Chautauqua 2

So the malaise is that I am comfortable – and I am afraid of stagnating. For most of my working life I never had stagnation because teaching was such a screwed-up job. I am a teacher, I love teaching, working with kids helping them learn is wonderful, but what goes for teaching is usually none of that. I was going to say I was a career teacher but I am definitely not that. I was paid money for 30 years, I even ended up as head of department but I was never a career teacher. Career teachers buy into the establishment, they want a career, move up the ladder – maybe head of school. Me, I was a teacher, I taught kids. I would love to have taught them zen, if kids can learn zen. They can be creative but can they learn zen? Interesting question. But that’s the last thing schools would let happen.

One reason I went to the beach was to read. I think Pirsig Platform is a good thing to do but if I am always going to be pulled back to the same old rant it’s just indulgence. I want to explore. “ZAMM” was a discovery – a Chautauqua, I am not on that. If at 64 I am discovering what to do with my life I have wasted it. I haven’t wasted it, I have fought for teaching; I have learnt about and fought for teaching – and lost. It’s OK I have lost, how many people are able to live a life in which they can fight fir something that means something to them? I have to clear away the undergrowth in this Platform because I have to go deep, deep inside my experience to find what Gaia wants my zen to do. The themes will probably be the same but I hope the Platform will go deep.

And what can stop that depth? That is the malaise – comfort. Because I am satisfied I waste time on stuff – tv whatever. I don’t sit down to watch movies, and think what am I doing with myself. I could watch movies all day. The 1% need to keep the people controlled so they provide tv, most of it I can’t watch but there is so much creativity being wasted in this bilge that it is watchable. It’s all about “rich and famous”, it has to be. I would love to see all kinds of stuff about zen, how can we find our zen, what zen can do for us, how people have found their zen – like Pirsig’s “ZAMM”. Why can’t our tv shows be about all the heartaches that surround lives that try to find zen? That would be real creativity. But it would not be pulp, it would not be part of the neoliberal apathy, not about creating zen aversion. I’m OK with that in way, well I’m not really but I can enjoy the wonder of the creativity that goes into the pulp. Because I have some zen I can waste my time, and be comfortable – that is the malaise. And I don’t have that angst that drive, that I had when young, a drive that was forced to be wasted firstly finding who I was and then fighting for what was right when I did know.

So today I also went to the beach for some Pirsig fuel and found it – well not on the beach at the coffee shop I go to - I went to because the beach was Sundayed. I didn’t read much, it was about his travelling. About how he felt on the bike. To me this was being alone with Nature and what it gave him. I never knew he’d run out of gas in a storm and gave up before he learnt his motorcycle Art. That’s such a funny and wonderful part of his journey that had never registered the other times I’d been into Pirsig. Wow, hey that sounds like me. I could imagine having done that – but never did.

I have travelled. In Thailand I joined the love affair with bikes – not because of Pirsig. When I retired I didn’t want to drive a car, I thought I couldn’t afford the expense. And everyone was on 125’s. Kids drive bikes from an early age, it’s a teenage rite of passage. Every driver of a car has been on a bike so you never get “sorry I didn’t see you mate” as if that is acceptable anywhere. There’s still accidents of course but you’re not at the same ignorant risk as the UK on a bike. I rode a 125, then a low cc chopper – Phantom and then a 500. I enjoyed it. Thailand is a monsoon country so riding in the rain happened – in a storm happened – in inches of water happened. But it was all OK.

And then I fell over in the garden. I was pulling a large garden pot and fell back, put my arm out to brace my fall and broke my wrist. Broke my wrist. What kind of fragile twerp am I? I rested the arm a month and then went for physio – only to find that what I thought was a sprain was broken. The falling was so innocuous, it couldn’t have been broken. Two months got on the bike, and just watched in slow motion as the bike went forward, just to turn left and I came off. That was the end of me and bikes. Two years later and the wrist is still improving, but what kind of state would my fragile body be in if I had a bike crash.

So I am in a tin box, and if I tell you I call it a bakkie then some of you will know of the other travelling I did. I was in Botswana and we got in cars and went round game parks. That was great travelling. You get in the car, drive to the game park, put up tents, cook and sit. I loved that for 6 years. Even laughing at overlanders. These poor intrepids! What did they have to do? Lorries, two benches down the side, tarpaulin over a wire frame blocking the view, driving from one game park to another, putting up tents, cooking, taking down tents and driving. For two weeks – same every day. Overlanders.

I loved those game parks, my favourite was Matobo. I got there many times as I lived in Francistown, and I also went there with my other great African passion – the women. If it had worked out with the one I could still be there enjoying the other. No matter, Thailand is great. But I don’t feel like travelling. I have lived here 10 years and never travelled.

And this morning I decided that has to end because it is a malaise. I am too comfortable. Travelling in Thailand is not game parks. You don’t arrive somewhere and put up a tent, it’s much more nesh. You roll up and find a place to stay – there’s some camping but it’s not the same – sadly. I might camp. No you roll up, find a place to stay and look for a restaurant. But Thailand has beauty, where I live is beautiful. There’s not four days of straight road prairies – I’ve never done that, although the 400km Gabs trip had some of that. Some people saw Botswana like that, the ones who only lasted one contract. 100km of bush is bush, 200km of bush is bush, 400km of bush is bush. It’s bush, that’s OK. I liked it, can’t say it was interesting but it wasn’t myriads of flashing changes that stimulated western miseducated minds.

So I have to travel and that means the outskirts of Bangkok. Hey, if I’ve driven in Lagos ….

Travel broadens the mind, sure. For me my concern is the malaise. When I worked travel drove out the cobwebs of frustration, cleared my mind, recharged the batteries so I could go back and fight. What about the malaise?

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