TRAVEL • in an email to static.05 • 2004.03.18
India has an intesely rich culture that has been fermenting for thousands of years. There is somthing enchanting about this country- it is easy to love, and you can never be bored with it. The food, the music, the mysticism... it is all very beautiful. And the great thing is once you are anywhere in India, you can get anywhere else within the borders for than less than $30, if you just jump on the train.
The train system is very good in India. Every little rural town is connected by rail. It is quite efficient, though it can be very slow, but it is an adventure on which you could never grow bored, even if you lacked patience.
Always somthing new to see. Always new forms to cognize. Every little detail. Things you never even thought about before, you find in new light... So much of your cultural contitioning collapses, and you are immeadiately thrust back into yourself. Into the moment. It is fantastically enlightening.
There is somthing peculiar what eastern culture does to you mind. It is a very unconditioning experience. None the expectations of your western mind are fullfilled. You think you can predict what will happen, but then everything is different. All the symbols that you usually project onto your environment find no place here.
You go into a toilet. All you find is two raised pedals and a hole in the ground, a bucket in the the corner of the stall, with a measuring cup in it, and a faucet on the wall. Now everything you expect a toilet to be is not happening. Your consciousness is thrust into the moment. You are forced to realize just what is is to take a shit.
Now you approach the hole in the ground, and you've really got to go, the loose stool is already starting to flow. What to do?
So you awkwardly attempt a variety of positions, and eventually get all the shit out of your ass without getting it on your clothes, but now you've got to clean up. A second glance reveals no toilet paper. Where is the toilet paper? What is this bucket for? Then you remember what sombody told you earlier. "Always use your left hand in the toilet, and your right hand to shovel rice."
You thought you knew how to take a dump and get food into your mouth, but then you're humbled by the simplest ritual. You'll never look at a toilet the same way again, but that's just the tip of the icberg... every little thing. Eating, talking, shitting, buying a train ticket, bargaining for a good deal in the open market... you must bargain, or else you will be ripped off, though it can be an intense game. There are no prices on anything, but there is nothing like a good round of high energy bargaining in Calcutta.
"How much is this thing here?"
"What? 800 rupees?! nevar. I'll give you 50 rupees!"
"What is this, junk?! 700 rupees!"
"150 rupees, no more."
"500 rupees. No less."
"I'll give you 175 right now, if I can take this" *hand the man 175 rupees*
"Hey, come back... I'll give it for 400 rupees! "
"200, and no more!"
"Ah hah, 175!"
"WHAT?! You can't go back down?! That's not how it works!"
"OK, then 200 rupees." *hand the man 200 rupees, he looks at it temptingly*
"Give me 250 rupees!"
"Nevar. This is all I have got to buy this item. 200 rupees! I know this other fellow who will sell it for 200... maybe even less."
"Yes, over here! I will sell it for 175 rupees!"
*Look across the causway to an onlooking salesman*
"That guy has bad quality!"
"What? It is the same item, you probably bought it form the same fellow."
"OK, then. 150 rupees."
And now I'm bummed out every time I goto the supermarket cause there's no bargaining games to play... it feels like I'm getting ripped off.
Almost every cultural norm is at least slightly different, which reveals the form of your conditioning to awareness.
It's like if you eat the same food every day for every meal, eventually you would stop tasting it. It would taste like nothing. There is no contrast to perceive any sort of relativity. It would become so boring, and bland.
Every day we eat the same culture. It is bland. We are conditioned by it. But to try another is so mentally stimulating, so much of your brain is immeadiately stimulated. All the subtle pathways that the neurons usually fire along are torn into two.. suddenly they choose the toerh way. And two times two times two to the power of 10000 little changes, and a whole new dimension opens up in your mind. Things you could never have imagined before you are able to cognize. Insights beyond imagination, transcending death, arise in your expanding awareness.
And then home seems so distant. What is home anyways? You sleep on the other side of the world and you feel just as comfortable. The food is just as good. The people are even friendlier. What is home but a vague memory, a pointless attachment? What is the point of being attached to life when every time you try to capture the moment it slips away, and you're going to die some time anyways... and that time will be the eternal present when it arives.
Then when you come back to your original taste of home, it is enriched by all the contrast you have experienced.
If you want to blow out your mind, acid will do it for about 12 hours. Salvia divinorum for about 5 minutes... but if you travel to the far east, it'll send you into a unconditioned dream state which you may never return from, and you may realize that you were just sleeping beneath the covers of contioned patterns your whole life.
If you travel with a friend, it is like taking a deep inner space along with you, which you will spend alot of time inhabiting. You will talk alot in the conditioned patterns of home, and your experience will not be complete. You will miss alot, and alienate yourself from the local culture. You meet quite a few fine fellows anwyays, traveling along the edge of the earth.
I would suggest to the person looking for an deep life changing experience, to travel by yourself. Your mind will blow into a thousand pieces and you'll come back home and cry all night trying to cognize the bigger picture, before finding that you can't. It's too infinite. Too utterly everything ever, and all inside you as spiralling pattern of mental projections.
I woudln't actually reccomend visiting the far east to anybody unless they felt it strongly in their own heart. Is is fantastic and terrible... humbling and inspiring. How ever exotic it may sound, the reality is equally balanced by culture shock, sickness, loose stool, and drawing attention to yourself by being unaware of local customs. Every moment is a learning experience, constantly reminding you that yesterday you were quite the fool.