On the Water

Living on the water, the air and sea are articulate with wonder. There’s an entire spectrum of birds that promote this feeling. The loons swim together in charmed circles in front of our boat while the heron stands solitary and silent on a rock submerged near the shore; and the eagle with his sharp look rides the last avalanche of light above the pines and then veers on the blade of its wings and plummets for his catch into the waves below. The dock is the marine equivalent of a tiny rainforest, full to bursting with life, a polychrome feast of life and color; in every crack or crevice waft the cilia of anenomes and the slow opening and closing mouths of mussels and clams. This structure rocks and sways under the press of the tides, the current and the swells. If it weren’t for all the yachts and sailboats I’d feel like I’d stumbled out of a diorama at a sea world exhibition, probably one teaching schoolchildren about the disappearing wonders of our planet.

Could I teach such a class? I don’t think so. There’s so much history behind creation, big, hairy-chested million year history. I think it might be a spirit-slapping, soul-sapping experience. Baby boomer parents have tried to insulate their kids from hardships and discomforts and we’ve ended up with greater class divisions in society, a disappearing ozone and economic meltdowns. The boomer generation, with its immaturity at having to grow up, is to blame that our kids have taken egoism to a new level. Is economic growth the cause of our ecological crisis? Do we even care enough to investigate? I think we find ecological stewardship difficult, even boring. That’s because our world view as westerners consists of humans standing above, or outside, the rest of creation. We are separate subjects acting upon separate objects, but to be inside the circle is to be of the circle, an integral part of the whole. Inside the circle, the subject-object division dissolves. Ancient society used language as windows into the old ways of thinking and knowing, and theirs was a non-egoism attachment, because they realized that we were far more interconnected with the rest of life than we moderns typically imagine.

one of the West’s key assumption in education is that each child is a separate individual and that it is important to develop the ego of the child. This includes the idea that thinking occurs in separation from others, that we are a separate self that then projects our individual awareness upon the world. But a child’s initial sense of self comes from a feeling of being alive in the universe, a kind of sensuous immersion. I think it’s similar to the kind of rush a person feels skimming over the surface of the water in a kayak – a tremendous sense of release is experienced when a person no longer feels his controlling ego. As adults we are more jaded and our ration minds put a distance between ourselves and the experience of phenomena. What does this do to the child’s development of language?

Our lineal view of time has pulled us out of the circular flow of the cosmos.. it’s baked into our language which is why English is full of nouns……nouns imply a solid, stationery world. We have trouble expressing the flow of nature; it causes us to simplify reality, it’s something made up of separate objects while everything in between is just ‘space’, a frozen picture of the world. We don’t really understand old and ancient world cultures which originally had no linear view of time, we dismiss them as primitive or mythical even though they are suited to harmonizing and synchronizing with the unfolding changes of nature. Technology gives us partial knowledge. We’ve become dependent upon ‘googling’ knowledge to the exclusion of opening ourselves up to nature. We identify with our thoughts too much – it leaves us feeling isolated and alone. In ancient societies the identification of self was tribal, not individual……perhaps we need to allow for the mysterious in life to augment our moment-to-moment awareness.

In indigenous languages changes in nature are expressions of a cyclical phase of becoming rather than events occurring on a linear timeline: everything is connected in the former and repetition is not so tedious. Repetition is part of nature’s way of unfolding the whole. But we are impatient with repetition. Stewardship of the land and of the waters is difficult because we loathe repetition and lose interest in those activities that demand it. We experience ‘wonder’ and a blanket of rationality covers it over quickly, or explains away our direct perception. For us, native atrocities are over, but for native peoples they still reverberate, held in the vibrations of the land itself. The same belief – that time is a circle, not a line – is prevalent among Asian peoples……the circle of life repeats, or evolves, or unrolls, into a spiral, like the structure of DNA.

The cataclysms that scientists warned us about happening in a century or two are happening now – destructive droughts, superstorms, melting glaciers and disappearing species. Certain names will go down in infamy, like the oil and gas executives who continue to exhume fossil fuels from the earth as the planet grows hotter by the year. But, fortunately for the future of life on the planet, there’s a type of activity at work today – in the streets, in the classrooms, in the courtrooms – in which wisdom is being used. This wisdom, in the service of life, must continue to grow. It’s our only hope.

 

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Supercalafragilistic

I have finally released the death grip I had on my iPad and the color is returning to my cheeks – I finished all 8 seasons of Game of Thrones. What interested me most – and I neither read nor watch a lot of fantasy – was his created language; much like Tolkien created Elvish and Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings, George R.R. Martin created Dothraki and Valeryian for GoT. We can cite other writers who have done this as well, Orwell for example in 1984, and Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale, both dystopian works about the horrors of a totalitarian government. Fantasy stretches our perception of reality and often involves the incredible. Martin’s characters have qualities beyond the ordinary, everyday or commonsensical, and each episode, each character, and each detail is saturated with the world of his fiction. His language, or languages, are meant to embody that world rather than make a statement. He alternates the mixing of the realistic, the fictional and the fantastic in dizzying patterns, and his invented languages helps to extend meaning.

It’s my belief that GoT reflects our current world better than say, The Lord of the Rings. In GoT the viewer sees a vast and complex array of different characters who, for their in-your-face grittiness and honesty, are consistent and believable. Their languages and dialects reflect how they perceive the world. The Dothraki language adds flavour and credibility to the script – Peterson, who was hired to invent the language for the screen – uses fricative ‘kh’ sounds that underscore the harshness of life in the Seven Kingdoms. ( Although his mother and grandmother are Mexican, I hear more of an Arabic tone when the language is spoken, in spite of what he says about using Spanish, rather than an inflectional sound heard in Latin, Spanish and Portuguese. ) Peterson has a website, conlang.org., where he and other interested readers speak Dothraki. There exists an LCS ( Language Creation Society ) for the promotion of art, craft and science of language creation, and these conlangers as they call themselves are busy constructing their grammar and syntax to help make a certain group believable by reflecting their culture.

The scenes stay with you in GoT because each character has his own unique ‘voice’. The ‘voice’ is essential: the audience is its hearer. If you had to choose an appropriate ‘voice’ for an object in a child’s movie, what sort of voice would you give a fork? A female voice? ( because its aim is to sound unique, like a Nemo ). And what about the fork’s attributes? Would they involve being beautiful, elegant, slender? What about cars? Or would it depend on the type of car? And if an English speaker feels sorry for those of us who, in learning a Romance language, are shackled with the heavy load of an irrational gender system, then think again. Because the landscape of French and Spanish and Italian is much more fertile than the arid desert of “its”, in English. How tedious it would be, in Spanish anyway, if bees weren’t ‘she’s’ and cars weren’t ‘he’s’!

Anyway, I digress. The use of stolen or borrowed words and cliches do much to promote the realness of the invented languages and modern English as we know it to be. Slang and curse words mimic what happens in the real world too. Language is instantly inventive because so is the human mind. If there’s a need for a word, it will be coined. English had no language to deal with quantum mechanics when Shakespeare was writing! Good English is whatever is popular. ‘A Lannister always pays his debts’ is a refrain running through Martin’s production, often to comic effect; and the main character in A Handmaid’s Tale is whipped for using the word ‘gay’ – the term in Atwood’s dystopian world has been replaced by ‘gender treachery.’

Martin invents fun words for people and places: Dragonstone, Littlefinger, Halfman, Kingslayer, and they express a good deal regarding what or who they are meant to convey. These are just a few of the ways Martin’s fantasy characters have been taken out of the two-dimensional realm of black and white where fantasy once existed and catapulted, kicking and screaming and swearing, into a land of believable characters and incredible situations. We see fantasy in the hands of a master, who treats the incredible as almost natural.

He has truly elevated the genre.

A Taste of Things to Come

If I could pin down the exact moment when I realized I might not be given the best-grandma-of-the-year award, it may have been during my last Monopoly game with Devin. We were playing the game in Spanish – we live in Mexico – and we were playing it on my sofa which is large, like the size of a bouncy castle. And Devin had no qualms about using it as such. The trampoline in the back yard saw less exercise. Anyway, Devin is my 9 year old grandson and he loves Monopoly. It presented a bit of a linguistic hinterland to others who didn’t know the language, but to Devin it was easy enough to manoeuvre his way around the board, read the cards and perform the tasks. And indeed this particular day, that stands out in remarkable clarity, Devin was winning; and as I sat there on my spacious couch, feeling like my legs and hand were leaking precious life force and fatigue changing parts of my brain, I was being asked to move directly to jail. A la carcel. Do not pass Go.

“Wait!’ I barked, shocked into action. It was a tone that could have stopped the neighbors in mid-bray. Or the traffic embroiled in its usual pinball frenzy. Meanwhile Devin passed Go with admirable nonchalance and rolled the dice again. “Go”, the perfect word, I mused, for a nation transfixed by speed. Then I came back to reality, and if the moment had been filmed the camera would have careened towards my face as I slapped palm to cheek in a wide-eyed, round-mouthed, spirit-sapping demonstration of shock. Sweat was being forced out with no previous history of perspiration. A solemn silence fell over me as I realized Devin, in his run of “Fortuna”, had won.
Devin got so good with his math that he could deliver change in less time than it took to shout “órale guey!”

Monopoly exerted a terrible hold on us as kids. It made us baby boomers feel grown up, making deals, getting arrested, paying taxes, forcing our opponents down onto their knees. We played it in tree houses, backyards, basements and attics, anywhere we could witness the financial annihilation of our beloved friends and family members. Now kids have some serious games, it seems. In today’s hyper-evolving Information Age some of us oldsters labor to adapt. Technology is not inherently good or bad … games replace boredom with joy and having fun. As long as they don’t dumb-down a whole generation of children! ( I have to be careful I don’t get too ’judgy’ … sometimes I sense being so out of step with current trends that I feel like I just stumbled out of a diorama at the museum of natural history. ) I think the boomer generation needs to evolve in its roles as parents and grandparents and adopt a less-is-more, fade-to-grey parenting style. Its role should become, if not obsolete, then at least lovingly marginalized. If human relationships are suffering as a result of smartphones and tablets as some current studies seem to suggest, how are they going to withstand the tide of immersive virtual reality experiences? Many of us are addicted. But then any experience can be addictive as long as it soothes distress. A viewer can easily watch 3 or 4 episodes at a time on Netflix because the cliff-hanger drives the thrill and enables the binge-watching. Maybe it’s not that we lack will power; maybe there are thousands on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulations we have. Product designers are smart! They know how to encourage us to use their products over and over again.

Human beings nowadays are trying to maximize lifespans, happiness and power. But what happens when we realize we aren’t really making free choices any more because technology has outsmarted our ability to calculate, understand and manipulate human experiences? What happens when they become just so many designable products? They say that when virtual reality matures, it will enable us to spend our time in any location doing whatever we like for as long as we like. Why then live in the real world with flawed people when you can live in a perfect world that feels just as real? When genetic engineering and AI reveal their true potential, democracy and free markets might become as obsolete as flint knives and tape cassettes. I mean, what will happen to us when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves? We need to do all that we can to become imaginative about our future, focus on the right things and bathe in the awareness of a much wider spectrum of options because somehow I think this is just a taste of things to come.

Terry Fox

Here I was again, a Terry Fox fan seeking to emulate my hero – another September 17th Terry Fox Run had arrived. I bullied my Mariners fold-up bike into the trunk of my car, and on the seventh violent attempt I slammed it shut. I was cycling today with my daughter and her two kids. In a triumph of determination over coordination I tore my wee bike out of the trunk once I’d arrived at their place and met my family with as big a smile as I could muster. Was my bike even roadworthy? I’d soon find out.

My grand-daughter was ready on her little pink bike emblazoned with Cinderella and decorated with pink streamers; my daughter was ready with hers – a new bike, her tires as thin as hoola hoops – she sat high in the saddle; my grandson was likewise perched high with a give-no-quarter competitiveness about him …. and then there was me, with a pedal that wouldn’t stay horizontal and a chain that slipped off as soon as I began to wobble gingerly out of the driveway.

Even when we got to the park my grand-daughter was still hopping up and down on the seat’s diminutive surface. Everybody there was suited up – runners, walkers, cyclists – and a woman was speaking inaudibly through a ‘loudspeaker’. Most people, considering it was a national event, were models of restraint. The street outside the park was thronged with weather-resistant families and ‘encouragers’ in green t-shirts who had volunteered to show us the route. There were the runners, some poseurs with wraparound shades and expensive attire among them, stretching and chatting in low, discreet tones….but soon they were off! I followed my daughter to the registration sign-up table where I reluctantly donated a sum of money. Never mind, I thought, I could do far worse today than align myself with my plucky little family, especially a seven year old girl on a pink bestreamered bicycle! Nose to the handlebars and skinny little thighs pushing the pedals, that wee road warrior was off through the rainforest. There we went down a wide path enhanced by low-hanging cedar branches plus kids and parents wearing weird disguises and herding excitable dogs – what’s not to like? The path eventually thinned out and led to the road, and still those pistoning young knees kept going. “Was ‘Fox’ Terry’s nickname?” she wanted to know. We were going downhill at this point – here it was fast enough to get a breeze going down your front and hold a conversation….but I was getting a trifle annoyed at my clodhopping bike with no gears. I hoped the event would end before my ankles melted. Here was pain with no gain. Whoever it was who said that it was better to travel than arrive had never tried a Terry Fox Run in a second-hand Mariners bike.

Back at the park we were ‘treated’ to pancakes by the Lions Club. And my grand-daughter was still in a good mood! There’d been no “can I have a rest now?” In fact, she’d succeeded in the ultimate sporting event of her life! The runners returned – I’m sure there had been some glittering cameo performances among them, but this is Canada and a new venue and there had been no hype.

Weighed down with the heavy pancakes but uplifted by the morning sun we made our way home, many of my thoughts circling around Terry Fox and cancer. I especially thought about Terry’s on-the-road coverage during his Marathon of Hope and his gutsiness. The chasm between the vibrant morning I’d had with my kids and the worrisome future I faced yawned hugely before me, because I’ve just had cancer. It’s a remorseless creature determined to grow bigger, greedily using up more and more of our most precious resource: energy. It’s on a quest to colonize, dominate and bend the body’s cells to its perverted will. As mankind is damaging the life-support systems of the planet, so cancer kills and destroys the body. It respects no boundaries, no natural laws; and when powerful outside forces invade the body on a mission to kill it off, it changes just enough to outwit them. And like cancer cells we somehow believe we can by-pass natural laws. Scientists are warning us that if we keep indulging in destructive practices the planet will become inhospitable to us in mere decades, like the parasite killing its host.

Anyway, I’m heading back to my daughter’s, hoping she’ll make me a double espresso, part of a balanced cycling diet. And I thank God for perfect cycling conditions and benign gradients in the roads and pathways, all this before the chocolate-coloured clouds roll in.

Impeccable

My husband and I live in two different places, Sidney B.C. on Vancouver Island and Barra de Navidad in México. Both have one thing in common; they’re both seaside towns on the Pacific. Ok, make that two.

We’ve spent months working on our boat “Impeccable” with some of our family rescuing us with brush and scraper. We’re presently situated in one of Sidney’s many marinas, flanked by “Four Sheets” on one side and “Armed and Hammered” on the other. I’ve come to realize that not only is Impeccable’s name a bit of a curse but that everybody’s boat in the marina is in constant need of wiping and washing and polishing, and in our boat just recently we’ve had to eliminate soot on the floors and decks from a failing stove, fix a motor on the tender, and lay a floor in the salon. But in spite of the messy Canadian geese that live here and the ‘beach’ or mud flats strewn with man-made detritus instead of sand, I’d far rather live in this watery world than in downtown Victoria. We lived in Oak Bay a few months while Impeccable was undergoing some significant changes and it was ….. different. Oak Bay is a refined, highbrow Victorian community, separated from the rest of Victoria by The Tweed Curtain. Near the water McMansions reside. Oak Bay has an annual Tea Party. Even the deer are citified. And if people scurrying along the sidewalk seem grumpy, maybe it’s because they are….well, feeling unseasonably warm, or Victorian. But you’d gladly pull up a deck chair here on Impeccable – this marina where most people know each other is a ‘community’, or at least the booklet on our moorage licence agreement states that it is. Give me this horseshoe sweep of ‘sand’ bestrewn with big barnacled rocks and lots of seaweed, or, better still, the tropical beaches of Mexico with their thunderous, earth-shaking waves than live in Victoria in some stark new place and feel frowned upon by some towering eyesore. Bring-out-your-dead beaches or not. I also think the place suffers from generational apartheid. In contrast, children in Mexico are taught to respect the “venerables.”

Most of all though Victoria like any other Canadian or American city represents McWorld. My kids think Victoria is the greatest place to be and when I ask them ‘why’ they tell me Victoria has four seasons. But Canada has only two: Winter and Not Winter. ( Canadians are fascinated with “cold” and “hot” and an eternal debate revolves around the weather. ) Their favorite go-to place in the winter, the grandchildren mostly, is the shopping mall. Here the boys can eat junk food and play in the arcades and the women can shop. The mall is the neighbourhood and here they sell anything you need and everything you want. The guys can enjoy high-tech virtual reality with the speed of light that defines the interactions of cyberspace; and the women, in quest of a catalyst for their restlessness, can indulge in impulse buying. Winter is long here in the Great White North, even in Victoria. But the technology of McWorld can help pass the time and it serves a purpose coming home from a busy day at work or school – one can groove on the anonymity of cyberspace and get temporarily lost in unreality. McWorld is about culture as commodity. Malls are the public squares of this age; in Mexico it’s the zócalo where Mexicans practice a few dances and sell a few ponchos.

I can almost smell the love, taste the real heat and feel the humidity of sweet little Barra de Navidad! Just a little more than one more month to go. Here on the water though I think it’s going to be another socks-on-in-bed night….it’s getting chillier. (I’m not like this generation of young people who weather the storm and go out in it with a ball cap and a grin. ) My husband and I have relearned the lost native skills of taking the rough with the smooth lately in our sacrifices over Impeccable and hopefully it will serve some good during our time in Mexico. We gringos live in a small town with Mexican neighbors and the dilemma is this: those elements in life yielding the highest degree of intimacy , membership and solidarity are those rooted in communal ties of the sort that arise out of blood, narrow belief and hierarchy: the ostrasization of outsiders.

McWorld is at least partly absent where we live in Mexico. Barra is a garden that has not yet completely been paved over or chartered into commercial wrack and ruin. Each bell-toned morning I give thanks for that. All we want is a free space in which it is possible to not only live as consumers but as citizens as well.

That floats my boat.

On Boredom, Truth and Infoliteracy

Technology is making my nightmares as a grandparent come true because few things exert a more powerful pull on my grandchildren than their IGadgets. And I have 7 grandchildren! I want to be important to them but alas…let’s face it, they’d often rather be narcoticized by technological diversions. Their IPads, smartphones and X boxes have a monopoly on their attention and intellect, especially so with the oldest 14 year old.

I’m fascinated with this kid and proud of him, but I’ve also been worried for years about his all consuming love affair with electronics. Like most kids these days he uses the word “Boredom” like a weapon – it’s designed to disturb the parent. Boredom is something to be avoided at all costs, and without electronics life is just plain boring. Is it the parent’s fault then? There are few chores he needs to perform, and whatever work needs to be done can be overlooked in the hazy days of summer. Like any adolescent he ignores what his parent thinks because he’s spellbound by his own ideas. Maybe we as adults are partly to blame – we live in a culture of overprotection and excessive control, kids too who live in a world of car seats until they’re a ludicrous age, liability waivers at school for every little thing, knee pads and helmets, Day-Glo vests and no peanut-butter or juice-box schools. The world is safe, and neutral. Or boring even. And just maybe we’ve spoiled them. If our grandson ever steps out it’s to go to the mall where he buys at Starbucks, where customers, incidently, all have their heads buried in their laptops.

This boy is detached from his surroundings – a dirty breakfast table, for example – but he’s busy in his mind. He is analytical and devoted to logic, and he has an abhorrence of contradiction. School to him is a boring place even though there’s little that has to be studied, memorized, and worst of all, endured. The value of the issues in his education seem to involve a novelty; an interest, however fleeting, and a curiosity – like the subject matter that finds its way to his gadgets, they offer fascination, but not complexity. He can’t stand poetry and especially Shakespeare – nowadays, he says, people just need ‘plain language.’ Words have very little to recommend themselves except as carriers of meaning….if a sentence refuses to issue forth a quick answer or explanation it means nothing. Hopefully later in school he will learn to follow a line of thought that requires the ability to classify, reason, weigh ideas, make inferences, detect abuses of logic and common sense, and compare and contrast assertions. Because the information coming to him via the Internet is like a collection of disconnected facts, a ‘Trivial Pursuit’ style of delivery, with no use of complex language: resources like irony and metaphor and paradox; and with no connection between past and future it acts as a kind of dismemberment of reality.

Huxley’s vision in his books involved people coming to love their oppression and adore the technology undermining their capacity to think. Man has an infinite appetite for distraction and they spell a transformation of our way of thinking. Another very precious grandson of ours loves his Xbox, so much so that he can’t stop thinking, focussing, trying and eventually getting said Xbox. Don’t ask a 2 year old with his eyes on the cookie jar the difference between “need” and “desire” because he can’t tell you; and we don’t ask this kid the difference between “have to” and “want to” when he’s in pursuit of his xbox, in the chase-down, the foretaste of getting. You can sure see the joy on his face when he gets it! For a while Boredom is transcended. Until he’s practically forced to quit.

We take arms against a sea of troubles but who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? The problem with the people in “Brave New World” was that they didn’t know why they had stopped thinking.

“If I found it online it must be true” is not the kind of thinking we want to foster in our kids. Science and history are full of things we knew, or thought we knew, until we discovered that we were wrong. The idea of truth is closely linked to the biases of forms of expression – truth must appear in its proper clothing or be ignored. The power of a word, a phrase, a character ( a Shakespearean character! Yes, technology attacks liberate culture.. ) is invested with meaning and a variety of attitudes, but whatever its original meaning and limited context have been, technology has the power to fly beyond the context into new and unexpected ones. It directs and organizes our minds; it imposes itself on our consciousness in many forms, in other words, it’s relevant to the way we regulate our ideas of truth. Technology alters the way we experience the world: like a camera it classifies it for us, sequences it, frames it, enlarges or reduces it, colours it and argues a case for what it’s like.

Is there a moral bias to each information form? Because much of what we read or hear should raise our suspicions. Misinformation propagates as one person passes it to another, as Twitter, Facebook, Snapshot and other social media grab hold of it and spread it around the world. What kind of information best fascilitates thinking? What does it mean to say there is too much information? Do electronic devices give us new definitions to words (‘privacy’, for example ), or characters ( Macbeth, for example ), or countries ( Iraq, say )? Some experts in “A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age” say that credibility has replaced reality as the test of truth- telling. That’s not too surprising when subject matter is presented as entertainment. Maybe just to ask the questions is to break the spell. What we have is a world of information co-habiting with a world of misinformation: figuring out which is true can be a daunting task even if you aren’t a teenager. Check the sources, they say, and avoid the gullibility of accepting every claim.

It ain’t what you don’t know
that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure
that just ain’t so.

Mark Twain

Journey to San Miguel

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination. John Lennon

Be who you are
And say what you feel,
Because those who mind don’t matter
And those who matter don’t mind. Dr. Seuss

Canadian writer Farley Mowatt dreamed of studying wolves in the wilds of Alaska, and his book “Never Cry Wolf” is based on his research expedition. The film version’s character is a bookworm named Tyler who has never even gone camping. He hires a crazy Alaskan bush pilot called Little to take him and his equipment to a remote valley in the dead of winter. Flying over the most rugged and dangerous wilderness in the world in his small single-engined Cessna, Little tries to get TYler to divulge the secret of his mission:

Little: Tell me Tyler…..What’s in the valley of the Blackstone? Manganese? ( Silence ) Can’t be oil. Is it gold?
Tyler: It’s kind of hard to say.
Little: You’re a smart man, Tyler….you keep your own counsel. We’re all of us prospectors up here, right Tyler? Scratchin’ for that…that one crack in the ground…and never have to scratch again.
( After a pause )
I’ll let you in on a little secret Tyler. The gold’s not in the ground. The gold is not anywhere up here. The real gold is south at 60, sittin’ in living rooms, facing the boob tube bored to death. Bored to death Tyler.

Suddenly the plane engine coughs a few times, sputters, gasps..and then simply cuts out. The only sound is the wind over the wings.

Little: ( groans ) Oh Lord.
Tyler: ( panicked ) What’s wrong?
Little: Take the stick.

Little hands over control of the plane to Tyler and starts frantically rummaging around in an old toolbox, and unable to find what he wants, empties his tools all over the floor.

Tyler: ( more panicked than ever ) What’s wrong?
Little: Boredom Tyler, boredom….that’s what’s wrong. How do you beat boredom Tyler? Adventure. Adventure, Tyler!

Little then kicks the door open and disappears outside the plane, banging on something…The engine kicks back just as they’re about to fly into the side of a mountain. Little grabs the stick and pulls the plane into a steep ascent, barely missing the ridge.

Little may be crazy but he’s also a genius. He knows the secret to what ails a person whose soul yearns for the real gold. Little refers to adventure. Deep in our hearts are fundamental questions that can’t be answered at the kitchen table. We all wish, not so much to know more, but to experience more. For me adventure brings wonder which is the experience of mystery, or a fascinated recognition of beauty where a morning before I noticed only routine. Like art it causes amazement. It also helps me see my life from another point of view:

The king visited a prison. Each prisoner
asserted his innocence except one who
confessed his theft. “Throw that scoundrel
out’, he screamed, “he will corrupt the
innocents!”

For me it’s a withering struggle, this tendency of mine to be bound to the familiar, this way I have of seeking security from my environment, caught up in my own little world. But on a road trip to San Miguel de Allende a few weeks ago things changed; and while my friends are experienced travellers with maps, audio books and gps., ours was, except for accommodations, no step-by-step travelogues with each day’s activities carefully planned out. There was room for adventure. At the best of times I felt like a child responding to the movement, the colours and the odours of the world. I enjoyed looking at the many cacti out the car window, studying them with fresh eyes, attempting to be the observing presence behind my thoughts and ideas, allowing things to be just as they are, like the imperturbable cactus against the sky. They stood like sentinels, sharp and angular, uncompromising. I could somehow see ‘beyond’, like a kind of peekaboo with reality. I think it began with an inner kind of listening. It occurred to me how badly I suffer from cultural autism – maybe I don’t have the ‘ears to hear’ or the ‘eyes to see’ – but what I enjoyed was a sense of being-at-home, past and future no longer dominated my attention and hampered my body’s capacity for self renewal. Being the traveller suited me just fine and allowed me to connect with being, instead of doing. Adventure, with its requisite dangers and wildness, was a longing in my soul.

My mind though, conditioned by the past, forever seeks to recreate what it knows and is familiar with, forgetting that conditions are as they are. I’m a teacher and I teach Spanish in a school in Barra de Navidad. My mind thinks in Spanish and has, like most I suppose, conditioned patterns, and whenever I let it run my life during the journey I corrected my friends’ Spanish until one of them finally yelled at me.

There once was a couple who had been married
for 60 years. One day the wife became ill and
was bedridden. Her husband, who had during their
marriage been curious about the contents of a box
stored in her closet, finally asked her: “Wife,
I think it’s time you let me look inside that
box you have in your cupboard, may I look inside?”
The wife relented, and eagerly he seized the box.
Inside were several doilies, and $250.00.
“What’s this?” he enquired, and she answered:
“Before we were married my mother told me that,
whenever you got angry over something I should
crochet a doily instead of arguing, so here
are some doilies.”
“But that doesn’t explain the money, dear!” he said.
“Oh that..” she replied. “That’s the money I got
for selling so many of my doilies!”

Living in my head broke the spell. Gone was the meditative experience that forced me into intense and present moment awareness. The experience of release was not there. Gone was that other reality, glimpsed rather than seen clearly or directly, where the geography leaves room for the soul. As children most of us were subjected to other people’s attempts to map out our lives. All too often we learned to be whom we were told to be. A lesson in re-mapping – for me, travelling in Mexico ( many doilies later ) – serves as a handrail to help the adventurer back from the precipice.

Remember “The Gods Must Be Crazy”? It began with one of the ‘primitive’ tribal men of s.w. Africa crossing a tall sand dune and stumbling across an unfamiliar object in his world, a Coke bottle. To us the bottle represents a piece of glass manufactured by an affluent culture, dropped from a plane, but to him it must have come from the gods. The viewer was left wondering what he’d do with the bottle. Maybe he would invent his own meaning around it. We might consider possible insights that are no longer intuitive to many of us. After all, the tribe’s highly developed skills enable them to flourish in a region that would starve and dehydrate most of us within days. Whose vision of reality is the right one? Why do we feel the world needs to be mastered by us? How do we tell the difference between a dead end and a mountain top?

Opening our eyes may take a lifetime. Like learning a second language: no shortcuts.
But seeing is done in a flash.