Bali: in search of a civilized world

November 30, 2021 0 Comments

Trust your instincts. Trust your friends. These pearls of wisdom guided me safely to the island of Bali. Back in Santa Fe, as I reflected on these chaotic times of the world, I wondered if there is a place where people could choose harmony over conflict. Traveling to Bali presented a portal, not abstract like John Malkovich’s brain, but a direct link to the answer to my question.

Tonight, a typical warm afternoon in Bali, I stood outside naked to the waist, arms outstretched, in perfect alignment with the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross. I felt the universal harmonic chord resonate in perfect pitch. To the south, the sounds of waving farm animals and the joyous chatter of the Balinese family preparing dinner balanced perfectly with the northern sounds of waves dragging fishing boats out to sea. The promotion of fear and hatred by the governments of the United States and other Western governments had not penetrated this landscape or culture. The Bali bombing, carried out by a few Javanese extremists, had not poisoned the well of generosity and kindness that flowed naturally from the Balinese.

At the beginning of my travels, in an internet room in Pdangbai, I had a fascinating conversation with my Balinese counterpart. He was also an observer of humanity.

In his forties, he talked about his early years as a farmer in the rice fields. Contemporary interests from the western world brought lucrative property values, so his family decided to sell the farm. To keep in touch with land and sea, he operates several fishing boats and enjoys doing his own fishing, as well as tending his own garden.

As we continued our conversation, I realized that this man possessed a deep understanding of man’s behavior, whether they were members of the Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, or Judeo-Christian communities. He distinguished people as rational or irrational.

Today, he said, most Westerners and Asians still have trouble understanding each other’s cultures. The Balinese do not understand the logic behind the mutual animosity of Westerners and Muslims. Balinese spiritual philosophy determines that if there is a conflict between two parties, both parties are to blame. What a refreshing and thoughtful outlook on life, I thought.

Although my American upbringing seemed to emphasize “power does the right thing,” I instinctively felt that there must be a more peaceful way to alleviate aggression and potential conflict. My own philosophy of tolerance included a mixture of good Christian and Buddhist values ​​combined with the wise wisdom of contemporary writers and Hollywood scripts.

I admire Kurt Vonnegut’s redefined version of “love your neighbor”; Understanding the realistic difficulties of loving all kinds of neighbor, Vonnegut suggests a more moderate approach, choosing to respect or be indifferent, thereby minimizing conflict. This view certainly helps me mitigate road rage as I drive down Cerrillos Road.

A Bill Murray character suggests viewing those individuals who demonstrate social interaction problems as “temporarily disconnected.”

In the town of Ubud, a Swiss guy named George introduced me to a gentleman highly revered by the Balinese as a spiritual leader. While chatting over a civilized cup of tea, Adipati spoke about the influence of his father, the general, who convinced him to lead a life of conflict as a warrior, a hired gunman exploited by the Suharto government to annihilate the people of East Timor. . Today, this decision still caused him great pain because he knew that his hands were stained with blood. Fortunately, his grandfather had saved his soul by reintroducing him to his spiritual roots. Many years later, her current spiritual path and good role model status had earned her respect among the youth of Ubud.

Adipati was concerned that many young Balinese would be corrupted by the spoils of tourist dollars. This current economic downturn gave the Balinese time to reflect and return to their spirituality. However, the recession also produced idle hands, hands that used to work in the fields or do creative jobs. He said that the Balinese pray all the time but still have corrupt thoughts. He did his best to provide a positive influence.

As we talked, I recalled an earlier encounter with a young rice farmer I met while walking down the road to Tirtagangga, a picturesque town in the quiet eastern shadow of Mount Agung. He expressed his bewilderment regarding young Australian travelers seeking pleasure only through loud, raucous and drunken activities when their surroundings offer peaceful pleasures such as star gazing, firefly watching, and listening to crickets and frogs gathering in neighboring rice paddies. I said that I also enjoyed simple pleasures. His expressive satisfaction was reminiscent of a smile I’ve seen on the face of a New Mexico organic farmer I know.

In Tirtigangga, the rice field farmers are great practitioners of what I call the philosophy of “weedism,” or the discovery of one’s humility and sense of nirvana through efforts to till the land. They quickly put me to work clearing out the weeds in preparation for the next planting. Working on the Champs Elysees was good for body and soul.

Adipati continued, explaining Hindu / Buddhist philosophy. Balinese Hinduism does not have the strict structure of the caste system as in India. The caste system you belong to is determined solely by your bloodline, not wealth. However, his caste status has little authority today, except in regards to certain roles within the temple. One’s stature in the community is now measured by a variety of dissociated roles from their caste, including their role within the local farmers cooperative and other trade-related authorities.

The host of my previous hotel exemplified such a prominent man, a leader in both his Ubud community and his family’s head of household. As a reluctant hero, the townspeople had recently elected him mayor, a role he lightly observed carried many responsibilities.

The Balinese also have a universal understanding of the dualities of life and the balances of Nature … yin and yang, light and dark, birth and death … all the cycles of life that are in constant movement, in constant evolution.

According to Hindu / Buddhist teachings, one’s actions were held accountable for his karma, a belief that seemed to provide a solid moral foundation.

George came back to join our conversation. George got caught up in a melodrama of his own making and asked for our advice. A dispute had developed between him and a gentleman from the Dominican Republic. For the past few nights, like two joking roosters, they had been using an innocent woman as a mere excuse to act out their darkest inner conflicts in the bars and streets of Ubud. Both were men of idle hands, George found a fleeting fortune through “easy” deals and the Dominican through inheritance. George admitted that he knew better, he had known how to love a good woman and a short honest job as a milkman delivering milk with poetic notes; however, he repeatedly chose the darkest exciting path to see where it led.

George, though older than us, became our son, who respected our opinions and sought our fatherly advice.

What do I say? I thought. What would Jesus do? What would Buddha do? Or, really, what would Emerson, Vonnegut, Bill Murray or Monty Python say? We do not tolerate George’s actions. We tried to dissuade George, asking him to transcend the excitement of this useless melodrama, because its outcome could only lead to pain. Despite our advice, George followed the darkest path.

The next morning, I heard that the Dominican in a drunken confrontation had stabbed George. Fortunately, I heard that the wound was only superficial and that George would be discharged from the hospital soon. The “buzz” in the community was astonishingly nonchalant, with no ill will, just relief that the influence of the two foreigners’ bad karma finally disappeared from their lives. Vonnegut and Buddha had joined.

Looking back at that temperate afternoon sky, I realized that my hands were still attached to the two twinkling polar constellations. It is time to reflect. Hopefully George had learned a valuable lesson. Our paths can largely depend on our choices. I thought of Bill Murray’s Razors Edge character saying “Isn’t it easier to be a wise man on top of a mountain?” Obviously, the real test is where you get your hands dirty, in men’s society.

As life progresses, the rice farmer and the fisherman, like the slow and persistent turtle … will probably win the race.

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