Subject: Loony Planet
Date: Mon, 8 May 2000 23:00:32 -0700 (PDT)
Welcome to the next installment of the Hudson Cress Newsletter! I should give this a name so its a thing and not just another anoying smammail. How about Loony Planet. That'll do. Welcome to Loony planet, your guide to a traveller's surreal world. Nah too much hype. Lets just call this edition, or no, too trendy. Yah, this is it. "The Ontology of travel"

Ontology is the philosophical study of meaning. If you say the Ontology of Being, your asking what does it mean to exist. So here I'm saying what does it mean to travel. Just take this as the general theme of what's to come.

For the last two weeks I've been in Bodhgaya. Back at my "home" in India. A little rest and familiarity before heading off to the mountains. Into the unknown. Oooh drama. But there In Bodhgaya, I have this library see... I get to play with the books. This visit I sorted all the Buddhist books into Vajrayana, Theravada, Zen, etc. But I didn't read these. I've been caught in this bizarre paradox. Now that I'm firmly in India, all I find that I want to study is Western Philosophy. But I needed a break, you know relaxation, so I read all the Carlos Casteneda books. He has four books that describe his experiences in an apprenticeship with a Mexican Indian Shaman. I read 1100 pages in six days. Ever since, Don Juan, the shaman, has been in my head directing my days. You don't know how strange it is to be practising Buddhism at the mahabodhi temple and to reflect during your meditation upon the teachings of a native american.

Well then. Next I read a book by Heidegger. Heidegger's deal is that the ontology of Being, or in normal language, the essence of our existence is that we exist in time. Its impossible to concieve of one's existence without concieving of it in terms of time. That's good enough. But then he launches into a whole breakdown of everything else, centering on Care and Death. Care is the root of all our actions, and Death is the awareness that keeps us focused. Finally, possibility is real, what is actual is only secondary. That's enough.

For an encore I'm reading The Brother's Karamazov by Dostoyevski.

Okay, so here I am now in Varanasi where they burn bodies along the Ganga, that is, in the center of town. The first night I arrived it was after midnight. Since all the hotels were closed, and I had just reequipped for camping, I simply pitched my tent on the ghats for the night. Sorta unnecessary, but I was going for novelty. And that's what I got. Shortly after I set up camp I heard a procession coming bearing a body to its pyre. So there I sat, smoking my chillum, while they stacked up the wood, bathed the body, then lit the pyre. I was cloistered away in the shadows and was unnoticed the entire night. But I observed the fire and ceremony through my 10X binoculars and had an excellent view. That night I fell asleep to the flickering flames of the funeral pyre.

Well that's fine. Last night I stayed in the same hotel I stayed at the first time I was here. I wanted to see what seven months had done to my perceptions. Sure enough, I was utterly unimpressed by the overpriced hotel, in the boring part of town. If you recall my first spammailling, I believe I was raving about how wonderful the place was. Time doesn't change. People change in their perceptions.

So now, I've my backpack beside me, and I'm trying to decide what to do next. I found the proper area of town to stay in for someone of my disposition, and I even know a few hotels. But I can't decide whether to stay here tonight and get a reserved ticket to Delhi or Agra or Haridwar tomorrow or the day after; Or do I just get a general class ticket on the next train out of town? Or do I find yet another way to fly off at a tangent from this perplexing situation. So what am I trying to accomplish? This is why I posed the question at the beginning of this letter. What does it mean to travel? To wander slowly and be at ease, or to push the boundaries of your tollerance so that you are toughened up, or do you just find the tourist centers and live like a Rajah?

In the end you have to realize how indulgent all this is. These pseudo-questions and pseudo-problems become so overwhelming that you actually start taking it seriously after a month. You begin to feel like a victim of the path you set before yourself. And when I said two weeks ago that I was happy, I gave the wrong impression. Not that it wasn't true, but that I was getting so bogged down in all this internal drama that I was becoming frozen in a negative mood. Now I've spent some serious time contemplating my death, and contemplating the open road as a philosophical paradigm...perhaps an archetype? Now I see that I've been an unruly shit all my life. Even when I had it made, I was suffering. Now the Buddhists say life is suffering, but there are still unnecessary levels of suffering. Like the millionaire worrying about money, or the senualist looking for satisfaction through the means of the body. Lately I've experienced what emotionally feels like a melting. Externally its an old man, haggard by a harsh life, looking at a person my age and with all the suffering of the world in his voice almost loosing control and saying a bit too loud, "YOU TAKE YOURSELF TOO DAMN SERIOUSLY!"

Now This was what Don Juan was saying to Carlos when he was my age chasing his career and totally not understanding what he was dutifully recording for anthropological reasons. The beauty of the books is that they take place over 13 years, and you get to see the early works in the light of the later. You get to see Carlos Casteneda grow from an unruly punk of a pseudo-intellectual into a man of middle age with some glimmering of future wisdom.

So in light of all this lightening up, I realized that I've never really failed at anything. Sure I've suffered failures like that D+ in Physics, but that's not what I'm talking about. I mean I've been hedging on all my lifes goals and ambitions. I've set my standards quite realistically and reasonably so that despite seeming like and hyping myself up to be a brave guy, I'm in fact quite cowardly. I've come to see that the real couragous thing to do would be to set my sight higher. To shift the odds to 49/51 against my success. So that's what I'm doing.

The new plan for 2002-2012 is to buy an Island and start a nature conservancy on 95% of the island, and on the 5% building this damn community I keep talking about. The first stage, call it the feasibility stage would involve finding the island, buying a small corner and building a house. Matt Earls is the one who first approached me with the idea of Remote Island Development. I'm down with that. So now, there will be at least five people with vested interest in this, and if at first we don't succeed what we will at least accomplish is the building of a timber frame spec house which we can sell to the e-business millionaires in Seattle. For quite a tidy profit. And we'll learn something and have fun. But see even here I'm hedging my bet. Humans are incorrigable.

So this is the initial public offering. Those who have already "committed" (we are still dealing with hippies here) are Matt Earls and Jason Erikson. Tommy never commits, but he's terribly predictable; so he's in. There are, stemming from these four of us such a diverse caste of characters, that even if all comes to naught, we'll still have fun. The first question in need of a specialist is "how do we start a nature conservancy?" and "how do we establish a non-profit foundation capable of receiving donations?" Then there will be positions available for fundraisers. And of course once we buy the initial plot of land for development, we'll have a good old fashioned Quaker barn raising. Well, so to speak. Logistics of buying a boat, rounding out all our tool collections etc will certainly take time as well, so don't expect anything this year. But I'll be in the Puget sound area by September/october for the first meeting of the "foundation."

How you want to live has a lot to do with how you want to die. And I for one am not going to die without doing something similar to this. So why beat around the bush, better get to it. Maybe nothing happens. That's okay too. I feel a lot more motivated and happy with this goal then (Yawn) going to grad school and doing things the sensible way. We'll see.

Anyway, this is the state of mind I'm in in Varanasi. There's still the off chance of finding the obligatory Indian Guru or Tibetan recluse cloistered away at 10,000 feet in the Himalayas. And then I'd become a Casteneda instead. But the odds are far greater against this than the aforementioned Land Development Scheme. But anything is possible, especially in India.

So please write to me with which level of involvement you'd like to participate. Please check one or more:
__part-time resident
__occasional visitor
__manager--institutional coordinator
__innocent bystander
__critical bystander
__don't ever mention this to me again

also, it would be inspiring to know if there were people out there crazy enough to pledge money at this time to the purchase of land and tools. Until I've got the tax laws straight, PLEASE SEND NO MONEY!!! But in the meantime, a casual pledge of 25 cents or a dollar will certainly help get the ball rolling.

That's all for now; I'll be in touch in another week or two. Much love to you all.

o dwell in that hell again. With