Archive for April, 2003

Easter Island is over 2,000 miles from the nearest population center, Tahiti and Chile, making it one of the most isolated places on Earth. It is best known for the giant stone monoliths, known as Moai, that dot the coastline. Scientists are baffled by the question of how and why the inhabitants carved and transported the massive statues. And its a good question. But I have a better one.

The Easter Islanders settled an island that was originally forested, and those forests included the world’s largest palm tree. The Easter Islanders gradually chopped down the forest and used the wood for canoes, firewood, transporting statues, raising statues, carving and also to protect against soil erosion. Eventually they chopped down all the forests to the point where all the tree species were extinct, which meant that they ran out of canoes, they could no longer erect statues, there were no longer trees to protect the topsoil against erosion, and their society collapsed in an epidemic of cannibalism that left 90 percent of the islanders dead. Good fun.

My question is this: How the @#$&! could a society make such a horrendously bad decision as to cut down all the trees on which they depend? I mean, what did they say as they were cutting down the last palm tree? “Gee…..” Actually, I can’t even make anything up. No one could be that stupid.

Surely the Easter Islanders, capable of making those amazing statues, must have realized the consequences of destroying their own forest. It wasn’t a subtle error. Easter Island is very small. No one could have made the mistake of cutting down the last lonely tree in front of them while thinking there were others elsewhere. It would have been obvious.

People are smart, but they can be really dumb too. I wonder whether, centuries from now, people will be as astonished about our blindness to reality as we are about the Easter Islanders’.

I would point out what those blindnesses are, but, of course, I’m blind too.

Comments No Comments »

It has been quiet the last few days. Nothing good or bad going on. I’ve been hitting golf balls and playing basketball. I’ve lost 2 whole pounds since I’ve started going to the gym alot (2 months ago). To be honest, I haven’t been able to tell much of a difference at all…only that I tend to eat an extra meal a day. It makes me hungry.

Tax season is over. I learned more than I thought and enjoyed it more too. The people I worked with were pretty nice, but a little boring. The people whose taxes I did ran the gamut from a little ol’ lady with a 4 million dollar net worth to people who made enough to buy about a loaf of bread a week yet wanted to claim 4 dependents and child care expenses.

On a general note, taxes are way too complicated. There is a strong case to be made for simplifying the tax code instead of continuing to band-aid the old one year after year until it is such a patchwork of laws you need a graduate degree to understand it all.

I guess my employment situation leaves me with the a decision to make, which will happen soon cause I’m ready to do something. I’ll keep you posted.

Comments No Comments »

I am not one of those who equates their personal identity with the job they do. I have never felt worthless or less of a man because I don’t have a career. The lack of salary and a daily routine is also largely not a problem….after all, that has been my life for 7 years. I do not have the uniquely American productivity obsession, nor the misguided notion that work in itself has value.

In fact, unemployment affects me little in most respects. And that is the problem: Because I cannot adamantly and passionately identify my situation as bad, I cannot change my behavior.

People make decisions when their gut tells them that the status quo is unacceptable. I logically accept that my situation needs a change; however, my emotions have not followed suit. I need to feel it. “Feeling it” will not, of course, magically get me the job I want. But most of us realize that logic is a tool, not a motivator. You’ve got to want it, not know in your head that you should want it.

I have built a life (perhaps unrealistically) on chasing my heart’s desire. I only know how to do what I really want to do. Now I am in partial conflict with that and my past has me on a whipping post.

There is a skill people have that goes unnoticed because so many have it. It is called ‘doing things they don’t want now because they feel it will pay off in the long run’.

I have always said that the long run never comes. I do what I want now. In the long run we are all dead. And that is largely true, but it mustn’t always be true, otherwise what the hell are we all doing? There comes a time when there is something you want, but the time horizon is necessarily longer…years longer. Not everything can happen in six months.

Travel seriously shortens your time horizon. I was in another country yesterday. I’ve fallen in love twice in as many weeks. I sleep in a different bed every night. I rarely spend the same currency for more than a week. Time slows down. It all happens in a flash and there is no time frame. The present becomes everything and lasts forever. It is a useless and misplaced question to ask someone what they will be doing in six months when so much will happen in the next six weeks.

Its funny. The decisions you make trigger a series of events that shape your personality. Your past is you. It creates you and you are chained to what has happened. Sure…you make the initial decisions, but it is the event that shapes you. And how they play out is largely out of your control. The decisions are simply brief focal points. What endures is the experience…an experience you don’t control but defines how you view the world. To say your past has an enormous effect on you is a gross understatement. Indeed, your past in the only thing that does affect you.

On a whim I decided to study abroad in 1995. I could never have anticipated the chain of events it caused. I had no idea the effect it would have on me. Could I have known that because I drew such satisfaction and community from an environment where few worked and no one talked about jobs that it would cause me to so utterly devalue the work for food/career is life mentality? Could I have anticipated that the intensity of relationships and novelty of daily life one finds traveling would cause me to be bored with ordinary life? Could I have known that the speed at which everything happens while on the road would train me to think for the short term and disregard long time horizons as irrelevant? Could I have foreseen that raising my standards for what is possible in life and then having to live in a world that hasn’t would make me bitter?

When travelling there is a great opportunity for a real relationship. That is because there is no reason to talk to anyone other than for their own good company. No one likes you because of who you are, who you know, what you have, how you are educated or what you can do for them. Everyone is equal on the road. You have a backpack and a few changes of clothes…period. Your connections are all thousands of miles away. You are nobody and get by on your own merit or not at all. You talk to or travel with someone because you like them. There is nothing else they can possibly offer. Could I have known that because there are so many real relationships (however brief) while travelling that it would make me hyper-sensitive to any other kind and thus unable to relate to the majority of people on a deeper level?

These things are impossible to know, but have shaped my life. And so you see how you become your past.

There are some who would point out that I am romanticizing travel and that nothing is so perfect. That is somewhat true, but not the topic of this entry.

Comments No Comments »

I talked to this guy on the phone today about a book he is doing: Europe from a Backpack.

He was telling me all about the submission guidelines and asking about my travels……all I could think about was how he got the project together. I mean, it is a serious undertaking to coordinate all that goes into a submission based travel book. I asked him some questions but he didn’t really want to answer them.

Maybe its a secret? I wanted to know how he got his contacts and whether the book was already sold or not….did he have a lawyer draw up the contract, did he have any experience in the publishing industry…etc. He was nice and answered a bit, but seemed more excited about my submissions than my interest in his business.

Oh well. On the upside, I have done a lot of travel writing over my seven years abroad…..I don’t know which journal entries I’ll submit, but I’m sure I can find something worthy of publishing.

He said the book would be arranged by location in Europe. All I need to do is pick something about a place that few people have gone to and I’ll have less competition.

Comments Comments Off on I talked to this guy

The mythic Giant Squid has been found in the waters off Antarctica, proving the sailors of old were not only drunken pirates, but true scholars as well. I guess fish stories aren’t always as exaggerated as we might expect.

In related news, an unconfirmed source has reported spotting a mermaid bathing on the shores of Atlantis.

Comments No Comments »