Monthly Archives: March 2012
There was a short time during my youth when I liked to surf, or try to. Texas isn’t much of a place for surfing, but occasionally, when there is a storm in the Gulf of Mexico, there are waves big enough to ride. For years I would paddle out to the big waves, get pounded, occasionally stand up for a few seconds, then exhaust myself fighting the waves again. Then one weekend I was taught how to surf by someone who knew how. He showed me how to use the rip current near the jetty to paddle past those pounding waves, then pass up the second line of breakers I had always stayed at. He taught me to go beyond the third line of breakers, where the sea was calm—this is what is known as “outside.” It was beautiful there, just sitting on your board and rolling with the swells. The trick, it turned out, was to look toward the horizon and see the big swells coming—then paddle like mad so you were matching the speed of the wave at the moment it broke. That’s when you can really get a good ride. Then, after a nice ride, you have to peel off and get back “outside” before the wave moves you to the second line of breakers.
I was a waiter at the Lone Star Café at the time, and there was a serious surfer, named Bryan, working there as well. It occurred to me on a busy Friday night how analogous the work was to surfing. I kept telling Bryan, “ I can’t get to the outside, I’m getting pounded,” and he would nod knowingly, “ right on.” The more I thought about it, and I still think about it, almost everything we engage in can be viewed in terms of surfing. The reason is this: everything in our physical reality, relative to time, is rising and falling, growing and decaying, coming and going, in a wave-like fashion. We are on an ocean of change, and every entity and event in our lives is behaving like a wave. So here are a few points to my “surfing philosophy” or “wave theory” and how they may be applied to one’s life:
1) Find the rip current—“go with the flow,” why take a pounding and wear yourself out? There is an easier way.
2) Get to the “Outside”—its worth the effort to reach your goal. Settling for the first line of breakers could be painful and tiring. (This one is difficult to be sure about, I guess you have to use your intuition to know where “outside” is.)
3) Relax, and look to the horizon—contemplate the future, and try to visualize that perfect wave before it arrives.
4) Give it your all—when you go for that wave, you’ll have to really dig in to catch it. Don’t stop paddling.
5) Keep your balance—riding a wave is a heady experience, don’t slip up.
6) Peel off and get back “outside”—notice when it is time to move on, or you might get pounded and have to work a lot harder to get back to where you were. (again, you have to use your intuition here.)
Personally, I feel that I’ve been “outside” for several years now, and at the moment I’m paddling like mad. I’ll let you know if I catch the wave, but its looking good so far.
If you are not aware of Permaculture, you should take the time to watch this. I’ve applied some of these principles in the Arizonan desert, and they work miraculously.
I remember it was St. Patrick’s Day because the only person I glimpsed on that long walk home had green hair. It must have been two years ago, and I was the last one to leave the building, walking across the empty Arby’s parking lot at around 10:45 PM. The car started fine, but for some reason I couldn’t get it out of “Park.” I tried, for five minutes or so, different things—stepping on and off the brake pedal, turning it off and re-starting it, pressing the button harder—but nothing worked. Well, there’s nothing for it, I thought to myself, I might as well walk home and come for it in the morning. Lucky for me, I lived only four miles or so away. It usually only took four minutes to get home. That night it would take forty-five.
It was a cool night, but not cold, and the air was almost still, plus I had a warm jacket to wear. I knew Catalina AZ (just North of Tucson) rolled up its sidewalks at 8PM, but I had never experienced it first hand. It was beautiful—quiet and peaceful, with only the occasional vehicle barreling by on Hwy 77. No dogs barking, at least not anywhere nearby, and even the convenience store was devoid of customers. It was in front of the Players Pub that I saw the green-haired person lurching for their pickup. I don’t think they noticed me. I felt like a ghost. There aren’t many streetlamps, but there were enough businesses with their lights left on to keep me from utter darkness, and the stars, my GOD, the stars were incredible.
I started my walk in good spirits, enjoying the little adventure and the exercise, but I fully expected to be grumbling and unhappy by the time I got home. It never happened. It turned out to be one of the most sublime evenings of my life. I truly felt one with the Earth, walking with the Great Spirit, moving to the rhythm of the Universe. No one was demanding my attention, not even my own Ego or Id, which might have urged me to paint or read a book had I been at home. All I had to do was walk. Then She came. The mountains took on a shimmering glow that I was not fully conscious of at first. Then Sister Moon, in all her glory, just days from being full, rose slowly above the mountains. HUGE! If you’ve never seen a complete moonrise before, you need to make the effort to do so.
There is a rather steep hill just a few blocks from my house, and that gave me a pretty good cardiovascular workout. The adventure evolved as I entered the neighborhood—I could hear music playing, and I caught a whiff of something that smelled like bubblegum as I passed one house with a window open. I enjoyed walking as silently as possible as I passed an unchained dog asleep on a driveway. Someone was smoking a cigarette in front of their house. Then I caught a blast of orange blossoms, which wafted around for blocks, all the way to my doorstep.
I have discovered a shocking piece of information that has caused me to re-think my dream of traveling the length of Central America on my way to Peru. Of course I’m not the first person to conceive of the idea to take the Pan-American Highway from one end to the other. Perhaps someone has even started in Alaska and ended up in Patagonia, Chile. Anyone that has, will have encountered one great, impenetrable obstacle to their plan: what is known as the Darien Gap. Apparently the roads south of the Panama Canal Zone dwindle down to nothing, followed by hundreds of miles of solid, primordial jungle. Even if it is not true that you have to have a machete or chainsaw to cross into Columbia and beyond, there are plenty of other reasons not to attempt it. The sparse population reportedly consists of criminals, guerillas, DEA, indigenous tribes zealous to protect their hunting grounds, and various other types that are far from hospitable to strangers.
I knew about Darien long ago, and had no delusions of facing that much adventure. I figured a flight from Panama to Bogota, Columbia wouldn’t be more than a few hundred dollars. Wrong. THIS is what I find shocking: from all my preliminary searches, flights from Panama to Columbia, or Costa Rica to Ecuador, or any other likely way to jump the Gap, are roughly the same price as flights directly from Tucson, AZ to Lima, Peru!! Supposedly there was once a couple of discount airlines that offered reasonable flights, but they’ve been bought out by the big boys. It appears that any flight, regardless of distance, that connects North America to South America costs at least $750 plus taxes and fees. I really find this hard to digest.
So this is what causes me to re-think my dream. I had a vision of becoming a human bridge, connecting friends and acquaintances from North America to South America. Well, I suppose that is still possible, but I don’t think I can do it in one trip. Perhaps building a bridge between cultures will require forming a solid foundation in Northern Mexico and Peru, then slowly branching further afield year after year. And maybe, just maybe, by the time I reach Panama there will be another discount airline in operation.
For several years I have had the idea of creating a chain of mini-bookstores throughout Mexico and Central America. These micro-businesses could be located in a corner of a cafe or restaurant, where the proprietor could buy and sell used books of various and sundry types. The initial inventory could be donated by generous Americans and delivered by tourists passing through the area. Subsequent visits by tourists could supplement the inventory and encourage the proprietor to keep the business going for the benefit of the community.
I got the idea from two different places I visited while travelling in Central America. The first was a restaurant in Antigua, Guatemala which had a reading room off of the foyer containing scores of books and a couple of comfortable reading chairs. It was obvious, to me anyway, that the bulk of the paperbacks had been donated or discarded by tourists, many of them appearing to have been around the world themselves–tattered, water-damaged, with multiple earmarks. I recalled that most hostels and hotels on the established tourist route have a shelf or two of books like these–treasured reads that have been abandoned to make more room in the backpack.
The second location that inspired me was a corner store in a small Mexican town, perhaps Valladolid, in the Yucatan. I had been wandering in the mid-afternoon heat awhile when I happened upon this clean, spacious cafe a block off the main square. It had a big-screen TV and perhaps AC, at any rate it was a welcome sanctuary for this weary soul. As I sat there relaxing I noticed a number of local youths stopping by, and I realized that this was a sanctuary of sorts for them as well. It was years later that the memories of these separate experiences coalesced to form a vision for me of sanctuaries; sanctuaries for both travellers and locals alike who wanted to escape into the world of literature.
Another factor which influenced me regarding this dream of mine was the realization of the scarcity of bookstores throughout Latin America. Whenever I did happen upon a bookstore, the prices were exsorbitant even by American standards. How can a person develop and maintain literacy if they cannot afford books?
My first idea was to simply donate books to the people; but then I realized that these books would inevitably melt into the populace and end up gathering dust on someone’s shelf somewhere. By establishing a small used-book store, the people are encouraged to bring them back after they have been read, to be exchanged (with a small surcharge) for new books. In this way, not only will the donated books remain in circulation, but also books that have been languishing on shelves in homes might be brought out for exchange as well. Since the initial inventory of books will have been donated, the proprietor should be able to offer them at affordable prices. However, if the proprietor is not willing to buy books back at attractive rates, the amount of books returned may dwindle. It is my hope that enthusiastic propreitors and clientele will develop a self-perpetuating system which will require few, if any, injections of new book donations from afar.
The biggest difficulty, as I see it, is delivering donated books to locations far away. Books are heavy, and most travellers are already suffering from overpacked luggage as it is. To make this work, we would need a small army of dedicated philanthropists, willing to lug 50 lbs of dead weight for hundreds of miles, solely for the purpose of advancing literacy and promoting goodwill. Any takers?
I would just like to recap the major points I’ve been talking about regarding dreams and how to make them real.
1) Dreams come from God.
2) God is way too complicated for us to understand.
3) Infinity is really big. As a result, the possibilities are endless.
4) There is a difference between fanciful dreaming and constructive dreaming.
5) What you do today will affect the person you become tomorrow.
6) The Universe will help you if you try.
7) Badly planned pursuits of dreams may lead to uncomfortable situations.
8) Often your dreams lead you to unexpected results, but personal growth will result from your failures.
9) Well planned dreaming can result in great achievements.
Abraham dreamed of a new land, to be solely inhabited by his progeny. I personally don’t believe he heard the voice of God with his ears, but with his mind. Genghis Khan called himself “the scourge of God,” and perhaps he was. Perhaps Julius Caesar was. Alfred dreamed of a United Britannia. Ferdinand and Isabella a United Spain. Columbus dreamt of a quicker passage to the Indies (sometimes we dream of one thing and achieve another.) Benjamin Franklin dreamed up the postal system, among other things. Isaac Newton dreamed of answers, as did Einstein. Chĕ Guevara dreamt of giving power to the people, and probably died believing that he had. Gandhi dreamt of peace, as did John Lennon. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream.
Please note: I could be wrong—it could have been the wives, lovers, sisters or mothers who had the dreams, and influenced these men to achieve them. Or it could have been completely other people who had the dreams, and they just campaigned for these men to advance their dreams. History has to give credit to some one individual, when almost always the great accomplishments were achieved by a community. Where, though, do the dreams come from? Someone has to be thinking, receiving the flashes of inspiration and bringing the dreams to fruition. Perhaps God or the collective consciousness emanates these ideas into the ether at appropriate moments in time, for the appropriate individual to “come up with it.”