How to win all the time

23-may, 4:21am

Be Here Now. Almost on land, altho I hardly ever think of it that way, or succumb to the countdown. in fact, I’m the voice of opposition on-board regarding this, asserting politely that I’d rather not know any countdown-related statistics. (It’s really an opposition to Time, a principally oppressive concept.) I’m very particular about this, as my crew-mates would tell you, although to me it’s perfectly acceptable to celebrate our progress. “10 days down!” or “1500 miles behind us!” are to me quite positive statements compared wih “20 days to go” or “1500 miles to go”, as the latter sound like glass half-empty statements to me. To call attention to how much we haven’t accomplished yet has a tendency to make time drag its heels, and isn’t constructive or feel-good at all.

I’m similarly snappy about calculating end-results. like when we’re playing cards, I’m abhorred by those keeping constant tallies of who’s in the lead, or when asked how many cards I’ve got left. count your own cards. to me it’s invasive when people are so concerned with what I’m doing.. worry about yourself.

both of my peculiarities are borne out of an attempted practice of being Present, living for this moment and not for the future. In the present, a continuous satisfaction can be achieved, instead of living for an uncertain payoff later, a momentary peak or spike in an otherwise uneasy air of anticipation.

Winning. (This is a bit of a rant, and a tangent, but it’s related.) I’m not saying it’s right, but in being consistent with the Be Here Now outlook, it’s natural for me to play games with the intention of exercising skill and to have fun in the moment, preferably so that’s mutually satisfying with my opponent; not to prevent them from scoring. A good analogy might be made with Sex — can you imagine how terrible it would be if you were only aiming to please yourself, or even worse just to have an orgasm? (Okay, analogy ends here.) In cards and in sports, I play more offensively than defensively, because it doesn’t hurt me if my opponent smiles and enjoys the game too – it’s better actually. to me it’s just more fun to flex some skill and make some goals, without being preoccupied about the outcome; and there’s an abundance of opportunity within a game for plenty of this to go around. and regarding the outcome, I don’t care if I lose, as long as I’ve played to the best of my ability, and everyone had a good time. it’s playing for the moment, not to Win. one thing I don’t like about competitive sport, whether it’s playing cards, ping-pong, or verbal debate, is that if there’s a Winner there’s also a Loser. it’s ironic to me that you’re often competing with friends. in my opinion, among friends, if there’s one Loser, then everybody loses. I see winning as an ego-driven satisfaction at the expense of another, dominance of the strong over the weaker player. this is why competitive sport among friends can be counter-productive, and why intention matters so much. It’s all energy exchange; make it pretty, keep it positive.

I realize I’m up against the very fabric of our society, as we’re bred to compete, dominate, kill or be killed. It’s a bit Buddhist of me (and aligns with my veganism too) that many of my actions are guided by the intention to alleviate suffering in the world. When we live in the future, it’s either at the expense of the present moment, or can cause us suffering when it doesn’t turn out how we had planned. So forget about it!

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Bichos

So many better things to report on, but tonight I write about Bichos, because today they made my itchy day.

We finally arrived in Tupiza, Bolivia, after biking 500km through the desert, up up and up, past the tree line, past the cactus line, across the border, and 2 more days up up and up to Canyon country, where I wouldn’t expect an ant to live.

We arrive so thoroughly hot and exhausted that we sat under a statue of Don Pedro on his horse for over an hour before making a move and checking into a nice hostel. The courtyard is pretty, the beds are made of cactus (the only “wood” up here above the tree line), with Starry Night comforters and nice, firm but comfy mattresses.

I’d love to say I slept like a baby, but since getting up into the higher altitudes my sleep has been of the tossing and turning variety, and I’ve been waking up like clockwork between 6 and 7am, ready to start the day. But last night, at the tail-end of four straight hard days of biking, I slept pretty damned well (and fell asleep at 8pm!)

Today, however, I was itching my ass off. Unfortunately I’m somewhat of a scratcher, and despite my will not to, I kept catching myself, itching my hands, neck, arms, ankles, FACE. The bastards ate my face. I didn’t even realize it until, when I was talking with the hostess of the inn and asked if there are many mosquitos here, she told me to stop itching my face. As I was washing-up tonight, I found eight bites on my face. Maybe once or twice in my life I’ve had a bug bite on my face, but I look abused tonight. By the way, both hosts of the inn say there are no mosquitos here. But Jeff claims the mosquitos are biting him, too. (Fortunately, he’s not a scratcher, so his situation is code blue compared to mine.)

Funny thing is I haven’t seen or felt one of them yet, which leads me to question whether I’m having an allergic reaction to something, or there are bed-bugs in my pretty bed, with it’s deceivingly fresh, crisp linens and new pillow.

It’s bed time again, and I’m on edge. My scratching is out of control and starting to hurt, so I resort to an old home remedy that I use from time to time, for everything from pimples to bug bites: toothpaste. I start applying to my wrists first, then hands, up my arms, behind my arm-pits, face, and I habitually count in times like these… eighty-fucking-four picadas (bites) from the BICHOS (bugs). Aaaah, the cooling mint is working it’s magic, soothing and then drying the little bastards. Jeff, already turned-in for the night, gets up and opens the window to the courtyard. Hello!? You want to let them in?! Reply: It’s hot in here.

Just in case, I’ve made my bed, laid out my bedding on top, and now I’m going to say a prayer to Jesus with his sacred heart, whom I visited on the hilltop overlooking town today, to keep the bugs away.

Okay, one just buzzed in my ear! (Are you kidding me?!) God-dammit!

Worn, torn & lost

Monday, May 3, 2010. 6:37 PM
Opononi, Northland, New Zealand

All my stuff is roughed up. Most of my things have passed “like new” quality.

My clothes are worn. The same 3 shirts, 2 pants, 2 shorts and 1 hoodie are likely the most photographed in the southern hemisphere. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it! It’s so not, and seeing them repeatedly in my photos has resulted in my not wanting to be in photos anymore. Silly! Not at all, he says gravely. My black linen pants (the same ones I tweeted about who has a big whole in the seat) has 5 patches now. I’m getting quite good at bad sewing. I’ve made amends many times with my other ‘pants’ (in the English sense) too. The captain on my boat cruise the other day told me he could see my money – my butt pocket is completely open on one side. My bandanas are my MVP items, used for everything: headdress, sweat-cloth, bath towel, napkin, splint, rope. The pink one is barely so anymore; the white one – why do I have a white anything? You know what’s cool? I don’t care anymore. It makes getting dressed in the morning EZ.

I have lost, without explanation: 2 really nice Leatherman utility knives and a Swiss army knife. These kill me the most, as they’re nice gear and indispensable, hence the replacements, and the killing me times three. I also lost my cyclo-computer in Thailand, one of the very few nights I went out on the town dancing (and drinking) with locals. I apparently lost my shit.

These things are used and abused: My iPod holds data (as a hard drive) but won’t function as an MP3 player. My camera had a stroke the other day and its lens is stuck out in full extension, out-of-order with “Lens Error”. Then I slammed it a few times, as suggested by the internet, and now it jingles like a maraca. My tail light and my bike mirror broke off, losing little plastic pieces which render them useless. (Oh I’ve tried to fix but damned industrial design seriously inhibits DIY fixin! Solution: buy a new one! Redic!) I pulled the wires loose (& fizzled out the transistors) on my battery-operated Xmas lights (excessive, no! mood lighting is key on the road!) I will fix these, mark my words. I cracked my Clickstand yesterday (which is a kickstand-like-device for monster bikes, basically a custom-length tent pole), parking, then falling, in the sand. My Camelback leaks. My iPhone screen has two thick black lines through it. My unibody Macbook has a bulge next to the keyboard; I think a baby at the last farm threw it. The lid on my aluminum pot looks like it stopped a bullet.

I picked up a good habit in India. When sh!t happens, laugh. I learned a good mantra the other day: Thank you for the pain. Every day when something breaks or disappears, I laugh and thank the universe for the pain of loss. Hello imperfection, goodbye stuff! I’m getting quite good in the practice of detachment.