Thursday, March 31, 2005

Buddha mustíve liked grits

I think Buddha
wouldíve liked grits.
And how could he not?

The grains of the Earth
smashed
boiled
buttered and salted
filling the bellies
of truckers
moving goods across
America.

NYC

Man fornicating with commerce has bred a giant
which is now larger than he.
This beast,
striding across the Earth,
leaves concrete footprints in itís wake.

In some unworldly merger
It Breeds
hatching fingers reaching for heaven,
those towers pointing at the sky
which harbour the thinkless employees
who perpetuate that which is
and to them
necessarily
always must have been.

We call this progress.

A Post-Itô from Buddha

Crush my
bones
filter me
into a
pot.
Make me
into a
cup of
spiritual
coffee.
drink me
to awaken
your body
and mind.

Hanami

by AJ/Skald

The cherry blossoms are budding. Tiny shoots extend from gnarled branches... ready to pop.

In just a few days, Hiroshima will be awash in color. Japanese will shed their dour winter clothes. They'll descend on parks and walking trails and spread their picnic tarps. They'll munch on snacks or elaborate meals. But most of all, they will pour sake, slug beer, and revel in the blossoms.

All is poised for an explosion of color, wine, sensuality, and passion.

......

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Young Homeless Professional

by AJ/Skald

Praise and worthy acklowledments to the original young homeless professional: Matt Salleh.

Who inspired me to live //homeless// in my car.

Who gave me a vision of whats possible.

Who convinced me that Thoreau was for real.

Who camped under stars and basked in abundance.

Who spun hobo life into a modern context.

Who drank beer, lounged in cafes, and lived the good life-- young and homeless.

Who fled the States for mangoes, mint, magic, and masala.

Who lives his own life, his own way, on his own terms.

May we all do the same.

Pathetic

by AJ

Gasping, balding, pathetic.

I feel like Charlie Kaufman. Class ended at 9:00pm. Next train to Hiroshima-- 9:16 (and they do leave on the minute). I dashed out of class to the bathroom, peed as fast as I could, jumped down the stairs... and sprinted out the door.

Twelve minutes to go. Bag clutched under one arm, I set off at a brisk clog. Plastic loafers clomped like horseshoes. Change jingled in my pocket.

Four minutes later... Im was breathing hard.

Six minutes later... my legs were burning and Im was huffing.

8 minutes later... my legs were rubber-- I gasped as the train station came into sight. I felt much as I did during mile 25 of my last marathon: I talked to myself and pushed onwards... //almost there... keep going//.

I stumbled up the stairs and wobbled to the ticket machine. I coughed and rasped as I grabbed the ticket and walked to the platform in a daze.

Three years ago I ran a marathon.

Now Im laid low by a 10 minute jog to the train station. Fucking pathetic.

Ive got to do something about this. Ive really let myself go.

Have I become Charlie Kaufman? This sounds like the intro to ADAPTATION.

Im only 37.

In Praise of Grand Failures

by AJ/Skald

I love mighty failures. Doomed enterprises carry an aroma of grandeur. If we are lucky, we get carried along by a few of these during our lives.

I think of Todd and Lewis? magnificent RV catastrophe. They poured thousands of dollars into the monster, hundreds of hours, and limitless imagination. The beast only made it to Florida. But it, in fact, carried them much farther. That glorious failure was rocket fuel for wanderlust.... which soon propelled Todd to Thailand and the open road.... Lewis to San Francisco. Its still carrying them-- driving their dreams of South America and a life full of magic and mystery.

I think of my first trip to India. A gruelling challenge. Dysentery. Four days in the hospital. Collapse. Confusion. Loneliness. Im still spinning. Still moving. Still pushing on to the next new experience..... ever onward into the unknown. India, the wonderful failure of that first trip gave birth to my current life.

My best relationships... the freaky, passionate, outrageous, quantum leaps... have all been doomed. Doomed but radiant.

There is something insipid about the word //success//. I think of a friend from high school. He has a stable career. Hes moved up the ladder into middle management. He has a big house in the suburbs, a child, a wife, two new cars. He has investments and money in the bank. But he has lived the same day, day after day, for the last twenty years. Is this success?

Is life a plodding progression, or an exuberant dance?

The Dark Prince

by Skald

I crave intensity.

I crave transcendence.

I crave deep aromas.

I crave great sex.

I crave flow. ocilliation. dance.

I crave strength. I crave wildness.

I crave magic and mystery.

But my life is devoid of these things. My life is a grey drone. Sexless, mild, irritating, bland, uniform, weak, tame, emasculated.

I crave a wild ride but am on a slow and steady one. Ive got the mind of a taoist but the heart of a pagan. My heart is malnourished.

What I would give for a vial of LSD.... or a bag full of mushrooms. Or to be shocked and amazed in any way.

I want to lose control.

I crave encounters with the extraordinary. LSD, mushrooms, and wild women are not available to me. So I will seek the dark prince. The one mysterious and unnerving ally available to me:

Salvia Divinorum.

The Joy of Incomprehension

by Skald/AJ

I think Ive identified the core reason I failed at every language I tried to learn-- I dont want to learn them. Its as simple as that.

The pattern is always the same. In a huge rush I learn enough for survival: numbers, basic expressions, how to direct a taxi, etc. Then all progress stops. Yes Im lazy, but it goes farther than that.

In fact, I enjoy not understanding. I dont want to understand.

Incomprehension is so much more rewarding. I gain tremendous mental peace. I can sit in a coffee shop surrounded by chattering people and it doesnt disturb me. I only hear the sounds and vibrations. No thoughts intrude. No distractions.

Its the same with advertisements. I see the pictures but I cant read the words. People are barraged every day by a battery of marketing... but much of it escapes me. I cant read the signs, I dont understand the words or the jingles. Its just melodic noise to me.

Thus I gain tremendous mental space. I can immerse myself in thought & perception without distraction.

When I encounter loud, English-speaking tourists I realize how important this is. I find it impossible to tune out their conversations. They distract me. They irritate me. Often I must get up and leave.

Much of day to day conversation is banal, gossipy, and distracting. By missing it, I gain more than I lose.

Lesson Learned

by Skald

All travel is inner travel.

Indeed it is. Sooner or later a traveller is forced by events to turn inward. S/he hits an insurmountable obstacle.... is stricken with disease... wears down from fatigue... or suffers from loneliness. At that point, the outward journey becomes secondary.

Ive reached that stage in Japan. Its clear this journey is much more about me, my character, my needs, and my limitations than it is about living in Hiroshima. This experience is teaching me new things about myself... and reminding me of things I had forgotten.

First and foremost I have learned an important truth about myself: IM LAZY. Call it a flaw. Call it inspired Taoism. Call it whatever. Its the truth. I simply hate to work. Much of my life has followed a simple formula- the more I work the less happy I am, the less I work the more happy I am. Im fond of elaborate attacks on wage slavery, capitalism, and the like... but maybe its not the system. Maybe its just me. Maybe Im just lazier than most people.

Years ago I might have worried about this... bemoaned it as a flaw I must correct. But I dont view it as a flaw... nor necessarily as a strength. Its just the way I am... my nature. Really, I have no reason to change it, because its much easier to just accept it and adapt.

Ive realized that much trouble in my life was created because I fought against my nature. I tried to force myself to work more than I could tolerate, I tried to force a relationship that clearly was counterproductive, I struggled against someone instead of letting go, I strove to maintain an opinion after its usefulness had expired.

Each of these actions triggered misery.

The tough part is having the clarity of mind to realize what you are doing. Its easy to forget and lose awareness. Buddhists, in fact, identify this is the primary source of human suffering-- forgetting (ignorance).

Again and again we forget. Again and again we suffer as a result. If we are lucky, at some point we realize what we are doing. We become aware and suffering subsides. Then we get fat and happy and forget again. Looked at from a distance, its quite comical.

People often say //dont make the same mistake twice//. But I seem to make the same mistake five, six, seven times before the lesson sinks in.

All travel is inner travel. And all knowledge is self-knowledge.

Cease Fire

by AJ/Skald

Technicolor clowns
hold my hysterically mobile dreams

The sun is black along the backside
--equilibrium crumbles.

nonaction.
no resistance,no surprises

perplexing questions.
silent answers.

..........

Death & Rebirth

by AJ/Skald

We all go through cycles of death and rebirth. One of the tremendous powers of travel is that it accelerates the process. Loss and gain come much more quickly when you are travelling. Each departure is a mini-death. Each arrival a mini-birth.

Both events are difficult. Mini-death requires letting go. We must let go of friends. We must let go of old comforts. We must let go of confidence and a feeling of surety. All we have known disappears in an instant.

(Re)birth too is traumatic. A new identity, a new life, new expectations, new challenges... all await. In the beginning, nothing makes sense. Everything is strange and difficult. We feel clumsy, confused, and overwhelmed.

In general I enjoy these processes but I wont pretend they come easily to me. I suffered loss, sadness, and pain when I left Thailand. Ive been a total idiot since setting foot in Japan.

If nothing else, this is good for the ego, which is to say, it helps to deflate it. When old opinions wont fit the situation- youve got no choice but to let them go. When you stumble and screw up incessantly, its hard to puff yourself up.

Eventually travel forces you into that very Taoist/Zen position of admitting you dont know: you simply have no fucking clue whats going on, why its going on, how its going on, and where its going to. Nor do you have any clue as to what you should or should not do about it.

Thats the point of surrender.

From there, theres nothing left to do but listen, see, and feel without any particular opinion at all.

The death of concepts. The birth of awareness.

Back to the wide-eyed ignorance of infancy.

They Do it to Themselves

It seems that there are those who freak out about work. They go in early, stay late and try to 'accomplish' a lot by working LONG hours. Why do they do this? I do not know.

For example, every school I've ever worked at has the teachers that are there by 6 a.m. and stay until 6 p.m. Our work hours are 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. (A dream by most standards!). Sure, you have to put in the occasional long day and work until 4-5 p.m. but it shouldn't be that often. I always wonder what those 'early-in' and 'late-out' people are doing?!? I could be wrong but it seems they think that the more hours they dedicate to work then the higher the return in achievement. I don't think so.

I know my subject (science) and I know the theories of education and how to teach. I've been doing it for 8 years now. By this time if I haven't figured out how to do it and do it efficiently (plan lessons, deliver lessons and activities and assess student understanding) then I should choose another profession! So what ARE the 'early-ins' and 'late-outs' doing? It is a mystery to me!

I know at least some of my colleagues agree with me.

Occasionally, we'll go and have a glass of wine in the late afternoon and chat about the folks who are still at school doing grades or something or other. Again, it's not rocket science to give a test, grade it and enter it into a computer. Case in point, my wine drinking colleagues and I spend about 1-2 hours on entering grades and comments on report cards. Afterwards we go and celebrate with some Merlot. The next day we hear our fellow teachers talking about how they were up until 1 a.m. working on reports. We ask ourselves why and wonder what could possibly take so long. Do we care any less? Are our reports any less professional? Are we not as concerned about our student learning? So far the answer seems to be a resounding 'NO!' (according to parent conferences, yearly reviews etc.) We are somehow just more efficient, more laid back and easy going towards our work.

It's also funny to note that those who spend enormous amounts of time on their lessons and grades also seem to have more trouble with student's behaviour, administrators and parents. Could it be that an uptight attitude towards their work spills over in an uptight attitude towards their colleagues, students and boss?

Anyway, enough about that, it's time for me to go and get another cup of coffee. Time to do what I do best, enjoy life and have a cup of Joe!

-Matt

Thursday, March 24, 2005

curriculum development

It is ironic that Outback Jack plays in the background as I type these words... if you haven't seen it.. Outback Jack is an Aussie reality show with a hunk in the bush deciding which princess he'll choose...

I just returned from Endau Rompin, a national park in Malaysia reputedly somewhere between 120-200 million years old- which means it was around not long after Pangaea if you stick to the later date and give or take 50 million years.... and certainly during dinosaur times. But how do you measure such things? And how does one determine the age of a rainforest? I am not sure, but that's what I read in the books.. so IT MUST be true....

Regardless, I did just spend 4 days there with a motley crew of Koreans, Japanese, Indonesian and Thai students .. and lived to tell about it!

As with all good expeditions.. as soon as I returned I made a B-line for a jug of cold beer and then a big plate of brocolli, garlic kailan and tofu.. having gotten tired of noodles, rice and sardine camp food after a few days...

You could easily ignore the gibbons singing, the hornbills kronking, the raquet tailed drongoes, the langurs, the elephant dung, the jungle pig, the pitcher plants and the ever present cicadas.. and you'd think it was just another lousy day in paradise...

We spent a few days trekking, swimming, boating, and finally getting our fancy city ass kicked by the local Orang Asli in a game of soccer... before we bused it back to Kuala Lumpur....

The early morning misty mountains where the spirits go now... accompanied my instant coffee... and reading of the geological history of CA in McPhee's 'Assembling California' which is essentially the present day account of SE Asia and its island arcs crashing into a continent...

Yeah...f you ignored all that.. well then, you'd just have a regular, ordinary day in Malaysia...

-Matt

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Uncanny Service

by AJ/Skald

Everything youve heard about Japanese service is true. Its goddam amazing! I have never encountered so many friendly, helpful, and eager people in all of my life. Some examples:

*I have NEVER... in three weeks,... waited in a line longer than two people. A common scene: I stroll to the cashier in a convenience store. There are two people in front of me. Suddenly an employee pops up from behind a shelf across the store, runs (literally runs) to the counter, opens another register, and motions me to it. This happens all the time.

*I have never successfully bussed my own tray at Starbucks. Ive turned this into a game... determined to throw away all my trash before an employee can grab my tray and do it for me. Ive never managed it. They always see me heading for the trashcan and head me off. Once I made it there, but I hesitated. They had separate bins for various categories of recycling. As I contemplated the choices, an employee ran (yes, ran).... apologized, took my tray, and bussed it for me.

*I ate at an Okonomiyaki restaurant yesterday (more on that later). Today I returned. The cook recognized me and remembered my exact order... including the fact that I was a vegetarian. I was drinking water. The SECOND the glass emptied, he grabbed it, filled it, and returned it in an instant.

*Gas Stations: Its still the 1950s here. A small army stands outside (in the cold, snow, rain, etc.) waiting for cars. When you pull up, they rush to your car. They fill the gas, wash the windows (ALL of the windows), check your oil (if you ask), and take your garbage. When they finish, they run into the street and stop traffic in both directions-- so you can pull out. As you pull out, they bow.

Its uncanny. When Americans (or Thais... or anyone else) speak of "good service" they dont know what they are talking about. The Japanese are the undisputed heavyweight champions of the world in this department.

And it does make a difference. Grumpy as I am about my job.... I find it hard to remain so once I get out into the city. The people are so damn nice and helpful! Its very hard not to smile and bow right back to them.

Anyone considering a freelance stint should visit this country. Youll learn a whole new standard for helpfulness and good service.

Getting Real

by AJ/Skald

Much thanks to all the readers who either emailed or commented on my recent Japan posts. This is the beauty of a blog.... its interactive. Your feedback was a wake up call. I stopped. I read over my Japan posts. I compared them to previous posts. Something was amiss.

In Thailand I wrote rants... but much of my stuff was ecstatic and passionate. Since arriving here... Ive been whining, ranting, bitching, and moaning without end.

Time to get real. I made a decision-- and I did so freely. I came here hoping to save money. I had opportunities at Thailands top two universities... much easier, much more relaxed, much more fun jobs. But I rushed things and came here without doing the necessary homework.

So it sucks. Ive thrown my tantrums but its time to take responsibility and make some decisions. I began today by meeting with my employers-- told them I did not want to live in a po-dunk hellhole-- but rather am determined to live in Hiroshima City. They are considering my "request". I will meet with them tomorrow and continue negotiations.

Im much clearer about what I need. I need to have time and energy for writing and a social life. I need more autonomy in the classroom. If I get these things I will stay, if not, I will go. No more whiney bullshit-- I know what I want. Ill either get it or I wont.

Meanwhile I intend to enjoy as much of my life outside of work as possible. Thankfully, that aspect of Hiroshima is quite good. Ill seek out hot spring baths (ah, the wonderful decadence ), Ill go out with my new friends, Ill explore the city and the region, Ill be a parttime traveler/explorer.

By the end of next month, Ill have a clear idea of whether the job situation is salvagable or not. If not, Ive got good options elsewhere.

So thanks to all for your kind words, your blunt words, and your concern.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Loneliness

by Skald

A degree of loneliness is a prerequisite for love, beauty, and even bliss. The Japanese word "yugen" expresses this idea. Its the feeling of emptiness that pervades beauty. Its the wisp of impermanence that pervades love.

Nothing lasts and therein lies the magic. All beauty is fleeting. All bliss. All of life. Much of American culture is directed towards denying these truths... and there lies the source of much of its ugliness.

I know, for example, that I am a kinder person when Im lonely. A hint of emptiness is good for the heart. Im more sensitive, and more aware. Strange as it sounds, I feel closer to people when Im somewhat separate.... and often feel distant when Im crowded with social contacts. We need space to appreciate what fills it. We need loneliness to appreciate human contact.

We need suffering to appreciate bliss. A root disease of the wealthy is that they have not suffered enough loss. When youve been hungry, its a lot harder to sneer at homeless people. When youve suffered, you become more sensitive to others who are hurting.

Though they dont realize it, these people are missing out on the deepest human experiences. Yes they are comfortable. Yes they can afford a wide range of stimulation. They manage to avoid much pain and loss with their wealth. But that is a devils bargain... for they thereby sacrifice much that is sublime, aching, and beautiful.

What strikes me about these people is their crudeness and insensitivity. They are thick skinned, dull eyed, and hard-hearted. Their imaginations are as limited as their awareness. They lack courage.

Facing the void takes courage. Embracing impermanence takes courage. Accepting loss takes courage. Loneliness takes courage. Freedom takes courage.

Great courage.

We cannot cheat life, nor can we avoid it. We cannot forever hold on to its sweetness without confronting its bitterness. These are truths as old as human existence.

But there is something magical at work here--- for it is often the case that by accepting bitterness, we taste sweetness.

Sweetness

by Skald

There is something different about Japanese women, though I cant quite put it into words. "Sweetness" comes to mind, but that doesnt quite capture it. They are sweet: incredibly kind-hearted (for the most part). But it goes beyond that. There is also a sense of grace and poise. A feeling of quiet power.

I sense none of the imbalance so prevalent in Americans (so prevalent in me). Theres none of the anger, attitude, and aggression.

And it IS primarily a female phenomenon. The men are uptight... but the women have something special. A similar phenomenon exists in India. In India I met several (usually educated) women with incredible poise. Grace. Baraka. Something special.

What I find so unique is the combination of confidence and humility. These women embody the feminine power so eloquently described in the Tao Te Ching. Its an incredible experience to be in the presence of such women. Powerful yet soft. Charismatic yet humble. Inspiring but not domineering.

We in the West could learn a lot from these women (as could the men in these countries). In the West we worship aggressive power. Women are as guilty of this as men. Some Western feminists, for example, seem to think that putting women in charge would solve our problems. But women like Margaret Thatcher, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, and the like are no better than the men they replace. Its not so much females that we need as a respect for the feminine, the soft, the yielding, and the flexible. A tyrant in a dress is no better than a tyrant in a suit.

Likewise, Gandhi illustrated the potential for men to wield soft, yielding, compassionate power. Many men possess these qualities too.

As do many of the women I meet in Japan.

If only they were in charge.....

Distance

by Skald

Small girl clings to her father
-- head buried in his chest
on a cold winter day.

Its a common sight in Hiroshima.... fathers holding their children. They carry them in their arms, without a backpack or similar contraption. Mothers too.

They ride together on bicyles... small seats fitted in front of the main seat... mother and child on one bike.

It is common, Im told, for parents to bathe with their children.

In Thailand, strangers kiss children theyve just met.

But back home, paranoia reigns. Fathers worry about touching their daughters. Teachers keep their distance.

And everyone grows more distant.

Let It Slide

by AJ/Skald

We must let that which does not matter truly slide (paraphrase from Fight Club).

What does not matter: a nice apartment, a career, other peoples opinions of us, the amount of money in our bank account, the kind of car we drive, our looks, our popularity, our attractiveness to the opposite sex (or if gay, the same sex), our opinions, our luxuries, the news, gadgets, possessions, our resume,.....


What does matter: ecstasy, bliss, freedom, self-reliance, autonomy, friendships, purpose, passion, flow, immersion in the moment......

In the movie (Fight Club), the main character blows up his apartment and his expensive furniture. He moves into an abandoned shithole. He blackmails his boss and quits. He shaves away every extraneous luxury in his life. He gives up being nice. He gives up being respectable. He gives up his career.

Thats the sort of commitment we need. To be free, youve got to be willing to sacrifice every luxurious trap that society throws your way. That means expensive gadgets. That means new cars. That means a luxurious apartment/house. That means a career. That means stylish clothes. That means being cool. That means impressing women/men. That means a family. That means marriage. All of these sacrifices may not necessarily be required... but weve got to be prepared to make them if necessary.

No one said its easy. Tough decisions are required. In a nutshell, youve got to be willing to give up your reputation. You have to accept that people will think you are irresponsible, strange, selfish, foolish, poor, uncool, undatable, and undesirable. That is the price. Accept it. Know that this is the case.

But also know the reward. The reward is freedom-- the freedom to live according to your dreams and principles. The freedom to follow your bliss wherever it takes you. The freedom to be challenged every day. The freedom to keep learning and growing. The freedom to take full responsibility for your own life. Freedom from boredom. Freedom from wage slavery. Freedom from monotony.

The hobopoet path is not for people who crave security. It is for those who recognize that our position is always precarious. The truth is that mainstream suburbanites are no more secure than we are. They are one traffic accident away from homelessness. They are one diagnosis away from cataclysmic change. They are one phone call away from grief and depression. They are one stock market crash away from economic ruin. They too will face disease. They too will face change. They too will face catastrophe. They too will face death.

All that they have built will crumble. Their houses will be sold. Their possessions scattered. Their work forgotten. Their careers... their lifes work.. will amount to nothing but a blip on the stock market ticker. Their looks will fade. Like it or not... resist it or not.... they too will face the unravelling of all that seems secure and stable.

Better, I think, to recognize these truths early on. Better to embrace change and impermanence now. Better not to collect a bunch of shit in the first place-- to realize it doesnt matter.

Better not to pretend... to realize that this moment is all we have... to immerse ourselves in it as much as possible. Better to realize that all that matters about our WORK is the joy it brings us while doing it. The results do not matter. Neither does the pay. These will not last. There will be no delayed reward for good behavior

Sooner or later, all careers end. All relationships end. All works crumble. All lives end. Will Tom Peters be remember 100 years from now? Will Donald Trump? Mel Gibson? Bill Gates? Me? You? I doubt it.

The end is not the important thing. Its the process, the ecstatic engagement of the moment, that is lifes only reward. And our only hope for happiness.

Retirement

by AJ/Skald

Here?s another gem from Tom Peters-- men who retire early live longer. Those who retire later live much shorter lives. Is anyone surprised by this?

Wage slavery not only sucks... it is deadly. Its nice to see it summed up in years. Working (literally) takes years off your life. Now theres a compelling reason to retire now... or at least semi retire. Its time we stopped thinking of freedom, bliss, and autonomy as something that is given to us after age 65. That is an idiotic notion. Its also a lie.

The time to retire is right now! Quit the shitty job right now. Follow your bliss right now. Or, at the very least, start working towards free agency and freelancing right now [And yes its time for me to follow my own advice, right now!].

The heart of the matter is that the 1950s are over (thank god). Its time to retire the ridiculous notion that a company or government will be responsible for us. There are no rules anymore. No one is going to reward you for being nice.

Look whats happening to the baby boomers. They played by the rules. They remained loyal to the company. They sold their bliss for security. How were they REWARDED? With downsizing, outsourcing, layoffs, and termination. As soon as they were no longer useful, they were cast away. They put their lives in the hands of IBM, GE, and the rest and got a thorough screwing over as their reward.

These poor bastards love to complain about the APATHETIC generations that followed them... but at least we arent so fucking gullible. We arent stupid enough to get excited about a job. We know better than to give our loyalty to an amoral company or government. We know we have to look out for ourselves... and each other.

We know that fulfilment never comes from wage slavery.

So forget the gold watch. Forget the golden parachute. Forget loyalty. Those are lies sold to suckers.

Seize your own freedom. Follow your bliss.

Retire Now.

Dread and Bliss

by AJ

Lately Ive resorted to twisted logical analysis to examine my current working situation. I draw elaborate lists of pros & cons. I enumerate the issues which are troubling me and seek to identify solutions. I think of ways to negotiate these things with my bosses. I wrangle with myself, constantly wondering //what is the right thing to do?//.

Such is the left-brained analytic approach. But, of course, I already know. Its very very simple. When I think of going to work at my current job, I feel a wave of dread.

Then I remember how I felt when I was teaching (part-tuime) in Georgia. Id think of my class and experience a rush of excitement. I was thrilled to teach them. I rushed to class. I lingered afterwards.

That sums it up. I need no other analysis. Work which brings me happiness is good work. Work that fires my enthusiasm is good work. Work that interests me and empowers me is good work.

So too the opposite: a job that saps my energy is a bad job. A job that kills my enthusiasm is a bad job. A job that makes me feel powerless and controlled is a bad job.

I dont need to explain it --Nor justify it. These feelings speak for themselves.

The Power of Integrity

by AJ/Skald

My favorite definition of integrity is: that state in which ones principles and ones life choices are in harmony. That captures the essence, I think.

Ive been contemplating integrity a great deal. Many people define the word according to extrinsic characteristics. For example, a person with integrity is someone who keeps their word to others. This strikes me as only the shallowest expression. I think that a person with integrity is one who keeps their word to themselves. Does someone who sticks to external commitments, even once they realize those commitments are wrong, have integrity?

Who had more integrity, racists who kept their word and remained loyal to other racists... or those who realized their wrong and betrayed their former allies? Id argue that the latter displayed more integrity because they served their own conscience rather than public opinion and external promises.

Its so easy to become trapped by our pride and our fear of judgement. I remember that moment three+ years ago when I decided to leave Japan and set out on a hobopoet life. I agonized over that decision. I had a CONTRACT for one year and I broke it. I worried about that for a long time. That contract kept me trapped.

In retrospect, I realize it was ridiculous. Was I an indentured servant? Could I not come and go as I wanted? Would that CONTRACT have kept them from firing me- if it was convenient to them? Wage slave contracts are always one sided.... they expect two weeks notice from you, but will fire your ass without notice should it benefit them.

All of which is to say, in pursuit of ones bliss it is necessary to develop a mercenary warriors mentality. We must be willing to sacrifice anything and anyone that tries to thwart us. We must cultivate inner integrity, often at the expense of public reputation. While we strive to be compassionate, we must give up the notion of being nice.

Freedom, bliss, and genius are not given to nice people... they are seized by those who refuse to compromise for the sake of public opinion.

[Matt Salleh has a great example of this in relation to his last employer in KL... which I hope he will write about soon].

Misers of Love

by AJ/Skald

Tom Peters had an interesting post regarding the effects of marriage on men and women. He claimed that women tend to put on weight, become depressed, and become less happy once married..... while men stabilize their weight, have less stress, and are happier. When divorced, the patterns are reversed..... men become less happy and women become more happy.

My first thought was that this is a generational thing. I can imagine this being the case for my parents (and Tom Peters) generation. When those folks married, the man gained a house servant, nanny, and permanent sexual partner while the woman lost her freedom and autonomy. No wonder the women became depressed.

I know this sort of marriage still happens, but it seems rarer. I think of Matt, for example. He and his wife have a partnership. They travel together. They work together. They are sharing a life...

My second thought was to wonder what role kids play. Do the statistics hold up with couples who dont have kids? Are childless couples happier in general... (especially the women)? Despite the strides women have made, the bulk of childrearing still falls on them. Suddenly they must be a nanny in addition to working full-time and dealing with their husband. I cant imagine how they do it.

Of course, Im out of the loop here, because I would predict that BOTH men and women would become less happy once married (is it a surprise Im still unmarried at 37 :). Hakim Bey once referred to families as the //misers of love//. I think thats an apt description for the majority. Most couples isolate themselves. The wife drives away the husbands friends. The husband, in turn, becomes more possessive of the wife. Once kids enter the picture, neither has time for friends or community. They become a closed system.... all energy and love are hoarded within the family unit. Mom & Dad become increasingly neurotic and cut off from the outside world.

By middle age they become caricatures-- befuddled, easily flustered, and socially inept. These are the bozos I encounter in the airport.. trying to joke with me about Osama Bin Laden.

Its the pattern Ive observed in most //mainstream// families. To paraphrase Steinbeck, the man becomes, in effect, the youngest child in the family; and, The wife becomes caretaker to an overgrown baby. (You know the transformation is complete when husband and wife call each other Mom and Dad).

All of this makes me wonder... whats the point of marriage at all? Most now end in divorce. The ceremony and piece of paper guarantee nothing. Do we really need government or church sanctioning of our relationships? In the case of international relationships, there are certain practical advantages (visa benefits for both spouses) but otherwise I struggle to understand the necessity (or efficacy) of marriage.

Fighting Shape

by AJ/Skald

"When you study, for example, the ecology of man and the world of microbes, you are confronted with a most surreal affair, and you may try to decide which microbes are the good guys and which are the bad. You want to know how to get rid of the bad guys without getting rid of the good guys, and then you realize you need some of the bad guys because otherwise the good guys fall apart. Some of our medicines are very much, on the level of our body, like what DDT is on the level of agriculture. They are too indiscriminate, and they kill too many of the good guys along with the bad guys. After a time you become very doubtful as to the precise definition of GOOD and BAD, because every group, every species, must have an enemy. If you dont have an enemy, then you start multiplying too much. Because nothing prunes you, you start eating up all your supplies of food because there are too many of you, and you start getting in your own way.

You are so successful you never have to fight, and you develop flabby muscles, and so, gradually, the successful group fails. A group that manages to obliterate its enemies will fall apart; that is the way the world works. The same principle applies in business, almost exactly. If you wipe out your competitor, then you have no reason to produce anything but a lousy product, and then someone else with a good product can come along and wipe you out despite your success. So, there is always something self-defeating in any attempt to succeed. Nothing fails like success. It is for this reason that Taoists always have an attitude of caution. " --Alan Watts


Good stuff from Alan Watts. Maybe I was growing flabby in Thailand. Maybe I needed this tangle with my enemy (work/job/bosses). It has certainly roused my fighting spirit. It has certainly catalyzed me to examine my life: its purpose and progress. It has certainly made me contemplate my economic stance towards the world. It has, in short, triggered all sorts of crisises.

This is not necessarily BAD. I think Mr. Watts is right.... we must be very cautious about judging these situations. We must tread them carefully. We must mine them for learning experiences. Its a good attitude to have towards life in general.

Carlos Castaneda said much the same thing. He said that a warrior is one who views all events as challenges. //Success// is one kind of challenge. //Failure// is another. Both are ripe with dangers and opportunities.

My current situation is interesting, fascinating, exciting, boring, and unpleasant... all at the same time (depending on the time, day, and circumstance). I find it hard to make a lump conclusion. Is it bad? Is it good? At the moment, it is both and neither.

Sometimes it is best to embrace ambiguity rather than resist it.

The Stages of Economic Freedom

by Skald

Considering my own situation: I think this path towards economic freedom has stages. The first stage is wage slavery. This is classic employment.... the unfortunate state of most human beings in our society. A wage slave is totally dependent on jobs. S/he lives paycheck to paycheck and is often deeply in debt. Wage slaves may grumble about their state but essentially they are obedient servants. They do what they are told. They obey the company rules and respect the boss (to their face at least). They cant imagine another state of affairs. They value job security above all else.

A wage slave has no leverage.... no power... no independence. Wage slaves are deathly afraid of being fired, laid off, let go, downsized (take your choice of euphemism). They are terrified of unemployment. They are obsessed with benefits but limit this obsession to things like health coverage, life insurance, etc. A wage slave is an economic child. An indentured servant. A pitiful human being. Most of my adult life, I have been a wage slave... albeit a grumpy one.

The next stage is what I call free agency. Its a state akin to being a professional athlete. Free agents are still employed... but there are critical differences. For one, a free agent is in demand. Free agents always keep their options open... they are always job searching and they always have an exit strategy. Free agents typically have fewer debts, more savings, and, in general, more financial flexibility. They are not as obedient. They do not fear bouts of unemployment... in fact, they often choose unemployment in order to travel, rest, rejuvenate, and follow their bliss. Free agents are bolder... they are capable of defiance and autonomy-- but still in the context of a job. Free agents are economic teenagers... defiant, rebellious, and moving towards full independence. Currently I am a free agent.

The final stage is what I call freelancing. In other words, doing your own work on your own terms. At this stage, you quit jobs altogether. You do only the work that is yours and you do it how and when you want. Freelancing has many forms.... from big-budget entrepreneurs to micro-freelancing. A guy with his own handyman business is a freelancer. An English teacher who lives off private lessons is a freelancer. Full time autonomous writers are freelancers. Freelancers are permanently unemployed and work hard to stay that way. Freelancers dissolve the contrived barriers between art, work, and play. Their play is their work and their work is their art. They no longer need to be rebellious because they have nothing and no one to rebel against. Freelancers are true economic adults-- independent and self reliant. Freelancing is my ultimate economic goal.

Some bold folks are able to make the leap from wage slave to freelancer instantaneously. But most, like me, do so gradually. Its good to realize that this is possible... that there can be a progression. The uplifting thing about this realization is that each stage is freer, more joyful, and more rewarding than the previous. Being a free agent is far more fun than being a wage slave. Yes you are still workin for the man... but hes got less of a hold on you. You can search out the best possible situations for the most pay.... and tell em to fuck off anytime you like.

My impression is that many Hobopoet readers fall into the free agent category. Id qualify Matt as a free agent... and myself. And Sky. And Gypsychick. Sunwalker will soon jump full-on into freelancing... or beyond (the total elimination of work for money-- rock on!).

Wherever we are on the spectrum, its helpful to know that we can improve our situation. The important thing is the direction you are moving... keep pushing towards more freedom. If you are mired in wage slavery-- seek less restrictive jobs, simplify your life.... do what you can to move towards free agency. And if you are a free agent, like me, turn your energies towards leaving the nest for good.

With patience and persistence we can all make that penultimate act:

Fire The Boss for good.

Enough

by AJ/Skald

Wherever I end up, it is clear its time for me to move into freelancing. This employee shit has got to end. Ive reached the end of my rope with it. It feels like regression. And, in fact, it is. The boss-employee relationship is a surrogate for the parent-child relationship. Its a relationship of dependence. Its a relationship of authority.

Its a relationship that stunts development. Im old enough to make my own decisions, for godssake. And Im far too old to be depending on someone else for my basic needs. Freelancing is a natural and necessary stage. We cannot be responsible for our own lives without it. We cannot be self-reliant so long as we spend 8 hours a day in childish relationships with bosses.

This stint at David English, while unpleasant, has certainly emphasized these points. Its taught me that Ive thought about and talked about freelancing long enough. Ive gone the carliving hobo route (and may do so again)-- but I also want to create a comfortable income that does not involve slavery.

We all have to discover our ?enough? point. For some it is a pure hobo life... living on the road, camping under the stars, drifting from place to place penniless. For me, its a student-writer?s lifestyle: a tiny cubicle (or van) & money for eating out, coffee shops, travel, books, and other simple pleasures --Plenty of time for contemplation, writing, and the pursuit of bliss.

Others may want more-- a small house, their own business, etc... The most important thing is to realize that whatever the point, there is in fact a thing called //enough//. Its a radical notion for Americans. Most cant imagine the concept. However much they have, they want more. I read a quote from a multimillionaire who said (something to the effect that) ?Anyone who thinks a million dollars is enough will never make that much in the first place?. Perhaps thats true... but its a pathetic statement.

What kind of sad fucker makes several million... then cant think of anything more meaningful to do than make more. Got 10 million? They want 15. What lack of imagination. What sorry fucking lives.

Most Americans think this way, although on a smaller scale. They are always contemplating a bigger house, a newer car, fancier gadgets, higher paying jobs, more CDs, nicer clothes-- rats on a wheel.... round and round and round.

Aristocrats of old recognized that wealth freed them for other pursuits. They indulged in a tremendous variety of eccentricities, explorations, perversions, experiments, arts, and spiritual practices. Once their material needs were met, they turned their attention to grander pursuits.

Such is the hobopoet approach to life. We live simply (however we define that) so that we may free our lives from the tyranny of economics.... so that we may be free to pursue grander visions... so that we may follow our bliss. Thats the essence of it. Thats the thread that connects Sunwalkers dream of walking North America, Matt Salleh?s SE Asian adventures, my own wanderings, Stefan?s ambulance living experiment, Tom Asacker?s entrepreneurial efforts, Kerouac?s road journeys, Basho?s pilgrimages, the Cyberhobo?s hi-tech drifting, Ralf Pott?s vagabonding,.....

?Enough?. Its a beautiful word.

God Bless The Freaks

by AJ/Skald

The weather warms and out come the freaks.

Hordes of girls clad in baby-doll outfits: poofy knee-length skirts, lacy blouses, frilly ribbons in their hair, high boots, technicolor makeup.

Futuro-punk-metal chicks: thigh high boots with metal knees, road warrior chest protectors, silver and black makeup-- like a convention of the Oakland Raider-nation.

Guys in hip-hop regalia... baggy pants, side-turned baseball caps, oversized jerseys,... all displayed with a sliding strut.

The weather warms and black-clad, conservative Japan comes alive! Freaks everywhere. Besides the extreme examples, there are an assortment of stylish, funky, artsy folks walking the streets of Hiroshima today. What happened?

Warm weather has awakened the inner funk. And that, in turn, has brightened my mood considerably. I love freaks. I love eccentrics. I love artists. I love nonconformists. I love diversity. I love weirdos.

So Japan is not as straight laced as originally thought. Apparently they were bundled up in their winter clothes.. biding their time like expectant cherry blossoms... ready to burst on the scene at the first hint of Spring.

Spring is coming... and the freaks are blooming.

Nice

by AJ/Skald

I used to be such a nice guy.
--Fight Club

That line from Fight Club keeps running through my head lately. I feel the same. Throughout my life, Ive always been described as NICE. What happened?

Eventually, I got sick of being nice. I got sick of living according to other peoples priorities. I got sick of overbearing bosses. I got sick of feeling trapped. The break came about three years ago... I decided I preferred bliss to popularity. I realized that no one was trapping me but myself. I was trapped by my pride. I was trapped by my fear.

This is true of so many people. How many stick out shitty jobs in the name of being responsible? How many deny their dreams because they are afraid of what people would think? How many do what is expected because they are terrified of public opinion? How many confuse cowardice with NICE?

Here at my current job, there is a guy everyone describes as a //tortured writer//. Why is he tortured? Because hes been working this shit job for years rather than writing. He hates himself for it. Why doesnt he quit and write? Why doesnt he walk out that fucking door TODAY?

I dont know. But everyone agrees: hes a NICE guy.

Taliban Gossip Hounds

by AJ/Skald

Women and gay men are often stereotyped as gossips. But the Christian Right strikes me as the most organized gossip circle in America. What are these people if not meddling gossip hounds? They are obsessed with what other people do. They want to peep into our bedrooms, pry into our books, look over our shoulders, interfere with our relationships. They have no life or business of their own so they spend their energies gossiping about people who are having more fun than they are.

These fuckers cant stand it that people choose to live differently than they do. Its not enough for me to smoke pot in the privacy of my own apartment... they want the gestapo to break down the door and throw me in a dungeon-- for daring to make my own choices.

William Burroughs classified people in two categories, //shits// and //Johnsons//. The Christian Taliban are shits. They are always looking to meddle in others lives. If two gay people decide to get married, these fuckers rush to cause them misery. If someone jerks off to pictures of naked women, they want to drag them out of their home.

These people are the worst kind of vermin. They make life very unpleasant for the Johnsons. A Johnson is someone who minds their own business. A Johnson is someone who lends a hand when asked-- but otherwise is too busy living to interfere with others. Hobopoets, Anarchists, Libertarians, Disciplined Hedonists, etc. are Johnsons (at least in theory).

Our problem is that we are too slow to fight. Our natural inclination is to live and let live. If Christians want to burn crosses, forbid their children from dancing, and believe idiotic Creationist theories... my first reaction is to shrug my shoulders and let them do as they like. Its their life. But these sad bastards are never content with living their own lives. They are determined to enforce their choices, by force, on the rest of us.

At that point, it becomes necessary to fight. At that point, the Johnsons must shed their characteristic amiability and come out swinging. There is no negotiating with the Taliban. You cant reason with them. You cant convince them. You cant charm them.

There is only one solution-- you must kick the shit out of them... inflict so much pain that they will hesitate to attack again.

I learned to practice this, on a very small scale, in Greenville, SC. The Taliban were always harassing me downtown. At first I tried to discuss things with them. I explained I was a Taoist/Buddhist [though not a very good one] but they kept at me. I tried politely turning them away... but that only energized them. Finally I learned to be blunt and rude. My standard line was, //Im not a Christian and I dont want to be one//. Usually that surprised them enough for me to escape. If they still persisted, I added //Fuck off//.

That usually did the trick. Our collective challenge now, I think, is to tell the Christian Taliban (rudely, with no compromise) exactly the same thing: //Fuck off//.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Reassessment

by AJ/Skald

I will say that this experience (wage slavery in Japan) has reminded me of many valuable lessons. It has forced a radical reassessment of my situation and the thought processes that led to it. Casteneda wrote that a "warrior" views everything as a challenge and does not judge them as good or bad. Im trying to cultivate that attitude to see what I can learn about myself from this situation.

One big lesson: Never make money a deciding factor. I need to eat... but I came here with dollars (yen) in my eyes and am paying the price. And for that reason, I (and I alone) am responsible for my current mess!

This has been a recurrent theme for me... whenever I chase money I am miserable. But when I commit to freedom, purpose, bliss, and learning... money always seems to come. Maybe not in heaps,... but there's always enough.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Python!

February 3, 2003

This morning a few fellow teachers and I met at 8 a.m. at the local food stall and went for a hike about 1km from my house.

We found a 'hidden' little valley that had some durian trees, banana trees, and what appeared to be a few dipterocarps that somehow escaped the axe and saw.. it's as close to primary forest as you can get in KL... we were mesmerized.. relaxed.. unseen birds sang in the canopy... primordial looking ferns dotted the landscape.. we were psyched to have discovered our little spot!

As we hiked through the valley macaques pranced in the trees and warned us to stay away. I was hoping to spot some langurs that had been reported near our school and on the trails.

All around us a HUGE highway complete with accompanying condos are being erected to the gods of commerce. The secondary growth is disappearing. The primary forest has long been gone in the Klang Valley. We're hangin on to the overgrown rubber plantations as the last vestiges of forest here for recreation and sanity.

Adam stopped.. we chatted.. he turned around... and exclaimed 'there is a big ass python RIGHT THERE!' we didn't believe him.. sure enough.. it was!

We did what any self respecting naturalist would do.. we went TOWARDS it...we got within about 6 inches of it.. I measured my fist next to it's head.. about the same size...

The snake got nervous.. and slithered off into the brush... it measured about 8-10 feet long as best we could judge... it was like a scene from a bad snake horror movie.. the knee high grass was breaking all down.. but we couldn't see it.. it slithered here and there as we pursued with enthusiasm, giggling like school girls!

It finally disappeared into a hole in the ground.. no Steve Irwin among us to pull it out.. we left it in peace. Suddenly ALL of the leaves on the forest floor looked like python patterns.. everything was a python! It was great.. the adrenaline surged..

We walked out of the forest and headed to the stall for roti and tea...

My day was complete!

Check off another of my life goals.. 'to see a python in the wild'.. and one of my goals for my stint in SE Asia.. however long that may be..

All within 1km of my house!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Righteous Anger

by AJ/Skald

This work situation may prove more beneficial than I first imagined. It is awakening a powerful force in me-- righteous anger. My defiance is awakening. My passion is awakening. My ferocity is awakening.

The last time this happened was in 2001. Six months of misery and wage slavery produced enough rage to power me for four years. Four years of car living, van living, part time working, wandering, writing, drifting, and general hobopoet living.

Maybe I'd gotten too fat and lazy. Maybe the well of righteous anger had run dry. Maybe I need to be reminded just how evil wage slavery is. Maybe I need to be reminded just why I chose a hobopoet life. Maybe I need to awaken that energy, rage, defiance, and ferocity again. Five more months of this and I'll be ready to burn down the school and bulldoze anyone who gets in my way. Five more months of this and I'll be ready to annihilate anything and anyone who tries to cage me.

I feel it growing and, oddly, it feels good. I trust my rage. It has never failed me. It pushes me where I need to go. It doesn't allow me to remain caged for long. It inspires me and demands that I pursue my bliss. The second I depart off that path it returns with fury and builds relentlessly. I don't need to psych myself up. I don't need to make elaborate conscious plans. Rage will do the work for me.

It will dog me. It will plague me. It will not rest, it will not sleep, it will not pause until I am firmly back on my own path again.

For now I will let it stew... let it grow.

But a day of reckoning is on the horizon.

Wage slavers beware.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Still Schizoid

by AJ/Skald

Work: boring, rigid, tiring, uninspiring. Outside of work: enchanting, interesting, fun, hopeful. I'm in a strange situation in Hiroshima. I love the city and the people and am eager to spend more time exploring. That's what being a hobopoet is all about, after all. I'm meeting interesting people and have had some magical experiences.

But the job is the opposite of that. I'm being trained in a rigid system that thoroughly crushes my enthusiasm. Work hours are frustrating and dreary. What to do? At the moment I'm dead broke so some sort of income is necessary.

For now I've decided to finish the training and give the job a few more months.. see if it gets better. I doubt it will become more inspiring, but hope it will prove less draining once I go into autopilot mode.... put in my 20 hours a week and focus energies on that which truly matters. Such is the plan of the moment-- always subject to change!

It is a basic strategy I've often followed. When it is necessary to work and when that work sucks (the usual situation) the best strategy is to quarantine the damage.... make sure the job requires as little thought, emotion, and energy as possible.... pour my passion into the rest of my life... follow my bliss outside of the work environment.

Obviously its not an ideal situation. I thought very seriously about breaking my contract immediately. But I'm fascinated by Hiroshima and wish to explore further.

So for the moment, its a part-time hobopoet strategy for me.

Plum Blossoms in Winter

by AJ/Skald

Bamboo fronds swirled in broad-brush circles-- ripples advanced across the pond. Pink plum blossoms shivered on withered branches. Snowpuffs flittered between the trees and disappeared on contact with the ground.

We walked slowly to the shore and turned towards the arching stone bridge in its center. There was no sound but the whoosh of bamboo and the lapping of wavelets. I glanced to Shiori... she wore a crimson silk robe over her kimono... and a thick pink scarf --Feet covered by only thin silk socks; she wore traditional sandals.

I felt a strange falling sensation... not unlike the other-wordly pull of a salvia rush. Time disconnected. I stood at the center of an eternal moment.... a scene which could have existed centuries ago... one leg in ancient Japan-- one in the present.

I smiled to Shiori and turned back to the pond--- cleared my mind, listened to the swoosh of bamboo.... nodded to the cedars.

Alternate Views

Alternate Views
by AJ/Skald

I typically fill Hobopoet with a high concentration of anti-work rants. I rail against bosses. I rail against monotony. I rail against regimentation.

I quote other work-hating freedom fighters... such as the esteemed Hakim Bey. I blast the institution of work and I attack the individual jobs I have held. All of this is well and good. I believe most of what I write and feel all of it when I'm in the process of writing it.

But every now and then I try to take wise zen advice and "cease to cherish opinions". Few situations are all or nothing, so its important to see more than one side. If I was more careful with my language, perhaps I would write these rants in E-prime... do away with the verb "to be" and substitute perceptual verbs instead. For example, "work seems degrading"... or even more accurately, "I feel degraded at this job".

In that spirit, I will say that passionate, meaningful, engaging work IS POSSIBLE. Clearly it is possible. I have had such experiences myself. My clearest example was the part-time teaching job I held in Gainesville, Georgia... teaching English to immigrants. I LOVED that job. I had complete and total freedom in the classroom... could teach any way I wanted. There were no office hours, so I was never a prisoner. I showed up, taught my class, and left. There was very little bureaucracy or bullshit paperwork. The students were fantastic. They loved class. They were interesting, friendly, and fun. They taught me about their cultures. It was one of the few jobs that actually improved my mood.... I'd show up feeling tired and leave feeling energized.

That job fired my passion. Its one reason I decided to pursue a Masters in TESOL. I loved the students yet felt I was short-changing them. I didnt know what I was doing or why. I wanted to help them improve as quickly and effortlessly as possible but had no idea how to do so. Now I have a much better idea (see http://www.effortlessacquisition.blogspot.com ).

So even I-- the King of job-hating hobopoets-- have had an ecstatic work experience. My gripe is that such experiences are so rare. The bulk of my jobs have been quite the opposite... as past posts indicate.

But there are other signs of hope. Matt Salleh is one. He is a science teacher in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and he loves what he does. He?s having a fantastic time... living in SE Asia, teaching what he loves (science & ecology & outdoor education). He has found his bliss.

Another example is Tom Peters, the business guru ( http://www.tompeters.com ). This guy oozes passion. Scan his blog and you can?t help but get fired up (even if you hate business, as I do). I was determined to hate his stuff yet I return again and again for inspiration, challenging thoughts, and a jolt of passion. His game is certainly not mine... not in a million years could I tolerate the corporate world. But Tom Peters has mojo and there's no denying it. He is following his bliss... and thats always inspiring.

Tom Asacker is another example. He too is a businessman, but a peculiar one. He is dedicated to changing businesses from "profit-driven" enterprises to "emotion-driven" enterprises. Imagine having "love", "passion", or "connection" as the primary goal of a business. Imagine if "heart" replaced "profit" as the driving force behind economics. You may say he's a dreamer, but.......

Then there is the homeless guy-- a man whose true calling is acting as a voice for homeless people. He has an extremely popular blog on homelessness (http://www.thehomelessguy.blogspot.com ) where he gets the word out. The homeless guy is following his bliss too. He is the embodiment of Kerouac?s powerful principle, "No shame in the dignity of your own experience and knowledge".

And so there is hope. We must investigate these hopeful situations and be inspired by these rare individuals. Most of us must make an income.. however meager. This issue of economics is thus very important and hits to the heart of the hobopoet philosophy. As Gandhi (and Thoreau) noted, Economics is a religious/moral issue. How we feed and clothe ourselves is a deeply philosophical dilemma. How we make an income is a deeply spiritual question.

Are there ways to do these things that are blissful? Can we make an income AND retain our freedom? Can we find work that is so ecstatic that it ceases to be "work" at all?

Clearly we can. Such work may not be common. It may not be easy to find. It may take years to find our bliss. And what we find may not be considered normal...

But find it we can. It is possible.

Hiroshima Poet

by AJ/Skald

The girl in the green kimono appears to be a writer or poet. She curls a small notepad close to her chest... holds it directly under her nose, and writes in bursts. When she pauses, she holds it against her body, lifts her chin, and stares forward.... then drops her eyes to the paper to write again. What a fascinating image she portrays--

Why is she dressed in a kimono? What is she writing? What was she reading earlier? I'm enchanted. Is she composing poetry or just making a shopping list?

I choose to imagine the first.... a poet dressed in a kimono sitting in a Starbucks- composing. Its the more romantic option and thus the one I prefer.

Girl In a Green Kimono

by AJ/Skald

A young woman in a green kimono sits at the booth to my left. She wears silk sandals and her hair is pulled back. Her back is straight as she reads a book at the table. I'm hunched over my laptop, sipping a mocha. A Starbucks mug sits on her table as well.

I repeatedly glance at her... trying to avoid her gaze-- Hoping she won?t think I'm a pervert or a stalker.

But I'm drawn to her. I?m enchanted by her quiet dignity. There sits my anti-self: poised, refined, centered, peaceful. How does one come by these qualities?

Maybe they are not acquired. Maybe the best we can do is live out our natures. Hers: poised & dignified. Mine: restless & temperamental. Yin & Yang. The world needs both, I suppose.

While I have no hope for developing such traits in myself, I am nevertheless comforted to encounter them in others. Such people soothe me. Inspire me. Give me hope. They remind me that there is more to humanity than anger, ignorance, cruelty, and violence. There is also kindness. There is also quiet dignity. There is also beauty and refinement.

Pummelled as we are by images of death and destruction..... caged as we are by systems of greed.. it is easy to forget the subtler truths.

Kurt Vonnegut is right-- on a macro scale humanity is ignorant, perverse, vicious, and insane. But Basho is right too. In quiet, intimate moments lie our salvation.

Stillness

by AJ/Skald

There is such beauty in people when they are still. Perhaps that's why I love coffee shops. What I love most is to sit quietly and look at people: a young woman reads, another holds her phone tenderly while sending a text message.... an old man sits at a booth and stares out the window.

Quiet & still, we are at our best. Its when we start jabbering that the ugliness comes out. Language is to blame for much of our misery.

William S. Burroughs described language as an invading virus from outer space... a disease that infected our brains and took control of them. The metaphor has merit. Where, after all, do our thoughts come from? Language-thoughts seem to bubble forth from an inner void. Some of them take hold and replicate... strengthen and reproduce. The more virulent among them are spread to other brains via language. In many ways, ideas spread like epidemics.

So what are we, exactly... and what is our relation to language? Are we merely hosts in which language-thoughts incubate, reproduce, and spread? Do we have any control over these viruses? If so, what is the "I" or "we" that is doing the controlling..... just a different set of language-thoughts? Or something beyond language?

What is the purpose of meditation but to free us from these unwholesome invaders? Meditation helps "us" to silence "them"... gain a few moments rest from their attacks... get in touch with what we were before they infected us.

Sages call this state "big mind" or "sky mind". Its the truth beyond language. Its our older, purer selves.

Varanasi Bhang

by AJ/Skald

Sllluuuurrpppp..... chunky yoghurt slid over my tongue... a slime residue with bits of pulp and leaves. Thick gulp- then down the throat. I licked my lips... rubbed my tongue against the roof of my mouth... pressed it against my teeth and sucked.

I scanned my body for hint of a buzz, but nothing yet--- just nerves and fear. I stared into the unglazed clay cup.... threw it to the cobblestone... listened to it shatter with a ?pop?.

I was deep in the bowels of the old city.... sitting in a dark alley in the heart of ?medieval? India.... a time traveler. Only a bare bulb above the drink stall suggested the true date. The stone walls and the twisting, narrow, claustrophic, cobblestone passages were of another era.

Against all better judement, I was sitting alone in the old city of Varanasi, India and had just downed the city?s signature drink: a ?bhang lassi?. Bhang is a mixture of yoghurt and marijuana leaves rumored to be extremely powerful. It was first used as an intoxicant in India around 1000 B.C. and soon became an integral part of Hindu culture. In the ancient text Artharvaveda Bhang is described as a beneficial herb that ?releases anxiety?. Bhang preparations were sacred to the gods, particularly Shiva. One of Shiva?s epithets was ?Lord of Bhang?. It was Shiva, in fact, who supposedly discovered the transcendental properties of the mixture.

The center of Shiva worship is Varanasi- which lies on the banks of the Ganges River. It is home to the burning ghats: open air funeral pyres. After cremation, the burnt remains are pushed into the holy river. Hindus who are cremated in Varanasi are believed to gain particularly good karma and a favorable rebirth in the next life. The city is also host to numerous religious festivals, including Holi.

Holi takes place on the full moon between the month of February and March every year. The festival celebrates the legend of the despotic King Hiranyakashipu and his son. The King asked his people to worship him as God, but his young son was defiant, and pledged only to worship the deity Vishnu. The festival therefore marks the triumph of devotion over ambition. It is literally India?s most colorful festival, as it is celebrated by throwing paint. Many devotees imbibe Bhang during the festival, giving it a somewhat pychedelic atmosphere.

In addition to hosting religious festivals, Varanasi is home to a large concentration of sadhus. Sadhus are Hindu monks who renounce most sensual pleasures. Traditionally they live solitary lives, always on the move. They own only what they carry and subsist on alms. They are easily identified by their long beards and dreadlocks which are knotted into huge buns. Some wear robes, while others wear only a loincloth or go completely naked. Shiva sadhus bear the emblems of Shiva: the trident, the two-sided drum, and the necklace of seeds. Some smear their bodies with ash to symbolize Shiva?s role as the Destroyer who reduces everything to dust. On their foreheads, most sadhus paint a tika- which is a symbol that represents their sect affiliation. In imitation of Shiva, many sadhus use Bhang to boost meditation and achieve transcendental states.

Bhang is sold in shops throughout the old city of Varanasi; most are, in fact, nothing more than wooden shacks, though many claim to be official ?government bhang shops?. They can be difficult to find as there are no street signs and no cars in the old city-- the winding passages are far too narrow. Furthermore, these passages are sprinkled with staircases, sharp turns, sudden drops, and a tangle of wooden shacks.

By day the city is less than charming. Filth is on full display. Cow shit, dog shit, goat pellets, and human excrement lie in piles on the footpaths. Urine collects in pools. Garbage, including rotten food, plastic, paper, and table scraps are piled in the alleys as well. Cows and goats feed on the garbage. Rats feed on the garbage. Dogs and cats feed on the rats.

The city has a pungent smell. A combination of shit, urine, decomposing waste, flower garlands, inscence, and smoke from the funeral pyres. The odors have knockdown strength.

The city is far more alluring at night. Filth is hidden in darkness as shadows creep to fill every corner, every alley, every turn. Its a deep den of darkness punctuated by pools of light. Gangly men in silk shirts huddle on the shadows? edges, smoking cigarettes-- murmuring in low voices. Dogs shriek suddenly in the distance, then trail off to lost passageways. Now and then a splash of bells or the drone of chanting whiffs by on the air.... then silence once again. Bhang-drenched sadhus sit crosslegged by the riverside.

Varanasi?s reputation is as dark as its alleys. Every year, a few foreign tourists simply vanish. Fliers hang in guesthouses, the desperate work of relatives searching for lost loved ones. Guidebooks warn against excursions into the old city at night-- especially alone.

The rumors on the backpacker?s trail are just as daunting. I remember a haggard hippy in Rishikesh who warned me off the city: It was horrible. ... dirty and dangerous. His eyes were shifty; his head wobbled left to right. He affected a semi-sahdu look: with a long beard and dreadlocks piled high upon his head. He carried a small cloth sack. Bone thin- his jaws clenched and his eyes shifted manically.

His warning stuck with me. And so it was with a sense of mystery, dread, and excitement that I downed my first Bhang mix. I slurped it, broke the clay cup on the cobblestone, and handed a wad of Indian Rupees to the gaunt man who sold me the mixture. Then I set off into the darkness. For another thirty minutes I explored the alleyways randomly.... and then it hit me. Legs weakened...... head buzzed.

Eventually I popped out of the warrens onto the ghats. Ghats are the walkways and stairs that line the shores of the Ganges River. They are the focal point of religious activity in Varanasi- host to funeral fires, sadhus, merchants, con artists, strolling families, pilgrims, and tourists. Pilgrims come from all over India to visit the ghats of Varanasi, as Hindus believe that bathing in the river washes away bad karma.

The river itself is broad, slow, and dark. By day it varies between clay and coffee color, by night it is chocolate. Small hand-paddled boats ply the river, ferrying tourists and pilgrims. A common pilgrimage practice is to carry a religious statue to the center of the river and sink it as an offering to the gods. Despite its holiness, the Ganges is highly polluted. Human and animal waste flow into it untreated. It is common to see bloated corpses of humans, cows, and other animals. Some classes of people, for example, are not cremated. Rather, they are dumped directly into the river. These include sadhus, pregnant women, children and people
with leprosy-- who are weighted down and dropped in the river.

I had stumbled onto the ?Main ghat?. It was packed with people... sparkling lights,... and the deafening clang of bells. A crowd concentrated on the edge nearest the river.... eyes intent upon a skydance of whirling lights. I wandered closer.

A group of five Hindu priests were aligned along the shores of the river. Hindu priests are not sadhus. Rather, they are functionaries who specialize in the complex religious rites peculiar to their sect. Behind each priest sat a set of candlesticks, bells, and lamps. Each priest held a candleabra with five flames. Overhead, bass-beat chants echoed along the length of the river. I looked up... and caught the source of the chanting... a set of speakers strung along the backside of the ghat: High-tech Hinduism.

Each priest executed, in perfect harmony with the other four, a set of intricate patterns with the oil lamps. They created trace patterns much like children with sparklers on the Fourth of July. In unison they lifted lamps, spun them, turned them, dropped them. In unison not only with each other... but with the chanting from the speakers, the jamboree jingles, the swaying crowd, the flicker of the oil-lights, and the rhythm of my own breathing.

The priests then twirled to face the river.... set down their lamps... and bowed.

I turned and headed back towards my guesthouse-- making my way along the shore. The dark mass of water slid by to my right..... towering stone shadows rose to my left. I passed several sahdus, silent and crosslegged.

Behind me, I heard the clang of tamborines from pious devotees. Ahead, I saw a faint sky glow from the burning ghats.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Thinking of Skald....

Today is a cloudy day in Kuala Lumpur. Bits of blue poke out from behind rice white clouds while the temprature soars close to 95 Farenheit.

Tonight we'll have a house warming party. Even though we've been in KL for a few months now, it's the first time we've had a chance to invite folks over for a piss up.

So I pulled out my trusty 'Grit' cookbook and looked up some recipes.

The Grit is a vegetarian restaraunt in Athens, GA where Skald and I have had many a good hearty meals. So, naturally, I think of him when I whip up a batch of good ole Grit food.

Tonight we'll have vegan chilli with gardenburger 'meat', spinach and portabello mushroom quesadillas, and loaded nachos. The best and EASIEST thing to make was the fresh salsa. I've never made it before, always having relied on the store bought stuff. Never again! It was so easy to make and mighty tasty!

A few ice cold Kingfisher beers and some shiraz and merlot and you have a complete evening.

So, Skald.. I wish you could be here... to share in this evening. I know you'd enjoy it!

Here's to living abroad, escaping the tyranny of boredom and slave labor drudgery and being bold enough to step out of bounds when the bounds need to be redefined!

Eat UP! Drink UP! Follow your Bliss!

-Matt

Thursday, March 10, 2005

What is it I'm supposed to be missing?

After a good hard run there's nothing better than an ice cold beer, some black pepper venison, garlic kailan, fried rice and a plate full of butter prawns.

Tuesday we played Ultimate Frisbee from 5:30-7:00. A nice dip in the pool afterwards and then we were off to our favorite roadside Chinese food stall for the aforementioned delights. (literally it IS roadside... the highway is directly adjacent to the open air stall, which obviously compliments the rough and tumble ambience!)

I kick started my scooter which costs a whopping US$1 a week to load up with gas. A cool breeze blew through the streets near downtown Kuala Lumpur while a bowl of peanuts and a tall Carlsberg awaited my arrival. Soon I would be in my food heaven.

Humans need ritual as much as air and water. If we don't have it built in or supplied by someone then we create it. Tuesday Frisbee is my ritual, my religion.

The meal and a few cold ones averages about US$5 every week.

Last night I went to a new food stall. Very local. Open air. Grungy. Full of Chinese, Malay and Indians. My friends and I were the only matt salleh around. I ordered a cheese naan complete with spinach dip and tandoori fish. Not too long and I ordered a garlic naan with dahl to top it off. That meal was about US$4.

Today, I did my teaching and did a little rappelling after school with our climbing club. Home by 4:30, glass noodle soup and red wine for dinner. Later I'll go for a therapeutic massage and pay a nice US$12.50 fee for an hour or maybe I'll splurge and go for the US$20/2 hour version.

Saturday I'll make up a batch of salsa, get some chips and invite over some folks for a house warming party. We have plenty of cheap Australian wine (US$5) a bottle. I'll put on some R.E.M. and play it loud. Might even trundle down to the pool.

Well, I seem to be pretty happy in Malaysia. I will definitley return to visit my family, friends, and the country of my birth but I hope I can live over here in SE Asia or some other distant locale the rest of my days!

So, remind me, what is it I'm supposed to miss about 'Merica?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Lost

by AJ/Skald

Lost in a dance of light and color. I am on the pale road where thoughts grow thin. It buzzes: the laughter, hushed conversation, click of the keyboard, tap of my feet,.... A chemical reaction. An alchemal mix of feeling and perception. I am being moved.... but I know not where... nor towards what.

Its like the first mushroom rush.... being swept away by waves of light, sound, countours, faces, voices, aromas.... Its like the first plunge of falling in love. I am headlong in love with my life.
Stunned. Speechless.

Heart struck by every face I see. Painful, aching ecstasy. Hopelessly lost.

Im an Indradic God at the bejeweled center of the universe. All of life is dancing around me.

I sit alone and grin like a simple idiot. No one notices because I am the empty center around which they swirl. Invisible.

Ive been here all day. Open and receptive. Lost in reverie.

Hopelessly, painfully, beautifully

in love.

Sublime

by AJ/Skald

For a minute, I lost myself. Immersed. I sat and watched beautiful Japanese girls stroll by on the
stairs beside me. My thoughts wandered... images of girls I have loved surfaced. And then it happened... one moment Im writing scathing attacks on the evils of work... the next, Im struck silent by the magnificent beauty of life.

My eyes tear up and I turn my head to hide them. I notice a father holding his baby girl... who is
sleeping in his arms. I notice a couple holding hands. I have so many grand designs but happiness resides in these simple moments.

How magnificent life is. How glorious to be in a coffee shop in Hiroshima, Japan: me, a geeky boy from Georgia; so timid, so fearful as a child. How mysterious for me to end up here.... clothed in overalls, hunched over a laptop, sipping coffee in the first city to be A-bombed. Life always turns out stranger than you imagine.

On the first floor, a middle aged man is stretching in his seat, while a girl in a red apron frantically wipes the booth beside him. Shes smiling.

Across from me, two girls lean towards one another and sip their drinks... look into each others eyes and hold the gaze. I wonder what they are discussing. In another corner, a girl with round cheeks wears a wool hat and thick jacket; shes gulping at her cup. But then she takes a napkin and daintily daubs her lips. She notices my stare and I look away.

So it goes at all times... all around us. A million tiny miracles unfold and we never notice. So
beautiful. So harmonious. So subtle and sublime.

Jobs Ruin Everything

by AJ/Skald

Hiroshima has certainly grown on me. If I didnt have to work this crappy language institute job, Id love it. But isn't that always the case-- jobs spoil everything. Part-time is the way to go. Freelance is the way to go. Lazy jobs are the way to go. Working for yourself is the way to go. Full-time wage slavery is a fucking scourge. It drains intelligence, sucks out creativity, and crushes the spirit. Such jobs erode your dignity and destroy your happiness.

I should have known it would end like this-- quickly and savagely. The power of wishful thinking is amazing. I should have known I could never endure this kind of humiliation again. Those days are long gone. Another part of me has awakened-- a fiercer, freer, wilder self. Its in charge now. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Anyone who tries to corner me will be bypassed or screwed over. Thats just the way of it... and theres nothing I can do about it (Im reminded of that line from Fight Club: I used to be such a nice guy).

Freedom has that effect. Its more addictive than nicotine or heroin. Few who free themselves can ever return to slavery. Once youve tasted freedom, you become capable of anything to preserve it. It becomes impossible to suck up to bosses, to obey the rules, to play nice. Already Im snarling through meetings. Already I mock my "superiors". Already I plan my escape. Its been only one week but my rage is awakened.

I dont care about career. I dont care about commitments. I dont care about other peoples notion of responsibility. I dont care about fairness. These fuckers are trying to imprison and control me and I cant allow that.

This is something all aspiring hobopoets should be aware of. Be careful about crossing that line.
Once you commit to this life, it becomes an all or nothing proposition. Theres no going back. No more good employee. No more good citizen. You cross the line and thats it-- youre on your own. Youll never fit in with the herd again.

I thought I could fake it a while for the sake of big money... but I was wrong.

Schizoid

by AJ/Skald

Matt emailed me recently and tried to encourage me to stick out the situation in Japan. He reminded me that culture shock is normal.... that I went through a similarly volatile period in Thailand. He is absolutely right. His email helped me to realize that Ive painted a very negative picture in my few recent posts.

To balance the picture I should note that despite my furious hatred of the job, I love Japan. I am
hopelessly enamored with the people. They are, without doubt, the sweetest people I have ever met. I have never seen such poise, such grace, such friendliness, such eagerness to help. I have never met a gentler people. I am in love with them.

The first few days here were shocking... mostly it was the weather, coming from the technicolor summer of Thailand to the drab winter of Hiroshima. It was depressing. But the people quickly won us over. Already I feel comfortable among them. I want to meet them. I want to make friends. I could very easily live here.

But I find myself in a curious situation. It was the same when I lived here before. I was lonely,
depressed, and bored to death at my job. I fled. Yet I left without a single negative thought about
the Japanese people I had met. I still remember them fondly. My Japanese experiences are schizoid-- I love the people and hate working here. I love the country but hate the jobs. I have not met a single disagreeable person in Hiroshima. But I have met countless folks who are beautiful, kind, and friendly. I wish I could live here as I did in Thailand.... as a hobopoet student.

But Japan is expensive and I am broke. If Japan has one flaw, from my perspective, it is its insane work culture. They worship work, I despise it. They obey bosses and respect authority, I loathe both. I want passion, flexibility, and fun if I must work a job.... they value rules, systems, control, security, and the chain of command. I want to teach natural English and promote effortless acquisition. They insist I use drills, error correction, and rote practice.

Im not quite sure why they hired me... as they read my teaching blog during the hiring process. It
should have been obvious that my teaching philosophy was at odds with theirs. I should have probed them more thoroughly. But they wanted the MS TESOL degree and figured Id be an obedient employee once I showed up. Obedience has never been my strong suit.

So here I am among people I love-- in a job I despise.

Unfortunately, shitty jobs ruin everything. I cant live my life in separate compartments called work and free time. I demand joy and ecstasy from my work and I insist that the work I do is indeed MINE. I must own it.

Maybe someday I will return to Japan with a wad of money. Maybe Ill start my own program here. Maybe Ill enjoy this place on my own terms, as a hobopoet.

But for now, the job has ruined everything.

Uncaged

by AJ/Skald

If a measure of distance from the herd is the price, so be it. If a volatile career is the price, so be it. I will not surrender my ferocity for a small gain in security. I am not a child. I am not a herd animal. I am a hobopoet.

I will go where my bliss... where my whim takes me. I will not surrender my freedom, nor my autonomy, nor my fury. I will not be obedient. I will not submit to slavery. I will not be told what to do. I will not adjust... I will not lead another persons life in the name of maturity. I will not do the officially sanctioned responsible thing. This is my life and I will own it.

I, and I alone, am responsible for it. I desire no control over others and will accept no authority
over me. This is the decision I made three years ago... on a mountaintop in Shiura village. I vowed never again to compromise my bliss for the sake of appearance, acceptance, responsibility, money, or public opinion. It is a vow I have kept and one I will continue to keep.

Japan is a wonderful place. I am hopelessly in love with its people. But Japan is not the problem. The problem is that I tried to cheat my vow. I tried to snigger around it for the sake of quick cash and job security. I was thinking, --$1000 dollars a month saved!--. I was thinking, --$12,000 dollars after one year--. I was thinking, --I can endure a year of authority and wage slavery.. just one year... in order to buy several years of freedom afterwards--.

I thought I could negotiate with my bliss. I thought I could soothe my ferocity. Just for a year, I
thought I could cheat on my vow. I was wrong.

Dead wrong. Not only was I wrong, I was a fool. The hobopoet path must be walked with a warriors heart. No surrender, no fear, no hesitation..... No bargaining with ones bliss. Alan Watts reminds us that failure of nerve is really failure to trust oneself. Facing the end of easy money, I lost my nerve.

But the heart and spirit correct the folly of the mind. I squirm during every staff meeting. I bite
my tongue to hold back defiant arguments. I smile to hide my sneer. I grit my teeth. My muscles tense. Faced with bosses, authority, control, rules, orders... every fiber of my body rouses for a fight. Something has been unleashed that will never be caged again. I did more than make a vow three years ago. I forever abandoned a normal life.

Regression

by AJ/Skald

As I prepare to embark upon another job, it strikes me that employment is essentially juvenile.
What is a boss but a surrogate parent-figure... someone to tell you what to do, when to do it, and
how to do it? An employee is nothing but a grown child-- someone without the initiative or know-how to think and live for themselves.

And so I have regressed. For three full years Ive lived life on my own terms but I am soon to become a child once again. Starting tomorrow, I will no longer be an autonomous adult. Ill have to answer to someone. Someone will tell me how to teach and when to teach. Someone else will decide what I am worth. They will tell me when to show up, what materials to use, what procedures to follow. I have a Masters in TESOL and years of experience and great ideas... but once more I will be an adolescent-- not trusted to make my own decisions.

And yet my position in Hiroshima carries more autonomy than most jobs. Most Ive had were far more intrusive.

So where does this put us, as a society? In terms of cultural evolution, we are still juveniles. We
have not yet graduated to autonomy as a species. We leave our biological parents, but merely trade them for surrogates: teachers, cops, & bosses.

Employment is a phase we must grow out of-- if we are ever to advance beyond our current infantile state.

On a personal level, employment is a phase I must grow out of... lest I remain a child for the
entirety of my life.

A-Bomb Museum

by AJ/Skald

Visited the A-bomb museum today... very, very powerful. Hard to put much into words at the
moment. Its just a series of images: two models of the city side by side... one a representation of
the city before the bomb, the other a flattened plane representing the city after the bomb.

The most devastating images are of the immediate survivors.... the burn victims with flesh
dripping off their arms... the scorched faces... the scorched clothing. According to the museum,
140,000 people died in the explosion and its short-term aftermath.

140,000 gone in an instant. Truly horrible. And yet, think of the attention this event created.
Sixty years later we are still visiting the museum. Everyone remembers. Why is it that 140,000
Japanese killed in an instant creates such a stir.... but 100,000 Iraqis killed over the course of a
year creates hardly a blip on the American imagination? Did those people suffer less because their deaths were spread out? Did their relatives suffer less? Is the destruction any less horrible?
Is death by napalm, cluster bomb, or snipers bullet somehow more desirable than incineration from an atomic bomb? Were the Tokyo firebombs, which killed more people than the Hiroshima A-bomb, more humane?

The museum stressed the need for peace and nuclear disarmament.... but for my taste the emphasis was too much on nuclear weapons and not enough on peace in general. We are now at the stage where conventional weapons are nearing the destructive capability of those first nuclear bombs. The American military, in particular, is an ultra-efficient killing machine. We donft need to use nukes because we can obliterate any nation on earth without them.

In fact, nukes now represent the best hope for peace for countries like North Korea and Iran. They face certain attack from America unless they develop the bomb. They need the bomb to stay safe. Can you blame them for pursuing this option? North Korea just bought themselves a huge insurance policy.... its no coincidence that Bush & Co. are treating them much more carefully. Its no coincidence that Americas aggressive rhetoric is now targeted at Syria and Iran.

Should Iran develop usable nukes, they will get the kid-gloves treatment as well. Until then, they
are in the gun-sights.

So the lesson of the A-bomb museum, for me, is the need for peace in general. This can only
come from ordinary people, not governments. And it will only come when good citizens of
aggressor countries heed Gandhis advice and stop co-operating. As long as loyal patriots are
ready to kill on command, as long as people are ready to wave the flag and cheer the troops,... the
bloodshed will never stop.

Our best hope for peace is to criticize and defy our own governments. Our best hope for peace
is to kill patriotism and national loyalty... to replace it with loyalty to the human race... loyalty
to the planet as a whole. Dont take pride in being an American... take pride in being a human being.

Separation

by AJ/Skald

Sometimes it is necessary to leave that which we love... for a little while. Doing so renews our
appreciation. It helps us to remember what we have and why it is important. We once again
understand its beauty, power, and uniqueness.

So it is with me and Thailand. Coming to Japan has renewed my appreciation for Southeast
Asia. I am reminded that it is a special place for me... a place that rejuvenated me...a place where
I feel at home. Leaving Thailand was extremely difficult. I cried like a baby in the departure gate
and again on the plane. It was tough to leave Tip. It was tough to leave the eternal
sunshine, the eternal warmth. It was tough to leave the spices, the smells, the energy, the chaos.

Already I miss it terribly. What am I doing here? Why have I returned (yet again) to a cold,
grey, workaholic country? Why have I based such a decision on financial matters... on the goal of
making money-- something that always ends in disaster for me. Sometimes I must make the same
mistake three, four, five times before it finally sinks in. So here I am again--- facing the barrel of a gun called work... surrounded by GQ worker bees... sitting under a grey winter sky.
Its like I've moved from technicolor (Thailand) to a world of blacks, whites, and greys (Japan).
Not that its an unpleasant place. Everything here is, in fact, pleasant.

But theres also no fire or spice or dirt or... or... mojo. While I value the quiet and clean air.... everything is just a little too ordered.

But theres nothing to do at the moment but make the best of it. Im dead broke. The
impoverished have fewer options and I am stuck working here for a few months. If that time
helps to strengthen my appreciation for what I had, then it is time well spent. If that time fires
my determination and defiance, it is time well spent. If that time builds my savings and increases
my financial options, it is time well spent. If that time serves as a slap in the face and a kick in
the ass, it is time well spent. After all, if I was completely fat, lazy, and happy... what would I
write about!! From time to time it is valuable to confront what we loathe... to face challenges of
our own creation. Doing so keeps us in fighting shape... keeps us sharp....keeps us aware of our
priorities. These stints should be short-- but they are valuable.