Hitching, Zen and Death

 This is a e-msg to a friend in SF who lost a friend in a car crash, she referred to a msg i sent earlier (before the accident) in which i said i wanted people to go out and celebrate for me (rather than mourn me) if i died. She said if i told her to party now she would scream.

Dearest Barbara:

i vaguely remember your car, if you want me to make sense out of the rules regarding the states relationship with these omnicidal devices i think i failed in getting my msgs about politics and ecology across very well.

your friend died – maybe you should scream. And then look at why – is it because they were ripped off (did not get a chance to live out that potential they had…) or is it because you were ripped off (did not get a chance to touch again, create a shared magic again).

And then step back – how would they like to be remembered, would they wish you a great sadness on their behalf? Maybe, but i doubt it. I think this is partially our conditioning – knowing nothing about death, we assume it is worse than life and so we mourn for them and feel sorry for ourselves.

Why do terrible things happen to good people? Well the easy answer is that there is no cause and effect – that inconveniently, there is no justice in the cosmos and thus good christians die in the same hotel fire as skinhead fascists. But i don’t actually believe this – i don’t think there are coincidences any more, i have felt this for along time in romances – that people come to me for a reason, tho often i am unable to decode it. But i have started taking a more Zen attitude about life in general.

If you google hitching, zen and death you get this image

I was hitching yesterday from Zagreb trying to make it to at least Vienna, where i have a new lover (Iska) and several friends. Maybe i could catch a train and only be a few hours late to my all day mtg in Prague.

I got a ride and it left me on the edge of this beautiful village where i hitched for a long time, because there was only a little traffic. I looked at the hill and realized that maybe i was not supposed to leave until i appreciated the hill – and if no one picked me up, was this town supposed to be where i lived for the rest of my life? This seemed a bit crazy, but then the whole act of putting yourself on the hitching road is a leap of faith “i know almost nothing of these people, yet i will depend on them to take me where i want to go”. But then the Zen stuff curls around another corner – what if your purpose for being on the road is to affect the drivers – possibly even affect drivers who are not picking you up?

Two young women pass – i smile, they smile back weakly and drive on. I don’t think about it. 5 minutes later they come back, having turned around to pick me up. I hop in, we talk, i start hustling ideas – stories actually, talk about Tibet and slip in some radical tendencies, talk about hitching and Zen, see if they nibble. They are very interested – i go to their parent’s house, we have a snack, they take me to a bar we have a drink (juice) – i tell them stories they smile, laugh and giggle – ask some good questions, they leave me “in a good place for rides”.

They know nothing of hitching (like most drivers). It is an awful place, after an hour i start the long walk away, because no one picks me up – Vienna is looking far away, i am still in Slovenija (former Yugoslavia). Apparently the purpose of that ride has been for me to take them somewhere, perhaps at the expensive of me getting somewhere i thought it was important for me to go.

I end up having to walk onto the highway. It is a long straight stretch and the cars can see me for over a km – but they are driving fast – another half hour goes by, the sun will set in a few hours and i am still hundreds of km from Vienna (forget Praha). An old Slovenijan man and his wife pick me up, we talk of the craziness of the war – they in broken english, they take me to the end of the toll road, point out a van with Austrian plates – i jump out run across the street and stick out my thumb, the van driver smiles and picks me up they have only vaguely heard of the nuclear power plant we stopped which was threatening their country (our region) – after some talking i decide to get out at the border, which turns out normally to be one of the better places to hitch from.

It is 7:30 PM the sun will set in an hour – it starts to rain, hitching in the dark is nearly impossible for a guy. Who ever takes me next is likely my last ride of the evening. A car stops – “i’m going to Graz” it is about 100 km, i let it go. The sun sinks more, i sing in the rain and the cars lined up in the other direction, awaiting the border control, look at me like i am out of my mind – i sing louder and jump around to confirm their suspicions. Another car stops, going to Liebzig – worse than Graz, i send them away. I start reading the license plates so i won’t thumb for people who are only going near by (in Europe you can tell someone’s region by the letters on their plates). Yet this in itself is risky, the perfect ride could be simply have the wrong plates and just be going somewhere other than they live. I decide that i will take care of the drivers anyway, so they don’t stop without need. The sun continues down, shining from beneath the rain cloud which is still sprinkling me.

More cars stop (wrong plates or unidentifiable plates) i send them away – maybe half a dozen in total. It is after 8:00, i’m gambling. Car pulls over “Wo fahren Sie?” i ask. “Wien dann Pragg” comes the response “And do you speak English?” “Better than some, worse than others” he smiles. I hop in and spend a delightful 6 hours talking to an Croatian existential writer on spirituality, windmills, the inability to translate poetry, the war, the west – everything. A character, i sleep and after a few hours of night driving he leaves me in the center of Praha 3 hours before my mtg. No coincidences.

end of the line - Charles Bridge Prague

i don’t know why your friend died, maybe it was to teach you to let go. Maybe it was to remind you to live your life now more fully – maybe it had little or nothing to do with you at all. But i suggest you ponder the meaning, for it is more useful than this luxury of sorrow. Lots of people die, this does not take away anything for the significance to you of loosing this one good person, but you will live to see many pass.

If it feels like madness or injustice – then reflect on your relationship with sanity and fairness, what should you do to make the world more these ways? This is probably little better than telling you to go party (tho if i die i would be hurt if you did not – who wants to be remembered with tears?).

Well that is enuf late nite existential ranting

Paxus in Praha

one minute to midnight 8/6/1995

[So if you have not figured it out yet, when i dont have time to write new posts, i put up old ones which i like.  This is a bit preachy and i realize that i misunderstood zen at the time, and it is certainly not the most consoling piece i have ever written, and i still like it.  And i still dont think there are coincidences, just events for which the explanation is beyond our grasp.  ]

Praha is what the Czech call Prague. Pragg is what the Germans call it.