December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Zen Stories

I was sharing this story with a friend, and realised that it was good food for thought. It's only a story, and whether you agree with it is not important, but understanding it may bring you to understand other things.

In the hills of Nepal are set tiny villages, where the locals cling to life by farming, or more recently, by trading with tourists. In one of these villages there is a roadsidestall where tea is sold from a great boiling cauldron, at two different prices - 5 dollars, and 500 dollars. For both prices, the same tea is taken from the exact same cauldron, poured into the exact same cups, and served in exactly the same manner. Some travellers who buy the expensive tea say they have been cheated, others insist that it is the best cup of tea they've ever had in their lives.
There are those who look but do not see, but maybe the pilgrimmage to seek is the more important than the epiphany of discovery. Happy interpreting.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The SLEEP OUT (Part 3)

Every once in a while, you meet someone who simply defies your understanding of human ability. Carl was one of these people - he had been standing non-stop in the cold for 8 hours, with just an extra T-shirt over the one he already had on.

As we tried to bury ourselves in our blankets, Carl looked like he was having the time of his life. He was humming tunefully to himself while strolling around, occasionally looking a student the same way a shepherd might look at his sheep. As the religious drunk continued rambling to the students, I decided to dust myself off, and have a chat with Carl, who turned out to be quiet, unassuming, and really nice. Maybe being homeless changes your attitudes to people.

Carl, as the story goes, was thrown out onto the streets after a disagreement with his wife. He was homeless for 4 days before being picked up by Action Homeless, who put him in sheltered accommodation, and then into semi-permanent housing, where he’d been for about three months. Carl is looking to be an electrician, and I want to think that he’s succeeded in that dream, even though I’ll probably never meet him again.

Around 2am, the night’s revellers began to show up, teetering down the road in ones and twos. Most passed us by curiously and in peace. Some time later, a trio of revellers sang loudly and asked their friends among us to join them, but we scared them away by asking them to donate. But then, another drunkard showed up, and recognising another sleep-outer as his cousin, began loudly abusing him for being on the street.

Within seconds, Carl was towering over the drunk. Without raising his voice, Carl asked very diplomatically whether there was a problem. Given that Carl is built like a tank, and that other members of our group were starting to surround him like zookepers controlling a dangerous animal, the drunkard’s answer was “no”, and he bade a hasty retreat around the corner.

Situation resolved, we got back into our sleeping bags. Carl resumed humming a happy song as if nothing happened. The night wore on, the trickle of drunkards thinned and finally stopped, and things got quiet again.

Around 3.30am – Even after the commotion, sleep remained elusive. A few of us stayed up chatting about Life, the Universe and Everything (the answer is confirmed to be forty-two), and a few others were forced to fulfil a few more basic bodily functions – we turned to the destroyer of arteries, the purveyor of obesity, the murderer of cows... we had no choice, we were defeated. Into the shiny plastic doors of McDonalds we marched.

On our way there, we noticed a sleep-outer in her blanket – she was shivering heavily, and wasn’t particularly responsive to us trying to wake her up. We convinced her to get out of her blanket and led her to the hellflames of McDonald’s to warm up, and fed her a pack of chips [Note: This is the only recorded case in this blog of McDonalds food ever being beneficial to your health, please see here for the McDonalds experiment that made me stop eating McDonalds food].

5am – officially one hour to go, but our job was effectively complete. The garish advertising lights and black of shadow began to fade away, giving way to faded colours of sleep-outers waking up. People were stirring in their blankets; conversations were mumbled. Some started to pack up. We three went one step ahead began planning our escape by taxi.

At 5.30, the heavens opened up. The sleep-outers packed frantically while our getaway car swung into view. It was curtains-down time as the taxi powers away, while we stared at the rapidly dissolving crowd of sleep-outers.