Thursday, September 13, 2007

Naked mudwrestling in the rainforest during a monsoonal lightning storm anyone?


Last week, I was walking around a fishing village in Mindoro, Philippines with my uncle, trying to find a fisherman who would be willing to hire his boat to us. We wanted to go island hopping and do some snorkelling at some nearby coral reefs. As we were walking around, I noted several things of interest. First was a game I had never seen before: Spider-fighting! It's just like cock-fighting, but they use spiders instead, who battle each other on a string suspended between two wooden posts. Just crazy! The fisherman were on their downtime, since they mainly work at night. This is one of the ways they keep themselves entertained. Of course, there's gambling involved. The second thing I noted were the fisherman's bodies: So lean, fit, muscular, sculpted, and brown. It made me so envious! These are men who really work for a living, who know the sea, who are rich repositories of local knowledge and wisdom, who really use their bodies, and for whom physical labour is just a way-of-life... Whereas me, I'm so out of touch with my own body. I sit in swivel chairs and type. I love the idea of being out in the sun and really using my body; feeling the salt water against my skin, feeling the earth in my hands, or what have you. You see, this type of work doesn't just put one in touch with one's own body, but also with the Earth. The elements are more real to them. The rest of us sit in our air-conditioned cocoons, alienated from the natural world. I need so badly to feel the Earth again as part of my life. And to get back in touch with my body. To feel the unity of body and Earth, since we are made of the same elements and we each cycle through the other. I feel like such a fat, pudgy, pale-ass, middle-class, lumbering fool, compared to those lithe brown fisherfolk. To use a phrase that my friend uses (a fellow academic), I feel like such a "head without a body". How can I do the intellectual work I'm doing, but still stay in touch with my body and the Earth? I need to go for more hikes! ...and there's another idea I've been seriously thinking about. My uncle has a friend who runs a rice farm, and I've been thinking about coming back next year to help plant or harvest the rice - voluntarily of course. I want to put myself in a peasants' shoes. Of course, it will be back-breaking labour, but I need that kind of shock to my system. I feel I just really need to "keep it real", if you know what I mean. Just live the simple life for a while, in tune with the elements, the raw Earth, and raw existence. In such a state, I imagine I will come to see how superfluous all those other things are - like I-Pods and Blackberries. Everything we need is already right here between us. It's just a matter of mobilising the commons. And how many of us really think about where our food comes from? When we sit down with rice on our plate do we realise the journey that rice has made, and how many peasants worked day and night to put that food on our plate? I'm not one to say grace before meals (since religion to me is mental slavery), but I do like the idea of thinking about our food before we eat it. Working in the rice fields could be so good for me in that way. And dammit, whether or not it's through work, I just really need to FEEL the Earth, to play with Earth, to hold it in my hands, to get sweaty and dirty, to feel my muscles being used in communion with the Earth, to be exposed to the elements, to sense that love between the Earth and my body (that they are connected), to experience the raw intensity of BEING-IN-THE-WORLD, with no mediation, no superfluities; Just PURE BEING, dammit! (Speaking of "pure being", has anyone seen the movie I Heart Huckabees? Hahaha! That's what I'm talking about!). The last time I experienced this kind of raw intensity was in Zambales province in the Philippines, at a rainforest reserve. An Aeta tribesmen was taking us on a hike through the jungle, when all of a sudden a major thunder and lightning storm hit. The forest took on such an epic quality! So thrilling! Branches were falling everywhere, electricity was crackling through the air, our bodies were being pounded with thick, heavy, warm rain, mud slushed underfoot, and the trees roared with the wind. Our guide said it was too dangerous, and we immediately started making our way back... But I just wanted to revel in it! I just wanted to scream and splash around in the mud, to feel the raw elements. And in fact, that's just what I did! A stream of water and mud had formed with the heavy rains, and was flowing down a hill-slope. I launched myself on the mudslide, and was carried about 10 metres down the hill in a few moments of pure bliss. I was so charged with adrenalin. I was soaking wet and didn't give a fuck! The Earth was making itself felt and known to me again. It's really hard to describe the feeling. It's as if a strange transgression had taken place; Almost as if my body had deterritorialised from itself and had become the Earth. And it made me think: Happiness lies in the Unself.

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