I have chased down many a show over the years in pursuit of something approximating bliss or satisfaction. There have been moments, rare moments, where this feeling almost resides. I have been enraptured by the likes of The Grateful Dead, Stereolab and Sufjan Stevens. (Video here.) I have also been fortunate enough to happen across these moments, such as the choral chanting in Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda, Myanmar. (Video here.)However in my long and winding pursuit, I have been as equally disappointed by all of those those mentioned above, finding boredom and ennui instead. It’s not astonishing to realize that it is the sound and not the event, the journey as they say, even if it’s a recording on a drive going nowhere. (Video here.)
The sound came up with the morning’s milky grey light – the birds’ songs like half played wooden flutes, a voice from a far-off radio, talking and then in song, the distant chopping of branches and trees and the imagined first hiss of the fire’s first heat, the whirr of a motor, a car or a generator, the cough of a grandmother, the crying baby needing to be fed, the sporadic confused rooster, starting and stopping again. and then the first chants from the pagoda high on the hill – all of these one.
It seems to me that to eliminate prejudice, we just have to get rid of time zones. I know that time zones seem like a practical system for everyone, and it only starts with a measly one-hour difference. Yes, it is all so sensible, but then the hours become two and three, and before you realize what’s happened, it’s turned into a matter of night and day. Think about how off-putting it is to realize that your noon is another’s midnight, your breakfast someone else’s dinner.Seeing the world only from a lone time zone is skewed and detrimental to all. Saying one is a few hours ahead, another a day behind is judgmental, making for a wholly classist understanding for what should be a common human experience. Why can’t we all be equal, all of us together in a fuzzy land of uncertainty, unaware of our own self-centric time? No more of this self-centered living. It is time to embrace and love the all of our communal experience. Or maybe I should try to get a good night’s sleep.
I didn’t know I even had an agent. He was a nice guy, big and bald and told me happily that he thought he could sell my novella, The Female Construction Crews of Myanmar. $3200. I accepted and signed without a thought.
“There’s one thing I don’t understand.” He folded the contract and gave me a check. “Why doesn’t he know who he is?”
The truth was I didn’t remember writing the book; I didn’t remember anything about it. “It’s a reflection on his state of mind.” I scanned the text quickly. “He has the drinking problem too.”
I read a random selection: The roads in Myanmar are slow and narrow, spotted with gaping potholes and long stretches of dirt and gravel. As slow as the traffic slowed, this afforded him time to see the road construction crews, almost entirely of which were made of women.
I scanned ahead, through a long journey down a winding descent and then the character, “I”, boarding a horse cart, and suddenly, in front of his escort, trying to self-fellate. I couldn’t understand how this worked, why this was being published, but was desperate to understand before I had to give it back, just so I might write more of it and sell something I might remember.
Smashed rocks had been loaded into baskets and the women walked past, these baskets on their heads. The men minded the boiling tar in flaming drums, back-breaking work, as the horse cart jostled ahead and we headed on our three-day trip.
The world is full of beauty and wonder. Like everyone else, I seek that out. Which is why I was in Myanmar. And that’s the problem; I’m like everyone else. There are too many people like me, all of us seeking new vistas, putting pins in the map, collecting magic moments.. It’s depressing in the end. Like the phrase implies, “taking pictures”, it’s taking something just so I can present them proudly to you and proclaim, “Look where I was!”“Isn’t this great? I’m special, aren’t I?”When the truth is I’m not. I’m just like everyone else.