Tag Archives: kindness

Bali

Standard

bali11Travel is a profitable exercise. The soul is there continually exercised in noticing new and unknown things and I do not know a better school.

These inspirational thoughts have been with me ever since I came upon the writings of the sixteenth century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. And they accompanied me on my recent journey to Bali, known as the Island of the Gods. The thought of “noticing new and unknown things” fueled my imagination, as well as Elizabeth Gilbert’s fabulous stories in her now famous book: Eat, Pray, Love.

bali8Having a most reliable guide and driver by the name of Gunung made it possible to be swept into a landscape that overwhelmed the senses.  As soon as one leaves the grandeur of the newly refurbished Denpassar airport one is transported into the magical, mystical world of gods and goddesses inhabiting this exotic island. The clarity of the light imbues everything the eye beholds with intensity.  Gargantuan statues of epic heroes loom over the scenery and are constant reminders of the sacred that fills the daily activities of the people.

The flowers; hibiscus, bougainvillea, poinsettia, jasmine, roses, begonias, water lilies and bali4hydrangeas will be used as offerings before the myriad of temples that are seen everywhere. Incense fills the air and hovers, leaving veils of fragrance above exquisitely carved wooden doors, then curls along the stones leading to inner courtyards where the beloved elephant god Ganesh, son of Shiva and Parvati reigns supreme. Most of the inhabitants are Hindu and like everything else on this island, legends perpetuate the reverence for the sacred. It links ancient beliefs that all is one and all is imbued with spirit leading to a kind of animism that transcends definition.

bali3In Ubud, the capital, I was swept into a world of scooters, mopeds, and motorcycles with entire families holding on to each other on the back seat.  There are hardly any accidents because according to Gunung people look out for each other. It was difficult for him to believe the number of deaths that occur on the streets of New York. “ We have forgotten about the sacred,” I answered. Nevertheless, it was dizzying looking at cars coming in the wrong direction, but in Bali traffic flows as in England. You just have to remember to look on the left. It’s a mind shift.

When Gunung realized my apprehension he slowed down allowing the details of life on the streets to come into focus; a woman walking with a basket poised on her head, a man wearing a saffron colored vest worn over a colorful printed body cloth, a textile store with photos in the window of crouching bodies working the looms and toothless smiles welcoming the onlookers into their life of toil. And everywhere statues of Ganesh bedecked in flowers, flowers  arranged on small trays as offerings to deities andbali5 greeting the shoppers entering the stores.

Another side of life reveals itself as well. Bony faces, haggard eyes, mangy dogs resembling hyenas resting against temple statues, their sad eyes looking out onto this moving colorful cadence of humanity.

It doesn’t take long to learn that there are people here who make $2 a day working in the rice fields and that part of the harvest goes to the owner.  The feudal system still exists after all. Yet the crafts and artistic talent reveal a people devoted to beauty in all its aspects. The Agung Rai Museum of Art in Ubud has an expansive collection of masterful works of art and wooden sculptures. The epic story of the Ramayana is expressed through gifted dancers accompanied by the sound of the gamelan, the local musical instrument. And then to satisfy the lust of demanding tourists, the shops are filled with leather goods, metalwork, sculptures, colorful garments, paintings and trinkets to dazzle the beholder.

bali9While beyond, out there in the luxury of the forest, tamarind and spice trees and dense clumps of coconut trees bejewel the landscape.  And in the north, where the Bali Sea enchants the shore, one can take a boat at dawn to go meet the dolphins frolicking in the waves warmed by the rising sun.

I left Bali filled with gratitude for the kindness and love expressed by all the generous people I met along the way; Sandeh, the charming hostess of the B&B, and Wati, the Javanese cook who still shares her exquisite recipes with me via e-mail.

bali7I give thanks to them all and especially to Ganesh, reigning lord of the Island of the Gods who allowed me a glimpse into the possibilities of paradise.

 

 

Advertisements

Love and Light

Standard

The Little PrinceAs we come to the end of 2012 and its dire end of the world predictions, I found it difficult to connect to the joyous occasion of Hanukkah and its celebration of a miracle. And I’m finding it difficult to connect to Christmas, that event commemorating the advent of a savior born into the world.

I reflect upon the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, nature’s revenge laying bare our belief that we have no responsibility for the environment. And then another Sandy…the Sandy Hook classroom where an  unimaginable massacre of children and adults tore the heart out from an entire community. It is beyond words to conceive of such a heinous act. Yet I remember  World War II, children being sacrificed to the gods of hatred, fear, and revenge.

I wonder about a society that has accepted the alienation of those on the fringe. A society that doesn’t question the onslaught of television shows dedicated to murder and extermination, or reality shows expounding our twisted perversions of life, or video games that give sensations of power by the touch of a button, or tattoos that send a message to the  world of a tribal need to belong to something other than the instant messaging of iphones, ipads…I this, I that, I nobody.

Why is it that we have not understood that kindness, compassion, gentleness and love are not expressions of weakness but of that which empowers all of mankind. Why is it that martyred children have become reminders that we as a society have failed to provide hope for a kinder and more beautiful world for our young.

But I also know that the beautiful little faces of so many murdered children have shifted something in the global consciousness.

I believe we have come to the crossroads between dark and light. I am reminded once again of those lines  spoken by The Little Prince, a charming and seemingly frail little boy with curly blond hair and a scarf around his neck, traveling through the galaxies, seeding his words of love: L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. On ne voit bien qu’avec le Coeur.

This is the book that comforts me over and over again in troubled times. When I face my doubts, it reminds me that love and light will heal the world. I wish everyone on this planet (and in other galaxies!) the hope that this will come to pass.