gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

out of the cabin and into the camper.

near the end of last week's meditation session i launched into a dissertation about desire. there is a tendency, i explained somewhat patronizingly, to latch onto material possessions in a futile attempt to fill a void, a hole, a lack of fulfillment within oneself. there is an on-going attempt, i pontificated, to distract oneself with toys, gadgets, booze, drugs, even relations, from a sense of emptiness, a sense of need. that's when my new camping trailer arrived. awkward.

what the heck has happened to me? i used to be as poor as any of the local indian folks i lived with and just as happy. 'simple living and higher thinking' was my motto. i walked the hills and swam in the rivers. i meditated on the essential life-force permeating all, that makes no distinction between rich or poor. it's just life, pure and free. i eventually built a house with the help of my friend, the land-owner, out of stone and mud with dirt floor and slate roof. the first night i slept in it was also the first night of that summer monsoon and one wall caved in. i lay in bed in the early morning with a wide-open view of the mountains, water cascading down around me. i got up, made a cup of tea and, together with my friend, worked all that day in the pouring rain to fix it up.

a terribly aristocratic british lord showed up at the ashram in india one day, so many years ago now, and we met by chance at a chai-shop during his visit. sir richard and i entered into a discussion about whether money could would should make one happy. predictably, he was arguing that wealth did not make one happy. i recall how hypocritical i found it that that smug bathdurd, who knew absolutely nothing of poverty, was so sure. i also recall how good it felt to get in the last word. sir richard asserted in his imperious manner: "i'm surprised that you don't know that rich people also have problems." to which i cleverly replied: "well, i'm surprised you don't know that rich people can dwell on their terrible problems while sipping cold coffees in air-conditioned five-star hotels."

on the other hand, there's the example of the leppers i used to pass regularly on my way to akaara bazaar. their hands and feet were swathed in cloth and they carried begging bowls, but they were always smiling. i never really talked to them, but the one thing i often noticed was their smiles.

one time, after giving a few rupees to a beggar with withered legs in a make-shift wheel-chair, he had the audacity to ask for my shirt. "you want to take the shirt off my back?," i asked incredulously. "even if i gave it to you, you'd still have bent and useless legs." i immediately realized it was a harsh thing to say. without missing a beat, however, he responded with a huge grin and with no rancour whatsoever: "i'm not asking for your pants, sir. i'm asking for your shirt." he was tremendously pleased, as he wheeled himself away, proudly wearing his new western shirt.

there was a group of kids i used to watch, who lived in tattered tent-like dwellings behind the bazaar in a massive slum area. they were dressed in the meanest of rags. but they played all day, laughing, shouting, running, jumping. they didn't know they were poor.

ok, so it turns out sir richard may have had a valid point. epictetus, a stoic philosopher born a slave, once wrote: "wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants." and that's certainly what i said during last week's session, as my new camper was being backed into the laneway. of course, i was quick to point out that, ultimately, desireless-ness is a state of mind.

1 comment :

  1. Everyone should read this one Nathan. It is the world. :)