Archive for the Global Travel Category

Ragnarok

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2012 by javedbabar

Danny said, “I am sorry I was being difficult before. You know what you are doing here. You are doing a good job.”

“Thanks for saying that,” said Sophie, “but what was your issue, exactly? I was never really sure.” She had an inkling, but wanted to hear it from him.

“Well, I had the same idea four years ago. I mean, converting the old quarry into a multimedia venue. When I visited Egypt I saw the Pyramids of Giza’s sound and light show, and thought something like that could work here too. I told the village CEO but she wouldn’t listen, and then hey presto – someone has the bright idea to turn the old quarry into a multimedia venue. I thought you had stolen my idea, and taken all the credit, and was really mad. I hoped you would fail, and you almost did when it flooded, but now I accept that you developed this idea independently. I submit.”

He bowed and then continued dropping, as if to the floor. Was he really going to prostrate himself? Normally Sophie would have let him continue – why not? – but after his confession, she felt he had fallen enough. It was time to raise him.

She said, “Look, I have made many mistakes too. Each show is a new show, and I’m learning continuously, but the process is becoming familiar, and I have a talented and reliable team. Thanks for all your help to date, Danny.”

He was itching to ask something, she could tell. He said, “What about the current show? Are you happy with how it’s turned out?”

Ragnarok had been a strange choice, granted. A cataclysmic story compiled from the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda of Iceland. Her father had been a captain in the merchant navy, and told her Norse myths as bedtime stories whenever she stayed with him. He had left her mother when Sophie was five, for “another woman in another port,” her mother told her years later.

“Yes I am happy,” said Sophie. “But I hope things don’t turn out like that in reality, or if they do, then not in our lifetimes.”

The show was sold out. People came to QARY whatever the story. It was on the itinerary of every visitor to the west coast of Arcadia, as something not to be missed.

Ragnarok’s series of future events, and great battles foretold, were made for multimedia. The occurrence of natural disasters, destruction and submersion of the world, and its resurfacing and repopulation by two human survivors, gave her technicians a chance to show off.

They put a live rooster in each room, whose every movement was tracked, triggering sounds and visuals. The Crimson Rooster in the forest caused Yggdrasil, the world tree, to shudder and groan. The Golden Rooster in Valhalla made the Eagle shriek. The Soot-Red Rooster in Hel made the Midgard Serpent writhe. The Hound growled before the Cave. The Giant strode from the east. The Ship broke free and set sail westwards. Odin was swallowed by the wolf Fenrir.

Ragna means “ruling powers”.

Rock means both “the end” and “renewal”.

Ragnarok is thus an ending and a beginning.

Danny said, “What if it really happened, and we were the only two humans left?”

Ah! So that’s it, thought Sophie. He likes me; he’s coming on to me. She said, “Well then you would be a very lucky guy, as that is the only way I would ever consider dating you.”

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Ulysses

Posted in Conceptual Art, Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“We have a dramatic issue here,” said Sophie. “How do we chronicle the passage of Leopold Bloom during an ordinary day in Dublin, and establish the parallels with Odysseus’s journey across the Mediterranean to Greece?”

She had seen a production of Ulysses in the New City, where Bloom wore a baby goldfish costume and swam alongside Odysseus’ ship. At first she had giggled continuously, but then become grumpy. It was great to be creative but not ridiculous.

When she had later questioned the director, he said, “Did you know that Joyce first encountered Odysseus in a children’s book called The Adventures of Ulysses?” Sophie knew that Ulysses was the Roman name for Odysseus, in the same way that they called Poseidon, Neptune, and Aphrodite, Venus. “He later wrote an essay at school called My Favourite Hero. That is why I wanted to portray him as a youngster.”

“And why a goldfish?”

“The publication of Ulysses attracted great controversy and scrutiny. Joyce was tried for obscenity, and there were protracted textual wars. It was as if his characters were contained in a goldfish bowl, being watched constantly. That was also the manner in which Joyce dissected the city of Dublin. You see the…” His eyes jerked towards Molly, emerging sans make up from backstage. “Oh darling! You were so fabulous! Mwah! Mwah!”

Sophie agreed that Molly had been fabulous, in the way that only a naked rainbow dolphin could be.

The production team at QARY, the old quarry now used to stage multimedia shows, said nothing at first. Maybe they were unfamiliar with the text. But after a while Danny said, “Couldn’t we do the whole thing as a stream-of-consciousness piece? I know it is heavily structured, but maybe we can find some anchor points to demarcate flow.”

Sophie stared at Danny. He was usually the troublemaker in the team, the jester and trickster, but here he was producing constructive ideas. She said, “It sounds like you know the work well.”

He blushed and said, “Well, not really. I studied it at high school. It was a choice of that or Dante’s Divine Comedy. Joyce seemed the easier option.”

The production team suggested other ideas.

“Dress Bloom as Odysseuss. As he walks through Dublin he is transformed into a Centurion, Britannia, a Knight of the Round Table, and a Celtic warrior.”

“Set the whole thing on a ship with the characters as crew members.”

“Make it a huge feast with each chapter as a different course.”

The best suggestion was to use each of the three chambers for different parallel characters – Bloom-Odysseus, Molly-Penelope, and Stephen-Telemachus.

When the production opened, Sophie saw that this structure worked well. The audience wandered between the chambers continuously, integrating the three persons of this holy family, the archetypal father, mother and son.

In other shows the audience had mainly stayed put, lined up along walls and gathered in corners. This had annoyed The Authority as they couldn’t keep an eye on them there. The more people that moved between rooms, the better CCTV could track them.

Odysseus was watched by the gods of Olympus. The citizens of Lucerne had The Authority’s Security Officers.

Bhagavad Gita

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by javedbabar

“Why can’t we do proper stories?” said Danny. He was still unhappy about Tao Te Ching being forced upon him last month.

Maybe his mind is totally rational, thought Sophie, and this stuff is too wacky for him. But there was more to it than that.

He said, “It’s another piece of religious propaganda. Myths I am okay with, as nobody treats them seriously. People think of them as meaningful stories, but don’t insist they are the word of God. I don’t believe in supernatural agencies, full stop.”

He is becoming more troublesome, thought Sophie. I could fire him but he’s such a great technician. I would be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

“Going back to your original point, Danny, this is a proper story. The Bhagavad Gita is part of one of the greatest stories ever told, the Mahabharata, which is ten times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. The Gita is its essence.”

There were regular battles between Danny and Sophie. She liked working with people who brought positive energy to tasks. Danny’s endless negativity was tiresome and it affected other crew members. To pull off multimedia spectaculars at QARY, the converted old quarry, she needed a tight team. There was no room for cowards and traitors.

Sophie wasn’t against conflict. It was a way of sizing up opposing views, integrating, and hopefully transcending them, to a higher form of thought. Could she do that with Danny? He would need convincing. It was her leadership test.

She said, “Gandhi called the Gita his spiritual dictionary. Within it he sought the answer to every difficult question, and its teachings inspired the Indian independence movement. Do you practice yoga? You don’t? Okay, what about other people? Ah, most of you do. The Gita contains the essence of yoga; it details Karma, the yoga of action, Bhakti, the yoga of love, and Jnana, the yoga of knowledge, and promotes a positive philosophy of life.”

Danny was grinning, so Sophie asked, “What’s up?”

“I thought you would try to overwhelm us with stuff like this, so I did my own research. The whole story is about a war. The prince, Arjuna, is caught up in a huge battle; his brothers are on one side, and his cousins, uncles, teachers and friends are on the other. He doesn’t want to fight at all, he wants to make peace, and if he can’t do that, he would rather die than kill others.

“But his charioteer, Krishna, tells him to fight. He says it is his duty to fight. He has to do the best he can, regardless of outcome. And the Gita speaks highly of the caste system, and about women as lowly. Why do you want us to promote these ideas?”

Sophie was furious. Danny was trying to derail her project. She said, “I am sure you know it is symbolic. Sure, a war analogy is problematic. It can be misinterpreted, but it can also be used to show the ethical and moral struggles of life.” She decided to cut short her sermon and practice Karma Yoga instead.

They ran through the production’s practical aspects and then discussed the climax, where Krishna reveals that he is the ultimate cause of all material and spiritual existence, and his cosmic form, Visvarupa, is unleashed, a theophany facing every direction.

Sophie said, “So we will need one thousand projectors to emit the radiance of a thousand suns, and one thousand mirrors to contain all beings in material existence. Danny you are in charge of procuring those.”

“But I won’t be able to get so many so quickly.”

Sophie gave him a hard look and said, “Well just do the best you can. That’s the message of the Gita.”

Tao Te Ching

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by javedbabar

“This is ridiculous,” said Danny. “Can you please make up your mind which comes first, Tao Ching or Te Ching?”

“Well, that is what we are discussing,” said Sophie. “It could be either.”

“Isn’t the name of the work Tao Te Ching? It has eighty-one chapters in a particular order, so why don’t we stick with that?”

The rest of the production crew looked at each other in general agreement, but also at Danny, annoyed. He didn’t know how to endear himself to people. Sophie was much better at that.

She said, “Because there is a school of thought that the first thirty seven chapters, Tao Ching, and the next forty four chapters, Te Ching, were reversed in the original text. The original may work better for dramatic purposes. I want to hear everyone’s thoughts on this before scheduling the show.”

Tao Te Ching had been an unpopular choice from the beginning. It lacked the narrative structure of previous productions such as Osiris, Beowulf or Gilgamesh. It was a mystical work full of contradictions.

Sophie envisioned the show as an experiential rather than narrative production, and had in truth, forced it upon them. The QARY project was her baby. It was she who had initiated the conversion of the old quarry into a venue for multimedia productions. She would call the shots.

Danny persisted in being difficult. He said, “Look, it’s easy to do. I know how to do it. We are trying to create the essential, unfathomable process of the universe. Something dreamy and mysterious, strange and illuminating. It’s the feeling you get when you’re stoned. All we have to do is re-create that.”

The production crew sniggered and ribbed each other. Sophie wanted to smile but kept a straight face. “Thank you for that, Danny. Why don’t you bring a joint for everyone to the next meeting? One, two, three…ten, eleven, twelve. That’s twelve joints, okay?”

Danny said, “Okay,” weakly, and Sophie forgot all about it.

At the next meeting, Danny looked pleased with himself. He opened a golden silk pouch embroidered with a dragon, and produced twelve joints. Everyone cheered.

Sophie had given up smoking four years ago but still indulged in herbs. Once everyone had a joint in hand, she said, “First I will recap, and then let’s brainstorm.”

She reminded them that Tao Te Ching is filled with short deliberate statements and intentional contradictions. Memorable phrases are delivered, and readers forced to create their own reconciliations of the supposed contradictions.

Poets, painters, warriors and gardeners had used it as a source of inspiration for millennia. It had political advice for kings, and practical wisdom for regular people. It had a long textual history and a limitless variety of interpretations. What could the production team glean from the work? They examined a few phrases together.

“The Tao that can be told, is not the Eternal Tao.”

“Darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding.”

“If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial.”

“The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Danny. “I am not doing this production.”

Sophie smiled and said, “You have a choice to make Danny. There is doing by doing, which is effective work; there is doing by not doing, which means avoiding mistakes; there is not doing by doing, which means correcting errors. There is also not doing by not doing, which is unemployment. Which do you prefer?”

No Need to Worry

Posted in Global Travel, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2012 by javedbabar

Adam had heard that professional jobs were available in Lucerne. Things were pretty slow in the city so it seemed like a good idea to try his luck elsewhere.

In days gone by he would have just taken off abroad. Living in developing countries was cheaper than staying in Arcadia. When he wasn’t working here, living in India or Ethiopia or Peru was a way to save money, provided he went for at least a month to amortize the airfare.

A month in the city was about three thousand bucks all in, a hundred a day. A month in Varanasi, Lalibela or Cuzco was two thousand, flights included, and the longer he stayed there, the better the notional day-rate – going from sixty dollars to half that. But now that he had a wife and three step-children, he had to handle the situation carefully.

He did some day trips initially. Lucerne was a pretty village with a white mountain standing guard above it, and surrounded by forests, rivers and lakes. It was filled with old families of farmers, loggers and hunters, but also a new crowd of artists, musicians and yoga teachers. He checked with Village Hall, and yes, they said, they needed professional people desperately. If he moved here, he could have his pick of jobs.

“When can I have an interview?” he asked the receptionist.

“This is it,” she said. “You’ve got the job, or more than one if you like.”

“More than one?”

“Yes, we have numerous positions available, and funds from the Authority gathering dust. We want to use them for the benefit of Lucerne’s citizens.” She explained the strange situation here. There was mass unemployment of unskilled people, but a shortage of skilled ones. They desperately needed his expertise.

Adam was assigned the job of CPM: Chief Project Manager, and asked to start as soon as possible. He was also given a house to live in with a nocturnal security guard.

“Is that necessary?” he asked. “It seems like a peaceful place.”

“Just in case,” said the receptionist. “You never know.”

Adam’s wife agreed that he should follow the work, and they moved immediately. On the first evening, they dined outdoors, and were so moved by beauty that they could hardly speak. Adam had seen such beauty before, in the Himalayas, Lasta Mountains, and the Andes, but always alone. He was now seeing it with his family, through the eyes of his beloved, and her children.

As the sun set, the security guard, David, suggested they go indoors.

“What’s the hurry?” said Adam. “Let’s enjoy the stars appearing and tonight’s full moon.” He knew it would be impossible to get the kids early to bed tonight. They may as well stay out.

“You don’t know this place well, do you. Have you stayed here overnight before? No? Okay, trust me. You’re better off indoors. That’s what I’m here for, to stay outdoors to ensure your safety. There’s no need to worry though. I am a professional too. I will keep you safe.”

“Safe from what?”

“You’ll see.”

“Do you have a gun?” Adam recoiled when he realized what he’d said. Had he brought his family to a place where you need a gun to survive?

“No, I won’t need a gun. Just go inside and take it easy. No need to worry.”

That night they heard glass smashing somewhere, screeching tires, and flashes like firecrackers, followed by a chorus of sirens – ambulances, fire trucks, and cops. They slept eventually but were disturbed from their slumber by smashing and shouting. Adam went to the window to see. There was David, covered in blood, either grimacing or grinning.

“What happened?” he called. “Are you okay?”

“I told you not to worry. I have taken care of it.” He wiped his machete, swigged some beer and sat down. He looked at the horrified children and said, “Nothing to see. Now go to bed.”

He wanted them to leave before there was another assault on the house. More of the poor would come.

Salmon Rush Die

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2012 by javedbabar

Salmo swam around listlessly.

He had enjoyed the party. It was always good to see old friends, especially those that had been with him every inch of the way. This was the last time they would see each other; he should make the most of it.

The party didn’t feel right though.

Salmo was part confused and part angry. Here they were, having this great celebration, feasting on smaller fish, shrimp and squid, and plankton for those so inclined, racing and chasing, smooching and shaking, and having good times, before everyone going on his or her own way in the morning. It was their great separation and return.

So what was his issue? Why was he creating a vortex while everyone else was dancing in rings? Was it because he was the only one not completing the cycle of life ordained to his kind?

Salmon must return to their natal streams. They must use their powers of heart and mind, and all six senses, to seek out their source. Why didn’t he want to do it?

Someone brushed past him. He felt a slick glide and a playful flick, and knew it was Salma. “What’s up,” she said, “not enjoying the grad party?”

He said, “I’ve told you before. I don’t feel the call. I’ve lived in the open ocean for many years, and don’t want to return to a little river.”

“But don’t you want to go home?”

Salmo slowed down. He often did this when thinking. Good job he didn’t need to think when killer whales were around; his manoeuvres then were purely driven by instinct.

He said, “But home – is that here or there? I can sense the river but don’t remember it; my knowledge of it is purely physical. My body transformed there, preparing me for a life in salt water; there was a period of adjustment, yes, in brackish water, but…”

“I remember that period too,” said Salma. “Older ones taught me to regulate fluid pressure. Sometimes it became too concentrated, and I felt fat and heavy, and sometimes it was too dilute, and all I could do was float. But it was a conscious process, don’t you remember, really?”

Salmo swam to the right and Salma followed him. They had both sensed dolphins ahead. Better steer away from them sooner rather than later.

Salmo said, “My chemistry changed. My body changed. My spirit changed. I became a sea creature. I had no reason to hold on to my past little life. It felt like something to leave behind.”

“But that’s our life’s purpose – to return.”

“I know that Salma. But don’t you think it’s strange that our bodies start to deteriorate as soon as we enter fresh water again? By heading to the place we call home, we’re killing ourselves. Why become salmon rushing to die? Instead of going back, I would rather go further on, somewhere new.”

“But that’s not our place, Salmo.”

“That’s the issue, sister. What is our place? I fear that my place doesn’t exist anymore. I sense the two-leggeds have stopped the great rivers, poisoned the waters of rivers that still flow, and destroyed the wetlands. If I’m making the last great journey of my life, I want to go somewhere worth going.”

He sensed there was also a positive effect to the two-legged’s dabbling. Global warming caused icecaps to melt, creating new currents and rivers. He could swim with these waters to many new places, and if he found a place of hope, he could yet complete his life cycle.

Full Moon Party

Posted in Global Travel, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami was enjoying his night out with Guru Baba more than he’d imagined. Being given the day off by his holy bossman was great, but he hadn’t been happy about its consequence, which was working all night. But working tonight seemed to involve walking around fields under a full moon, chatting. It wasn’t so bad.

Guru Baba asked, “Did I tell you about when I went to a Full Moon Party? No? Well I should! It was a great experience. I don’t usually like big parties. They are too crowded, too noisy, they go on too late, the toilets are disgusting, and drinks are so expensive!

“You mean alcoholic drinks?” said Sami. “I didn’t know that you drank.”

“Occasionally,” said the sage coyly. “Why not?”

“You are a world famous holy man; I thought you’d want to set an example.”

“I do, don’t I? I think that you should enjoy yourself. Do you know that Lord Krishna stole butter as a child, and danced all night with married women? He is known as the Supreme Enjoyer. He’s my example.” Sami didn’t know what to say.

Guru Baba continued, “Anyway, about the party. I was taken by a friend to a beautiful, crescent-shaped beach with bone white sand. Many disc jockeys – you still call them that, don’t you? – had set up their sound systems, right along it. They played all kinds of tunes – house music, reggae, R&B – is that rhythm and blues? – and fast crazy music that my friend said was called psychedelic trance. I don’t know if people there were taking drugs or not, as there was a visible police presence, or maybe they were in on the action too. We danced all night, and then had food and drinks, then danced some more, and rested in the surf as the sun rose.”

Sami was enthralled by Guru Baba’s story. He’d never been to any parties like that. It sounded amazing.

“There were no barriers that night, no inhibitions, just enjoyment. Everybody was drawn there by the moon, creating unified intentions. You could feel the moon magic.

“People seemed ghostly, and they spun and blew white fire. Couples circled each other like the moon and earth, their tattoos like mysterious lunar markings. Somebody gave me a coconut chopped in half. When I peered into it, it looked like the full moon. On their bodies people had painted neon pink, orange and green messages about the moon and stars, and magic and love. Most people ended up in the sleep area – doing just that – making love.”

“What did you do, Guru Baba?”

The sage smiled coyly. “Didn’t I tell you that Krishna was my role model, the Supreme Enjoyer?”

Sami was embarrassed by this revelation and tried to move the conversation on. “Such great fun you had before becoming a holy man, Guru Baba.”

“What are you talking about? It is since I became a holy man. I went to that party last month, while you were away visiting your grandma.”