Connected

It’s easy to fall in love with a place when you’re in the right state of mind. Now I can travel, and I have, but I’ve also begun to see this place differently. I notice the people more, I step out of my world more, and I know it’s not Taiwan that has changed.

In Mexico, it was easy to make friends. There was a prebuilt group of people in various martial arts studios around the city. I found the diplomat early on by simply looking on facebook for people who share my interests. But sitting in a room talking, imagining wars, adventure, and glory, are easy when you spend so much time bound to a desk. College wasn’t bad, but there is a mindset I had to be in to pass. That required a limit to my adventures.

Now, that is gone. I can do what I want, and there is so much to do. Many of the places I’m going are off the beaten path, the road less traveled that I have been looking for. The problem with the road less traveled is that you never realize how dangerous it is until you are on it. It’s not the threat of death, but the rocks beneath your feet that are the biggest surprise.

On paved roads and beaten trails all the work has been done. The rocks are smooth and support each other. The grass is gone, the animals afraid, and people are the lords of creation. It doesn’t take much time to see how many people we rely on to live that lie.

We went to HuanXi river after the typhoon, a hike that seems to be as easy or hard as you want it to be. You can walk along the river across the rocks, or through the current, fighting for every breath and step. Sometimes I chose one, and sometimes the other. Cuts and scrapes abounded, regardless of where I walked. The river is different from the ocean, but I am getting used to it.

When you fall in the ocean, there is no need to catch yourself. In the river it is paramount. There were a number of times when I stepped on what seemed a stable rock only to have it shift under me. Sometimes I was able to balance, or turn and sit. Other times I had no time to do anything but look back at how good my reflexes have become. Kung fu is life.

Once I jumped into a current, trying to move through a difficult section and found it to be beyond me. The problem with being big in the river is that you can’t escape the current as easily. I couldn’t get out easily, and there was too much water to breath easily, so I let go. I’ve done it a thousand times in the ocean, but in the river it was luck as much as skill that kept me safe. I turtled up to keep my limbs safe, just like defending against my surfboard in the ocean, and waited for a better option.

I look back and know that may not have been the best choice, but it was what it was. I bounced twice, both times failing to catch myself before I found my hold on the third rock. After that, it was simple to gain my footing and walk out.

I don’t panic easily, especially not for something so familiar as water. It’s a useful trait, but I don’t really know where it came from. Years of suppressing my emotions? Living with fear for so long? All the Buddhist training to become familiar with fear? To claim to know would be a lie. I don’t panic, not out of the illusion of control, but because I surrender to fate so easily.

Most of us wear our sins for the world to see, but few people look beyond themselves unless it has some affect on their lives. I think it’s because of that blindness that sin is hidden, not because we can hide the changes it makes to us. Mine seems to be obvious, to be fat is the sin of gluttony. Everyone knows your sin, but we still try to hide the candy we are eating. We still want to believe that we are fated to be what we are.

I find that most people will tell you who they are regardless of the words they are saying. I met a lot of people over the weekend, a number of them carrying their sins like a badge. For me, the most obvious is usually pride, but I think that’s because I can see it in myself. Behavior changes in a group, especially when there are people to impress. I tried to get rid of my pride, But I think I have just gotten better at relaxing through it.

It’s weird what the body does out of pride. It almost hurts to fight against the desire to show my abilities, to make people laugh, or to do something to stand out. It’s so odd to me because I have just as much desire to be invisible, a hold over from the life I once held dear. I’m starting to think that to be alone is a wonderful thing, but to be alive requires us to be connected.

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