Posted in culture, history, identity, society, tagged anger, appreciation, beachcomber, beachcombing, boredom, Bornean, Borneo, Buddha, Buddhism, caprice, civilization, cone shell, coral, cowrie, dependence, desert island, East-West, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, hotel, human nature, Kota Kinabalu, limpet, litigation, Malaysia, mindfulness, monkey, nature, Nick Leeson, olive shell, paradise, pirate, presumption, reptile, resort, Sabah, Sanibel, seashell, self loathing, self sufficiency, Shangri-La, shell collecting, snake infested, snakes, South China Sea, Southeast Asia, suffering, Tanjung Arung, Tibet, Tibetan, travel, tropical island, tropics, wild, wilderness, zen on May 27, 2010|
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According to the Tibetans, today is Buddha’s birthday. A prince with everything in the world, he set off on a quest to discover the truth of life. I’m remembering a mindfulness adventure I had this week, fifteen years ago:
Bornean Buddha by A.Ashman
In Borneo, I felt bored and restless at a luxe, manicured Shangri-La resort favored by fugitive rogue traders. Wandering past the watersports shack I asked to go to an outlying island in the South China Sea. No notice to the people I was traveling with, no drinking water, food or cellphone.
The white-uniformed sailor dropped me at the random spot I’d picked from his laminated map. A decrepit picnic bench sagged in the shade of a steep cliff carpeted in greenery, where faceless monkeys screeched. No facilities, no stand selling lunch, no people. Just plastic flotsam and slithery tracks lacing the sand. The hotel boat fishtailed away.
Did they write down where they left me? Lawsuit waiting to happen. Already thirsty. Wait, six-inch wide tracks. From what scaly beasts?
No way I’d approach the trees where those squiggly trails led. I was frying in the tropical sun. Unnerved to cool off in the translucent green water. What if I suddenly ‘had trouble’ swimming, or a shark came? Maybe I could flag down a passing boat to take me back. But these were pirate-infested waters.
Silly overreaching hotel guest, I was going to die on this wild island.
I picked up a 5-liter water jug and started filling it with cones and olive shells glinting among seaweed and garbage. Good stuff. My best vacations were spent shell-collecting in the Gulf of Mexico…Sanibel Island in Florida.
Heavenly new finds here. A true Shangri-La paradise. Zebra-striped scallops. Glossy limpets. Spiky orange coral.
That day as I ringed the tiny island — is that a chickpea cowrie? – I turned the corner on my own nature’s bitter edge.
On this birthday week of Buddha can you name a mindfulness experience you’ve had?
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Posted in American culture, culture, history, identity, society, taboo, women, tagged activism, alternative, anger, angry, assimilation, Barbie, belief, belief system, Berkeley, Boy Scouts, boycotts, Brady Bunch, childhood, children, countercultural, counterculture, Dialogue2010, Elmira Bayrasli, Facebook, Free Speech Movement, Girl Scouts, immigrant, integrity, lifestyle, marijuana, McDonald's, military, mindset, nostalgia, nuclear proliferation, passion, PC, politically-correct, righteous, righteousness, self actualization, status quo, Turkish, un-PC, United Farm Workers, upbringing, weed, whitebread on March 22, 2010|
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Passion fuels the lives we envision for ourselves better than discipline or elbow grease alone.
However, a little bit of passion’s dark side — anger — may be the best defense of our identity, and a future that looks like us.
This week Dialogue2010 participant Elmira Bayraslı shared the anger that keeps her hybrid. Rather than assimilate or choose one social group to belong to, the daughter of Turkish immigrants in New York ferociously defends her hard-won ability to switch to independent American woman — and back again.
As an expat I know this righteousness-to-be-hybrid. A defense mechanism not only kicks in but is kept in place by a low level anger about external pressures to live and be a certain way. It’s been a cornerstone of my survival, and for many people living between worlds.
Today I was reminded exactly how homegrown this righteousness is by a Facebook group of one-line jokes about Berkeley upbringings. How counterculture taboos affected childhood is dizzying:
- boycotts of table grapes and iceberg lettuce make kids anxious when visiting un-PC families,
- a sneaked McDonald’s meal draws punishment while smoking weed does not,
- the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are off-limits (pseudo-military!),
- while the whitebread Brady Bunch and misogynistic Barbie are what’s wrong with the world.
Free Speech protests witnessed from baby strollers make this group a veritable Red Diaper Baby playdate.
Also glimpsed: the realization that much of what characterized a Berkeley childhood thirty or forty years ago — that is, the lifestyle and belief system of an alternative community, the anger that separated it from the rest of the nation — has now become mainstream in America.
So, my righteous sisters and brothers, what are you going to keep being angry about when it comes to who you are?
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