The night before we went to the farm did not consist of any of those things. Instead, there was cheap whiskey, a ladyboy cabaret show, discussions ranging from religion to racism to old school hip hop over towers of Chang beer, and one last bucket of booze for a very blurry late night dance session at a warehouse club called Spicy.
The juxtaposition of the three hour sungthaw ride the following morning, coated in misery and regret with a hangover so fierce it was practically contagious, and the walk up to the farm was almost funny. Nothing but open air and beautiful countryside awaited to wash away our sins (and smell). I felt like a regular dharma bum about to meet my zen lunatics.
After a night of recovery and revival in the form of a very fresh, green smoothie, we settled right into the daily routine: silent breakfast, work, lunch, free time, yoga, dinner, group meditation, and evenings to ourselves. There was opportunity to learn in any aspect of both this farm specifically and agriculture/food philosophies in general, someone was always willing to listen and share their personal knowledge.
As it would for any dharma bum, this alternative way of living just got me so excited about life. Excited like I was about to change the world. First steps were learning to make soy milk and figuring out the difference between sweet potato and morning glory leaves. Long term dreams painted pretty pictures of my own sustainable farm community full of like minded individuals who would gather in the evenings around vases of freshly picked wildflowers and an organic home cooked meal from our own farm.
Sometimes I’d find myself in the kind of conversation where you are wildly validating each other for your passionate ideas of betterment for the world in whatever way and on whatever scale that may be. Sometimes this was about organic farming or the vial corporate existence in the food industry, and sometimes about the dumpster diving, waterfall showering ways of Rob Greenfield. Going back and forth with a rising excitement as words just pour out of your mouths and all over the floor until you just have to stop and gaze at the beautiful chaotic eco-mess you’ve just made.
At the end of a particularly intense yoga class, I was laying in Shavasana, letting the exhaustion wipe me clean of unnecessary thoughts, sinking further into the present moment. Here I lay, with a fierce passion inside me and a momentarily clear head when I came to an interesting realization. A slight but detrimental flaw in my thought process had hit me right there where I lay, sweaty and spread like a starfish. I realized that my ideas, though sincere, were also fueled partly by rebellion and a desire to escape. There was a part of me seeking peace and contentment through the satisfaction in feeling ‘different’ from ‘society.’ (Easily verifiable by the weird pride I’ve taken in being comfortable enough to let my armpit hairs grow out.)
In my daydreams I was trying to piece together this perfect scenario of organic living, earth ships, and a community of people that would somehow grant a happy and peaceful existence. I might as well have been dreaming of white picket fences and diamond rings.
Though my intentions are good, some of my motivations and my poor habit of forming biased ideal images in my head could overpower and corrupt that sincerity. Because you can’t set the stage for happiness. It comes from within, from passion, and then it does magical things that are way better than daydreams.
The character based on Jack Kerouac in his book, The Dharma Bums, said it well when he was imagining the things his mother must think about him. (I’m taking this a bit out of context and I’m not Buddhist, but the point still applies rather nicely.)
“Why is he so mad about white tiled sinks and ‘kitchen machinery’ he calls it? People have good hearts whether or not they live like Dharma Bums. Compassion is the heart of Buddhism.”
There are worse things to try to escape to than waterfall showers or sustainable communities but to choose to join a community because of the compassion you feel with their cause is a much better reason:) Because, in reality, we have nothing to escape from except maybe our own preconceived notions of the world we live in.
So, cheers to you who is compassionate.