| June 17, 2003
Here is the latest update: News and Thoughts From Around the World. It’s
nine months since I wrote you all shortly before departing for Asia. Here
again, back in the U.S.A. This latest round of adventures has proved fruitful
in a variety of ways, some of which I will touch on here. Although a few
in Asia prompted serious consideration as possible places to settle, it
that the itinerant lifestyle has thus far refused to release me from its
I played around recently with a personal mission statement and came up
this: “to research, develop, and incarnate lifestyle, psychology,
that is socially and ecologically sustainable and harmonious... in other
to be honest and kind...” In case this isn’t confusing enough,
additional obfuscation provided in the explanatory brainstorm on the web:
You may remember that one of my experiments on this trip was to stop
email for a period of time. This period of time turned out to be 3 months.
for about 3 months I decided to try out using email on a very limited
every few weeks. Now back in the U.S. I am using it more regularly, every
days. The removal of email was also integrated with a general cutoff
communication “style” in which I received no mail of any kind
(though I wrote a
few letters). Over the past 3 months, I have been delving into handwritten
letter-writing just like high-school days before email.
I didn’t anticipate writing another group letter. I thought that
the act of
writing to a group of people was too emotionally complex, building upon
desire for feedback integrated with considerable grandiosity. But as I’ve
into friends here recently, there have been a surprising number of people
expressed getting a kick out of past letters. So I decided to sit down
compose after all, and deal with those drawbacks I’d thought to
Generally, readers report a certain level of interest in both the stories
the perspectives on how I’m being human these days. So here’s
some of both.
Picture yourself in a jungle. You have traveled two hours on bumpy dirt
past a lot of clearcut land and some random rice patties and banana patches.
When you get out of the pickup, you give an army-type guard a few US dollars
let you pass down a path to supposedly impressive ruins. Along the path
signs warning you of the mine fields on either side. Some kids are running
alongside, and as usual in Asia their facial features look about 5 years
than their tiny bodies. I assume their small size is due to eating a diet
white rice, white rice, only white rice, but maybe they all have intestinal
parasites as well. The kids seem to be employed in some way by the guard,
keep you and the other visitors from straying off the path and being blown
You manage to avoid the mines. But the ruins blow you to bits. It was
trip. You see the castle/monastery/whatever, imagine the orange-robed
walking back and forth, the servants with rice and fruits, the elephants.
see all this in your mind. Your eyes see massive carved rocks, either
or still together as buildings. The carvings are obviously Indian inspired,
Hindu and Buddhist? But it's not India. The jungle has taken over the
again. The locals who supposedly descended from the owners don’t
seem to have
the same psychology as your modern endless mind. But what they are thinking
about, you have no idea. Are they more advanced and peaceful somehow?
civilization beyond ours? A thousand years ago, as these huge monuments
destroyed, did the culture decide these constructions were just a waste
resources and devote themselves to helping starving people in Africa or
building instruments instead? Or did their culture slide back to a place
history where it is beyond their conception that these rocks were quarried,
carved, and moved by human minds and bodies? There’s no certainty
in your mind anymore. History was supposed to go one way. Progress. Is
past or the future you’re exploring? Then your diarrhea starts to
back out of the ruins and find a toilet-like enclosure, then, relieved,
for your companions to be released from the monument. You’ve been
Cambodia, not too far from Siem Reap. You have been exploring one of the
restored monuments of Angkor Wat.
Later you’re in India. People say it’s a spiritual place.
Riding your bicycle
along the street you get to wonder what exactly spiritual means. The streets
are all full of plastic trash, cow manure, cows, homeless people, diarrhea,
motorcycles. The motorcycles honk all the time. The cars honk even louder.
horns are deadly loud and constant. Are people deaf here? Everyone says
just a different culture. Some people seem to be walking slowly, patiently
along the side of the road. But the ones who have got their motorbike
are just as intent on rushing as anyone in America, if not more. What
ones at the side of the road from getting a motorbike? Do they have any
how to plan ahead enough to save one days wages per week? Probably not,
later learn. They don't know how to think like that. In India, you have
up everything valuable to prevent theft. People say it’s a spiritual
Isn’t there a contradiction here? What is spirituality if it’s
living? Later you find out that the wanderers along the sides of the roads
probably all untouchables, as are lots of the ones who ride bicycles like
But they eat at different restaurants from where you eat. They’re
to eat where you eat. It’s not the law; it’s social custom.
Is that spiritual?
Or does “spirituality” here have nothing to do with actual
people? Who are the ones who say this is a spiritual place? What are they
talking about? It’s India. As if your mind wasn’t blown up
already, it gets
ridiculously hot and humid. That's where I was. And then all of a sudden
time to go. So I left. Two days later, I was back in the states. Some
are answered, some are destroyed, some are rephrased. It seems that I
was in an
insane place; but this place (America) also is insane in its way. To open
the insanity of these cultures also brings an openness to the insanity
self, and I find myself wondering whether new levels of peacefulness are
achieved by navigating around insanity or through it.
Some people are scared of ghosts. Some people are scared of cities. I
of the town where I grew up. Inspired by those spiritual warriors of the
and present who claim to explore those territories of fear, I have descended
bit too. I spent some time recently writing letters to old friends, meeting
people from the humble town of Randolph, and feeling and watching what
when I go back there. I'm glad to report there's not as much to be afraid
my little mind had imagined! In fact, there are so many gems in that town
in those people that I think I could spend a lifetime there mining. But
6 weeks was enough and I have wandered along again.
Right now I am sitting at a computer at Acorn Community, a small intentional
community in central Virginia. The members here run a seed business (Southern
Exposure Seed Exchange) and also make hammocks and assorted metal handicrafts.
I am here for a 3-week visitor period, during which I work about 40 hours
week on gardening, upkeep (dishes, cooking, repairs) and income labor
making), as the members and I mutually check each other out. Someday perhaps
I'll settle in a place like this, maybe even here! But for now I have
already to move on at the end of June. I'll be at Ganas, another intentional
community, on Staten Island, during the first half of July. Then I'll
be at the
IDEC (International Democratic Education Conference), which is in Albany
year (http://idec2003.com/). Beyond that, I'm thinking of possibly traveling
see more communities in the US and possibly in Europe later this summer
fall. My schedule is quite open and open-ended so feel free to let me
about anything that makes you think of me.
When I left for Asia, my main goals were: to investigate current and
Buddhist cultures, to experience the economics, ecology, and psychology
third world, to be removed from my familiar context to explore and develop
mind, and to explore monasteries with an eye to considering ordination
monk. All these goals were fulfilled appropriately. My lifestyle and goals
these days has incorporated all of this into my current directions. (There
more on these issues in the brainstorm linked to at the beginning of this
letter if you want more on that.) I am trying to live simply in the US
days: few possessions, no vehicle; few expenditures; healthy food as much
possible. Life seems to be pretty flexible and inviting to give me whatever
ask for. Being a human is pretty cool.
If I get a lot of responses asking for more thoughts or data on a particular
topic, I’ll write something up and post it to my website (peterchristopher.com)
within a week or two.
How are you all doing?