Nyepi 2019

Hanuman on a scooter

Thursday was the Balinese holiday of Nyepi, their way of celebrating the new year. This is a day when the entire island is in a compulsory day of silence. All telecommunications are turned off, the international airport is shut down, and only emergency services are allowed on the roads. The local police and religious leaders patrol the streets to make sure that people do not leave their houses and are keeping quiet with lights-out.

The following are some thoughts jotted on my day of solitude:

Searching to react

As I watched myself sit with nothing I needed to be doing, I begin to search and twitch, looking for something to react to. I realize that this what has made us so successful as living organisms, but the idea that our superpower is being proficient in looking out for danger and optimizing for future existence makes me sad. I think we prefer to feel as though our deep breaths and triumphant screams can shift the world to react to us, instead of us to it, but the truth lies somewhere in-between. Other People’s treasures

As I surveyed the house I am staying in, I found myself investigating a pile of rocks that a previous visitor must have collected on the beach. I thought how interesting it is that these were all special moments in someone else’s life. This person was reacting to something beautiful that they saw and wanted to hold on to that moment and take it with them. The real treasures in life are triggers — ways to recall a memory that would otherwise be lost. Thank you for the chaos

As the lights went down I lit some incense, removed any possible light or reflection, even blacking out the little LEDs on chargers, small electronics, and AC units. I then put in my earpods, took a strong dose of one of my favorite medicines, and waited in the pitch-dark silence. As the patterns in my brain started to become coherent and the camera of my mind slowly moved as though on a steady-cam thru space, I began to notice a synesthetic relationship between the music I began to listen to and the visuals I was experiencing.

At times the strength of the journey was overwhelming, but with no light in the room, opening my eyes did nothing to allow me to escape. I was forcing myself to become comfortable with the darkness, with my own mind, with wherever my psyche was going to take me. I began to feel a deep appreciation for chaos. If all organization and complexity is simply emergent patterns in the noise and static, then we can only be grateful for the car-crash of violence and chaos that was the genesis of an almost infinite cascade of events that somehow found me sitting in my room, in the dark, contemplating that very thought.

When I was finally done and ready to return, I reached for my phone and turned on my flashlight. My new ability to see almost brought me to tears and I repeated “thank you” over and over again, viscerally grateful for the first time for my ability to see.

I’m looking forward to my next Nyepi, and taking the learnings of my first into my daily life over this next year.