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contents Wai Z contents

7) Breakdown - Up the mountains

They were in Dhamma room 2 of Uu's ashram. As the decline had developed, Charter for Active Peace had become a target for certain of the gangs. "Which peace of action do you want?" - their supposed humour as the boot went in. Increasingly Uu and his followers needed more security tom maintain their centre in the metropole until eventually that security became the target and therefore creator of violence. Uu had decided they must move to a more peaceful place. Mpho had suggested her village but in these difficult times an increase of strangers of different races would threaten the bit of peace she had managed to create. Eventually Uu found a home in the foothills of the Himalayas.

As the decline grew so did his ashram, not always attracting the best sort - some were just fleeing and his haven meant little more than a place of safety. But of course as more of the wrong sort were attracted so violence soon followed. Those fleeing from the gangs soon brought the gangs with them, and many such soon encouraged increased security and Uu could foresee the haven becoming a fortress, an enticement to violence.

It was a kind of meeting - maybe an impromptu gathering would describe it better. Whilst the ashram still paid lipservice to Uu as the founder his wishes were now not part of its action - its raison d'etre. Security meetings proliferated and funds were democratically allocated through such meetings, and Uu had sadly given up the ghost. He had started talking with Namzo who told him that Mpho and Yunio would arrive at the ashram soon.

"It is time for the good people to decide," Uu told Namzo "there is little hope for this place."

Namzo looked at him puzzled "Good ."

"I asked you to note like-minded people," interrupted Uu.

"And I have," answered Namzo "I mentioned Mpho and Yunio. Naro is good-hearted, and Sarpo has fluid mental strength unmatched elsewhere." At Sarpo's name Uu cast a glance, almost daggers, he was tired, trust Namzo's judgement.

Uu held up his hand "No list is needed, you can contact them?" he asked.

"Mostly they are here," continued Namzo "Mpho and Yunio are amongst the last to arrive - they have to travel far."

There was a pause, "to decide what?" Namzo broke the silence.

"I don't really know," gasped Uu in frustration.

Just then they saw the TV, and first bomb had been dropped in the US.

Uu's head bowed in tears as the frustration of a life of fighting became wiped away with this culminatory act of greed "It won't be long now for this to spread," he muttered between sobs "they will now want us to live in a bubble and defend it," he sighed as he pointed to the main hall gathering.

They both knew that would be no solution, the safety would only increase their target appeal. Even if they didn't break it down the mental processes of insular apartheid would lose the peace of mind needed for development. Another bomb went off as satellite cameras showed mushroom clouds erupting across the US.

Naro came in to tell Uu but his tears told her he knew. She half muttered "They say London is next. Will it come here?" she asked, hoping for a negative.

The best she got was no answer, and silence again.

"Decide on what?" asked Namzo again.

"How can you stay here?" asked Uu, and smiling at his own dogma "there is no future here only clinging to the past."

"But if not here where?" asked Namzo resignedly. He looked at Uu who was nodding with despair, and then he stared past Uu at the portrait on the wall. They were in the deer room, the deer a symbol of peaceful flight. And the deer that came to you to say you were the guide, a voice deep inside emerged.

Namzo shook his head with the clarity, Uu, surprised, asked "What are you staring at?"

"Nothing," answered Namzo slowly as the silence gained its ground."And the just as suddenly he broke out of his stare and said "it is not nothing. The deer is a symbol, it came to me in he mountains on my way down telling me I am a guide."

At last a smile of hope appeared on Uu's face "Wait for Mpho and Yunio, and then go back up and find your deer." They both continued to a smile - simple really, find the deer.

The next day Mpho and Yunio arrived and rested a couple of days, but the mushroom cloud had gathered and was slowly crossing the ocean. Namzo was forced to wake them "You must travel again," he then explained briefly as to what was happening in the ashram and what uu had suggested. Although still tired they knew enough not to argue, and were soon ready.

They came into the courtyard of the ashram to see Namzo talking with Uu, and a crowd had gathered round as they saw the backpacks.

Namzo supported Uu by the arm ready to lead him off, and many in the crowd started to follow. Despite what had happened recently at the ashram, Uu was still their leader. Uu had debated leaving but with the crowd reaction he knew his place was at the ashram.

Tears broke into Namzo's eyes as he feared what Uu would say.

"I am too old, I cannot go where you go," he announced to Namzo "I will slow you down." Uu turned to the crowd "Namzo has decided that it is not safe here, and will lead you to safety up the mountains."

Keido said "Where will they go?"

"That is for Namzo to decide," answered Uu, "he is from the mountains he will guide them."

"But why will the mountains be safer?" asked Keido "the mushroom cloud will still reach up into the mountain. We are much safer if we protect the ashram, create our own atmosphere and wait for the cloud to dissipate." Uu looked round, and he could see that Keido's words fell on fertile ears "I still believe Namzo's path is best but you must decide for yourselves." "If Namzo knows the way, you will go with him?" asked Keido.

"No I am old I will slow them down," said Uu slowly. Then he heard shouts of "we will carry you" amongst his supporters.

"No that is not the way," he said. "I support Namzo in his task, and I hope many of you will go with him but I will stay here."

He could see many were with Keido, and he could see many of his followers were going to stay because he was. "I am the past, Namzo is the future," he thought "those that stay are of the past."

He made one exception as he saw Naro clinging to his side. He saw Sarpo nearby and saw in him the strength he had been unwilling to accept at their first meeting. He knew Sarpo would join Namzo. Stroking Naro's long beautiful black hair, he smiled and said "you must go with Sarpo. Namzo needs Sarpo's help, he is strong," and with his other hand he gently wiped away Naro's tears and protestations. Soon a small band, including Naro, left the ashram behind as they began their long pilgrimage into the mountains.

For a long while they walked in silence. Every so often one or the other would look back trying to catch a glimpse of the ashram, but in truth fearing letting go of the past. Most were people who were estranged by Keido's security, and Namzo thought not all were sorted. He could foresee problems.

Once they moved higher the mood seemed to lighten as if with a gradual lessening of atmosphere, perhaps the mountain was giving them strength in their quest. Or maybe Nature was giving them energy to attract them to Her work. Namzo had not spoken to Yunio and Mpho, so he moved closer to hear their story.

Once they had returned to Mpho's village they knew their days were numbered, bith had recognised that their future had become linked to the ashram - to Namzo. For Mpho this was much harder, Yunio was attached to her and so it was his village. But the village was not a part of him in the same way. More than family it was as if she had roots in the earth. They had only travelled a couple of months but matters had worsened greatly. Another of the village seed had travelled and returned, but his return had not been fortuitous for the village.

He sought progress. Still young he did not see the wisdom of the elders, he did not understand why they supported Mpho so strongly. Unable to influence them directly he sought help from the village youth. Why do you work so long in the fields? Why do the women spend long hours on traditional cooking when they can buy cheap processed goods? Many such questions that Mpho had not needed to address because her changes had fitted seamlessly into the traditional life the elders wanted to keep.

On their return Modise had split the village. The young sought the changes because they didn't understand how they would fully impact. This will still be our village just making life easier. The Elders knew the harm that would come. One change would lead to another but worse they knew that once the young moved away from the tradition there was little hope. Young people guided by themselves or by greed or whatever lose their way quickly, tradition kept them in tow. And happily. Occasionally people left the village like Mpho and Modise, but whilst some complained they just got on with it, and were far more concerned about their mate than rocking the boat, changing tradition. Elders feared the worst but were unable to persuade, it was Mpho's money. They saw it as a sign of the times that Modise had so quickly insinuated himself into their psyche.

? "Namzo, when we returned, everyone was so angry. No sooner had we returned that one person after another came to our house to put their case, the division was awful," Mpho told him.

They paused for breath as they reached the crest, and a valley opened before them. In fact the valley would take them down again, and Namzo didn't feel right about that. He asked everyone to wait as he looked around. He moved downwards a little to get a feel of where they were, and he knew that following the downward trend of the valley was the wrong way.

He began to look round. To the left was an undulating ridge, on the right a similar ridge, and both almost met in the distance sucking them into following the path down the valley. It all seemed to point that way. Yet in the distance on the left there seemed to be a niche, a little v in the ridge; it was there they needed to go.

He returned to the group and showed them where they would go, and so everyone moved off behind him, happily this time.

Once walking again, Namzo told Mpho "Changes naturally show themselves in division, harmonising the divisions is the way of stability."

"Of course but we saw there was something sinister about this situation," Yunio said pointedly. "We had met challenges from the modern world before, and we had coped with it. Most people who return to the village reject modernity it's just they want to bring bits of it. After a while they slow down, began to enjoy what they returned for, and accept the village life for what it is. It is than and only then that we would work with them to get the Elders to accept some of their thoughts. In this way the village maintained its harmony, and yet moved forward slightly but with a togetherness."

"But we had not seen what this Modise was about," said Mpho in an embittered voice.

"And we didn't see until it was too late," said Yunio wistfully.

"He was with one of the Gangs," Namzo said before Mpho could.

"Yes," she answered "he had been escaping one of the Gangs after ruining a drugs deal and as a way for getting back in with the Gang he had persuaded them there was this hideaway. And one day soon after we returned a new boat arrived at our beautiful village to destroy it." "At first these people seemed content with staying in the resort," continued Yunio. "We kind of knew what they were, but there was no great harm. Too much drinking, some drugs that we tried to discourage, but the villagers put up with it - especially some of the lazy girls who had been listening to Modise."

"Then there was an Incident. One of the girls got raped by 3 of the gang, and the father sought vengeance and was knifed. This showed many of the villagers what was in their midst, and they decided to kick out the gang," continued Mpho with tears in her eyes as her mind recalled the body of this innocent man hacked to death around the back of the resort.

"We tried the peaceful way. Mpho held off the village, and I went to the gang to ask them to leave - we were closing for annual maintenance. They laughed at me . We will do the repairs now."

"That was it, years of Mpho's hard work destroyed in months. The gang became entrenched, and even as the villagers attacked the callous use of superior firepower meant there was great carnage," Yunio recounted.

"Then one morning Yunio saw another boat on the horizon, and we knew it was time to leave," Mpho told them sadly. "We went to the Elders and aid what our plans were, but they didn't want to leave. They encouraged others to join us but most were intent on fighting to save their way of life."

"But their way of life had been destroyed the day Modise had walked back into the village," Yunio analysed "Several people came with us, but most stayed in the ashram as they had travelled far and couldn't understand our objections. Tshepiso and Nandito are with us now," Yunio introduced them to Namzo.

"How sad for you especially, Mpho," Namzo consoled "I know what your people meant to you. But," he continued sadly "I have heard many similar stories with recent admissions to the ashram. It seems that many people had found little havens like yours to survive the recent ravages misguided humanity has dragged us into. And then slowly they had been brought back into the fold of corruption. "Whether it was gang members succouring favour or businessmen realising they had failed to control what they had created and seeking an island of hope, chaos always followed these escapees. They were never happy in their new homes, they always sought to change. And the change they brought with them was devastation. A sad state humanity has gotten itself into," he remarked wistfully. They fell silent, and he moved off ahead as he saw the path's necessity to climb.

On his own Namzo began to enjoy the walking. Although this was far from his land, the country was beginning to take the shape he had loved when young. He began to focus on walking, watching where he placed his feet and feeling his body as he moved along, his hands curled gently. He had forgotten this feeling of being one with walking, and it filled him with a sense of unity with all around him. He heard a crow squawk, and looked up and smiled; it was like he was being welcomed back - and a brief gush of wind made him smile.

After the path moved upward it began to move along the ridge just below the crest. He paused wanting to see around the valley. The beauty, just looking and taking in, he wondered how he had let himself be taken so far away from this. Slowly the rest of the group joined him, and he could see that some of the faces were drawn - he had been walking fast. These were not mountain people, he smiled to himself. He apologised "I am going home," he gestured expansively to the vista, and some understood "from now on I will rest more often." He was greeted with some exhausted nods and smiles.

As they started again he told them that we were going to cross over the ridge at the end of the valley, and then look for a suitable place to camp. One of the older members came up to him. Blenbu said " I used to love hill-walking, the peace and seclusion, getting away from the rat race, getting into oneself," Namzo nodded agreement "but as I got older the bags became too much and I used to just walk near where I stayed."

"Yes I think some would not have come if the modern equipment was not so light," Namzo added.

"And the provisions," there was the silence of agreement that happened often when walking.

"I was a teacher, you know," said Blenbu "when younger we would go with the children into the hills it was so good to see their ill-discipline harnessed by nature. But in the end that stopped as trust was broken between teachers and parents. The parents began to lose control of their kids - even good parents. They would always compare. Timmy might be rude, but at least he isn't one of the gangs. But even good Timmy needs discipline, and when out on trips they have to do exactly what I say or it is dangerous. One time we were walking near cliffs. I told them stay on the path, no talking and concentrate on walking whilst we do this difficult bit. Most of the kids did as they were told but one fool decided to look over the edge. He slipped his footing, and fell down to a ledge 10 metres below. Whilst my prefect controlled the rest, climbed down, tied the fool to me, and climbed back up again. I was furious and screamed at the idiot, and made him walk by me for the rest of the trip so I could make sure he didn't risk himself again.

"But that wasn't the end of it," said Blenbu wistfully.

"After the weekend I was called into the head's office, and there were the boys' parents. The head told me that I had traumatised the kid, first by letting him fall over the edge, then when he did all I did was shout at him, and then finally I victimised him by stopping him from enjoying the trip. I tried to explain but this was a biased tribunal, the head was only interested in succouring favour with the parents, and they were exorcising their guilt about his poor behaviour by being caring and coming to school. No sense of right or wrong, no desire to make the boy learn for his ill-discipline. The head gave me a discipline warning, and I never took kids out again."

"Yes it's a sad indictment of what was happening before the gangs took over," agreed Namzo "people who knew what was naturally right often came into conflict as the world stepped further and further away from it natural roots."

Again there was a pause, and Namzo added "Uu always used to say. Take every decision seriously as if it was your last." Blenbu smiled as he remembered old folklore that said "make your decisions as if death is waiting just behind your left shoulder."

They reached the ridge and as they crossed over Namzo looked for somewhere to rest. "I must scout ahead awhile, please wait for me."

"Can I help?" asked Blenbu.

"No, sorry," answered Namzo shortly, and then smiled at Blenbu "Not this time", realising his error at the same time as the asset.

Namzo left the group sheltered at the side of the ridge beneath rocks. At this height it wasn't that cold but he had made sure they all had lite-fleece gear - they had needed them in the winters at the ashram. But now in late Summer at this altitude no such was necessary, in fact he had to warn some of the dangers of the sun when they had started to remove the shirts. He noted already the ones who were not listening.

He had left the group because he had wanted to get a feel for what was next. Walking along the ridge he had begun to feel at home, but what had grown in his mind was the knowledge that he didn't know where he was going. The rational part of his mind was throwing doubt at him. "Follow a deer," it mocked "who are you kidding?" Whilst he recognised his own demon, nonetheless the doubt had soil to seed, and he did question whether Uu was right in his trust. At the same time he thought of the responsibility, it is OK to be a guide as a dream symbol, but in reality what did it mean? At the least he saw himself as the future of the ashram and Uu's legacy - big burdens.

A short glance away he saw a sapling near a rock, it was as if the place was calling him, and he moved over to see flattened ground - nature's seat. He rested and immediately fell deeply into a dream - a nightmare. His dream flashed from a huge cloud that had formed over LA and was drifting across the US bringing death and destruction with it. And then he saw the group - smaller in number walking in high altitude in his own land, but in a part that was new to him - and then he was looking up from a valley surrounded on all sides by huge mountains with snow barely visible at the top. And he was woken by a squawk as the crow told him to get back to the others.

He returned, and pointed in the distance "we will find the night's camping there."

"Why don't we stay here?" asked Sma who was tired.

"Here is OK now," he said "but later it will become to exposed and we are better off where I said as there is natural shelter."

At this, he started walking to finish what could have been endless discussion, he could see the signs - some just enjoyed discussion for its own sake. He knew in the end he would have to confront their intellects in the hope that underneath nature had strength to control - in a number of cases he thought not. There had been plenty at the ashram who were just seeking shelter and had not been attracted by what Uu offered. Whilst most stayed attracted by Keido's apparent common sense that gave the intellect security, some had still chosen to leave with Namzo. And he felt they were not in tune with him, with their quest.

"It is only half an hour," he called back. And very quickly he made time reaching their night's place. The ridge undulated not only at the top but at the side. The path zigzagged following the shape of the mountain, and after a while he reached a place where the path straightened and the mountain still zigzagged. The path formed a D with the side of the mountain and between was a small area of sheltered land ideal for a night's camp. As the people arrived he directed them to suitable areas for the tents, and noted those that dithered in their choice - whilst others made a bee-line and settled. Knowing minds it is easy to see human behaviour, he thought.

He had established his own tent at one end of the D, and when Blenbu arrived allocated him the other end - his realisation was good Blenbu was an asset.

After they were settled in he noticed that people were naturally forming groups. Knowing there were seeds of division in this he thought long and hard about trying to do something about it, but in the end felt that over-organisation might lead to unnecessary tension and a bad reaction. He did however call people together after they had eaten.

"Tomorrow we will continue along this ridge, and towards the end of the day I expect we will start to climb and it might begin to get cold," he told them.

"Where are we going?" asked Sma, just recovering from the day's trials.

"We are going to find a place up high where we will be safe," answered Namzo, his vision flashing through his mind.

Sma nodded but he could see dissatisfaction In fact he was surprised she didn't pursue the matter, and of course how could he answer? He didn't know himself. Tell them all about the deer, the vision, how would that go down especially after a day on their feet. He went over to Blenbu, "Please watch over the camp, we are just going around that corner"; he pointed to the next alcove. Blenbu nodded.

He went to Mpho and Yunio, "we must talk"; they nodded. And then to Sarpo, who glanced at Naro "she is tired".

"Let her rest," said Namzo "Everyone will sleep soon."

They walked out of the camp, and at Namzo's direction they gathered kindling and some wood for a small fire. Once lit, Namzo began to discuss his concerns.

"I cannot answer their questions," said Namzo bluntly.

"About what?" asked Mpho.

"Where we are going," smiled Sarpo, getting a quick glance from Namzo.

"Yes, that's it exactly," mumbled Namzo.

"So what are we doing?" asked Yunio.

"We are heading up to the mountains - my home," Namzo told them.

"There has to be more than that," Mpho said assuredly "otherwise Uu would never have sanctioned this."

"A little," Namzo answered meekly "We were discussing this, and I saw a picture of a deer on the wall, and I told him that is my guide."

"Well, that's strong enough for me," answered Sarpo laughing - as did they all. Then there was silence, and then Sarpo broke in "It is, you know, it is strong enough for me". The others nodded and smiled, and Namzo felt assured.

"There was one more thing. Today I had a vision. We were climbing up higher. There was much snow - even a blizzard maybe. And .." he paused his description "the group was much smaller."

They sat in a triangle around the fire, Namzo, Sarpo and Yunio curled round Mpho as if on a toboggan. There was a gentle peace, a unity that needed no words. The power struck Namzo's heart first, not surprising as it was near his homeland, and he could barely contain his elation. Then it moved through to Sarpo but he was unmoved, after his experience with the sylphs (check), and finally though Mpho and Yunio whose hearts were physically close - as well. And back to Namzo. After his initial elation he thought to himself, calm, remain calm, let it happen, let it come in. And then he sensed the others, and it was as if he was guiding them, and his becalming thought moved through them with the power. As they calmed the power seemed to gain in strength, and they all experienced an elation far beyond anything they had known before - and then just as suddenly the power subsided.

And around there was stillness that was full. He could almost feel it, thought Namzo, and he heard "I know what you mean". It was Sarpo. Namzo looked at him with surprise, and he smiled. I said nothing, the thought came to Namzo. He was still a bit dazed and Sarpo checked Mpho and Yunio. Their togetherness was almost telepathic but direct contact and with Sarpo they too were taken aback. Sarpo smiled, it was just meant to be.

We are together, thought Namzo to them all. They relaxed and felt the stillness consolidate their experience.

It seemed they had been there a long time so Sarpo got up, began to explain, and they laughed. He went back to the tent to check on Naro accidentally waking her. "I'm sorry I was away so long," he apologised. Half-dazed she looked at her watch, "half an hour" she mumbled and turned over to sleep again.

Only half an hour, he thought, and he too put his head down to rest. And the morning soon came.

Most woke with the day - refreshed, as is the wont of sleeping out. Naro and Sarpo washed, made ready for the day, and then began their meditation together. Sarpo felt good, and soon he felt Namzo, Mpho and Yunio with him. They let the mountains come into them, and after a time Namzo got up knowing where to lead. Any doubts within the other three were now completely dispelled, what was happening to them was beyond any training their egos had received, but they were sufficiently aware to let nature take them. With the state of the world they knew this group was important, and there was something to happen for the four of them.

Back at the ashram matters had worsened quickly, in fact the same day the group had left. Uu knew he didn't have a strong grip but hadn't realised how much he had grown to rely on Namzo and others who had left. Within two days Keido had altered the balance, and Uu's voice had become relegated to that of the old and time past. The first thing that Keido did was to form a security council which naturally excluded Uu because of his views. This council immediately setup plans to create a bubble - well Keido and friends already had the plans made. They called it the Homeland Security Bubble. Their design was sound theoretically - self-sustainable agriculture, a generator to maintain the atmosphere, spare parts and machine tools to create new parts from an integrated foundry. But it required the efforts of sound-minded people, and whilst Keido was genuine in his way unknown factors would come into play.

After the Security Council had been huddled together for two days Keido called the ashram together, and put forward the plan for the Bubble. Immediately Uu squirmed, he felt the beginning of his end, and he looked around and saw a few who were similarly uncomfortable. He called them together "you should leave and follow Namzo. Namzo was heading to his land, Suivo you know his land, try to follow them." Having seen previous preparations this troop of 5 were soon ready, and they left quickly and quietly in case the Security Council reacted - maybe Keido would not approve of their going.

Suivo tried to make quick time but he knew to catch up two days would be hard. But at least the five were prepared for the march, and perhaps that would give them the gain they needed.

For Namzo the next day passed gently. Once away from the ashram there was less need for speed, instinctively he had been worried that some would want to return. With a gentle day passing there were few complaints and even Sma became happy in the mountains. But as the day drew to a close, the mood changed as they went higher. What had been a leisurely stroll became a gasp with every step. Although he had hoped to go further, after an hour Namzo saw a suitable sheltered plateau-esque, and they rested for the night.

Blenbu met with Namzo after they had settled. "It will get more difficult won't it?" he asked.

"Much worse," answered Namzo laconically.

"As will the complaints," added Blenbu, and Namzo nodded resignedly. "I already think there are regrets, I heard people talking last night. They don't know what your plans are and they don't understand."

"Sma said 'I can understand getting away from the ashram as that will attract the gangs, but once away why don't we just settle? Find a village, form our own village and settle." Many nodded, but Nandito said we must go high to avoid fallout from the bombs. A few agreed but someone threw in a big spanner 'if there was fallout height won't matter', and there was silence, not of peace but discontent."

"It stopped them as they saw me listening," finalised Blenbu.

"Thank you," said Namzo gratefully "much as I thought, problems are only a matter of time." Blenbu agreed. He ate with Blenbu, and then stood to leave "Thank you, you are a real help," and was pleased at Blenbu's flattered smile. Blenbu watched as Namzo walked off, followed by Sarpo and then Mpho and Yunio. He saw them go in different directions but he knew it was to the same place. Their business, he thought, feeling a bit excluded.

Namzo had moved off a fair way this night before he found a suitable spot, and then lit the fire to guide the others. Once round the fire they calmed themselves, breathed in the mountains, and felt the completeness of their unity. Namzo focussed his mind on his conversation with Blenbu, and they knew his concerns. Mpho was pleased about Nandito, she knew her as a treasure. They rested together gathering in their strength and the strength of the mountains consolidating themselves for a good rest. The time passed and they returned to sleep.