Chronicles of the Wayward Moot

WELCOME TO THE MOOT, oh world-wanderers and word-whisperers. After two years of Peace Corps. After 2,200 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. What. Comes. Next?

24/05/2007

There are a few new pictures below all this, but first you gotsta catch up with what´s up. Lots of words, but I´ve been away for a while. Read it or not...Just do what your heart tells you, that´s what I do.

Alright guys and gals, ladies and gentlemen, dogs and cats, fish and whales, deer and antelope, LET´S PLAY.  Below you will encounter some texr that will possibly give insight as to what´s been going on with me of late.  Note the dates.  The first piece I wrote in late March.  The second I wrote last night and this morning.  Things are in motion.  What things those are, where they´re heading to, and how fast they´re moving are all up for discussion and speculation.  Ideas, assumptions, values, desires, and plans are fluid and I call the learning process of seeing how they change "getting a life."  It´s fun stuff, challenging stuff, and certainly not always met with agreement or understanding or openness, but it´s life and it's illuminating and it makes me who I am.  Let the comments roll in, or keep things here at the Moot silent like deep space.  Your choice.  I hope your paths are filled with twists and turns as well. --- Mountainjedi
 
March 27, 2007

 

WAKE UP.

WAKE UP.

WAKE UP.

 

I sit here at the laptop with some energetic music playing from the stereo.  Pretty loudly.   It's a mix of techno-type sounds with some yelling and cheering ... the kind of stuff that would get a rave going really well, or incite soccer fans to tip over a police car.   One of the lyrics that keeps repeating is "flag to the penalty, flag to the penalty!"  In my head lately (the last several days, weeks, years even), I'm deciding that I want to flag the penalties of a civilization that seems to, demonstrable through its actions, want nothing more than to harvest and process and devour and destroy everything in existence.   This includes the civilization itself.  What am I personally doing about it?  Well, for starters, I'm inviting strangers into my home.   Right now as a matter of fact, two visitors are preparing what sounds likely to turn out as a delicious meal of chicken, vegetables, and pasta.   David and Viviana are two young Colombians.  They are university-educated makers of titeres (puppets) and woven jewelry.  They tell me that Ecuador is the first country they're passing through on a South American journey they suspect will take more than a year.   I don't know what they hope to find or experience along the way, but I'm hoping to ask them that during dinner.

 

WAKE UP.

 

I'm undergoing a process of awakening.  One friend of mine called it an existential crisis.   That was weeks ago though, and I don't know whether that term would still apply.   The very basic tale is that I've been reading and rereading some works by what might be called "cultural critics" and, perhaps more than previously in my life and experience, listening to what they are saying and applying their insights and points of view to feelings I have been noticing in myself for a number of years.   How do describe this feeling?  Basically, the feeling that Morpheus describes to Neo in The Matrix, about there being something indefinably "wrong" with the world, or the way things are … that's the feeling I mean.   Like there's something afoot, something going on just under the surface that everyone is aware of but you.  Yep.   Sounds crazy.  Sure does.  Sounded crazy to me when I was first pondering it, but the more I learn and the more I think, the less I feel I can remain content as a mindless participant in the system.   Now, if I act in a way that contributes to this horrendously destructive system, I choose to do so not obliviously, but knowingly.   Furthermore, becoming more and more appealing to me is the idea of having the OPTION to live a life apart from the system that I am seeing is the root cause of so much needless suffering (on the part of everything – people, plants, animals, the very planet itself).  

 

Some fundamental truths that ought to be articulated:

Any perceived inequality of value is counter to reality.  People are not worth more than animals.   Animals are not worth more than plants.   Plants are not worth more than minerals.  Men are not worth more than women, whites not worth more than blacks, strong not worth more than weak.   None of the order just mentioned is relevant.   All are equally as important as each individual cell in your body.   It's false to believe that a clump of cells in the left ventricle of the heart is more important than a clump of cells in the hypothalamus, or the eye, or the lung, as far as they are concerned in making up a healthy and whole human being.   Similarly, people and stones and water and trees and birds and microbes are all as important to the overall health and completeness of the universe as those cells are to each body.   If this is true, then why does the dominant culture of our species act as if it were not true, as if some elements of existence have a greater right to exist than the others?   To put it bluntly, why does the culture tend to work in such a way that it reinforces, supports, and affirms the continuing rights of wealthy Caucasian males to enjoy the highest quality of life (materially speaking) at the direct and indirect expense of all other forms of life?   Authors and thinkers such as Eduardo Galeano, Daniel Quinn, Jared Diamond, Derrick Jensen, and others are helping me to get a grip on a new way of looking at things, and with their guidance I am finally able to put form to those inklings plaguing me for years that there was something a little fishy with what I saw when I watched TV/read a book/read a magazine/went to a movie/talked to people/played a game/ate at a restaurant/did anything else that people in the dominant culture DO.   I've been transformed.  The act that the person I am now can perform that the person I was formerly could not:   Admit openly that the current system which directs how people are to live is not working, and can not work.   All the programs and directives and laws and protected areas and protocols and government committees imaginable would not, could not, are DESIGNED not to fix this.   This perception colors everything I bear witness to now.   I can not go back to being what I was, and I don't want to.
 
 
 
 

May 23, 2007 6:50 pm

I have returned.  Once again I find myself in Zaruma, sitting at my table draped with a colorful Andean weaving.   The air is warm and feels humid; outside the sounds of passing cars, trucks, and the occasional bus thunder and whoosh by.  Upstairs on the terrace I've got underwear, shirts, and one pair of pants drying on the lines … I was washing them a short while ago as the tangerine sunset played over the hills of Southern Ecuador.   I was halfway expecting to see some summer weather when I came back but it looks like the clouds are still in charge here.  On the stereo I'm trying out the first songs on the first disc of a set of four I received as a gift from a LONG time friend of mine from Louisiana.   The discs are live recordings of a folksy-Zydeco-Cajun group called the Red Stick Ramblers.   I'm digging the sound.  I suspect they're from Baton Rouge (French for Red Stick, of course).   Right now they're singing in Cajun-style French, and I'm taken back to when I was small and this kind of music was played more often, or at least that's how I remember it …

 

May 24, 2007 7:50 am

The third disc is now playing, as I listened to the first during dinner last night at my counterpart's house down the hill, and the second was playing when I read for a while and then fell to exhausted sleep after the day's activities: Unpacking two massive bags that provided my material base for the better part of a month that I was gone – making Mac and Cheese with the one packet that had broken open in transit from Louisiana to here – heading to the tourism office to distribute gifts to my amigas and other work folk – catching up on the latest news and presenting the mayor with the camera he asked me to buy him (but could I wait a week or so for the money because he's low on cash right now?   Hehehe, Ecuador.  One way or another I think I'll find someone to take the camera if the alcalde decides he doesn't need one as badly as he thought he did) – shopping for food to load up the fridge and empty shelves and storage nooks of my place (For the record I bought milk, cereals, granola, yogurt, whole wheat bread, mozzarella cheese, cream cheese, strawberry jam, 36 eggs, potato strings for putting on top of salad, 8 cans of tuna, ketchup and mayonnaise, and a pack of ham.) – picking up an order of fresh corn, beef, and vegetable tamales from my neighbor Maria – talking to a good Peace Corps friend and then my incomparable Chuffmate on the phone up on the terrace – washing a pile of laundry and hanging it up – then going down the hill to my counterpart's to have a welcome home dinner, distribute more gifts and requested items, and finally head across the street to the park to toss one of my new Frisbees with the new Zaruma volunteer and some local kids.   All of this while dealing with a low-level but persistent cold that I picked up my last day in the States.  Looking forward to recovering so I can get into a get-up-early-and-run routine.   That's funny because not long ago I really didn't like running.  As for that I'll just say that there was a time when I didn't really like beer either, but hey, people change their minds!

 

So what's it like being back here after two weeks in the States?  To put it like that doesn't really flesh out what happened during those two weeks.   What's it like being back here after going back to the place I grew up, where my early values and cultural norms were instilled? (More of that crazy good Cajun accordion and fiddle music flowing from the speakers now…)   Calling those two weeks a "visit" is inadequate.  Details beg telling.  Coming from Ecuador, the day after arriving I went to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with some family.   Tens of thousands of people paying $4 for an iced tea, buying artwork and crafts for astronomical sums, eating (delicious) things like crawfish bread, alligator pie, fried green tomatoes, crabmeat-stuffed shrimp, gumbo, etouffé, and more… and listening to perhaps 150 different musical groups from all over the world with their music pumping with enough electrical energy to run a medium-sized city (which the Jazz Fest essentially IS).   I was wracked with some culture shock, certainly.  To think that the people of the U.S. can put on this relatively enormous display of music, food, and capitalism – expend the untold amount of resources needed to support the event: Tents, trucks, refrigeration units, speakers, lights, restrooms(and associated disposal concerns), stages, displays by artists from around the world, and all of the thousands of combined transportation expenditures just to set it all up…the payments for the thousands of musicians, the electricity consumed for heating, cooling, and blasting music, the advertising airplane circling overhead, the freshwater used for cooking, cleaning and drinking (and washing vehicles), and let's not forget the gasoline and diesel fuels used by the tour buses, tractor trailers, jetliners, and the THOUSANDS of other vehicles coming from all over the globe just for this event.   All of them came, fueling up who knows how many times along the way, and when the festival is over they all go back. 

 

Was the Jazz Fest fun?  You bet.  Was it excessive?   You bet.  Was it necessary? Debatable.   Was it morally justifiable?  Now why would I ask a question like that…going and putting a damper on the party?  All I'm trying to express is that these days I am doing my best to look critically beyond the surface of things that would normally be taken for granted.   Jazz Fest is a great tradition that allows people to share culture and music and craftsmanship and history and tell stories (I loved the song one blues artist sang about the effects of Hurricane Katrina.   I also admired the t-shirt I saw with the message "I've had it up to here with Katrina" in permanent marker) and generally pass a good time.  Part of me thinks that it's just too bad that it happens in the form of a giant orgy of consumption.   Mardi Gras is another New Orleans institution and a personal favorite of mine on the list of things that humans have come up with.   Growing up I remember the news channels always reporting the relative success or failure of a Mardi Gras season in terms of how many tons of trash the city workers picked up off the streets after the hangovers wore off.   The more the better, seriously.  The MORE TRASH the BETTER.  Does this not make any little mental alarms go off?   Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?  The materials that went into making that trash came from somewhere, and they'll go somewhere else after we're done using them.   With rare and often inefficient exceptions, we don't get them back to use again.   What do we create from all this consumption though?   Money.  We make money.  And with money we can buy more stuff to consume.  Hell, with enough money we can even buy a nice shiny Hummer limousine to drive around in and who cares if gas prices go up, because we've got money and can afford it.   Higher prices won't hurt us.  Nothing will hurt us.  God bless the growth economy, the cult of the dollar.   Let's drive the 30 miles to Jazz Fest next year in the Hummer limousine and make a stop in Anchorage, Alaska along the way, just because we CAN.   Maybe it really is that simple.  Maybe we can keep going along in this manner without any repercussions.  Maybe everything and everyone in this world exists solely so we can take it, buy it, use it, kill it, consume it, discard it.   Maybe so.  I'm beginning to sense that it's much more complicated than that.  I don't want to end Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, the Brazilian Carnaval, or any other big celebrations (Heck, I was at Woodstock 99, my arm freshly inked and ready to rock with the other 250,000 people.   That shindig DWARFED Jazz Fest), I'm just advocating a look at all of the effects of these events as a reflection of how people conduct their lives in general in this postindustrial world and wondering if there isn't some way we could make some modifications so that we'll still have a world worth celebrating with music and dance and good food a few decades or centuries down the line.   Of course there's a lot more out there to learn and the jury is not at all done deliberating, but let's be mindful.

 

Being back up north in the Deep South wasn't all pensive contemplation, though there was some of that.   It was some kind of magic to reunite with my brother and my parents, my grandmothers, the two dogs at home (Paco took every available opportunity to sleep with me, his head resting on my furry stomach and his body contoured along my side to maximize the physical contact…what a needy little fruitcake!), my aunt and uncle, the fat-bodied Goiter pig, and get to say hi to some of the neighbors and speak of guinea pig gumbo.   I was barely in Louisiana for two days before packing up again to go up to Maine for a trip within a trip, and what a trip it was!

 

Maine is beautiful , and I'm not just saying that because my Chuffmate's folks live there and she invited me to come visit.   The state truly is a pleasant place to be.   Billboard signs are prohibited by law.  Small towns look like small towns should look, and although there are the Burger Kings and Dunkin Donuts, there are still little home style restaurants and cute coffeehouses and seafood joints and independent bookstores, and I was able to sample all of the above during the week I was up there (Sans Burger King and Dunkin Donuts).   I won't go into any of the mushy stuff … it suffices to just say that some degree of mushiness did occur, and I enjoyed it.  I ALSO enjoyed the home-cooked meals at the house of the 'rents.   Spaghetti and meat sauce.  Baked salmon with brown sugar glaze.  Steak and potato wedges.   At a friend's place we had delicious jambalaya with chicken, shrimp, and even scallops I think.   Homemade blueberry pie.  It was the good life.   The great life.  One morning we went to the beach and some rocky coastal outcroppings and walked around in the sun barefoot.   It was very similar to a setting from an L.L. Bean catalog I saw once.  (We also had the chance to visit the giant L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport.   I've already got everything I need for an expedition or three, but sometimes the lure of new stuff is too much for a gearhead to deny.   I bought a new windproof fleece jacket at the factory outlet for a nice price, and since I'd just had a fleece stolen while on a bus in Ecuador it wasn't a totally unnecessary purchase.)

And then there was THE TRAIL.

 

My Chuffmate lives in Maine.  The Appalachian Trail goes more than 2,100 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.   It passes only about two hours away from where her parents live on a little peninsula an hour or so north of Portland.   She's thru-hiked the whole thing and this was something that I was thinking of doing right after Peace Corps since before I came to Ecuador.   What a match.   What luck.  What joy!  We had to get on the trail, and so we did.  Three days were planned out, food was bought, spiced rum was procured, and bags were packed.   Off we went in the Subaru Outback (Ubiquitous in Maine, and there are quite a few Toyota Prius hybrids too … actually her parents have one of each.  Good Mainers it would seem = ).  What to say about those three days?  Gosh.  That kind of life is soooo enjoyable.   We climbed 2,500 feet the first day, much of it through unexpected snow that we were post-holing into up to our knees and sometimes our waists.   We didn't come prepared with snowshoes and with a full pack climbing a 45 degree angle on snow and ice is not always a simple task, but with sweat and grunting we managed.   That night we were alone on top of a bald stone-topped mountain with an omni-directional view of gorgeous mountainous western Maine.   Lime green lichen covered the mica-glittering stone, and little conifers dotted the crag's receding hairline, spotted with early springtime snow and ice dandruff.   Wind screamed over the stone and cut into every crack in the rock with a feral biting forcefulness impossible to ignore.   Well unless you're covered with soft insulating fur, in which case you can just dance around in the cold naked as your clothes dry while setting up the tent, which is what I chose to do.   The shelter threatened to fly away in the wind and so we threw our things inside and went to drink rum and get some food in us.  Then it was off to bed, since the wind was blowing so hard and cold it was all we could do to stand up outside.   In the night we went out once to see the pale yellow eye of the moon looming over the forested hills like a dragon's eye, surveying the twinkling of distant towns in the valleys.   Magic.

 

The next day was shorter, as the difficult snow and ice conditions led us to shorten the overall distance of the trip.   We scampered over the high stones and plunged back into the deep snow for a bit, then descended heavily into an idyllic valley filled with snowmelt, fallen birch bark, and a LOT of signs that moose were afoot.   Loads of scat littered the trail on snow, leaves, moss, and stone.  Moose prints stamped in the snow dotted with tiny fallen pinecones and fragrant green pine needles.   We saw the tracks of a coyote or other local canine following our route and felt ourselves part of a web of forces that is harder to perceive in the more developed parts of the world.   We were grateful for the sunlight coming through the trees and the smell of the leaves and the world waking up from winter and the chance to walk and talk and talk and walk and let the experiences come at the pace of a human instead of a car, train, or airplane.   Then, not long after seeing some clumps of animal fur on the trail, we came upon a fallen moose antler.  A short discussion about what to do, then YOINK!   I now had another 12 pounds to carry.   A half mile more and we arrived at the Frye Notch lean-to, a typical three-sided AT shelter.   All to ourselves.  We unpacked a bit, hung stinky things up to dry in the sun, had some lunch, and took a brief dip in the snowmelt stream.   Rum went down the hatch and we found a big sunny rock where we could lie down, stare up at the trees and philosophize.  Magic.  As night snuck up we constructed a fire and cooked directly over the flames.   All to ourselves.  Magic.

 

Day three began with me packing the antler inside of my backpack and then filling it up with all of the other accoutrements of backcountry travel.   The fact that it fit entirely inside and that I still had room for the other stuff makes me wonder if I have too much pack for my own good.  Maybe so.  We set off uphill for a bit and then traversed the mountain with perfect weather again.   Only 4.5 miles until we hit the road we would hitchhike out on, but the sights, smells, and sounds were still relatively wild.   Woodpeckers hammered on their trees, chipmunks chattered and scurried around watching us, and the leaves and needles and bark and rocks and moss and moose poop below our feet crunched and rustled and squished like it must have when the woods were the home of Native Americans.   This path, just a foot or two wide most of the time, winds unbroken through 14 states and there we were moving along it like two blood cells making their way along a tiny artery to the brain.   Well, more likely we were heading to the heart, but I'll leave that cheesy symbolism alone.

 

Upon reaching the end of the hike (a mixture of happy and sad, as the ends of trips always seem to be) we hadn't even put our thumbs out when a big truck towing a trailer with a heavy excavator came rumbling to a stop.   In the end the same driver generously took us all the way back to our car, saving us several intermediate hitches we were expecting to have to make, but not before taking us to his spectacular property and giving us each two local Shipyard microbrew beers (more spectacular than his property I'd say, and he had a huge house on a huge plot of land with a river running right past his backyard).   Cold beers on a sunny deck petting two adorable and well-mannered dogs owned by a stranger who picked us up as hitchhikers and who then, like a kindly catch-and-release angler, left us right back where we began two days earlier and refused our offer to buy him a burger or a coffee or something … that's called "trail magic," a term common to those familiar with the Appalachian Trail.   For me it was my first encounter with that particular kind of enchantment, for my mate it was the latest in a long string of similar experiences.  I dig it and am looking forward to more, wherever the trail leads.

 

After writing about the hiking, I hope the rest of this doesn't come across as flavorless and uninteresting, but let's see.

 

I made it back to Louisiana after an entire day's delay in Portland due to bad weather in my connecting city.   A night in the Marriot (Thanks Mom!) running in the gym and a morning of sauna and hot tub and buffet breakfast behind me, I was back in the Big Easy and making plans to cavort with some friends.   There was drinking of much wine and the eating of much incredible food at the invitation of the muchacho with whom I got my tattoo 8 years ago, before the previously mentioned Woodstock 99 3-day concert.   His med-school-busy wife came down as well, which was a great surprise and I was very happy to catch up with them whether we were chowing down at a million-star restaurant with his folks and bothers or jogging along the shore of Lake Ponchartrain as the sun rose over the smooth water and giant live oaks draped with Spanish moss.   One day involved a visit to my aunt and uncle's place where my amigo and I took a spin on their jet ski and ended up swimming the thing back about ¾ of a mile to the dock when the engine wouldn't restart.   In my opinion that was more fun than just cruising around burning fossil fuels in an already ecologically questionable lake would have been.  I made it out to Lafayette one night and shared conversation and breakfast with my grandmother, looked at old photo albums, laughed at my dad when he was my age, and marveled at how small places look when you become an adult compared to how they seemed when you were just a little kid.   Things change and I guess the older we get the more change becomes apparent.  I only wonder whether all of those changes are inevitable and hope that people will think more about what they will lose forever when they're dreaming about what they'll gain temporarily.  

 

I'm tired of writing and I bet you're tired of reading, so let's call this the end. 

HUUUUUUGE THANKS to everyone who made my visit to the States enjoyable and productive and thought-provoking!   All those who made it to the barbeque my last night, I treasure your support and involvement and I hope y'all enjoyed those GUGS burgers and Zapp's chips as much as I did.   Gooood stuff.  Thanks to my new friends up in Maine … enjoy the piece of moose! Thanks for the books, meals, conversations, everything!  To the sister of my Chuffmate and her man, it was great meeting you guys and thanks for the lunch, which was unexpected and very much appreciated, as we can't get beers or burgers like that down here!   A special thanks to the UPS guy who made my day by being in the right place at the right time so I could get my package.  Enjoy the Zaruman coffee!   Thanks again to all of you.   Now, back to business here in Ecuador.  Hopefully I'll start posting pictures again soon, once I get the hang of my new camera.

1 Comments:

Blogger sushil yadav said...

MountainJedi,

In your post you have mentioned that humans are not living the right way on this planet. Man considers himself more important than all other living and non-living things and is destroying all ecosystems. In this context I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of Speed, Overstimulation, Consumerism and Industrialization on our Minds and environment. Please read.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.


A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.


Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.


To read the complete article please follow any of these links :

PlanetSave

FreeInfoSociety

ePhilosopher

Corrupt

sushil_yadav

10:13 PM  

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