Some are just as equal as others

Let me start by giving you a quick update on how things are going here in Indonesia. My buddy Mike and I got sick the day after Christmas. I recovered quickly but his condition worsened over the days, reaching it’s lowest point on New Years Eve. It wasn’t funny at all, his fever was very high, he couldn’t eat and was barely conscious. Luckily he started recovering from the morning of January 1st and was strong enough to travel again the next day. We transfered from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak to the magical island of Lebowan As we speak he is doing his last bit of recovery by reading in the pool, on an intesting floating device seemingly designed exactly for that puprose, looking over the gorgeous turquoise bay. To go short: we don’t have to feel sorry for him anymore.

For some reason this trip turns out way more luxurious than I expected, partly because of Mike’s illness (that demanded hygiene, cleanliness and availability of Western medical needs), partly because of the standard of living of the people we hang out with. Everything is beautiful, five star level, stunning and great but it makes me feel very much like a consumer. The feeling that comes up is that I’m not experiencing the ‘real’ Bali (or Lebowan). What I realize is that this is very much the reality of 2011t: traditional ways of living have been replaced by a cult around tourism. Locals live from the scraps and left overs from what the toursists bring in. My role here is to consume the views, foods, clubs and scenery and to spend, buy and rent from businesses that are mostly Western owned but hire (many) local staff. I cannot expect the locals to treat me as their buddy because I have a preference for feeling more equal.

Now what would a Zen master do? This the modified version of the question I read in an interview with a Roman Catholic priest. He would ask himself when he was facing a dilemma “what would Jezus do?”. I think that both Jezus and the Zen master would surrender to their role and treat every person, poor or rich, with dignity, respect and compassion. But that happens here also. The staff are very friendly and respectful and so are the guests. This answer feels unsatisfactory.

I find it hard to feel unequal. Why is that? When I look into myself I feel that the possible answer lies in the inability to fully embrace the opposites. That means that the solution is allowing the opposite. We should not  only appreciate equality but also inequality, not only perfection but also imperfection, not only justice but also injustice. Appreciation goes a bit further than acknowledging. When we appreciate these so-called negative phenomenas we actually value them as something positive. Can we do that?

What happens if I do that? Ah, I see. Everything is in flux. Not only individuals can grow and develop but so can countries and cultures (and groups and organizations etc.). And the Zen master will just trust the basic goodness of the universe, no matter in what form or stage it manifests. Just like a father will trust  that his baby son will learn to walk even when he is still crawling today. There is no contempt for the crawling stage but respect and trust, and there are no feelings of superiority around the father’s upright walking. One day he will be old and his legs won’t be able to carry him anymore. Hopefully he has loved his child enough to deserve the care of his grown up son.

Nice. I just discovered why it is necessary to not only spend my money here and but also to sow as much friendliness as I can.

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