This is probably my last longish text post before I start heading home and rejoining the wired world. I have ended up in the Maluku Islands, and will be here more or less until I head to Bali on the 25th of Feb. Then to San Fran on the 28th, arriving SFO midday the 1st of March.
Bottom line: Asia is really cool. In a huge state of transition. Mainly, it’s exploding. So there’s this feeling of frenzy amidst a very mellow and traditional culture. It’s very pretty, and the people are also. And they all are very talented. Everybody knows how to sing, and their voices are strong. Not only that, but they are into rock and roll in a way that does a rock and roll heart good. Having seen what the French do, and the Germans, and the South Americans, and the Russians, and the Indians, and the Chinese, to rock, it’s amazing to be here and hear and get into Indonesian Rock. I made a mix tape that I think will amaze people who have long been chauvinist about the four things the USA still does best, which, in addition to rock and roll, are movies, software and high speed pizza delivery. Yea, I am from a healthy distance witnessing the erosion of the last vestiges of cultural empire, and it feels good! Remember growing up and seeing other cultures listen to our rock and sing words they didn’t understand with such feeling?! And feeling that feeling of knowing you don’t have to live in a culture where the best music is written in a foreign language? Well, I am happy to report it also feels good to fall in love with music from another country. I don’t mean fall in love as in go to the world music section and have an eclectic music collection. I mean fall in love as in this is simply good music, qualifier or no. I have no idea what the songs I am digging here are saying, but I am increasingly comfortable living in a world where my country’s music, in addition to everything else, is not #1. OK, so that was a personal side point. The main point is there is crazy good talent in this country and it shows up in their music.
And in their talking. Indonesians are into, and I mean really, into talking. God they can talk. and they love taking the longest possible way to say something. I guess most people in warm countries are like that. Work is slow, talking is fast. I mean it’s beautiful, but it’s like rocks shaking in a can, and after awhile you wanna say: what are you saying? It’s like singing sometimes. It’s all very pretty, and the people here, for the most part, value pretty. It’s cleaner than a lot of Asia. The day-to-day is nice. Their way of getting their point across is nice. Strong, but never angry. Not the easy going thing of the Buddhist countries (much more rat-a-tat in every way here) but still nobody gets mad. I really love that. Yet another reason to avoid the US.
One reason to avoid Indonesia though: the food. They are purposefully antagonistic to caring about good food. It’s white, tasteless,and nutritionless rice every single meal without fail, and then some other bowl of fried meat. Again and again and again. And it’s not that they don’t care. It’s not just that. It’s that their entire personality is devoted to not caring. Their ability to be oblivious to things like that, or, mainly to trash itself, the pure form of that thing which in all its adjectival ways are those things that serve as irritants to the traveler (i.e. the trashy aspect of your hotel room, your meal, all the decrepit, unclean, uncared for yet piled high obstacles to traveling) is amazing.
Take the Banda Islands, where I now am. It is the prettiest place on earth. The sea is as clear as air. There are more fish in the water than I have ever seen in my whole life. It is paradise. And there is more trash piled up, in the lagoons, floating in the Bay, than the Pacific Gyre. And it is not just that nobody cares. They literally cannot see it. They come from a land with the healthiest food and environment on earth and they almost to a person (no exceptions so far actually) have a rabid lack of interest in either. Everybody smokes.
The cigarettes, the fried food, the burning plastic at all times, these do not a long life portend. But what do I know? Everybody is super fit, and they really know how to raise their kids. Watching parenting in this country is inspiring. As a result, everybody feels very well adjusted here. I just spent four days on Pulau Hatta, which is an Island that has about 1000 people on it. It’s an hour from Bandaneira, which is about 7 hours from Ambon, which is a couple hours by plane from Jakarta. These people are remote. They don’t watch TV, have almost no electricity, don’t have a town as such, just a nice little lazy sunny village, with the most amazing coral reefs and variety of fish on earth. No tourism, just the best place to go to swim in the ocean or lie on the beach. It was amazing spending so much time dropping into their rhythm. How the people stop by each other’s houses, sit and talk on the porch, laugh it up, the pace is what got me. Not just languid, but purposeful, conscious, and easy. The people themselves: super loud, really nice, quite strong, self-confident, somewhat helpful island people. That’s a lot of Indonesia, actually. I stayed in someone’s house and loved the family. Just lazed around for four days. Prior to here I was in Ambon, just relaxing. Ambon is a serious place for the military, but not for anybody else. It’s the HQ of not just the Indonesian Navy, but also all the Maluku Islands, which used to be called the Spice Islands. I got to eat raw nutmeg, the fruit itself right off the tree, and it’s fantastic. Also Ketapang nuts, and other local delicacies. Snorkled my ass off (literally…it’s burnt) and now relaxing in Neira before heading to some of the other Islands. Back to Ambon the February 16th, then prolly Seram and maybe Lease Islands, then as I say Ubud February 25th and SF March 1st.
So after converting to Buddhism in Myanmar I should report that I got converted to Islam in Kalimantan. No, this is not a drill. I really am a Muslim. By the way, no one has yet let me know that all these religions I keep joining are mutually exclusive, so please if you happen to think so keep that opinion to yourself, unless you really have proof. And no, doing this crazy George Plimpton thing with God was not the goal of the trip, it’s just something that keeps happening to me. There I was in Kalimantan and I just got into it with my guide, and we worked through all the mind vs. God and then Jew vs. Islam things and wouldn’t you know, it really is all the same! again! Their god _is_ our God. I knew it! So that’s 50% of the requirement. That is, just swear (in Arabic — but they feed you the lines) that there is no God but Allah. Done. This actually is a no-brainer for a Jew, cuz Allah just means Elohim or Adonai in Arabic. And Muhammad was just building on what the previous prophets had done. so it really is not any different as far as the religion in question goes. I know, lots of people are very invested in these being separate things, but I happen to have this from a very good source. The other 1/2 you gotta do to be a Muslim is declare that Muhammad is god’s last prophet. Well, duh. I don’t see anybody after him starting a religion with over a billion followers — and growing fast. So they say if you say those 2 things, you’re a Muslim. So i said ’em. Once I was “inside” it got really wonderful. Very mystical feeling religion. And even more familiar. It feels like Judaism to me. Muslim and Jew are two parts of the same whole. That’s why they fight. It’s like brothers. Buddha was simply a reformer to Hinduism, and really did not think we was starting anything new. Indeed, he was adamant that he wasn’t. Same w Muhammad. He wasn’t attacking the Jews or the Christians, he was just saying, hey, if you want to live up to what you are claiming to be a part of, here’s some new information I just got on how to do it. But now they all look at each other as enemies, which is nuts. They project all their darkness onto the other, but really they are one. So deal with it humanity: Muhammad said he was a Jew and came only to add to what has been there before, not to start another religion. So to me this is just so obvious. it’s one thing! One thread, from Adam to Noah to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to Joseph to Moses and then to Jesus and then to Muhammad. All are referring to the same god, same consciousness, etc. If the Jews only knew that Allah means the same thing, or that the Koran mostly refers to Jewish history, they would have to accept that Islam is not something as “other” as they like to think it is. And the similarities: there is only one god, you can’t depict him, you must keep kosher/halal, friday night is the start of the shabbat, the main vehicle for prayer is the family, it’s local, religion is mostly in how you act, not just faith, it’s the bedrock of civil society, even friday night services feel the same. It’s got the same cult feel. At services, they separate men and women the same way the Jews do, etc., etc. But so after Buddhism, and Islam, I am now heading back to Axilism, just in time for hitting the US shores March 1.
Ah, so, the trip has been great, but hard at times, up and down a lot, at times elated, at times exasperated. Had some good highlights, like making out with a cute Cambodian guide/driver inside Angkor Wat. She did so, and made this clear, because she wanted me to buy her a scooter, and somewhat lost interest when I explained that a scooter was worth more than that. So, ya, Asia is great. It’s got none of the agro, ugly, stupid that makes the USA today what it is. It’s rather got 3 qualities I quite admire: warm, pretty and cheap. Also has rainforest. Very pretty islands. And a people so enmeshed in transition that you have to speed up and slow down at the same time to catch up with them.
Love to the world, ~ Axil