Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Incontestable Logic

Sparky showed up again at the house last night in his customary alternate form as a dragonfly. He seemed unnerved, however, by the character of the corner in which he has preferred to hover--this being the corner he generally preferred to sleep in--for, the corner has been changed somewhat and is not quite so "corner-like" as it used to be. Therefore, he flitted fretfully about for a time, and then decided to follow me around the house instead. Wherever I went, there he was also. I was alarmed, however, when I noticed his presence in the shower with me.

"Sparky! For God's sake, if you get into this spray, you're going to kill yourself!"

"Oh, that's okay," Sparky answered. "I'm already dead."


I happened to see a photo on Facebook yesterday with a little quiz attached. The photo was of a man and a woman walking together, and the question asked was "What is wrong with this picture?"

Well, for anyone of my generation or before, what's 'wrong' is clear--the man is walking on the inside of the woman, she on the street side. It's one among the basic rules taught us by our fathers. Walk on the outside. Open the shop door, open the car door. Respect your elders. Say excuse me. Don't start eating before the cook sits down.

Holding doors seems not to have transferred across the ocean to Indonesia. I do this as a matter of course, for I am trained. But I find that many women will simply stare at me, as if to say "Well, are you going in or going out? Make up your mind."

Overall, women in Indonesia, and especially in Bali, which has a 'class culture', remain second class citizens. Moreover, polite deference to the sex does not seem to factor in to the society very strongly. Men are first in all walks of life, they are favored in divorce, and they are favored in inheritance, even if what is to be inherited did not belong to the man in the first place. In many practical ways--money, education, opportunity, inheritance--the son is favored over the daughter.

One characteristic the society does excel in, however--and something that is disappearing from western cultures--is respect for elders. Even friendly acquaintances of mine still insist on calling me Pak (sir, or father), Tuan (same as Pak, though applied specifically to a foreigner), Om (uncle), or Mister. It would sound strange, even to me, if they were to call me simply Will, or Richard, or Bruce (by which names I am known depending upon who is doing the knowing). No, it is always Pak Will, Om Bruce, Mr. Richard.

Of course, the same thing transfers over to women, who will be called Ibu, Mbak, Nyonya, and so on--all titles of polite respect in regard to the given age. Nonetheless, I will say, with sympathy, that I have seen women carrying a heavy load of groceries while the men strolled along beside them, smoking a cigarette. Not cool, right?

But before we leap to judge, let us remember the common manners and courtesies that are disappearing from our American culture-- because that's not cool, either.

Monday, March 19, 2018


A little whirlwind, toddling niece to the tempest, makes the fallen napkins and bits of paper dance in the crook of the concrete corner’s arm while at the nearby table a gaggle of girls practice at speaking English with a certain hilarity at the sound of their own voices. The wind tugs at their carefully tied down hair. Two boys in white shirts, quite accidentally proximate, study at being unaware. Beyond the sheltered veranda, beyond the greenery of the garden walls, the full-grown trees nod and touch knowing shoulders. Later, the mild morning is bound to turn more severe.


A bunch of irritating dreams last night, or one irritating dream with a lot of irritating interconnected parts. I suppose that dreams are very often addressing matters that we don't like to think about during our waking hours, so the mind says "Okay, I'll think about it while you're asleep."

I have long been persuaded that the unconscious mind is driven by a blunt sort of wisdom and compassion, a will to counsel the waking man from the unfettered, unpolluted fountain of his inner parts. The dream speaks in the tongues of angels, so to speak, through symbol and archetype and image, and addresses matters in ways that the conscious mind might find inappropriate or grotesque or foolish or shameful.

There was a time when I was a younger man, and after much reading of the works of Carl G. Jung, that I would set a notebook and pencil on the table beside my bed such that I might immediately note down the particulars of a dream upon waking--even if I happened to awake from the dream in the middle of the night. This hobby, however, soon became rather too exhausting.

Nowadays, I will turn the thing over in my mind when I awake, noting the most striking images or plotlines, such that I will not instantly forget them, and then as the day goes on, the parts will generally fall into place under the watch of an analytic appraisal, producing, on a good day, a number of "Oh yeah, I see" moments.

Very often, the dream will be addressing just exactly what you had been thinking about before you went to sleep, although this will often be less than apparent at first, given the different vocabulary of the unconscious voice. Often enough, as well, the intent of the dream will be to convey an appreciation of how very foolish your conscious thoughts of the night before had been!

Beware--Iron clad judgements may collapse into little mounds of sand; clever, foolproof schemes may drift away like steam. But it's okay, really. It's all for the best.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

One Final Word on Nyepi

On the night of Nyepi, I decided to sit at the table in the back yard and kind of surf around on the internet just for something to do. Technically, or not so technically, this was a transgression of a couple of the rules--no light, no use of electricity. I did not have the overhead light on, but of course there is the light from the laptop screen. Oh, also one is forbidden from going outside at all, so that was also a no-no. My back yard, however, is completely shut off from the world and can only be seen if someone happens to climb a ladder and peer over the wall--in which case, however unlikely, they would also be breaking the rules.

Anyway, the darkness was nearly complete. There are no street lights to speak of in Bali, except on the highway, and of course all the neighbors had their houselights off.

Now it happens that my kitchen, as with many Balinese kitchens, is outdoors in the back yard. And so as I sat with my laptop, I suddenly became aware of noises--thumpings and clangings and rattlings--from my kitchen area. The rats! Damn them! The nerve of these rats! I mean, I'm sitting right there and they have the nerve to rattle around on my kitchen counters and cupboards not four feet away from me! Dastardly! I could not see them, of course--but I sure as hell could hear them.

So, I'll be purchasing some sticky rat traps today. Hope you had a nice Nyepi day, Rodents. For some of you, it will be your last.


Good to see the world come alive again, after the silence and inaction of Nyepi Day. Regardless of our habitual complaints about noise and traffic, the total removal of sensory input is just a bit too austere. I guess I wouldn't make for much of a hermetic mystic or desert sage. I am more just a run-of-the-mill type hermit.

I remember going camping one summer and finding the campground at Trout Lake totally unoccupied. How nice! was my first thought. The entire campground, the entire lake, the entire forest as far as the eye can see was mine alone!

However, one soon begins to be aware of the pressing immensity of the world, and of how terribly infinitesimal he himself is. The wide open forest possesses nonetheless a closed, forbidding character. One's very footsteps begin to seem an invasion.

I hiked to the next lake up the hill and noted at the top of the trail a large mound of bear shit. Fresh bear shit. Wading out into the lake, beginning to fish, I spied on the shoreline, some distance away, two bears. And they spied me. How very alone I was. Without companion. Without the defense, however fanciful, of human alliance.    

So much for fishing.

There is something to be said--much to be said--for the sound of a human voice, the sight of a fellow sojourner in the world. One will notice, in any case, that the typical occupation of the man stranded on a deserted island is finding a way to get off the deserted island!

So I am glad for the world, and for the friendly faces at my coffee spot, the pleasant greetings from those I know, the two pretty women who just walked in, the people at the next table staring at their laptops just as I am doing, the buzz of the cars and motorbikes on the road, the smile of the little girl in the white hat and blue dress, the people passing in the mall on the other side of the window.

Hello again, world!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nyepi Diary

3/17, 7:47, Nyepi Day--Well, I’ll be damned—they did turn off the internet! Not just the public internet, but dedicated internet providers as well, like Biznet, which I use in the house. Every year they threaten to do this, but these have always been empty threats in the past.

So, Quiet Day will most certainly be a quiet day. No internet, no TV shows, no social media, no WhatsApp. Nada. 

As always, I slept straight through the night (thanks to Xanax). And I awoke as always with a sense of melancholy, or of ennui. I dreamed that I had gotten Nyepi all wrong. I had apparently begun it a day early. I was out somewhere with a lot of other people and I met with a family that may have been from The Netherlands. Their precocious little girl befriended me and admired my wide brimmed, flower decorated hat. I explained that it was my wife’s hat and I had mistaken it that morning for a hat of my own.

There is often a friendly little girl in my dreams. Sometimes I know who she is, sometimes I don’t. A long time ago, I went to a ‘psychic’ (so called) and one thing he told me is that he saw a little girl who needed me, and who loved me very much. That’s about the only part of what the psychic said that I remember very well. But then again, I don’t believe in psychic powers. I do believe in a powerful sort of intuition, but not in someone who can hold some object that you own and tell your future for you.

In a certain way, silent day is lost on me, for I cannot hear the silence. What I can hear, even more acutely than usual, is the ringing in my ears. I am, therefore, especially thankful for the crowing of the roosters, and the cooing of the Bali Starlings, and the barking of the dog down the street, who has apparently not been told that this is silent day. Other than that, one hears no human noise at all, at least to this point in the morning. In the house behind mine, however, there are three small children, who will soon awake and will no doubt have something to say, regardless of whether speech is appropriate or not. Children don’t do silent day. 

2:00 pm—Wifi came back later on in the morning and has been on and off since then. Perhaps someone in the Biznet office throws the switch whenever he wants to go online. Who knows?

The big fat brown dog clearly does not know the rules of Nyepi (everyone is forbidden to go outside the house), or perhaps she does not believe they apply to her (and she is probably right). In any case, she’s just made her second trip of the day to my house looking for snacks.

So far, it has been very quiet indeed. Haven’t heard a single voice, even from children. Only the birds and the buzzing insects, and I’m sure they find this arrangement preferable. They must be thinking, “It’s a miracle! The people are gone!”

7:30 pm—Well, that went fast. Almost over. The sky appears clear, so I’ll be able to see the stars later on. Providing that I can stay awake.