressed along the same track, I realized that the actions taken to achieve simplicity were in fact quite complicated and multifaceted by nature and circumstance.

I have taken great care and attention in building a  superstructure which stands against the weather without walls so that the storms and tempests of life blow through without leaving behind any permanent damage and myself the  better person for the observation. My colloquial term for what I have done is to call what I have designed as a life plan a ‘fuck you resume’. It is the ability to walk away from any bother no matter what the origin.

This is the way I live. I make  no apologies. ‘Lose a job….no problem…go somewhere nice instead’……’market down……screw it…go somewhere nice until it picks up’……’life getting altogether too boring……take off and get some new perspective’. This is what I call the ‘fuck you resume’…I never let things get me down and always have a plan for the times when ‘shit happens’….it always does…..best deal with it in advance.

I’m reminded of a fellow traveler that I met at a desolate crossroads in high rural Peru , a place called the Alta Plano. I’d got off a ‘chicken bus’ after already having my bones shaken for 22 hours and decided to deplane while I could still walk. The man I met was already there, where he’d come from I had no idea, he was sitting on a crude bench outside the rough stone shack  serving as a way station and bus stop, sitting literally, in the middle of nowhere.

I got off the bus in this no mans land without a second thought because in my own estimation I was ready for anything. In my backpack I carried extra clothing for three climates, waterproof and otherwise, including footwear. I also carried cooking gear and a small gas stove, two sleeping bags, one sub zero rated and another tropical. In those days I never went anywhere without my US Army jungle surplus hammock with double bottom , mosquito netting and fourty feet of extra rope. BTW, it takes 45 minutes to boil water at 13,000 feet.

Leather jackets and boots would mildew at sea level and the arctic sleeping bags and cooking equipment were useless in the city, but I was ready…organized. The fact that I was weighed down by eighty pounds of gear and  a walking nightmare on the urban sidewalks,were not the things I  considered at the time.

So, as I stood there  considering the open landscape and getting my land legs back. I couldn’t help noticing that my fellow traveler was my antipodal opposite. He had on only a light cotton shirt and pants, sandals with socks and a single toothbrush jutting out of his breast pocket. I was impressed, I had planned for months to be where I was, he looked as if he had dropped out of the sky. The air was thin and the vagrant wind blew incessantly.

We spent the coming twilight talking about nothing in particular and sharing cigarettes to stay warm as the night shadows rose around us and the temperature fell like a stone. Inside the stone cottage our Andean hosts had built a central fire and offered a bland potato soup but otherwise left us entirely alone. Thick blankets were laid atop bundles of produce waiting to be be stowed on the next bus to the coast , the warm smoke kept the frost from forming. The several visiting Inca’s broke out a bundle of cocoa leaves and lime paste to share, the act of chewing kept my face from going numb.

My new friend told me that he had shed his possessions and had set out to wander wherever the daylight took him. I respected his philosophy and explained that I was long  lost to the world I had known and was comfortable with the careless path I had lain out for myself. He and I became kindred spirits and spent the night talking about life on the road. I concluded that we had arrived in the same place via different paths, both seeking freedom and simplicity.

In the morning my friend boarded the first bus bound for the lowlands while I waited until afternoon for my ride further into the interior. Later in life I reflected back to that chance meeting and wondered if I could go through my life without any encumbrance or possessions to tie me down or hold me back. I began to emulate that lonely traveler, his one tooth brush and single set of clothes.  I never did get a name or an address nor did I offer my own,  I slowly rid myself my the travelers ‘conveniences’ I had once found so necessary.  I travel today with only a single carry on bag of disposables.

I have begun to wonder if perhaps my friend was a spirit, a brujo of the Alta-Plano who came to meet a kindred wanderer and acolyte of the aimless world. It wouldn’t be the first time I had been visited by one of the other side. My Thai friends have fashioned an amulet for me, blessed by the powerful monk Luang Poh Too At,  to guard against the entrance of spirits into my world, because they say I am like an open door to the next world and that this openness I allow is not entirely safe. I don’t agree. I travel light as I pass through this world,  my spirit weighs nothing, nor does my tooth brush. And now that I think of it, my traveler friend did look a bit like Jesus. I can only wonder.

I appreciate simplicity. I don’t look for complications. Is it necessary to train, join , pay an entrance fee or tithe to understand synchronicity or the natural rhythm of the universe? I don’t think so. When I sit back and listen, all I hear is ‘la la la’, the echo trail of a mind at rest between the many worlds I occupy during the course of a day.

What do you hear when you stop thinking? If you stop moving, stop ‘doing’, what is the sound you hear when nothing else matters but you? It’s all about finding your bliss, and it is true that many people pay, tithe and train in an attempt to find that special place in the heart that brings inner peace, even if  only as a transitory anomaly in their lives. No one, no thing, no practice or place can bring you to bliss except you. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

I am fortunate to have found myself in tact and at perfect peace after drifting aimlessly on the endless ocean of life’s multitude of possible heavens and hell. Yes, I meant that, I think that there are many levels and interpretations of heaven unique in it’s manifestation for each and every individual, but hell needs no translation or interpretation, despair is the same in any  language. Heaven is a dream state, hell is temporal and physical.

La la la is the mindless state of happiness that occurs when bliss has met with your personal idyl of perfection. ‘La’ is the lexus nexus that sometimes takes the place of your ordinary train of thought. ‘La’ is the spontaneous moment when nothing else matters and you can revert back to a state of childlike simplicity and just appreciate what is happening in your life. Learn to appreciate ‘La’ no matter how fleeting, the effects are profound and long lasting, like a perfume of the highest quality, memorable.

The ‘La’ moment doesn’t have to be about you. It is about your being able to comprehend the nature and essence around you, whether it is technical or natural in origin. ‘La’ describes perfection in any person place or thing, you just happen to be in the right place, at the right time, and in the right state of mind to appreciate and wonder.

Pursue your bliss and perhaps find la la la when you least expect it, playing at your heartstrings.

Do you remember your first travel experience, the one when you were on your own for the first time? How fresh the world seemed, how challenging? Everything was new , you felt as if you were the first to discover the world outside your small universe. Those first days and weeks of independence danced and whirled in your head as you broke free of the confines that had bound you. It was your ‘rite of passage’, moment. The time when you discovered who you were….at long last.

Those first days are the memories that will stay with you for the rest of your  life. A psychologist would call them ‘flashbulb memories’. When an experience is reinforced with strong emotion it will dig itself into the long term memory with strings attached like a connecting webbing to the sensory minutia  present at the time of the event. You will remember the time of day, the smells in the air, the temperature, who and what was around you, everything, in exacting detail. A memory as perfect and as real as the instant it occurred, bliss.

Trisha and I have the good luck of being in places where we can observe and interact with newbie travelers. The first time fun and foibles of a virgin traveler show up as excitement in their eyes, a shortness of breath, an overly enthusiastic emotion at encountering the simplest things, in short they are like puppies in a basket, tumbling through the day. And of course they do the most adorable things. We wonder if we were ever that cute. We came across a young couple recently who made us laugh.

“The maids have been taking all our dishes”, they complained. ‘The Kids’ as we referred to them could not reconcile how it was that the stock of dishes supplied to their vacation apartment kitchenette was dwindling piece by piece everyday, until they were reduced to eating out of jars and packages with plastic forks and spoons. “We’ve got nothing left”, the young Aussie girl said, her eyes cloaked in suspicion. It was a mystery the first time travelers could not explain. The only explanation was that it must be ‘the maids stealing the silver’.

“Have you checked the dishwasher?” I suggested. The ‘kids’ locked eyes with a laser beam of instant recognition. “Oh shit”, the boy said. “Do we ever feel stupid”. Sure enough, the cleaners had been stacking the dirty dishes into the dishwasher that had most likely been found scattered throughout the suite. I can’t remember being 25, but this was funny, and cute. The embarrassment and elation will probably have been enough to reinforce that moment of ‘discovery’ and they will laugh until they’re old at the time ‘the maids were stealing all the dishes’.

 

 

I was thinking about D.H. Lawrence this morning, how he succumbed psychologically, psychically and finally physically to the effects of immersion in an alien culture. (Now if that’s not an implied alliteration, I don’t know what is.) Carl Jung has described this state of travelers experiencing an altered reality as ‘Tropo’, or, the effect of a foreign culture on the mind of a person of the western civilization.

We saw this character played out in extremis on the big screen by Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in the role  of  Joseph Conrads character in the novel ‘Heart of Darkness’ in the Vietnam epic  ‘Apocalypse Now’….”The horror..The horror’.

Thinking about Lawrences books’ ‘Mornings in Mexico’ and ‘The Plumed Serpent’ while sitting outside on this rapidly warming Texas morning with Spanish speaking ladies swirling around as they serve ‘huevo’s revuelto’s’ and ‘cafe con leche’ I understand how a staid 19th century Englishman traveler like Lawrence had his mind blown in slow increments, and in the end lose his mind in between the two worlds and in wracking amoebic dysentery.

‘You can’t go back’ , is a quotation we often hear, when trying to describe having experienced something so profound that that experience has changed the meaning of life. That person, once affected, is never the same again. I know this from having observed people whom I have known after having gone out into the world and have come back into the fold  appearing to have experienced a kind of ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’.

In past comments I have used the analogy of the common accountant who returns to work in dreadlocks and newly inked ‘tribal tattoo’s, as if the latitude of pseudo-primitive drumming sessions and nights of ganja on the Jamaican beach became stuck against the modern backdrop in his sub-conscious and sent his mind reeling into a previously unrealized space and time, in fact I have witnessed the extremes as well. The newly primitive accountant sometimes gets better after a few days in his own bed…but occasionally remains lost in that DH Lawrence state of ‘other-consciousness’.

Many travelers bring home memento’s and souvenirs to trigger and key back the lost state of higher consciousness that they may have experienced while on vacation. I am guilty of this, entire industries are built upon the act of psychological compliance to the mystery of compelling altered states to reappear on a cold dark Euro- morning. For me, it is refrigerator magnets.

These innocuous magnetic photographs are a map of my historic attachment to the past mind and constant reminder  that I have the ability and wherewithal to make the world go away should I require.The mini-vacations I experience every time I go ‘to the box’ for a snack or milk in my coffee have a way of lightening my load throughout the day. This ability to alter my reality and shift through time and space is quite extraordinary.

Like Lawrence and Conrad, I am too far gone to ever go back. I don’t have a clue what I’d be returning to. Would it be possible to reverse course and begin a journey of a million miles by retracing my steps backwards through time? Would anyone want to do that. If you had the chance to live your life over again, would you want to? I will decide as of this moment that today is the final resting place of my yesterday. I must run to catch up with tomorrow.

I love living in a place where the sun shines every day. My mind is at rest, my body feels great, my tan is cooling me down and for some reason my skin becomes smooth and silky to the touch. Even the usually dark hair on my arms and legs changes to a bright blonde.

I don’t know…could I be transcendent when touched by the sun, a shape shifter powered by light? Life in the tropics has always appealed to me both on a physical and spiritual level, so that the metaphysical becomes clear to me. Is it the quality of light that has been my magic key to a spiritual awakening?

I grew up rough and ‘out of doors’ on the cold streets of urban Canada. A chance landing under bizarre, almost otherworldly circumstances, in the presence of some very strange people, whom I have often suspected of not being human at all, in Hawaii, when I was 13 changed my life.

I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The freakish transition, as if I’d been lifted out of misery by the hand of another power and transported to the promised land,  started me along my lifelong belief that I have a spirit companion.

It could be that I had been born to demons from whom I escaped and a guardian angel took pity on me, saving me for something else, the entire rationale of my life has never been clear to me and I await an explanation. I know that by having been raised by wolves I have the wolf inside me still because I hear him howl in my dreams. I lash out against the force of evil that escapes while I sail through the mystic world of sleep, the violence often awakens me and I feel the distress of that touch on my soul.

Fortunately, my spirit keeper  introduced me to the rest of the world by granting me the respite of the traveler, to wander in bliss, away from the dark influences I had known when I was young. As I have written in the past ‘traveling saved my life’. I think the first time I saw a flowering tree, the blue clear water and that staggering blanket of green out of an aircraft window I knew I had been rescued.

My first  tropical awakening caused me to shed my clothes, the rags of the street urchin, to become a naked supplicant. I left my precious belongings behind me in a heap. The coats, boots and heavy jeans useless to me. I first knew the baptism of the sun, the kiss of the ocean waves and being wrapped in a blanket of warm sand. I remember that moment, I had never felt so loved, so free and finally… human.

 

( to be cont’d)