Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Whisky Diaries - day 9

I woke up early again today! Even earlier than yesterday! I got up and was out the door at 7 am for a walk then jog, and it happened again! I saw the bestest things!

First, I was along a particularly nice strip of the beachside and there were a few local people out exercising, and one of them was this dude in his forties who was jogging along the sand wearing a Grateful Dead band t-shirt, with these crazy thai pants, he had a bum bag full of jingly things around his waist that shook and jingled with each step, and he was wearing loosely laced converse chucks and had a ponytail of hair down to his lower back and a wolfy face full of sideburns and scratchy bristles! It was the craziest damn thing I ever saw!

And then next, about ten minutes up the road, I saw a pack of dogs, about eight or ten of them, all different sizes and breeds and ages and levels of scruffiness, just all wagging their tails and barking together and trotting around and generally being entirely happy with themselves. As I got closer they took absolutely no notice of me and simply continued on through a jungly path that led to the beach and I swear it was like these were all the dogs on the island, off on their morning no-owners-allowed beach swim and they were chatting and laughing with each other and just totally being the bosses. If I hadn’t seen that strange man just minutes before, I would have sworn that THIS was the darndest thing I’d even seen.

Then I got back to the little restaurant and ordered fruit and yoghurt for breakfast and it was mighty tasty and I saw that ocean eagle again! And then I turned my laptop on and it was just working again! Totally miraculously! I took the opportunity to transfer any important documents to my harddrive and in doing so, came across this mini-essay I had written during my eleven hour stopover at Singapore airport. It’s a little gloomy and awfully self-reflective, but I remember feeling really profound at the time and realising a lot of opinions I had developed about the world around me. I won’t be at all offended if you skip past it, but if you’re interested in relativity of countries and the world around you, then maybe put some minutes aside for it.

I’m sitting at the Starbucks of Singapore airport’s terminal 1 sipping on a mindblowingly good Americano coffee and polishing off the last strawberry in my horrendously overpriced fruit salad. I’ve read the first half of my recently-purchased Vanity Fair February issue, and after I’m finished with the glossy pages I’ll move on to start reading my treasured International Herald Tribune today’s-print newspaper. I got off the from-China plane at about 9:00 am and I won’t get on my connecting to-Phuket flight until 8:00 pm tonight, and for these sweet sweet eleven hours in between I’m just sitting here letting the western world ease itself back into my pores.

I am so fucking happy right now.
The “western world” gets a lot of crap. Most of it is justified in a lot of (read: most) ways, yeah yeah yeah, we all know all of the arguments and I’m not going to try and deny it – but before I go on any more rants to people about how desensitized the “west” is and how materialistic and meaningless it all is, I’m gonna try and stop for a moment to remember how sweet these eleven hours were.
When I paid 17 Singapore dollars for this Vanity Fair and began reading it, I was assaulted by brainwashing advertising and shiny ideals and covetable brands, but you know what else I got? A free fucking media telling me a whole shitload of things I didn’t even know I didn’t goddamn know. Yeah, I hate the fact that ads for Burberry make me feel ugly because I have these things called hips – but what I hate even more is that I just spent a year in a country that doesn’t believe in the truth or in intellectual freedom.
When I went to the pristine, potpourri scented airport bathroom and had some state-of-the-art technology automatically sterilize everything I had to touch both before and after I touched it, I stopped and thought about how this kind of thing has maybe gone too far and that “developing countries” are just too germophobic now, but I also didn’t have to worry about getting Novovirus again! Yeah, I’ll lobby for these expensive soap dispensers if they might save me from another trip to the hostpital’s quarantine ward.

And to get back to my beloved comfy Starbucks chair, I passed the fancy airport shops so of course I stopped to see what pretty new things had been released in my year of absence. Oh boy oh boy this world we live in sure is beautiful… I was thinking about spending a lot of money to buy YSL’s new perfume (read: I’m smelling my wrist now where I sampled some, and it does smell very very good) but I walked back out of the Duty Free shop empty handed. Why? I only left China yesterday. Of course I thinking about what that money could buy for a person back there, and as I was deep in my philosophical thoughts, I almost ran into a woman that was loaded with bags and looked a little like Donatella Versace for all the plastic in her face. I was almost offended by the visual spectacle that she was – with her face and her bags and even her fake nails (read: talons). It took me a moment to regroup and realise that that not everyone in this airport had just arrived in from living in China for a year.
Another short moment after that, I realised what a massive douchebag I was. I looked down at my (grossly overweight) carry-on luggage, and the separate bags for camera and laptop, and the headphones around my neck, and the Dr. Denim jeans and the Moleskine stationary. And it has all led me to the conclusion that, quite possibly, there is no relativity in life.

Relativity (in a social sciences sense of the word, so in this case, the relativity of life between two very different countries) is a difficult concept to come to terms within even the most normal and simple and (ironically) detached of situations. To try and understand it we usually remove ourselves from the picture entirely and therefore almost defeat the purpose of the discussion. Why? I suppose a big reason is that one must think on a fundamentally larger (read: super big-ass) scale when considering international matters of any kind, but I think that’s often just an excuse. The real reason, for me at least, is that when I’m trying to work through a gritty concept, things can get awfully messy and confusing when I try and actually factor myself in. Add any kind of emotional juggling to the mix and I kind of give myself a bit of a mindfuck. Such is humanity, that our emotions and logic so often ram tusks against each other. It is human nature to consider each one of ourselves as exceptions to the rules and this makes honest inquiry within one’s own brain rather difficult. Yes, I buy sneakers made from sweatshops but, like, I mean, you know, it’s totally different for me because of these three reasons. LOL. #lyingtomyself. But I digress.

My point was/is, that for me right now, it’s all muddy. The task of figuring out what I have learned about ‘relativity’ in my year away seems all the more difficult and intensely immense because I’m literally (seriously dude, literally) in the middle-zone between two different worlds. These eleven hours are the limbo of the year in China and the paradise that lies after it - the home shores. To sit at this, one of the most critical junctures of my life to-date, and think about relativity between those two places, is to question everything. And with so much emotion swelling so near to my skin, the conclusions should be elusive as ever, but this sultry YSL scent rising from my wrist has indeed brought me some clarity.

I have been out of China less than a full day and by the five senses plus osmosis, I am already absorbing the comforts of this almost-home life so much, so as to push out the intensity of memories of what I left behind. People talk of globalisation in the 21st century, but I’m not seeing different countries here, man. I’m seeing different worlds. This is an airport where people hop to opposite equators of geography and GDP and life expectancy in a matter of hours. It is impossible for humans to accurately imagine a life other than their own – we each live a combination if what we’re given and what we make. If that involves perfume and headphones then how can we imagine existence without it? I am no exception to the rule. I’m seeing people who spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery who, even if they visited other countries, are still essentially in their own world. And it’s not even just about money! I’m seeing that people in different places define ‘truth’ and ‘freedom’ differently and things are so much more complex at every turn than I ever could have imagined. Perhaps I can’t ever even accurately take a stab-in-the-dark at just how deep my ‘depths of ignorance’ are - and it’s so annoying!

A long time of trying to make sense of the world around you - only to finally realise that you don’t know anything. Not a damn thing. A long time spent trying to understand how the ‘other half’ really lives, only to decide that perhaps the concept of relativity itself is totally false.

And so this is where I find myself now. The coffee is finished and there are still eight more hours of limbo to go.

 You know what? Honestly. If I really think long and hard and tough. Maybe I don’t actually feel guilty at all for enjoying a relatively luxurious lifestyle here and now, and that I like smelling expensive fragrances and sipping well-brewed coffee and not having to turn on my own tap because it’s JUST SO FUCKING NICE. It might be that simple. I mean, I feel so great right now! With all these great, nice things! I believe the innate human endeavor for general betterness should never be discouraged, but how do we find the balance between that wonderfully constructive want-for-more and the idea of enough. No, the more I think of it, the more it becomes clear that there is no such thing as this ‘relativity’. The decision to buy this perfume or not has turned into some kind of east-meets-west battle for my soul. The east side is relativity – and it’s fighting to make me remember that such frivolity is a waste of hard-earned money and that this kind of dumb materialistic pursuit doesn’t lead to true fulfillment or happiness. The west side is kind of like, well, if you still actually want the perfume then clearly you couldn’t truly comprehend the idea that it is just stupidly excessive and therefore after this entire year you still cannot understand any world other than your own, and therefore there is no such thing as relativity. And this is only the economic side of the argument.

Do you follow? I’m not sure I do. I’m going to take a nap then have a blueberry muffin.

Well folks, I took that nap and when I woke my laptop wouldn’t work. So I read and had that muffin and completely lost this train of thought. And right now I’m sitting here so happy! In such a damn fine mood! Still laughing about that kooky guy and that happy chappy pack of mismatched island mutts. I’m making the choice to not return my consciousness to that limbo place in order to finish the idea in my mind. I’ll get back to it later, once I’m settled in back home and in a comfortable place from which to evaluate the whole thing. Which, in itself, is extremely ironic. Hahahha sometimes I hate me and sometimes I love me. What I love right now, though, is this Pina Colada. Now we’re going swimming, and then I’ll try and figure out what this dude in Murakami’s book is doing down a well. Literally. Anyways, until tomorrow, amigos!!!

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