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Carl Sagan + Van Morrison = A Childs Wonder

 

 

‘We go about our daily lives understanding almost nothing of the world…..Except for children (who don’t know enough not to ask the important questions), few of us spend little time wondering why nature is the way it is; where the cosmos came from, or whether it was always there; if time will one day flow backwards and effects precede cause; or whether there are ultimate limits to what humans can know. There are even children, and I have met some of them, who want to know what a black hole looks like; what is the smallest piece of matter; why we remember the past and not the future; how it is, if there was chaos early, that there is, apparently order today; why there is a universe……….questions like this vividly expose the limitations of human understanding. An increased amount of adults are willing to ask questions of this sort, and occasionally they get some astonishing answers……a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a creator to do.’  Carl Sagan 

When the child was a child
It walked with arms hanging
Wanted the stream to be a river and the river a torrent
And this puddle, the sea
When the child was a child, it didnt know
It was a child
Everything for it was filled with life and all life was one
Saw the horizon without trying to reach it
Couldnt rush itself and think on command
Was often terribly bored
And couldnt wait
Passed up greeting the moments
And prayed only with its lips
When the child was a child
It didnt have an opinion about a thing
Had no habits
Often sat crossed-legged, took off running
Had a cow lick in its hair
And didnt put on a face when photographed

When the child was a child
It was the time of the following questions
Why am I me and why not you
Why am I here and why not there
Why did time begin and where does space end
Isnt what I see and hear and smell
Just the appearance of the world in front of the world
Isnt life under the sun just a dream
Does evil actually exist in people
Who really are evil
Why cant it be that I who am
Wasnt before I was
And that sometime i, the i, I am
No longer will be the i, I am

When the child was a child
It gagged on spinach, on peas, on rice pudding
And on steamed cauliflower
And now eats all of it and not just because it has to
When the child was a child
It woke up once in a strange bed
And now time and time again
Many people seem beautiful to it
And now not so many and now only if its lucky
It had a precise picture of paradise
And now can only vaguely conceive of it at best
It couldnt imagine nothingness
And today shudders in the face of it
Go for the ball
Which today rolls between its legs
With its Im here it came
Into the house which now is empty

When the child was a child
It played with enthusiasm
And now only with such former concentration
Where its work is concerned
When the game, task, activity, subject happens to be its work

When the child was a child
It was enough to live on apples and bread. and its still that way
When the child was a child berries fell
Only like berries into its hand. and still do
The fresh walnuts made its tongue raw. and still do
Atop each mountain it craved
Yet a higher mountain. and in each city it craved
Yet a bigger city. and still does
Reach for the cherries in the treetop
As elated as it still is today
Was shy in front of strangers. and still is
It waited for the first snow. and still waits that way
When the child was a child
It waited restlessly each day for the return of the loved one
And still waits that way
When the child was a child
It hurled a stick like a lance into a tree
And its still quivering there today

The child, the child was a child
Was a child, was a child, was a child, was a child
Child, child, child
When the child, when the child, when the child
When the child, when the child
The child, child, child, child, child

Van Morrison 

How can I begin to understand a little person that can still see spirits?  Go back to the beginning, before my mind began to believe the hype. 
 
Peace, Light, Play all dayXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX   
 

 

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Artist Party International- Adhere Blues Bar, Bangkok

 

Peace Dove, World Love

C’MON EVERYBODY – Open your heart and your head!!!!
This is not a political party.
They need your help to create a new society. With peace and harmony. No leader nor follower, because we are all leaders!!!!
THE HEART HAS NO RULES
Everyone is awake and seeks confidence from self understanding to gain wisdom and responsibility through which we act in the right way. Everyone rules and takes care of themselves – their community-society and all life on this planet. We share our happiness and welfare together. We respect each other and realize that when one suffers we all suffer.
Our Mother Earth host our human family, one family of people. Oppression, plundering, war, poverty and ignorance are the enemy of all living things. Everybody has the duty to act together to stop the power of the unjust governments controlled by greedy, monopolistic capitalists who will destroy our life support system our planet. The Artists Party will create a society with peace, freedom and justice for all. Artist Party International 2010.
Check them out on Fakebook.

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Adhere Blues Bar, 8th October 2010, Bangkok

 

David 'Honeyboy' Edwards - Last of The Delta Bluesman

 

All I need is a cold beer and a guy in a corner, picking at a guitar, maybe singing some blues, some folk, a little rock and roll! Yeah! Creating. I settle into the night, on a stool, under neon lights. ‘Do you want to feel good in the night, or good in the morning. I want to feel good all the time, I want to feel good 8 days a week.’ One man croons Cat Stevens ‘The Wind”, later a band crank up the volume and the blues come flowing out. If you don’t like the blues, you have a hole in your soul.  This is what they say.

A man wearing a bowler hat wants us to take him home, make him feel happy, puffing away on a harmonica sounding like an old steam train. People are beating away on chairs and tables, feet are being stamped, Im slapping my thy, toes atappin’.  The whole bar is boogying along.  Knocking back shots of Jack or Jim or some local moonshine.  Buddy Holly, Howlin’ Wolf, Keith Richards all look down from the wall, a sitar sits atop the bar. I like this place, Ive found my spot, everybody is smiling or singing, talking about Woodstock, talking about changing the world with peace and a community vibe. Yeah I like this place. It’s a scene.

The Thais know how to let it all hang out, people swap and change instruments, many people grab the mic and wail along. Protest songs are hollered.  Bags of talent and passion in this tiny place.  Barmaid/man, hand me a cocktail with an umbrella in, I’m feeling mighty fine.

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The Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab 12th September 2010

It all started with a bang. Difficult to know where it came from, maybe a car exhaust? It woke me up, I was meandering through heavy traffic on the back of a rickety cycle rickshaw. Wheels all over the place.  The guy was doing his best, but progress was tough. A wall of cars separated me from my goal, the Golden Temple (the temple of God). I was in Amritsar, Punjab.
Arriving at the Golden Temple, my first impression was, this is big. I hadn’t slept for a while, my thoughts were limited. Inspiration would only come after many Nescafe’s from the kindly local vending machine man. Then I was prepared to find a bed for the evening. Which was easy. ‘Where do the gringos sleep?’ I inquired. The man guided me to a small blue door, on entering I was confronted by piles of over-priced/ under-utilised climbing boots and bags. I had found my spot.
A gentle chap, maybe a little to gentle for my liking, watched me dump my things onto the nearest free bed. Then continued to watch, and watch a bit more, and in the end I politely asked him to hit the road. Too much watching makes me slightly uneasy. He was also holding a spear.
I was off, like a rabid tourist, finger on the trigger of my camera, immersed in the pious energy, the positive vibrations, the need for some half decent photos (bar a wobbly video of me sitting beside the pool of nectar, I failed miserably in this mission). I hadn’t been a tourist in a long time, I’ve mainly been hanging around places too long. A quasi foreign resident with no fixed anything. You cannot pigeon hole me Mr Man.
The air was alive with love and reverence, I didn’t really know what for. I knew some basics, but in my denial of all things organised or guidebook related, I was totally unprepared and uninformed. I needed a guide, a warm soul, fortunately, there was a whole temple full of them. I was approached almost instantly by a chap named Harabsingh. 20ish and living in the Golden Temple until his English Grammar exam results returned. He’d made a few mistakes and was praying to God that he’d change them. His life mission was Canada and presumably good living (I’m a huge fan of all things Canadian). I said that if his prayers worked, I would become a Sikh immediately. I am not a non believer, I just want a little proof first is all. He proceeded to give me the full tour, gold, gore and all.
If you’ve read my Dalai Lama post, you will understand my aversion to flashy religious spending. ITS YOUR PEOPLES MONEY. But I liked the Golden Temple. The Sikhs are collectively warm, strong and very proud. I would say nothing else, as they are also hard as nails.

Guru Nanak

The Golden Temple was a functional, yet elaborate monument. A place where people not only came on long pilgrimages, but also used daily and in Harabsingh’s case, lived in for a while. Open to all for musical prayer, food and lodging originally planned by Guru Nanak in all its glory and completed by the fourth Sikh guru,Guru Ram Dass.  A place of peace and beauty.  Sikhs believe all may worship here, no boundaries of religion, race, sex or caste.  A central belief that distinguishes Sikhism from many religions.  One of my favourite areas in the Guru Ka Langar,the place of food.  Its a huge operation, feeding thousands per day.  Massive cauldrons of daal and chapatti making machine,operate 24 hours, long lines of volunteers peel onions and wash dishes.  All Sikhs contribute to the community, especially when visiting the Golden Temple.   I approached the onion peeling queue, but was politely told it wasnt necessary.  Although my peeling skills are refined, they seemed to have enough help anyway.
Visiting the museum left me with one main feeling, Sikhs have had it tough! Martyrdom seemingly a mainstay of Sikh history and tradition. Some of the paintings (please turn away now if you are of a weak disposition) of martyrs being boiled alive, sawn in half or even having their babies fed to them tested my resolve. Inscriptions in the walls throughout the monument commemorate the Sikhs who died during the first and second wars.  The Sikhs have always stood firm and true to their faith, tortured by the many rulers throughout Indian history and eventually leading India towards liberation and religious equality. Patience and bravery has served them well, Manmohar Singh is president and the Sikh community is vibrant and respected in all aspects of society, all over the world.

The teachings of Guru Nanak and the 10 other Sikh Gurus are kept in the  Guru Grath Sahib, a huge holybook, that is recited throughout the day from the Golden Temple itself, seemingly floating in the man-made lake, the pool of nectar.  I witnessed the evening ceremony of wrapping and blessing the book before it is transported to another building for the evening, the Sri Akal Takhat Sahib.  The temple is spotlessly clean and the Golden Temple is cleaned with endless buckets of milk every morning, from the temples own herd.  It is by far the most immaculate religious monument I have visited, ornation, upon ornation.

The Golden Temple, Sikhism, has played a central role in the history of India since the 16th century.  regularly persecuted and attacked, the last battles around the temple took place as recently as 1984. A suspected terrorist, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and some of his followers took refuge within the temple. The Indian Government, under instruction from Indira Gandhi, carried out an assault on the Golden Temple, causing much structural damage and up to 2000 civilian deaths.   Sikhs responded with wide scale protests and ‘Operation Blue Star’ eventually led to the death of Indira Gandhi.  Beheaded by her two Sikh personal bodyguards.

I stayed in the Golden Temple for two nights, spending most days walking around the pool of nectar, chatting and learning. I enjoyed sitting and listening to the prayers accompanied by tabla and a variety of instruments, there were screens dotted about the place were the prayers are translated into English and a number of other languages. On my last afternoon I headed to the border with Pakistan for the Wagah lowering of the flag ceremony. Best to check out these images http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ0ue-XGl9c

There was a carnival atmosphere, Indian pride bubbling up into full on patriotic frenzy.  Dancing in the streets, wide scale chanting, fists were pumped and the theme tune to ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ played at full volume.  By contrast the Pakistan side, recently ravaged by wide scale flooding, was mainly empty.  The pomp and ceremony was fantastic and orchestrated with admirable precision and fierce pride.
I returned from the border ceremony feeling jaded and dusty. I must bathe!   The bathrooms in the Golden Temple are excellent, I would liken them to a 4 star hotel.  Walking back through the vast hostel, people were strooned everywhere, sleeping on the floor.  I felt very lucky to have a bed/ plank to lay my head.

 

A singh (sanskrit for 'lion') warrior. Traditional guardians of the faith.

 

On returning to the gringo dorm, two random english blokes were lying on my bed.  Over-priced/ under utilised climbing gear scattered liberally around my cell. I explained that there must be a mistake, but the man with the spear had given them by plank. On consultation with said spear wielding guardsman, a comprise was reached, we were to ‘adapt’. Which meant ‘squeeze’. 4 men and 1 lady in two large planks. Fortunately, I have adaptability in spades. I morphed into bed that evening and slept rather well.

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Today and Yesterday in Ko Tao, 1st October 2010, Thailand

Rudi Van DiSarzio - Open that door in your 'fro

Lizards, some stuck onto walls chasing flies, others on the ground, 2 feet long with flicking tongues.
What a matrix we belong too http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=couVqpuX9CU&feature=related (Thank you Mata DurgaX)
Centipedes or millipedes (who counts the legs?) surround my hut like an insect insurgence.
I fear no legs. Look at insects, really look at insects and you will realise we are not alone. They are here, living in our hair.
The sun approaches the horizon then explodes into a myriad of orange and pink, colliding with clouds on all levels and reflecting off the ringpull of my Leo Beer.
I’m sat on the beach, contemplating the nature of it all, under a palm. Mindful of coconuts and the hazards they bring.  Feeling we are all cousins.
Mosquitos surround and suck.
I travelled through the night from Bangkok, on a bus, then a boat, at times feeling like I was on a school trip. Young trendy English sorts surround, glamorous and well-scrubbed.
Everything is catered for here, in the middle of the ocean, a diving mecca with high-speed internet and 7/11 (shops). 
A worry, I’d prefer to be without, we are too connected, it’s all to accessible and close, even here, in the middle of the ocean.

My paradise has fish and coconuts (pirate rum too). The odd wanderer who knows too much and lives too freely.
‘Now I’m living down here, on the beach, the seagulls, seem out of reach.’
I’m staying with some Rastas on a cliff, in Jungle-midi.
My hut is built from cement, beer bottles and bamboo.
Reggae takes me to a place of peace and understanding.  A soundtrack for the eternal beach summer in mind that I made for myself in my teens, living in Glasgow and darkness.
I hired a bike and explored the hills, strange formations of rocks and trees.
If this is just a ride, I’m on the right track.
If you can’t make the beach, make a beach state of mind.

I listen to this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvsHYRzO8_Q and sleep like a drugged baby until the rain on my huts wakes me. 

If I can’t get off this tourism trail, trodden paths, Im going to Syria.

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Yesterday in Khaosan Road, Bangkok. 28th September 2010

Bang!
Forks of Lightning.
Raindrops the size of ping pong balls.
Natural forces rage over another concrete jungle.
A scar, a fascinating mess.
Neater than India, European feeling.
Streets so clean I have a fetish to eat my meals from them.
Theres Boots here, good handcream.
Khaosan Road reminds me of one holiday we went on in the ’80’s to Scarborough.  Minus fish, chips and vinegar on the promenade and the black north sea. 

Dandelion and Burdock. 

Surrounded by the machinations and systems of mass tourism, mass consumerism, professionals at releaving you of you hard-earned pennies and bhats.
Has anybody here heard of William Blake! T.S. Elliot!
Meet good Irish girls near a stand that procalims ‘Fucking Good Beer’.  Selling beer and soft drinks, symbolising the style in this neon nightmare.
If Bob Marley ‘is’ reggae and Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘are’ rock, you have arrived.  If you are free, and know, you will leave.
Hookers wobble by, glass high heels, blue cocktails, fake eyelashes, lips, hair, fake smiles, fakers, brimming with fake. False, not natural, not correct.
People stutter by me, like extras from a vacuous HBO sitcom.  Pretending.
I visit a giant gold Buddha, a golden temple, radiant monks wear bright orange.
Clean room, clean bathroom, power shower.
I meet people, they talk of travel insurance, and television.  Inside my mind Van (the man) screams ‘it aint why why why why why why why, it just is’ again and again, over and over, until the rest fades.

I long for India, the people wandering there, exploring different levels and concepts.  Talking of many things.
Pictures of the ‘Royal’ Family everywhere (no comment due to fear of life time jail sentence).

Many men playing beautiful acoustic guitars stand out amongst the confused throngs.  They look like Jerry Garcia.

After no sleep in too long, I explore the Bangkok night.  Looking for a scene.  I cant remember finding it or getting back to my clean room, but I have arrived and will soon head for the ocean and the beach, a hut and peace in mind.

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Farewell India and the Phantom Flight, 27th September 2010

 

My flight no longer exists. It hadn’t for months. 5am in Kolkatta aiport and I had not been informed. I protested, the man from Bangladesh airways was a shifty sort. Eyes darting around the place. I wouldn’t buy a used dosa from this bloke. I demand Bangkok! Today! Or else! Feel my fiery wrath! We went through the whole routine. I wanted his name, his managers name, I even took the porters name (to which the porter look bemused and a little wary).

At one great moment, he called what sounded like a talking prayer line and pretended to be talking to the ‘Regional Sales Executive’. I could hear the music coming from his mobile, a truly absurd moment.

The airline duty manager shouted down the phone at me and then hung up. I must admit, I had a sinking feeling, Bangladesh Airways was about to let me down. I kept the embers glowing and wouldn’t give in, at one stage I disturbed a meeting of men who looked like pilots and sat down at the desk, clinging on and proclaimed “I shall not be moved”. Finally, I had something in life to fight for. They refered to me as ‘you people’ this was prejudice, I would show these bungling bureaucrats what ‘us people’ are made of (I’m not sure what ‘my people’ actually characterised, which stereotype am I fulfilling here?  Who am I fighting for?  It didn’t matter, I was right!) I would stick it to the man, with style. I became Kali incarnate.  Roar.  Growl. 

After 4 hours of this nonsense and a constant barrage of bullshit from the airline, it all sorted itself out very quickly and we became friends.  We shared Chai and orange biscuits, we talked of Manchester and Wayne Rooneys penchant for dodgy prostitutes. They seem to respect me for having such a bastard ability within. I had triumphed over the behemoth of Bangladeshi Airline bureaucracy.

Kingfisher Airlines actually rescued me.  Up-graded to business class non-the-less.  This after 6 months of slagging off their poor attempt at fizzy pop beer. 
This is my least favourite airport, more of an assault course, a test of resolve, than an apparent service environment.  From the dour officials, to the stray cats in the departure lounge, sniffing at my greasy kathi roll.  I was vigorously searched and asked questions like “what are these batteries for?”, what is this (the answer, ‘this a wallet’) etcetcetc.  The man with the hand-held metal detector thing seemed surprised when it beeped over my crotch region.  He was not the only one.

In the end, the duty manager actually came to the departure gate to wave me off. Smiling, he seemed genuinely sad to see me go.  Six months in India and I’m non-the-wiser, but lighter in spirit.  Open to it all.  I’m leaving with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone from duty-free and a more whole heart.  A greater, broader sense of life, or having lived and a wonder for Mother India that will never cease.

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