“Are you an Ass?”
If you ever get a chance to travel to the breathtaking Gili Islands of Lombok, Indonesia you’ll be struck by a few observations 1) the calmness and serenity will hit you like a wall of humidity; 2) the vibrant hi definition colors; and 3) the transportation system.
If you are in any way soothed by the sound of traffic, my advice is to turn the fuck around. These Islands are known to be free of motorized vehicles. Once you exit the boat, hop into the bath-like water and wade to shore (possibly carrying your bag above your head), you will be greeted with the bright face of a donkey cart driver and the magnificent miniature horse creature, which waits patiently for the cart to be loaded and the journey to begin.
I’m in love with these little guys (the animals, not the driver). They look like they’re all dolled up for a special ceremony and are excited to see me. Their horsey faces glitter in the sunlight, giving me a knowing look that after I spent too much time eating and drinking that I will need their guidance to get my stumbling ass home. In keeping with the festivities, they’re all rigged up with colorful saddles that have a row of crazy fringe. The reigns also have little bells scattered along the length, so as they parade up and down the streets they sound “Christmassy.”
The whole outfit (as I believe it is called) is a display of how glorious these creatures truly are. This year, as I was passing one on the street, I became mesmerized with the head gear. As I was admiring the detailing, I started to pay attention to the flaps next to its eyes.
In order for these horses to work effectively and not to be freaked out by tourists, they have 4 X 4 inch plastic piece that shields each of their eyes from seeing anything beside them. They literally have to turn their heads completely side to side, if they want to see what’s going on in their periphery. When they work, they are only allowed to observe the situations directly in front of them.
It instantly struck me – these flaps were just a horrible symbol of how many of us choose to clip along in our lives without any real awareness of our surroundings.
Our eyes are what most of us use to navigate the world around us. We see something and we place a pleasant or a negative thought to it. We either love/hate; yes/no; good/bad, as per our pre-programing. What we have experienced, will immediately give our eyes a reference point to judge what is directly in front of us:
Do I like this? What object is this? What is his/her face telling me?
But the real question is: how much of the picture are we actually seeing? In other words, are our side flaps limiting our inner and outer world view?
What if, in order to make a good decision, we needed to look around and gain information? For instance, let’s say a person wants to cross the street. Instead of looking both ways, as we’re taught as kids, they just walk without checking for cars. You might ask yourself, “Who the hell does that?” And I would say, many inexperienced travelers just plunge themselves onto the street without looking around. Now to their credit, they may be focused on the bar across the road and the cool beer that’s waiting for them.
Let’s say, though, as they are walking without much thought, to find fun and enjoyment at the beach bar, a horse and cart or cyclist, cruising up super-fast to their right or left, has to swerve or slam on the brakes because of their inattentiveness. In most cases it ends well, but in others, a massive collision could occur, simply because a tourist made an unconscious decision not to look around.
Being observant can save your life.
Most of us feel comfortable in a routine. We get up, eat, go to work, eat, come home, eat and go to sleep. There might be some deviations to the schedule, but most of us do the same thing day after day. I like routine too. Routine can help us stay balanced – so nothing wrong with it. The “wrongness” of it all; is the idea that our monotonous day of “doing” life, causes us to forget that there is adventure, other view points and cool experiences that exist outside our parameters.
In the safety of our simple lives, we can get blinded to the fact that a lot of crazy shit exists outside our little circle. We forget that flowers grow alongside weeds; that as seasons change so should we and that people are suffering at the hand of others – even if we aren’t observing it firsthand.
Some of us stay attached to our limited perspective because it distances us from the harsh realities of life.
But these flaps can’t all be bad; they can serve a purpose. I have tied my flaps down; almost anchoring them to the side of my head, when I needed to accomplish something in school or business. However, at the end of the project or when I’ve needed a break, I take a deep breath and exhale. With that release, I tamper with my plastic pieces and allow myself to expand. We can accomplish a lot when we only focus on the task right in front of us. There are plenty of shiny things that can be a distraction from simply just being in this moment.
However, the more opportunity we give ourselves to observe the vastness of our inner and outer world, the more intense life becomes. As the eye shields open, it can bring up serious emotions that cause us to start uncovering a more authentic lifestyle. We then choose to really see things as they are; good, bad and the ugly. But holy fuck, what a wickedly awesome honest way to live!
As I see it, there are two choices: to live like an ass or to open your eyes, look around and actually see the beautiful crazy magnificence surrounding you.