So I’m jumping on the blog-bandwagon. I figured that for the next year while I’m out of the country in Bangladesh, instead of bothering people with a flood of impersonal mass emails, I would post it all in a one of these hip and trendy blog thingies, so that those interested could read about my life as they pleased. I have an affinity towards digression and half of what I write will probably be more like journal entries for myself to reread one day than anything else... but enjoy...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Enroute to Dhaka

On the 2 hour flight to Dhaka from Bangkok I started writing in my journal…

What makes something a third world country? There’s probably some very specific economic definition. But what does it mean to me… hmmm smelly, disorganized, inefficient… is it that the people are lazy? NO… lack of opportunities… maybe… no jobs? Nothing for people to do… poor infrastructure, poor government services… why is there corruption? Poor government oversight? Apparently Bangladesh has the most NGOs of any country. Is that a good thing? I don’t know.


In Sri Lanka I remember hearing murmurs and frustrations with all the international NGOs coming in and telling the Sri Lankans how to rebuild post-tsunami… but many wish they weren’t even there… but realistically Sri Lanka could not handle the restoration themselves… Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world… it too wants help with development, whatever that means… But then again, Bangladesh is also know as the world’s most corrupt country. Sad… the country with some of the most aid getting pumped in, also wasting and stealing this aid money… lack of oversight encourages corruption. And when someone of high stature is corrupt, the people below him feel as though it must also be OK to cheat and steal tax payer and aid money… sad.

Bangladesh… I really don’t know a ton about this country… Muslim.. Street children… beggars… pickpocketers… stray dogs… crime... political unrest… Why am I coming here? I wanted to get out of the country for a year… I’m doing what I think I’ve wanted to do for a long time… I do have a desire to “help” the poor. I am quoting others, but I do feel it is the obligation of the privileged to help those less privileged… the haves have an obligation to the have nots… hmmm is that really true… Well, for me, at this point in my life, I feel as though it is…

I’m still confused about the Buddhist approach to life. I suppose an interesting time to contemplate this as I leave two Buddhist cultures (Sri Lanka and Thailand) and enter into a Muslim culture. I picked up a Buddhist children’s book called “Morals of the Youth” or something. It’s a picture book that explains morality. Respect your parents, work hard in school, no spitting in public, love one another… all that good stuff… but when you get to the motivation aspect of it all I get confused.

Why are poor people poor? According to the children’s book, because in a past life when they had plenty, they didn’t give to the poor. Why do some people starve and do not have sufficient clothes to wear in the present life? Because they did not share their wealth and other possessions with those in need. What is the reason for one to be born into a rich family, enabling one to enjoy wealth and good fortune? Because he has practiced charity in his previous life and shared what he had with those in need. Why cannot some people find a spouse? Because they did not treat their husbands/wives properly in their previous lives. Why do some people become bald-headed when they are still young? Because they plucked the feathers of helpless birds, thereby making it difficult for them to fly. Why do some people get burnt alive? Because these people barbecued and fried live fish. Why do some children have to work as domestic servants, slaving away all day? This is because they ill-treated their domestic servant badly in their previous lives. Why are you so popular among your friends and liked by all wherever you go? Because you showed loving-kindness towards others in your previous life and did not have harmful thoughts of anyone.

Everything has a reason, but it usually relates to a past life… But, it’s as though the motivation to help others has nothing to do with doing good here and now… it’s out of a fear of being punished for not doing it… but there is still something weird about it. I guess you want to help the poor, but according to a Buddhist tradition, realize that they deserve to be in that situation because of something they did in their past life. They are being punished. So you don’t have to feel sorry for them at all… there’s nothing unfair about life. Everyone deserves what they have. So it seems with this mentality you don’t really need a passion for helping others… you don’t feel sorry or pity for them at all… well you feel pity because they messed up. You don’t want to end up like them. But something doesn’t sit right with me about the whole thing… I don’t think people who are poor deserve to be poor. I don’t think people who are born handicapped deserve to be that way… but then the question remains… why was I born into wealth and someone else born into poverty…

The reason for the overarching existence of poverty might be answered by looking at history, politics, economics, etc… but the reason why I am rich and you are poor remains a mystery. The outcome of the Buddhist approach is similar to that of most religions… helping each other, esp the less fortunate is a good thing, practice charity and loving-kindness, etc…

I don’t know… as Jehan Maama told Zaki before he left for the Phillippines… I want to take this year as a LEARNING experience. I want to listen and observe and question and reflect and read… I want to ponder and experience and embrace and learn… I don’t have the answers… I want learn… I want to learn… I want to search for the human spirit… seek out universal human truths. I want to search my soul, my mind, my body. I want to ponder what dynamic equilibrium means in my life.

Wow… I’m flying over Dhaka right now… be there in just a few min… listening to the Yanni song, Nightingale, on the Pure Moods album… a little cheesily forcing the shivers down my back, but appropriate soundtrack for my state of mind, nonetheless… I’m being a little swept away…. Emotions building… a little overwhelmed… I’m here…. I’m actually doing this... it’s one of those, whoa, it’s actually hitting me feelings… This will be my home for a whole year. I want to question some of my own passions, drives, motivations. I want to do and feel and love and cherish and appreciate.I want to embrace gratitude. I want to express loving kindness. I want to fall in love with the world. I want to understand beauty. I want to understand it’s opposite. I want to question the extremes of life… good/bad, beautiful/ugly, happy/sad… I want to listen to the sounds of nature.I want to listen to the soul. I want search for the light that is the human spirit. I want to discover my definition of God. I want to find me. I want to love and live. I want to realize that it is healthy to have an unsettled feeling about life. Peace and joy are what we strive for. But shallow unquestioned peace seems unfulfilling. I want to live mindfully…

1 Comments:

Anonymous Lee Klejnot said...

Hey Man,

I have been reading through your blogg, excellent pictues and interesting insights and stories. I liked your reflections on buddaism. It looks this is going to be another very interesting chapter in your life. Oh yeah Taj Mahal did look amazing. FYI I joined Peace Corps and I should be leaving in August for a placement somewhere in the Pacific Islands, possibly the Somoan Islands, will see. Keep it touch and all that jazz.

3/20/2006 9:08 AM

 

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