22 October 2023 Amazon River Day 2
In search of clarity of mind
Dawn light against the distant jungle riverbank
Tarpaulin flapping in the breeze and the comforting hum of the boat’s engine
Something cooking below deck reminding me that I am hungry
The gentle soporific sway of my hammock
The never before had, and never again to be had, thought that today I have been sober for 27-years.VJC
New sights, new sounds, new smells, new tactile sensations, and new conscious thoughts… but where and when will there be the new tastes that might be breakfast?…another hour or two, it would seem.
In the very first verse of the short sayings of the Buddha (Dhammapada) he effectively says “With our thoughts we create the world.”
This is the world as I personally experience it. Elsewhere, he explains that it is with sensorary contact (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile stimulation, and thoughts) that we construct the world and the self that inhabits that world.
Modern nueruscience posits the same idea. It would seem that my whole world is an hallucination predicted by my brain. My brain’s primary imperitive is to keep me alive at any cost in the service of producing offspring. There is a great quote from Rick Hanson the Nueroscientist that says “…Mother Nature doesn’t care if we suffer; she only cares about grandchildren!”
My life has a natural purpose, or natural imperitive, whether I am conscious of it, or accepting of it or not. The purpose is to protect, promote and satisfy a ‘self’ that can seemingly never be satisfied… in order to continue the development of the species. The Buddha says this is because we are Tanhadasa, the slaves of craving, but I think we are the slaves of our preprogrammed unconscious inclinations.
We are conditioned, and the Buddha says that liberation, Nirvana, is the unconditioned. I prefer to think of this freedom as a de-conditioned appropriate response to this existence as a human animal. To see the basic-pattern-of-things, to see things as they really are… and respond appropriately.
My pondering is interrupted! To my delight, I spot a large silver fish leaping out of the water swiftly followed by the black and grey of a river dolphin.I have no belief or interest in past or future lives. I do not understand rebirth or reincarnation, they serve no natural or logical purpose. People seem to ignore that the goal of the Buddha’s teachings is not to come into existence again. That is the ultimate end of suffering. There is no pain in non-existence.
The Buddha did not have grandchildren. If it is natural to have children, and grandchildren in large families, then his core teachings are not just ‘going against the stream’ they could be said to be unnatural (with parallels to Antinatilism), but more on this perspective another day.
Anyway, if rebirth were an option, I would definitely tick the dolphin box. I have no doubt that dolphins still strive to survive, to protect, promote and satisfy themselves. But it seems a lot less effort than the human version… and a lot more fun.
The boat stops at many villages. Some original passengers are taking hammocks down and new passengers are putting hammocks up.
Occasionally, a small speed boat is lowered into the river to make deliveries and pick up people without the main boat having to stop. The speed boat catches us up further down the river.
Breakfast finally arrives. A cup of warm liquid akin to thin porridge or gruel or congee, and a buttered bread roll. I wonder if there’s a floating McDonald’s with WiFi down stream!
Of course, not all new sights, new sounds, new smells, new tastes, new tactile sensations and new mental experiences are pleasant, indeed, some can be very unpleasant. Wisdom is born from recognising my life isn’t personal, no one is doing it to me. This is the basic-pattern-of-things, so do I want to intentionally and consciously construct and dwell in a pleasant or an unpleasant world. As I lay back in my hammock with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no one to be, I am in heaven.
Twenty-seven years ago, when certain causes and conditions finally coelesed into a very difficult and disappointing instant, I was left with a choice. I could carry on drinking myself into an increasingly miserable existence and an almost certain early grave, or I could take a chance on ‘sobriety’. Could I risk life without a safety net? I thought of it as a scary leap into the unknown darkness.
As the boat makes one of it’s many stops, nudging against the muddy riverside, a gangplank is dropped to eliminate the gap… and Bruce Springsteen can be heard from the bridge singing “…can’t start a fire without a spark”. This song always meant so much to me as a long-term nightshift worker, in fact, since the dawn of the smartphone it has been my ringtone.
There is a very nice young French woman, Marina, on board. She tells me we may be in Santa Rosa tomorrow, Monday, morning. I remain to be convinced because of the number and duration of stops the boat is making! But we will see.
Around 1:30 pm, lunch arrives. Chicken with pasta, rice and lentils… I add some Tabasco sauce and all is OK. Grateful for whatever is offered.
As the afternoon progresses, it’s starting to get hot and humid. Time for a siesta.
There are a couple of relatively short stops at small villages, and then one very long stop where there was a lot of twoing and throwing, people and goods off, people and goods on… and pigs… and cows. The river is very low, so loading and unloading is a very muddy and difficult affair. This last stop before sundown lasted maybe two hours. As the boat isn’t moving, the air is very hot, very still and very humid.
It is really disappointing to see passengers throwing plastic plates and trays into the Amazon. There are large garbage bins on both passenger decks just a couple of steps away. If you are an aspiring Bodhisattva, I wish you luck.
I wanted to check in with a few people today but there is still no internet since shortly after leaving Iquitos last night. It’s not a problem really, it’s like being on a floating retreat.
We eventually get moving again, which is a relief. And soon after dark, supper arrived. Chicken, rice and lentils… and a piece of banana. With a few spashes of Tabasco, it served it purpose.
That difficult and disappointing instant from 27-years ago was the spark that lite my fire of sobriety, and in many ways I am still Dancing in the Dark, especially on this day.
It’s just turning 7 pm now, so time for bed
- No expenses today € 0