Friday, April 3, 2009

it surely looks like rain

Let me preface this with a quote from the book This Is It, by Alan Watts:

“cosmic consciousness” – To the individual thus enlightened it appears as a vivid and overwhelming certainty that the universe, precisely as it at this moment, as a whole and in every one of its parts, is so completely right as to need no explanation or justification beyond what it simply is. Existence not only ceases to be a problem; the mind is so wonder-struck at the self-evident and self sufficient fitness of things as they are, including what would ordinarily be thought the very worst, that it cannot find any word strong enough to express the perfection and beauty of the experience. Its clarity sometimes gives the sensation that it is pervaded and ordered by a supreme intelligence. At the same time it is usual for the individual to feel that the whole world has become his own body, and that whatever he is has not only become, but has always been, what everything else is.
The central core of the experience seems to be the conviction, or insight, that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living. Surrounding and flowing from this insight is an emotional ecstasy, a sense of intense relief, freedom, and lightness, and often of almost unbearable love for the world…

It seemed like the rain would never end in Amsterdam. Months and months of overcast, cold, drizzly days near the North Sea. I didn’t mind because it’s such an incredible city and I had a true family of friends; all of us living in one spot, sharing our days, nights, meals and lives together. My time in Central America coincidentally fell just during their rainy season as well. The south was not a problem, but in Guatemala I got stuck in some massive downpours and spent many days with books under a hut. Didn’t mind it there either because it made everything so lush and emerald colored.

Then Singapore. Ohhh, Singapore. At first the weather was great – warm and sunny, palm trees and shopping malls, swimming pools and sports cars… it could have been California. In the fall came my first experience of a true ‘monsoon season’. The rain came out of nowhere, fast and hard. Sometimes it came down straight, but more often than not it seemed to flow sideways. Instant pools would form on the marble sidewalks and I was convinced the rain even came from below, shooting up instead of falling down. I felt like Forest Gump in that part of the movie where he’s trapped in such incessant rain. The details escape me but it was a really Forest Gump-like feeling anyway…

Thailand is known for some massive amounts of rain. One horrible reminder of that is being in the south on the islands, some of which were the hardest hit spots of the Tsunami in 2004. Devastation and death spared no one; it’s chilling to see the pictures of people hung on walls of bars and restaurants, a memorial to friends and family lost in such an incredible act of nature.

In the north the rains aren’t as frequent as in the south, and for the past months Chiang Mai has really felt a bit like what I would imagine living in a desert feels like. It’s not that sauna-like feel of Singapore with its soaking wet heat… but the kind of heat like when people in Arizona justify their 115 degree temps by saying “Ohhh, but it’s a dry heat”. Yeah, it’s like that. A big, beautiful, blue skied, mountainous, palm treed Thai desert.

Until the 17th of March. It was a night like any other… which are actually nights like no other at all. I was with friends - Chris (England), Katia (Paris), Karishma (India), EiEi (Burma). We found a little alley way type open air family run store that had some tables set up outside for locals to come and take a load off, enjoy a large, cold Chang beer for about $1US… or a glass of homemade rice wine for 6 baht (20 cents US). Being the vagabonds we’ve become the 20 cent glasses of rice wine (imagine clear rubbing alcohol in a glass. Can be used to clean the floor, or spruce up the night) made our little hearts leap with happiness. If you dilute it with enough water it tastes a bit like Clearly Canadian. Ahh, the memories.

The family that runs the store took us in like we were their long lost foreign children. The most outspoken of the bunch, Mikey (Mouse) and his pal who’s name I never even caught, are men in their 60’s who apparently enjoy serenading near strangers with English love songs, dancing in the street and laughing for what I dare say was no reason at all. No reason being all the reason you need, I guess! After they introduced us to the 20 cent glasses of homemade Chinese whiskey (yikes!) we were all best of pals. I was hammin’ it up with them so much, from the outside it must have been difficult to tell who was crazier, them or me.

And then came the rain. The first I have felt here in the north. EiEi is the cutest, tiniest little person I have ever seen in my life. She comes from Rangoon, Myanmar and when we stand next to each other she comes up to about the bottom of my ribcage. She’s terrified of the rain. She dashed back to her place with the look of frightened mouse on her face. In the meantime, the crazy Western girls, Katia & I, danced in the rain like it was our job. In fact it was our job this night – to celebrate such a simple and commonplace thing as a little bit of rain and to make everyone laugh and come together and realize how being ridiculous can be so necessary and so pleasurable all at once.

The women in the family put our purses in plastic bags and hung them on nails so they didn’t have to touch the floor or get wet. Eventually we all squeezed in around the table under the awning and enjoyed a snug little family atmosphere while the rain continued to downpour and the little boy of the family had an English workbook in his bag and all the sudden he had 4 very buzzed English teachers, every 6 year olds dream, I’m sure.

I couldn’t help but think of the Buddhists outlook on life, or more specifically, on the non-existence of an after-life as we Westerners tend to perceive it. Their philosophy is if there is no next world, then this world becomes holy. I left there feeling as effervescent as could be, glad the rain fell to bring about a little ‘cosmic consciousness’ and the overwhelming feeling of love for the world…


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