I went to live in a recluse because my heart could not take any more falsehood, duplicity, hypocrisy, corruption, malice, cruelty, egotism, narcissism, greed, hostility, delinquency and dishonesty. I desired purity, righteousness, compassion, kindness, hospitality, integrity, uprightness and respect. Because I could not find any of the latter without prevalence of the former among humans, I left to live where the latter reigns.
So one day, without much planning or preparing, without consulting with anyone or seeking permission, I left and stayed gone, unaccounted for to everyone but God. I lived face to face with myself, depriving all living men from a chance to disturb me. I gave and was given, for in a company of Mother Nature, sharing is unconditional.
This extraordinary undertaking has taught me many things. Things about myself, about my soul, about self-reliance, about poverty, about silence, about my back country and about the downsides of living in a non hunter/gatherer society. Let me reflect on my experiences and share some of the knowledge acquired with you. I will explain in a little more detail what life as a recluse has taught me in next several posts. Click on the NEXT button at the top to browse through it.
Solitude is bliss. It is one of the most empowering feelings I’ve ever experienced. Life as a recluse taught me that solitude and loneliness are two very different experiences and that being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely. As a matter of fact, I found that loneliness is much closer to alienation than it is to solitude and alienation is experienced when there are other people around. If you go recluse on the society, you’ll give it no opportunity to single you out and make you feel isolated which in turn eliminates any chances of feeling lonely.
Henry David Thoreau, great writer and philosopher who spent 2 years living in voluntary isolation by Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts said it best:
I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers.
As you shun society, you are compensated with peace and develop appreciation of it. The abundance of time and beauty that surround you will inspire peaceful inner experiences which are laced with incredibly uplifting spirits. I found that time away in solitude is very rejuvenating and boosts both health and happiness.
Allow your mind to quiet down and you’ll see your heart grow more than it ever did before. When you are alone, there is nobody there to judge you and point fingers at you. You can be yourself the way you’re meant to be. Solitude is a great way to awaken your inner child and open up to wonderment you last experienced when you were little.
Feel your soul awaken to health, purity and harmony and let your internal energy sources catch new breath. It will force you into solidarity with yourself and give you a fresh new passion to live and make use of your time. And in the end you’ll understand that being outwardly deprived is very inwardly enriching.
My experience with solitude helped me become more humble and come to terms with many of my life’s issues. I haven’t completely settled down with myself yet, but this was just me getting my feet wet. I now understand how many lessons one can learn from a lifestyle of simplicity and purity and I’m not gonna stop learning after just one chapter.
When you are alone, when you are standing there face to face with yourself and nature is the only thing to judge the duel, you are reminded of birth, death and interdependence. The modern society obstacles that prevented you from manifesting your true self no longer exist. You gain complete immunity to the inner tension forced upon you by the world you used to be a part of.
Here in the wild, you are not judged. Being alone does not mean you’re lonesome, having nothing does not mean you’re poor, letting go does not mean you’re weak. Here in the wild, whisper can roar as loudly as thunder. The best way to dislike someone is to live with them. So go out and experience the bliss of solitude for yourself.
I started playing with an idea of living like a hermit shortly after I’ve reached an advanced stage of spiritual freedom. I longed for a full on hermit experience – to withdraw entirely from the society and move into the wilderness where I would live completely alone, in complete solitude with nothing but my two bare hands. Surrounded by silence and undisturbed by the messiness of the outside world, I looked to the hermit experience as a means into a deeper sense of my own self.
In my case, there were a few additional reasons that drew me towards the hermit experience. For one I wanted to see what I’m really capable of and whether I’m really as tough as I’d like to think I am, but I also wanted to get a taste of what it’s like surviving with absolutely nothing. And when I say “absolutely nothing”, I very much mean “absolutely nothing”.
You can’t truly understand poverty, unless you have absolutely nothing. You can’t truly understand loneliness unless you are completely alone. But most of all – you can’t truly understand what you’re really capable of, unless you have to do it all on your own, with no chance of anyone offering a helping hand or advice.
There was also this fact that many great spiritual leaders went through the hermit experience before reaching their apex as spiritual leaders. Buddha did it, Jesus Christ did it, Moses did it, Prophet Muhammad did it… you can go quite a ways back to understand what profound impact withdrawal from society and return to the simple life had on some of the greatest names from the past.
If these great spiritual leaders did it and considered it one of the most important stepping stones on their path to greatness, it was only a question of time before a desire to enhance my personal growth by seeking simple life and withdrawal from society popped into my mind. It was a natural progression of the things to come.
We all search for the unknowable – whether knowingly or unknowingly – we all pace the same universal path to the bottom of our hearts, where we hope to find the answers. But as the demands of our daily lives increase, the touch with our otherwise abundant inner nature gets lost and the quest for the answers returns zero results.
My first run at living in solitude exposed me to a different, much truer and more satisfying me. Perhaps it was the silence so deafening I could hear my every heartbeat echo through the woods, perhaps it was the closeness with nature and all of her creatures who embraced me as one of their own, perhaps it was the stars I could see so brightly and distinctly I felt like I’m flying through space, or perhaps it was all of it together that returned me to my original, unadulterated state in which I reconnected with the vital forces of life and creation and experienced feeling of time that expanded to its relaxed abundance, affording me the most gratifyingly ample feeling that there was nothing more I needed to do than just sit and appreciate the beauty of nature and life within it as it was presenting itself to me at that very moment.
The Hermit Experience
I don’t have talent for writing so I’ll just quote Henry David Thoreau because it simply cannot be said any better (you may have heard this quote if you saw the movie Dead Poets Society with Robin Williams):
I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life… to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
I went into the wilderness for 3 months without telling anyone. I carefully picked a very remote lake in Northern Alberta and completely disappeared without a trace. I packed my netbook and camera along but didn’t have a solar charger so their power only lasted for initial few days. Learning to slow down was single most difficult part which I’m gonna have to continue working on as I still haven’t mastered it. I returned back solely to clear the path for my next, longer stay away from the consumer society.
I didn’t ask for permission, I didn’t waste time trying to explain to anyone why I needed to do it – I simply did it. To my surprise, after I came clean with my parents, they weren’t mad. Not even after I told them that this was just a warm up and that I will go back after I’ve taken care of a few legal and moral obligations my citizenship requires of me. My dad’s response was that I involved myself in more than too many crazy adventures in the past and many worked out for me, so there was little to raise concern that I’d have any difficulty pulling this one through just as successfully.
There was simply no argument my parents could make to counter my intention to leave behind this insane money-chasing, going-nowhere life in a pretentious and superficial world where I was along with other zombies naught more than a living dead in a scheme laid up by power-tripping war lords.
My mom’s illogically baseless statement that life in the wilderness could be dangerous was the easiest to counter. I mean, how could life away from drug dealers, rapists, murderers, drunk drivers and other human filth be dangerous? Potential dangers lurk around anywhere you go, but in general terms, it doesn’t get any safer than when you are away from people.
My parents are deeply religious so their main disappointment with me is that I don’t go to church like they had taught me to, but if I were to acknowledge the existence of God, I wouldn’t expect to find him in the filth of the greed-fuelled war machine. I’d look for him in rivers that flow through land, in animals that tread its soil, in rocks that crown proud mountain tops. I’d look for him in flowers that add fragrance to the meadows, in pine needles that soften up the mountain floors, in drops of mist that glide lazily through the shades of endless forests. God is Earth and whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the sons of Earth. We are all Sons of Earth.
My philosophy is kinship with all creatures of the earth, sky and water. I want to embrace a slow living lifestyle which would allow me to serve the Earth and appreciate her beauty. I want to live in rhythm with nature and her seasons for they each are beautiful in their own individualistic way. I want to take time out to watch clouds glade over the moon, sunrise outline the shape of the mountains and thunderstorm light up the northern sky.
At my first run at living alone in the wilderness, I lived like a hermit. Because I don’t live in a hunter/gatherer society and my country has enforceable laws I as its citizen am subjected to, I’m presently taking care of my obligations so I can return to the wilderness and stay there for a long time. But this time around I won’t live like a hermit, I will live as one.
Psychologists are people who get paid big bucks to invent fancy names for common human traits, such as laziness or ignorance.
I keep asking myself – is it possible, in this day and age, for a reasonably aware person, to not be disappointed with mankind? World leaders make promises to end wars in order to get the office and when the office is theirs, they go right ahead and expand the war. And general public, instead of calling for impeachment and worldwide condemnation of these war criminals, goes out of their way to worship them. Indeed, when it comes to going out of their way, the public goes twice the distance justifying their idols and defending them when faced with people who retain a reasonable level of sanity and virtue.
My whole life I was looking forward to the day when we as a people embrace one another and the world will once and for all live in peace. They sing about it in songs, they write poetry about it, and by right, considering how advanced we got as a civilization, you’d expect us to grow up and make killing for money and power history. Sadly, it ain’t happening.
Our existence in the universe is almost exclusively detrimental with no redeeming qualities to it. We destroy even as we create. We consume, we multiply, we lay waste. We pollute the air we breathe, we poison the water we cannot be without, we choke the very planet without which we perish and on top of it all, we treat one another with prejudice, egocentrism and selfishness and desire power to dominate and humiliate the other person.
True enough, I did live my life looking forward to the day when we as a people embrace one and another and the world starts to live in peace but it didn’t last long. I realized early on that throughout thousands of years of documented human history, there has not been one decade without war. How foolish of me to think that after millennia of embracing war we would magically turn around and embrace peace… How foolish of me to raise my voice against war hungry leaders and violence craving citizens.
Still, things seemed to have been different only a couple of decades ago. Most people opposed unjustified wars, such as that in Vietnam and condemned soldiers for their (whether voluntary or involuntary) participation in slaughter of innocent civilians. Back then people rallied to protest wars (hippie movement) – nowadays they rally by the millions to celebrate murder (alleged killing of Osama bin Laden). It would seem we have not evolved one bit since the time of the Romans when people flocked to watch men slaughter each other in coliseums.
Peace loving pacifists are a minority so small that compared to the war-happy killing-supporters, they literally do not exist. I would know, because being one of them, I get trampled by the hatred-spewing war zombies left and right like there’s no tomorrow, with voice of peaceful sanity nowhere to be found.
War is the way for sick-in-the-head individuals to go on a killing spree and get away with it. The wars of today are as unjustified and immoral as they were 40 years ago, but the people changed. Instead of condemning each and every killing machine out there, people of today “thank them for their service” and some even go as far as saying that these war criminals “protect our freedom”. Honestly, is this really how far we’ve descended as a species in a matter of a few decades?
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!
Psychologists have all the answers as to why there is such a high occurrence of suicides among veteran soldiers yet they seem to fail to see the bigger picture. Perhaps the premise of consciousness has not made it to their textbooks? It’s simple, really – being able to kill and get away with it gives the soldiers a god-like status. While they can’t give life (and could care less), they have the power to take it and they’re more than happy to put that power to use.
Must be hell of a rush to handcuff a one year old and shoot it in the head just because you can. All your soldier-buddies pat you on your back as you entertain them by addressing the frightened civilians with offensive names. You look forward to your next kill but as the years go by, the screams of your defenceless victims start hunting you and flashbacks from your days of “glory” turn into spooks that never leave your side. You’re left to live with it and get slowly consumed by the ever growing remorse until you can’t take it no more.
It makes perfect sense that so many veteran soldiers respond to their immoral past by hating themselves to the point of no return. As it goes among soldiers, they do not ask, they do not tell. What really happened on the battlefield is a secret those who were not there will never be disclosed. But upon return to “normal” life, when the roaring of the falling bombs quiets down, and their soldier buddies are no longer around to laugh with them at people they’d murdered, the screams of their victims take over. In order to keep the secret a secret, they silence the screams by taking their own lives. And if they don’t, someone will take it for them and make it look like suicides. The secret must remain a secret.
If you got to the very underbelly of your problems, you’d realize that it’s people who are the root cause of them. The negative emotions you experience are almost exclusively the response to something somebody did. Something a person, or a group of people did. If you feel angry, it’s because a person did something you disagreed with. If you feel betrayed it’s because a person backstabbed you. If you feel left out, it’s because your friends turned to someone with prettier face than yours.
Remove people from your life and many negative feelings or experiences will be alien to you. That could include fear, sadness, broken heart, isolation, disappointment, back stabbing, betrayal, foul play, or other.
Certain unavoidable events or circumstances, such as passing of a loved one (human or not) could also evoke the feeling of sadness or loneliness, but they don’t happen out of spite and are often a natural part of life.
This leads me to a conclusion that misanthropy is not only justified, it is the only feasible alternative for anyone who’s reasonably intelligent and upright. Misanthropy is a natural reaction of decent, honest people to deplorable behaviour and the inherent corruption of the human species and the society they’ve created.
Those who resent misanthropy either lack mental capacity to comprehend the bigger picture, or succumb to hypocrisy in fear that it would affect their status among peers. This self-delusional cowardice tricks others into falsely perceiving them as all-loving mankind apologists, but it also tricks themselves by robbing them off honor and integrity.
Those who put their hearts into seeking truth, find it. Those who find truth but suppress it to avoid the negativism labels are cowardly hypocrites. Therefore to get the whole truth, one must seek negative people.
Is it possible to really love mankind if you don’t even understand it? Is it possible to love mankind if you seek truth? Is it possible to love the seeker of truth?
Misanthropy and Repentance
We the humans have so much potential yet we’re using most of it for the wrong purposes. People are not merely evil, they are as evil as can be and will readily go over and beyond.
An expression of disappointment in mankind, is an expression of care. We can only move forward as a people if we take notice of the reality for what it truly is and take appropriate action. Without it, we could be doomed to follow the wrong path and as the saying has it, it matter little how hard you paddle, if your boat is facing the wrong direction.
You can’t have good without evil, you can’t have devil without god, you can’t have love without hate. In a world dominated by two types of people – those who are evil at heart and those who support them – misanthropy is justified.
The technological revolution marked the transformation of the way of life for most of the Earth’s human inhabitants from agricultural to industrial. It finalized our migration away from the simple life and into a world of electrical devices and antidepressants. Instead of growing our own food, we slave our lives away in factories in order to earn money for which we buy food doped up with growth hormones and shelf life extending agents.
An introduction of technology into our lives came with a promise of easier living that would afford us “more free time”. And many modern technological devices truly delivered. Take washing machine for example – getting 5 kg of clothes properly washed by hand would take at least an hour of arduous labor. But now that we have washing machines and electricity, all one needs is a few short minutes to load the machine up, add laundry detergent and press a button or two. While your laundry is being washed, you are free to do whatever you want because washing machines take care of business automatically, without wearing your back and knuckles out.
However if you take a look at our technological advances as a whole, you’ll notice that while they do make our lives easier and buy us free time by turning otherwise arduous and lengthy chores into a stint of pressing a few buttons, they also seem to speed the time in which we live up, leaving us feeling pressured, like there never are enough hours in our days to catch up with our lives. We have all these devices that save us time by doing work for us, yet there’s constantly so much more to do we feel overloaded and stressed out. We have indeed become the tools of our tools.
The complexity of our lives as of late, despite all these gadgets that are supposed to make them easier, has become rather dizzying. So what gives? What went wrong that we have to work our lives toward simple now? Is way back – a rewind, so to speak – fathomable? Cause I already have an answer to whether it’s doable. I’m just unsure whether general, dumbed down public that’s so addicted to filtered reality still has the wits to understand that the path I’m undertaking, the path that takes me back to the basics, back to the time when human identity was defined by what one does, and not by what one owns (Jimmy Carter, anyone?), is a path that’ll free me from the life I’ve planned, so I can have the life I’m meant to live.
The beginning of every unwritten book starts today. As Socrates suggested, many are the thyrsus bearers, but few are the mystics. There will always be ill wishers, there will always be someone who’ll tell you that the path you are taking is wrong. The trick is in finding courage to not give in to the temptation to believe it. Walk with confidence towards the star that shines the brightest for you. Simple life simplifies the universal laws by which we live. Simplify your life and the universe will respond in kind. And as you return to the simple life, you’ll realize that the more things you live without, the richer you are.
Life is an opportunity to create, to taste food, to experience love, to have an orgasm, to learn how to play guitar, to frolic in the rain, to laugh, to be adventurous, to make friends. Life is also… disposable. It is a little span of time that allows us to choose and to achieve.
Here’s the kicker – every second after our birth brings us closer to death. To live is to die yet only the almighty knows which of the two is better. One way or another – it pays to make every second count.
Does Technology Make Our Lives Easier or More Difficult?
The fact that our countdown starts the second we are born is something we as humans have realized a long time ago and being the top of the food chain, we brought technology into our lives to make them less complicated. I can’t help but notice, however that even though technology does make our daily survival chores easier, it also disconnects us from social and cultural ties that existed in our societies for millennia.
It would almost seem as though every new technological invention, like a double sided sword, would on one hand make the task it is intended for easier, but on another make our lives as a whole more complicated by over-stimulating our bodies and minds with unnatural impulses.
Internet – The Ultimate Antisocial Tool
Internet is considered to be one of the most groundbreaking inventions of men. It has revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives on both societal and individual levels. Easily the most significant impact the internet has made on our lives is the removal of physical presence. Internet connection is all one needs to do business globally, manage international workers, make and receive payments, balance checkbooks, plan a vacation and more – all without leaving the bedroom.
Internet also made the availability of information and speed at which it becomes available unsurpassed, but it’s the fact that you can get this news while chatting with friends, booking your flight ticket or masturbating that truly impacts our lives. 15 years ago, different activities required the use of different tools and presence in different places but today, all one needs is a computer with internet access.
To bet on a sporting event 15 years ago, one would have to go to the booking office. Today one can do it by sitting on a computer with internet access. To talk to a few friends at the same time, one would have to arrange a meeting so they all are in the same room. Today they can do it by sitting on their computers with internet access even if they are worlds apart. Heck, 15 years ago people actually knew all of their friends in real life. Today, thanks to the internet, people have more friends they have never met in person (virtual friends, aka surrogates), than they have the real life ones.
Internet – in a single sentence – has become the ultimate antisocial tool capable of leaving huge holes where comradeships and community once reigned.
Life After the Internet
From a documentary Zeitgeist: Moving Forward I learned that a need for human touch and companionship are necessary for survival and normal development of all human beings. What are we as human beings going to develop into if we continue allowing the internet to keep us from getting to know and interact with one another without any physical contact?
Internet is an excellent tool, but as with everything, when used by weak-minded individuals, it starts to control them, even though they think it’s the other way around. You can tell how many weak-minded individuals are out there by taking a look at how many profiles exist on Facebook. The description of Facebook states the following:
Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them…
..and that’s the way most people perceive Facebook as. Little do they realize that while it connects them with some, it disconnects them with many more. Prior to the internet, people connected with friends by meeting and socializing with them. Instead of entertaining themselves by staring at computer screens, people went somewhere to be with people. Facebook eliminates the need for physical contact and face to face interactions and replaces them with imaginary world in which sounds require speakers.
Internet addicts have internet-numbed brains which prevent them from acknowledging an extent to which internet affects their lives and even if the acknowledgement comes, an attempt to withdraw and set themselves free never thoroughly follows through. To them internet is not a tool which is used when necessary. To them it’s an addiction they dedicate most of their time to, even if it means sacrificing time which would be spent with family or friends. Afterall, how could lunch with friends be any more important than a comment written to impress hoards of people they haven’t even met?
Life after the internet disconnected people from people. Even if there is an off the internet meet-up, the weak-minded, internet-numbed individuals will attend it by spending more time on their little machines (whether texting with cell phones or checking their status and posting comments using internet enabled gadgets) interacting with surrogates than talking with physically present friends.
I recently went to a library and the place was packed. However, I was the only one browsing for books. Everybody else came there to use their free internet. Some youngsters sat mere feet away from each other, yet instead of looking into each other’s eyes to talk, they stared at the screens and chatted using an internet based instant messenger service.
What happened to us? Why did we allow such amazing invention as internet to completely take over our lives and sacrifice everything that makes us who we are to it? When TVs became widely affordable and every household had one, we thought something important was being lost because instead of socializing with other human beings, people spent hours staring absently at a TV screen. We truly had no idea back then what was yet to come…
Internet and Traveling Mark
Internet addiction, just as any other addiction is a sign of mental weakness. If you allow the internet to take you over and do not do anything about it while you can, then you are a weak-minded individual and deserve every bit of what is coming to you. Luckily for me, my journey to self discovery opened up my eyes to more than just what my life after the internet turned into.
My income still depends on use of the internet, but I’m not saying there is anything wrong with using the internet as a tool to achieve great things. I realized a while ago what massive pair of shackles internet represents and have appropriately addressed it. Since that time, I’ve been realizing nothing but its potential. For me, life after the internet has not ended in favour of virtual reality. How about you? It takes a strong individual to see beyond the tip of one’s nose. Have you had your eyes locked to the screen for so long you can no longer focus on the vast world that spreads before your nose’ tip? Remember, today is the first day of the rest of your life? At least make it the rest of your life, not the rest of virtual reality in which you existed.
Our life is an endless sequence of undying efforts we put forth in a struggle to please others. In other words – much of what we do, we do to please others. We modify our behavior to subconsciously please our friends and relatives, we also do it to please those we don’t know (nor do they know us) but come across in our day to day lives, and we also perpetually strive to please those we haven’t even (nor ever will) come into contact with:
we struggle to pay our bills on time to please credit rating agencies
we struggle to eat healthy so we can improve our physique because then we will be perceived as more attractive by others
we struggle to earn good money so we can live in a house, drive in a car, wear latest fashion that will make the heads of others turn
we struggle to write interesting blog posts, twitter updates, facebook profiles because we want others to subscribe, comment, follow, brown-nose, circle-jerk, or otherwise become parts of our network of admirers
Here’s the kicker – most people are so obsessed with pleasing others, they find little time to please themselves (and I’m not referring to sexual self-gratification). Dedication to pleasing others seems to have become the life’s mission of the many of us. It’s become an obsession, a purpose, a meaning of life. We are judged by and gain social status based on how many people we impress throughout our journeys through life. The “what would people say?” is the very question that, whether consciously or subconsciously, pops into our minds and becomes the determining factor of the course of our actions.
I could also put it this way: we live our lives by responding to external demands in an anticipation of external rewards, such as acceptance, status or security, all the while sacrificing our internal needs. Instead of striving to be the best we can be, we act in response to seemingly urgent demands from external sources. The time, that precious commodity we have only a limited supply of is thus taken away from us to belong to somebody else by our own doing.
I set myself free from the clutches of corporate slavery and started to roam the Earth a free man. But the journey didn’t end there. As I found out soon after, there was more to self realization than freedom from corporate lifestyle. A major next step in my personal growth came to be with a realization that I was a slave to gadgets. What is freedom from one set of shackles good for if you slip into a different set right after? The outcome is the same – you are a slave – only this time your shackles have cute paintings on them. The knowledge I have gained from this experience was – if it dictates your life – you’re enslaved to it, even if it’s something you enjoy and would voluntarily go for.
It was the same type of feeling I felt when I started hating photography even though I loved it my whole life. When surviving as a professional photographer became tough and I had to take gigs I did not enjoy, it was taking the fun away from the whole thing and I hated every minute of it. But as soon as I left pro photography and started taking pictures as a hobby, capturing only what I had genuine passion for, the love and joy for photography came instantly back.
3 – It Gets Worse
Then came the challenge from hell. I was able to set myself free from corporate slavery and gadget entrapment, but having gotten this far – further than most people do – I couldn’t just stop there. I had to poke where it really hurt. There was still one set of shackles and this set holds grip so tight and snug, its existence is not admitted to, not even by the most self realized individuals. It’s the internet.
We the generation of today are so addicted to the internet, it’s not an addiction anymore. It’s part of our daily lives. Everything is on the web, is controlled by the web and is determined by the web. It only gets worse if you’re a person like me who makes his living on the internet. When you’re at that point, then internet gets to decide your every next step. Running an online based business requires one to be constantly on line. Monitoring traffic, responding to online requests, moderating comments, looking for security holes, patching security holes, analyzing server logs, tweaking server settings to improve performance, optimizing database structures, upgrading to stay on top and writing fresh content are just a few of the daily tasks a webmaster has to go through on the daily basis. And that only scratches the surface. It’s the tip of the iceberg the highly competitive world of webmastering represents.
Because of that, despite my apparent freedom from corporate slavery and gadget entrapment, I could not consider freeing myself from the internet as my whole life depended on it. Worse yet, the idea that the internet could be a set of shackles I have not identified yet was not even admitted in my mind. Afterall, how could internet, a tool that makes our lives what they are, be ever considered a tool of enslavement?
Yet that is exactly what it is. For example – while on my tour through Asia, I could not consider a trip to Myanmar because of scarce availability of the internet and heavy censorship throughout the country. If I found myself unable to access any of my sites, I would be unable to monitor them. As a result, if there was a malicious activity on any of the sites, I would be unable to respond before it wreaked complete havoc on the server. And the stress of living with the possibility that there could be something undesired going on with my sites while I’m unable to check and see whether my concerns are founded or not would drive me insane. Hence, a trip to Myanmar was a no option.
Willing to admit to it or not, considering how far I got with my journey of self awareness, it was only a question of time before the shackles the internet represented were identified and ultimately admitted to as such. I’m still not free from this set, but success to every mission begins with giving the problem a name, calling it for what it really is, admitting that it is in fact a problem regardless of how difficult this admission is to make, and if you’re able to do just that, you’re off to a good start. The rest is about putting thoughts into actions but action is what would never come to be unless you square up with it on the mental level first.
The Curse of Pleasing Others
It took me two years to thoroughly identify and admit to each of these sets of shackles. Two I was able to successfully shake off, third I’m still dealing with and as the struggle rages on, I came to understand what really was behind all this. It’s the struggle to please others. It’s the very thing I mentioned right at the beginning of this article. This constant struggle to please others so we can feel relevant is what makes us so selfish. It’s what destroyed true community spirits and replaced them with faux community life we know today.
One would have to visit remote tribes that live far away from civilization to see what community spirits mean. Elsewhere it has long been dead. When you see the hunters leaving the village for a day to hunt, gatherers leaving for a different part of the forest to gather wild edibles, those who are sick or injured staying in the village along with those who look after the fire, bake bread or weave baskets that would be traded off with other tribes. At the end of the day, each bit of food the village as a whole produced is put together so everybody can eat. Hunters don’t just hunt for themselves and their families. They hunt for the village. Bakers don’t just bake for themselves and their families, they bake for the village. Everything is shared – work and food. And when whole village is fed, they gather round to celebrate another day of good life together – as a community.
In cases like these, where real community spirits still exist, people don’t do things to please others. Hunters don’t go hunting to show off that the buck they took down was bigger than one their neighbor got. They don’t put fragrant aftershave on to appeal to women late at night. They don’t need to build their house taller than their neighbors’ – because they are a community. They don’t do things to please others, they do it to survive. Their way of life may seem savage to us, but when you get past this narrowminded point of view (most people never get there in their whole lives), you’ll see that they make far more sense than us.
Granted, one could bring up an argument that without the struggle to please others, we would not have progressed as a civilization. And it is true. People train to be good at sports to show off, and they invent things for the same very purpose. If it wasn’t for this insatiable greed and selfishness, people would retain the community spirit and with it, would lose the desire to get more admiration than their neighbor. Nothing pisses an individual off more than success of their neighbor. The hatred this feeling evokes drives a desire to steal that spotlight off for themselves. Some do it by getting more creative, some by backstabbing, but they all have the same common denominators – zero community spirit with surplus of greed.
It is also important to distinguish between a real community spirit and fake community involvement as we see in modern societies today. People get rewards for their “community involvement” – you could even find lawyers who offer legal advice “pro bono” yet the real reason why these people got involved in the community in the first place was… out of selfish greed. It’s because they knew people were watching and they knew it would be noticed, hence they did it. It was once again a case of doing things to please others. In other words, it’s an engagement in activities one would not do if there was absolutely nobody to see them.
Are You Living to Please Others?
Imagine a scenario from a cataclysmic movie comes true and whole civilization is wiped out with you being the sole survivor. Imagine you look out of the window and there is absolutely nobody out there. You walk outside and keep walking for days on end and there is no one but you. Would you bother putting a make up on and dying your hair before heading out? How about this scenario:
Being a girl and the only survivor of a major cataclysmic event you stumble across a chest. You are happy to have found it cause you could use some clothes and shoes before cold of the night takes over and blisters on your feet get too painful. In one of the compartments you find really sexy high heels, shiny latex miniskirt and ripped up tank top held together with safety pins. In another you find manly looking coveralls, rubber boots and checkered flannel work shirt. Which set would you take to keep fed and hydrated? Which set would you take if no catastrophic event took place and there would be people out there the same way they are now?
One more time with the catastrophic event scenario – if you found a notepad and a pen and decided to keep a journal, would your journal entries be the same as your facebook updates today? Go back to your facebook, twitter, blog or whatever else you use and read the last 5 entries you’ve made. Read them now after you have just read my article about the curse of pleasing other and see if you can reflect on yourself and find yourself in it. Have you written them in a way so as to earn extra brownie points from your peers you anticipated to read it? It takes a strong person to see forest for the trees. Are you her or him?
Do not confuse genuine compassion of one human being towards another with selfish desire to drive up one’s ego by pleasing others. They are not the same thing. They are only parts of the same spectrum, but are at exact opposites of it.
We, the men and women of the 21st century grow up completely disconnected from our inner selves. We have lost the ability to speak to our souls and understand what dwells within us. Instead of looking for our place on the planet Earth, we look for attention. Instead of discovering our purpose in life, we live to show off. We dedicate more time and effort establishing our social status than we do anything else. What we choose to wear, what we choose to say, what we choose to write about, where we choose to go or what we choose to do – we do it, admittedly or not, with foremost interest in boosting our own image in the eyes of others.
It is all about the struggle to please the society, because we have come to believe that the society will reward us by recognizing our “contribution” to it. We want admirers, we want fans, we want our name to be in a newspaper or on a TV screen. We want people to talk about us and most of all – we want them to envy us. We are not interested in things that may advance us independently, on a personal level, unless we get a chance to show it off and gain media coverage while we’re at it.
You don’t see people retracting to the wilderness to live as hermits in order to gain closeness with nature and a better understanding of their place in the awareness. You only sometimes hear about them because if they do something like that, they do it as an attempt to gain fame. To them, albeit claimed as a primary reason of their move, the potential of inner personal development by taking the step is secondary to the social status a “sacrifice” of this type would reward them with.
Finding someone who wouldn’t desire the public to gasp for the air when they hear their story is nigh impossible in this day and age. Those who take steps that appear to have been taken with intentions to grow as individuals take them with loud announcements to the world via internet or other media. I truly find it hard to accept that a person who keeps posting Twitter updates once every hour about his journey to self discovery is merely interested in finding his place in life.
To rephrase – all we seem to care about is our social status. We do things to please others and want everything we do to be seen. Screw inner growth if we can’t brag about what it took us to get where we are and how we struggled to pull it off. We desire nothing more than to be envied. We want it so much we determine the steps we take based on the likelihood and the amount of envy we get in return. We want a job others will envy, we want to drive a car others will envy, we want to have a body others will envy, we want to have done something others would wish to have done before us. It’s falsehood in disguise. We think we are advancing in lives, but all we’re doing is pleasing others. By doing so, we’re letting others to dictate our lives as the directions we choose, we choose based on what social status they would reward us with. We have lost touch with our inner selves and become, in simple terms, strangers to our own souls.
The life story of Ha, the Vietnamese Prostitute who is not really a prostitute started as a fairly happy one, but turned into a very, very sad and frightening sequence of events. I met her on the first night she attempted to sell her body to men for money because she had no other option. So even though she had attempted a route of prostitution, she’s never ended up being one thanks to me getting mixed in an equation. Still, her true life story is very sad and I hope she as well as her daughter get to enjoy the life they deserves soon. The revelation of this life story started on the morning after our first night together, but it took several days and nights spent together to paste all the pieces together and get a clear picture of the nightmare these two girls live on a daily basis.
Being an attractive girl, Ha grew up with a lot of attention from boys. There was nothing wrong with it and every girl would have wished to be like her. Life was generally good, even though she grew up in Vietnam which came with its own ups and downs of the communist regime. At some point in her late teens, Ha went to Thailand where she met with that American guy. The fact that she was from Vietnam made her open to anyone from the Western world as that was the opportunity for her to escape rather limited possibilities of self application her home country was offering.
Said American man was excited to learn that Ha was from Vietnam because he saw vast business opportunities opening in this South East Asian country with introduction of inexpensive scooters to the Asian markets. At that time, the predominant means of transportation in Vietnam were bicycles. You may recall pictures of thousands of bicycles filling the streets of Saigon which were so popular in magazines like National Geographics. This was all about to change and motorcycles were to become the new pink in Vietnam, replacing obsolete bicycles as an improved, more exciting transportation option.
Ha was promised the American man would marry her if she helped him to start the motorcycle business in Vietnam. One thing lead to another and before you knew it, the two were in Vietnam, the man starting up a business that was bound to succeed and Ha ended up pregnant. When that happened and when the business started to rock and roll, the man who promised her heavens suddenly changed. He started ignoring Ha and kept cheating on her and doing it openly. Due to Vietnam’s weak justice system, the man kept sexually abusing underage girls but got away with everything as he was able to buy favors of any Vietnamese official that was in the way. In a corruption ridden country, he who has more money wins.
Having been left pregnant in Vietnam, where single mothers are socially unacceptable, Ha tried to pledge with the man who knocked her up to provide for her during pregnancy and fulfill his promise to marry her. He rejected the unborn baby and ordered Ha to stay away from him or else. She had nowhere else to go, no man would take a woman who’s pregnant with another man’s child, so she tried to appeal to him, but his true colors kept showing more and more each day. As his business grew, he used the money to run Ha and her family to the ground. Ha’s mother was forced into bankruptcy and had her house taken away from her while Ha was being threatened that if she doesn’t get out of his way or has an abortion, she will come to a sad end.
As the man kept sexually abusing new girls every day, many of which were way too young for sex, there were more and more of them that ended up pregnant. Several were found dead in dubious traffic accidents the police refused to investigate. Fearing that Ha could encounter similar fate, she stopped asking the man for financial support and marriage. Later on she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
The man who previously tried to force her into abortion, changed his attitude when he saw the little girl. She was the cutest baby in the entire world and he has decided that he wanted her for himself. Financially deprived Ha who saw her family hit rock bottom after the man who got her pregnant destroyed their lives saw something bad happening if little girl was to end up in the hands of a man who had previously sexually abused prepubescent girls on several occasions. But through his connections and corrupt jurisdiction, he was able to get the baby temporarily. After a month, Ha got the girl back and found baby’s vagina swollen and discolored. Being only four months old, baby was put on medication and it took more than a month for the irritation and bruising to go away.
The man refused all accusations that he had anything to do with it and threatened Ha that he would make her suffer or worse if she doesn’t stop snooping around. At the same time he demanded that she gives him her daughter for he liked the baby and wanted her for himself while keeping Ha out of her life. Ha tried to pledge with him but threats continued and violence kept growing until such point that Ha had to run away from the town where she lived and hide with her relatives at the opposite end of Vietnam.
That didn’t go over well with the man who wanted the baby and Ha out of his way. His men found her at the relatives but she was able to get away last minute and escaped to places where none of her relatives lived so there was nothing to connect her with the place. Being constantly on the run with little baby in the tow, Ha was unable to get a job and make enough money to provide for the little girl. Life of fear and deprivation became her true life story. She could not stay anywhere for an extended period of time and could not live as a free person. It went on like that for a couple of years but the man never stopped pursuing his revenge. He wanted her to pay for the nerve of not giving him her daughter as he demanded, and escaping his pursuit.
When little girl was 4 year old, Ha had no more places in Vietnam where she could hide so she escaped to Cambodia. She ended up in Siem Reap where one of her distant uncles lives. The uncle is Vietnamese born, but married a Cambodian woman and lived in Cambodia since. They have a small house on the outskirts of this popular tourist destination and this is where Ha and her daughter sought temporary refuge. She was in a foreign country, she couldn’t speak the language, only a little bit and she had her daughter who needed food to grow up. In order to make money in this environment, she attempted to do the only thing she could – prostitution. If it wasn’t for her daughter, she wouldn’t have done that, but she was able and willing to take anything just as long as she can buy some food for the little girl. That is when I met her.
This was why Ha has never acted like a real hooker. This was why she never got cold with me like hookers do with their customers after they’re done. But this is also why she had to ask me if I could give her some money to buy food for her daughter even though we never engaged in a hooker/john relationship. The details of her life story were shocking. This was not simply presented to me the way I am presenting it here. This was revealed bit by bit as I kept digging and digging, asking question after question until pieces of the puzzle started to come together and revealed the bigger picture. Ha was one strong woman, but she didn’t deserve to live like that. Nobody deserves to live in constant fear and run and hide all the time because your own country will not provide you with any protection from a man who has more money than you, so he can buy the justice to side with him. I knew I needed to help her, but how?
We woke up to a beautiful morning. It was absolutely gorgeous outside which, under normal circumstances would have been the day I would use to initiate my 7 day adventure through Angkor Archaeological Park. This was the weather I was waiting for. Previous week was rather rainy and since entrance fee to the temples of Angkor is rather steep, I wanted to wait until the weather improves so I get the most out of my money. And here it was, the perfect day to go get my weekly pass to Angkor Wat and start exploring, but I couldn’t do that. I had a very special guest in my room and couldn’t just kick her out of there right away so I can dress up, mount the bike and ride off to Angkor. That didn’t bother me one bit, though. I knew there will be many gorgeous days like this one and Angkor will not run away. Yet even though making friends with a prostitute was not anything I would have actively pursued, spending time together with Ha during the day, far away from flashing lights and loud music of the Temple Club gave me a chance to really know her and uncover her rather fascinating, albeit shocking life story. This was my own personal interview with a prostitute.
It started as a lazy morning but we were wide awake once I got the curtains open. Hot rays of intense Cambodian sun entered the room and tickled our senses with welcoming invite to leave the comfort of an air conditioned room and go enjoy the unbearable heat of the Siem Reap outdoors. We got dressed, brushed our teeth and were about to leave to get breakfast when Ha asked me if I would give her at least some money for food for her daughter. This was a bit disappointing to hear. All I could think of was: “So this was all about money in the end anyway!” Even though disappointed to have been asked that, I sensed that she felt as horrible about asking me as I felt about being asked. There was something undeniably sincere about Ha so I did not make a big deal out of it and handed her a $5 bill from my wallet. Afterall, she’s never attempted to steal from me and take off while I was sleeping. She’s never pulled anything funny against me and remained a loyal and respectful guest to my room. But most of all, her eyes did not lie. I had no doubt that she’s not looking for cash to buy drugs. She was not a prostitute to begin with and she was definitely not a junkie. I felt certain that the money will go to the right cause so I showed support without second guessing.
All ready to go, we left the room and headed straight for the scorching outdoors. Though we were still in the morning hours, the temperature was already near 40 Degrees Celsius making it scary to imagine what it was going to be like in the afternoon. I was covered in sweat within seconds but I tried not to get bothered by that slight inconvenience. We were walking slowly down the south end of Sivatha Road looking for a nice local restaurant where we could park it and order some munchies. The chat was on going. It truly was an interview with a prostitute only as my questions were being answered, horrific details of Ha’s life story kept giving me the creeps.
We sat in a small local restaurant, asked the owner to point their fan straight at us to wash away the sweat from our faces, ordered spicy chicken with rice and digged right in. The food was delicious and now that we had our stomachs smiling and rehydrated with several bottles of mineral water, unwilling to go back in the sun, we talked and talked. I could not believe what I was hearing. I could not believe there are people in the world who have to go through ordeals comparable to that of Ha and her daughter. I was horrified over the life of fear she has to live and how corrupt system of her home country would not provide her with any protection so she must run and hide. The story gave me sads and I can imagine it was but a tip of the iceberg. Details about Ha and her sad life are in the next post.
It was a busy day but I was happy with how it all panned out. I got myself Cambodian cell number, I bought a mountain bike and baptized it by taking it for a spin across Siem Reap and to Wat Bo where I spent some time taking pictures. I was excited as I was about to have my second day of teaching English at Wat Preah Prom Rath pagoda and since it was already 4pm and the class starts at 5pm, I headed straight for Wat Preah Prom Rath. Excited about having my new ride, I was flying by Tuk Tuk drivers who only stared at me, realizing that this was one foreigner they were not gonna make any money off of. It was yet another scorching day in Cambodia but in spite of rainy season, it did not rain today at all. I was drenched in sweat and needed a break from the sun. There was no better place to go to than Wat Preah Prom Rath. Temple grounds are like a sanctuary where none of those aggressive Cambodian Tuk Tuk drivers or other touts dare to come with their malicious intentions so you can enjoy the break with peace of mind. Shaded benches are provided right across from the classrooms which is exactly where I was heading to escape the merciless sun rays.
I still had about an hour until the lecture so I was pleased to find one of my students sitting on the bench, also hiding from scorching Cambodian sun. The girl was just like most Cambodian young women – strikingly pretty. You didn’t have to ask me twice to sit next to her and engage in conversation. It was mostly me talking to myself, but we both seemed to have fun and my curiosity eventually got the best of me and I started enquiring about Buddhism and the life of Buddha. I was in predominantly Buddhist country, virtually everyone around me was a Buddhist, I was fascinated with Buddhist temples that were all over the area and my initial encounters with spirituality of Buddhism were more than positive – so it was natural that I sought answers to my many questions about Buddhism and luckily for me, the girl agreed to be my guide and introduce me to Buddhism and the life of Buddha.
There was a little bit of language barrier happening as my girl guide had just started to learn English so most of what she said made no sense and mostly she just repeated herself, but it was engaging nonetheless. We took our shoes off and walked straight inside the Wat Preah Prom Rath temple. As we walked around the outer wall where colorful, three-dimensional reliefs from Buddha’s life are, the girl stopped by each relief and briefly explain what the part of Buddha’s life depicted here was about. Because of limited English, all I could pick up was the story of Buddha being born and being kept within castle walls so he can become a king, as his father didn’t want him to become a holy man. But when Buddha got out of the castle and saw suffering of ordinary people and his destiny was decided.
Buddha then went to a secluded place where he lived for many days fasting. Just as he was near death from starvation, a girl found him and insisted that he eats, which saved his life. Buddha then realized that life is meant to be abundant and we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of anything but shouldn’t indulge too much either. Buddha started teaching about living “the middle way”.
The depictions of scenes from Buddha’s life involved good and bad times he went through during his life all the way until his death. My guide passionately talked about each stage of his life, but as it was hard for her to explain herself in limited English, so it was hard for me to understand what she was saying in English that was not making any sense. It was still an enjoyable and powerful introduction to Buddhism and the life of Buddha for me and I followed up on more research from this point on.
I have also asked about Stupas as the purpose of those was not clear to me. She was the first person to explain to me the meaning of Stupas and what they are used for. I did not see them as majestic monuments anymore, I actually knew what they were form now on.
Oddly enough, we both went to the classroom to attend the lesson and this was the last time I’ve seen that girl. During subsequent three months of my stay in Cambodia, she has not shown up for another lesson in the class. I do not know whether it had anything to do with me or not, but it was odd. Afterall, the hour we spent together at the temple was filled with nothing more than talking. Why was this the last time she’d attend the English class with me was and remains a mystery.