I Can see Why Some People Hate America
You really can't get away from America - it's ubiquitous. Everywhere we've gone, we hear American pop songs sung in English to a country that is does speak English natively. So Rudi Ecker, in his VW/Audi garage listens to Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, the Beach Boys, etc. About every 5th song is in German, but that is it. American pop culture infiltrates everywhere. Coca-Cola and MacDonalds are in every big town and if one doesn't like America, or simply would like to preserve some kind of culture, I could see that a resentment to the US could develop quite quickly. It may or may not be our fault, but the US is just in the face of everybody, with our marketing hype and pop culture media. I have yet to see anything but American movies in the theatres. I know that's different in India, but around here, America has such an influential voice that I don't blame anyone for hating the US. Except for the French.
Saturday October 17
Spent the day in a mountainside town called Beatenberg, which is a thousand feet or two above Lake Thun, one of the two lakes that Interlaaken resides between, and hence the name Inter-laaken. Beatenberg also has an incredible view of the three major peaks of the Bernese range, the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau, as well as Lake Thun 1000 or so feet below. Annie says this is the place for her, she wants to move here.
I can't blame her - it is an idyllic place with outstanding views, and again, similar to Wengen and Murren, there is a penetrating quietude that is conducive to inner peace. The energy is homogeneous, and made up mostly of gentle natural forces, quite unlike the heterogeneous mish-mash of bewildered psyches found in larger towns and cities. Beatenberg is also accessible by car, yet it doesn't seem diminished by that accessibility. The town is 7 km long, mostly made up of little shops and stores that line the two lane road that is the major thoroughfare. Farms dot the landscape above and below the town, and the goats and cows are very friendly and inquisitive - they come up to you and you can pet them. After all, how often does a cow gets to see an American around here?
Speaking of two lane roads, I mean two lanes, period, no shoulders and just enough room for two cars to pass each other, sometimes at very high speed. There is little room for error and we've had some near misses.
Everyday I feel more confident speaking German for small bits of conversation -it is so wonderfully rewarding to ask a question in German and receive a response that I can understand. This makes the simple things remain simple, which otherwise would be hard being in another country where so much is different.
Last night several children accosted us, asking "Vat is yo name?", apparently getting a kick out of people responding to them in English. So I begin to have several conversations with them about where they're from, what grade they're in, do they learn English or French, etc. They were so alive and inquisitive, and it was so much fun to do it all in German. Before I started this journey I was studying Spanish, trying to break out of the mold of the single language American who forces other people to conform to their English needs. Being in California, USA, Spanish is the natural second language of choice
But that is on hold, German and Hindi take prominence for obvious reasons! Spanish seems the simplest, German a little more complicated, and Hindi, hoo boy! I know all the spiritual words in Hindi, they're second nature, but that doesn't help when I will have to ask for directions.
Every night we've passed a hotel on our walk to downtown called the Hotel Lotschberg, which has a restaurant featuring Indonesian food. After a week of Germanic based food, we decided to give it a try, and the food was great. And to add icing on the cake, NO ONE was smoking! Our poor lungs were spared tonite. There's something about Asian food that is much more comforting to me than the grease-laden Germanic dishes that have been accosting our digestive system for the past week. I swear, I am so sick of french fries (Pommes de Fritsches) which seems to come with every meal, and the gentle undercurrent of pig fat in every dish. My feeling is the waiters should be asking, "Would you like the angioplasty or ribsplitters and coronary bypass special tonite?". Then again, after 8 weeks in India, eating Indian food, I reserve the right to change my opinion.
Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
Now I am beginning to anticipate the end of this vacation and the thought of separating from Annie is beginning to become a painful reality. Except for a few work trips, Annie and I have been together for almost 9 years, and I can feel parts of me feeling bad about leaving her, sadness, occasional spikes of fear, feeling the sense of my inner child is bonded to her as mother(and vice versa). And not having someone to be there to share certain discoveries or revelations on my journey is something painful that I will just have to adjust to. For that and many other reasons, I am going to miss her dearly, the person whom I love the most in the world. There were times that a ping of guilt would arise: how could I leave her to go selfishly tromping through India?
I did invite her and want her to go, but some health issues keep her from going - India is hard enough for healthy people sometimes. This week has been wonderful for our relationship, and I could extend this vacation longer, but eventually we would have to come to the reality of separating for a few weeks. However, something deep in my being doesn't understand the temporariness of it -all it can understand is the immediacy of leaving. Time together gets to become very precious - hey, this isn't a bad way to live our lives with each other! Especially since it's the truth, a few days or 50 years, it will happen.
A Note About the Dark Side of the Goddess
Isn't that the awful nature of this place? Everything and everyone you love is taken away from you eventually or you from them, whomever goes first. I am reminded of this very incredible image of the Goddess that is found in India. She is seen giving birth to a beautiful baby, then picks it up...and eats it. That time between the birth and the meal is one human life. Mother nature is the ultimate bitch, creating a system that seems horrifically unfair.
But there is a way out of this nasty setup, and it's called spiritual revelation. In other pictures of the goddess, she is seen dancing on the body of a corpse, often, I believe, representing Lord Shiva. One needs to recognize (as one's nature) that which even the Goddess is founded on, the "corpse-like" stillness and joy of the transcendent condition that is represented by Lord Shiva. But as Buddha noted, Form is Equivalent to Emptiness and Emptiness is Equivalent to Form, they are not two separate and distinct conditions. But if a person know only forms, and not the Emptiness that transcends it (yet is not separate it), s/he is in for one rough ride. Being dazzled by merely form all one's life to me is a definition of bewilderment that Krishna spoke about. People must discover the nature of form, which is Emptiness, Boundlessness, "Quality-lessness" while in the midst of forms in their lives to cut through suffering and beat the Goddess at her nasty little game called Nature. It won't erase that part of us which feels the pain of the loss or separation from a loved one, but as Mr. Ken Wilber noted in a recent essay in Shambhala Sun, spiritual evolution is about addition ultimately, not getting rid of the ego. That addition is the increasingly more profound revelation about who you are and what existence is, so that one is not defined _just_ by the aspect of oneself that is designed for relating to others and the world. And it is when the greater revelation is lived in conjunction with relating to others, that is when life is really juicy and happy.