04 October 2008

with the childlike people... A precious friend reminded me of the beautiful passage of Hesse's "Siddhartha", the end of chapter 6 (link above, starting at "Once, he said to her..."). And yet Hesse seems to contradict himself, did you notice? "Others have it, who are small children with respect to their mind",  implying that Gotama (Pali spelling of Gautama), as well as Siddhartha & Kamala are "childlike". But at the end: "people of our kind can't love. The childlike people can." Incidentally, does that mean that, as a Westerner, Hesse didn't fully understand buddhism and Eastern thought in general, although he had a profound outlook on it and was much inspired by it? My own Western understanding of Gotama's message is that we ALL have a pure unalterable true divine essence, buddhism only providing a method for us to connect (take refuge) into this divine. I recently read passages of a book of aphorisms and quotes from Hesse, also peppered with contradictions. That's not necessarily bad. Contradictions might be a simple reflection of language's limits to reflect reality/truth. Such cognitive dissonances can be stimulating, as the koans of zen practice which are tools to reach enlightenment when duly meditated on. In any case, the astute reader may have noticed that the phrase "Others have it, who are small children with respect to their mind" doesn't necessarily mean they are "childlike" in the sense that dominates the chapter. Rather it ought to be a slight translation issue. Now on my way to get the German version!

04 July 2008

Back from acroyoga teacher training in Greece (video here), now the challenge is to keep the pace, fly and fly... Actually i flew my mom & brother last week, so much fun no idea why i never did it before! And met some folks to jam in Leipzig's parks :)

24 May 2008

Those days i attended workshops in Rolfing, aka, Structural Integration. Google it, try it, you won't regret. A related link that touched me a lot is this blog by a renowned rolfer. Wow.
Personal evolution (maybe..) "Dis, tonton Marc, pourquoi tu fumes ?" ("hey uncle Marc, why are you smoking?").. said the oldest of my little nieces Anne last summer at a family reunion. She had just turned 8, and her adult face started to emerge. What to answer? It was posed so earnestly, but also cuz it's Anne-who-will-break-many-hearts with a little "sourire en coin" (a slight ironical smile). I guess her parents must have told her how bad smoking is, blah blah.. I was also a bit tipsy, a perfect time for a smoke, especially back in those days of post-dissertation stress and post-breakup trauma. But that's too complicated to explain to an 8 year old, or rather, that's just not a good excuse. She wanted the true simple reason, and so should I. Cuz it tastes good. Well my sister (her mom) might well kill me for saying that and enticing her to try it out at such a tender age. Whatever, she will without me saying anything either way. Plus sometimes tobacco does taste good, but that cigarette didn't, sorry to whoever i bummed it. Then what? Cuz i am just stupid?.. i think i almost said that since that was the first thought that came to guilt-ridden ex-catholic mind. That's how i felt too, weak, guilty and stupid to fall into this toxic trap. I was just smoking socially and cuz i recalled that nicotine feels good and numbs pain, especially when you don't smoke that often. And it's party thing, etc.. Anyway, so much for the proximate explanations. But the what is the ultimate reason? We humans are probably unique for... many things that turned out to be shared with other species, from tools to building cities to eating medicinal and mind-altering plants. But one strange truly unique thing we do is play with fire, and inhale smoke on purpose. I challenge you to find another animal who does that. Is it that surprising considering that fire was a crucial aspect of our environment of evolutionary adaptation for hundreds of thousands of years, even before we were "sapiens"? Whoever could not stand smoke or was scared by fire, likely genetic characters, was out of the gene pool. Those who stayed and depended on fire evolved resistance to fear (leading to fascination for?), possibly DNA repair mechanism to that physiological stress, and possibly taste for smoke and smoky things. I am convinced that certain persons have better resistance to smoke and pollution than others. Smoking might actually be good to some/many people, especially the nicotine. A couple months ago in Colombia I met a Huitoto medicine man from the Amazonas who says simply that tobacco is not bad for health, but is a potent medicine to be combined with others (including coca leaves, in a mixture he ingested). Consequently, as any medicine, overdose, mis-application and prescription to the wrong patient can wreak havoc. Tobacco has just taken a very different route as its traditional users probably intended, same for many other substances (e.g. chocolate perverted with sugarv:0). But of course, disease and medicine itself may as well be seen as cultural constructs, continuously reinventing themselves. And humans keep experimenting with substances, fighting boredom or mal de vivre. All I know is I don't smoke anymore because common cigarettes are loaded with non-tobacco  carcinogenic addictive crap, and i don't need tobacco itself that much. Plus, now it usually feels harsh on my throat. But some people are amazing at taking high quantities of it. Resistance and to this kind of pollution and making the nicotine effects part of one's metabolism may be beneficial for those whose stress is efficiently relieved by smoking, and whose metabolism successfully repairs the damages to DNA (hence a potential evolutionary adaptation). Someday we may be able to predict from one's DNA, whether a person can smoke until he turns a 100, or should stay away even from second hand smoke.
In practice what did i tell lil'Anne? I can't remember but I hope it wasn't something like "you will understand when you're older", an adult answer I hated when I was her age. I think after a few seconds of embarrassed lame smile, I laughed and did a magic trick move, getting rid of the cigarette and pretended I had no idea what she was talking about. Ha ha, tontonmarc is sooo funny. Hopefully she forgot the whole thing, like I did for most of what happened when i was 8 years old.

07 May 2008

See this from someone who knows better, that pretty much says it all, and more. One of my favorite passage:
To welcome the end of the old feudal theocracy in Tibet is not to applaud everything about Chinese rule in that country. This point is seldom understood by today’s Shangri-La believers in the West. The converse is also true: To denounce the Chinese occupation does not mean we have to romanticize the former feudal rĂ©gime. Tibetans deserve to be perceived as actual people, not perfected spiritualists or innocent political symbols. “To idealize them,(...) is to deny them their humanity.”

31 March 2008

After a few arguments with Chinese friends i should emphasize I am NOT for a free Tibet, again, that's not even what the Dalai Lama asks for. Only for the autonomy that they are supposed to have. It's already one country / two systems, why not give Tibet a Hong Kong style autonomy?

The irony in all that when Chinese people & government complain that Westerners just don't get the Chinese way and should stop giving misplaced advice like democracy and free speech, is that they are a communist government, now with wild capitalism, dealing with huge problems of industrial pollution, not the best of what came from the West...

My view is only from the outside despite a brief tour a few years ago. But the outside does matter, after the incidents in Greece, there are only problems in foresight for the traveling Olympic flame. This government can cause an entire nation to loose face.

One reason I am picking on China (and not Russia, Iran, Pakistan, etc.) is that I am a huge lover of Chinese culture, it has so much to offer to the world and I hate to see it under such bad management. If this government doesn't get it right in Tibet & other areas they will only create more local nationalistic resentment, and the claim to autonomy can step up to a claim for independence. One more system in the big country, that's just my 2cts..

26 March 2008

What's the fhhell is wrong with the Chinese government? (note i said government, aka the Chinese Communist Party, not "China" or "the Chinese") Yeah they are not the only government doing screwy things, actually who isn't. And just like when Spiderman was told "With great power comes great responsibility" I kept wanting to tell that to Bush & Co back then after 911, now I really want to yell it at Hu & Co. At least when it's a democracy you can blame the population a little bit too, and there is hope for better. But what's the hope the Chinese totalitarian regime will loosen up its criminal grip on the country? Somehow we had almost forgotten how vicious they could be. After all, most people can now move around freely (except sometimes Tibet and Xinjiang, we'll get to that) and get rich if they work hard AND are lucky (fundamental Chinese concepts). They're now capitalists, more like "us". So democracy and free speech should follow suit right? Just be patient.. And hey, they got the Olympic Games and made a ton of nice promises back then (we'll get to that too), so things should normalize right? There are a few gigantic pollution problems, but hey they're not the only ones and they seem to be doing their best. They're not the among countries with the highest number of people executed on death sentence.. though that's probably because the numbers simply are not reported. All we care to know is that they are fighting corruption and are tough on crime. Good say the Texans, they're like "us". Plus they do it cow-boy style with a bullet in the head. It's not getting better. How could we forget? Now political time bombs are catching up. First the issue of freedom of speech. Movies banned, actors banned,.. but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Their support to Sudan government in the Darfur massacres was alleviated by nice promises and the fact that many other countries have dirty hands in Africa too. But the real big deal is elsewhere this year: years ago the Chinese government played its usual game of being very polite, smiling and making promises to get the Olympics, but no imprisoned journalist or "cyber-criminal" has been freed. Check out this awesome new Olympic logo and read the story before dismissing it as exaggerated. The information barely comes out of locked up zones in Tibet, in a situation eerily similar to Burma. Now the sad thing is that you might think ooh mean Chinese government, if it were a democracy they would be more laid back about Tibet getting at least autonomy. Well, every single Chinese person I have talked to in the past few years thinks Tibet should be part of China. They are more mixed about Taiwan but not by far. The fact that Tibet has a different language may not be a strong argument for more autonomy, or in fact any autonomy (only what the DL requests, btw) because there are many languages in China already, but one difference is that they also have a different script and a entire culture based on it. And, as I understand, other regions were conquered long enough ago and citizens are not so oppressed and separated culturally from the Han Chinese. Tibet on the other hand was (re)conquered militarily in a very recent past. Here is a nice simplified overview of the evolution of China's territory. The Chinese government may have done good things there, many roads have been built and a new train line opened, and some say, well see the Chinese government develops the regions, etc. I guess that's good too for all the Chinese immigrants. But, so what? Wouldn't a truly autonomous Tibetan government have done similar things without Chinese iron rule? Maybe less industrially but is that bad? So i don't know how life for Tibetans there, how bad or not-so-bad it is.. but what i can see now is tragic (lazy to put links on that, suffice to google the news). Again the sign that the Chinese have a rogue government are showing by how journalists are prevented from doing their work. So most people (and I) thought, well, there are huge problems but things are getting better. They're not. Remember Tienanmen? Well, the mothers do. It's happening again and again, in a different form, at a different scale. On the other hand Taiwan rejoices to have a new leadership friendly but firm toward the Chinese government. Let's hope that firmness, unlike the International Olympic Committee, will prevail for now. At some point things may get better, as the educated Chinese diaspora may weigh in more power. Or it may need another revolution. Alas, that's how we do things in France too.

07 March 2008

Colombia photos Week 3 and 4.
Now back in Euroland, enjoying comfort and safety. But for how long will i miss the Colombians' natural exuberance and warmth?

18 February 2008

Two weeks in Colombia, and despite the slow start, pollution in town, political turmoils and occasional lack of electricity & hot water, i still love it here! Photos of WEEK 1 and WEEK 2. (about the market here is a version with sound)
I keep discovering new fruits, with new tastes, the diversity of produce is incredible, how comes those never reach Europe or US? Oh and i heard someone speak Guambiano yesterday, one of the main indigenous languages, it sounds so.. strange, almost seems like there are tones like in Chinese, gotta ask about that when I meet more of them this week.
This region was inhabited for a long time, pre 10,ooo years ago, some even pre-Clovis. I keep hearing about ancient cultures i never heard about. I also learned that i am in another putative region for the origin of bamboo, as the largest number of varieties is found in the Cauca valley worldwide (haven't check on that yet, but that's what a German architect told me.. he buys the material here to build bamboo houses worldwide including in Asia). Pre-colombian (in both senses:) societies in the region had a highly developed bamboo culture, one of the many things that got mostly lost with the demographic disaster of the 16th century. Still the vitality of indigenous culture and genes have not disappeared, they can be seen everywhere, just in a different form as before.