Posts Tagged ‘materialism’

Another city, i sit and observe, watching life stroll by, drink coffee, smoke and write. A sadness overwhelms and i do not know what i do here, why i am here. Awoke this morning to the sound of cars rather than of birds or dogs or something. I sit here watching – i know that i am part of the interplay of life that goes on, just as i see others, others see me, but despite all the people i feel alienated and cut off in a cafe in the main square. San Cristobal is both a tourist town and a real city with people going on about their lives, and i do little, like i have in many places, and here i feel lost. I know the calm inside should be regardless of where i am, but i dont know why i am here. Life goes on – work, study, family, friends, suffering and indulgence, but i cannot relate. I want to talk to god and the spirit, but i do not connect with the spirit that lies inside us all. And i walk up and down the streets, over and over like i have so many other places. looking but not seeing, hearing the noise but not the voices, feeding myself on coffee, smokes, a bit of food, but not on god, or so it seems, though i try. I do the circle of the churches, not ornate and welcoming as i remembered (but i now think that was another city, or was it just my imagination) but they seem harsh and cold, with flat ceilings and bloody crucified Jesuses on crosses, and dark painting of pious looking saints in the front above the altar surrounded by gold (or copper) – it is austere and not joyous – though one on the hill was full of flowers on the altar and people praying and a louder procession left from the cathedral yesterday – but they are not places that lift my spirit and call to me. in a few i sit briefly and others i walk around, stare blankly and leave, feeling cut off and wanting to join with god.
So i sit and drink coffee – the pace of life goes on with little boys incessantly, persistently, selling their wares, forceful at times, almost aggressive and refusing to leave until you get harsh on the 6th no. And the women and little girls and grandmothers left alone selling. And i remember this feeling – as i sit here, rich compared to them, indulging in a coffee with time to sit, becoming at times closed and hostile, not a five minute break, cannot be.
And i remember thinking, in san marcos, thinking of my return to the us, where i am on the outside, one of them, that we/they – the beggars, the homeless, the poor, are but shadows – shadows of poverty and wanting that exist in the shadow of indulgence and ¨the good life¨ – a life not for all, denied to many, and with the disparity borders get drawn even more intensely, and the gap grows and i sit here drinking my coffee – a privilege, a normal habit but a luxury for some. And it is more here, a little barefoot girl – 3 or 4 goes around asking for pesos, learning to beg – but am i really any different. And the guilt grows, i buy a trinket, but it is just a drop in the bucket, more to assuage my guilt. At times i think they are there to teach compassion and loving and giving.
But it is more in the tourist zones and in places where the gap is big. The eyes that look longingly at the table – mainly of the young who have not yet learned to avert them, the young like the shoeshine boys who later sit outside another cafe indulging in a frozen mocha. But i know that look, face to face with what you cannot have, standing outside, looking on, longing, for i too have had that look many a time.
And the peddlers and beggars are more intense here than they have been elsewhere in central america. Is is just the gap – for you go through much of the rural areas (except near here) where people are poor, but still seem to have something – not as ground down. Or is it also another loss, a poverty that is not only material, but spiritual, a poverty that is deeper, that cannot be solved by buying a trinket today. I think of my time in Nica, which was poor in material things, but also seemed rich – a sense of spirit and connection that existed in places with the very basic simple life. Or is it the people – but no – i have seen the maya in their communities and know that not all are pushy sellers, the aggressive merchants, but here with those who now live in the slums on the edge of town, the aggression is worse. Or where there is the gap – tourist land, pana at the lake, or the frequent thefts in san marcos. but i drift away from this place.
And is that what i see here, amongst those, like me at times, the travellers who wander, looking, or those who live the good life – possibly materially wealthy, but spiritually poor, and seeking to fill up. A woman with goods walks by, i avert my eyes, do not want to see, cannot buy from all, she reminds me, i hang onto what i have, close my heart instead of open it, or do i, for it aches with pain and guilt. A smile, a kind word is not enough, and their resentment of me turns to resentment of them. i try to open my heart, send love, a smile.
And the traffic circles on and people walk through and i am back to searching, on how to leave this place, feeling trapped, no where to go, enthusiasm down, flight to usa in a week and have no home, my temporary privilege, the one sitting on the seat facing the square is over, to i the one who looks on longingly and cannot join in. And in many ways does not want to – the feeding of emptiness, of internal poverty.
And in the city i long once again for where i am not – a place to be in nature, commune with god, and light up and see the spirit inside all. and perhaps i am here to learn, to do that here as well, the calm inside when there is noise without, and to feel the interconnectedness of all, and not apart, and to remove the veil from my heart and soul in the places where it is more difficult.


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I wander about Goat Island, and the Three Sisters, chunks of land that rise from the Niagara River, and stand seemingly solid amongst the rush of water between the Horseshoe and the American falls. Here I feel alive, bathing in the energy of the place. There is a bounce to my step, a glimmer in my eyes and a smile upon my face. The raw energy of the falls enlivens me and it is more than just the negative ions in the air that do so. I know there is something special about this place, something deep and spiritual, a power greater than us all. Here I am hit by that sense of knowing, connecting with that universal life force.

Momentum builds up above the falls – the flow of water in the rapids is intense, and the air around becomes more dense – dark squiggles surround as the water from four of the great lakes is about to fall over a cliff, crescending down through the layers of time. From the stasis and stillness of the great lakes, the water runs through a narrow river, a channel, momentum increases, circles, crashes and stills, then whirls and jumps as it heads for the last lake and down another river on its journey out to sea. The energy is alive and rapid on this phase of its journey – a journey from the inside of a continent, where it appears still, enclosed and contained by land, to a joining in the sea of life, that basin of water that surround the lands and is in perpetual motion. The mist that rises above and permeates the air is the soaring of the greatest inland waters combined.

The Falls are not only the water that rushes over, but the land that lay around and beneath. I sit on one of the Three Sisters and feel the power of the molted deep grey rock that i sit upon, and i become more grounded. I feel the history in the rocks, the energy that has built up slowly over time and is being revealed. The land – the denser energy form – is molded and sculpted over time by the power of water – a lighter, vibrating active energy, and by the eons of time. The land was forming and transforming long before the falls existed and will continue to transform long after they pass through.

As the water rushes through it exposes the layers of time visible in the gorge below – the layers of life deposited over millions of years, the remains of the life that once teamed upon the earth and in the oceans and that are now compacted into stone. Lockport Dolostone, Rochester shale, limestone, fossils, sandstone – layers we name and analyse or do not notice at all. The layering reveals great changes in the history of the planet, ages and stages of the earth, and deep fundamental transformations; changes that we can only begin to imagine. The falls themselves are a legacy of the last ice age, and the contours of the land were formed by frozen water in motion.
And i wonder, what memories do the stones hold? If our consciousness affects the world (or as some say even makes it) then what trailings of emotion, thought and being have the previous life forms left behind?
The changes are still at play. The falls were once seven miles or so downstream and 700 years ago the American falls did not exist – they were one great horseshoe. They continue to move upstream, to shift for the land is in motion too. You cannot stop the flow of life, for although you may try, it cuts through the layers that have been built up, exposing them and transforming them – be they layers of stone or layers of our mind. And it makes me think of what will be in the layers formed by our remains. What deposits do we make as we travel though this space?
If nothing else, the falls show that nothing is permanent. The place i see today will be different tomorrow as it was different yesterday. Since places are shifting and temporary how can we define them except in the now? The now is but a moment in the flow in time.
I bring myself back to the present. I open my ears and hear the rush of water, the sounds of gulls and the occasional voices in the background. I open my eyes and see the rush of water, the vibrant oranges and yellows floating on branches beneath the leaden sky, the squirrel that prances amongst the fallen leaves and the rock formations. I open my heart and feel the power of the water and the power of the earth. For a moment I consciously join in this dance of life. I wish to stay here, on the second of the three sisters, and bathe in the energy of the place. I want to sleep beneath the trees on the ground, beside the rapids, becoming simultaneously vitalized and calmed.
But something presses me on, out of this sacred zone to the rest of the area that we call The Falls. But I wish to stay, to feed, to gorge on the spirit here, although i am satiated for now. I should not consume more than my fill, more than i can share and feed back to the circle of life. But i am tempted, tempted to stay and harness this power for myself, for my personal glory. And i know that i am not the only one who feels this pull.
In this place the energy reaches its peak, an energy that no visitor, – from the Native people who travelled here to the first Europeans who saw it, to the tourists or yesterday and today – can ignore. I see smiles lighting up faces – smiles and joy that feed positive energy back to the place. But there are also other vibrations at play – thoughts and activities that take away from the spirit of this place, that at times seek to overwhelm it.
I turn my eyes towards the falls, following the direction of the current and see the effects of these other energies. Outside energies that have become part of the place – energies that were brought in from afar, and decided to stay – for a while. I look across to the Canadian side to where tall buildings rise above the land – hotels, casinos, and amusements to dull the mind, and i ask, what have we done to the glory? The airflow changed when the structure rose up and the falls from that side are now shrouded in mist. And i remember my journey here past decaying factories and hollowed out city centres. Another sense of place emerges – one that is dulling and harms the spirit.

So many questions spring to mind. What is it about the raw power of this place that makes people want to feed on it? To hoard it in and harness it for ourselves? To transform it and control it and use it for their own ends? And in seeking to transform it, what effects to we have? Do we diminish the energy? enhance it? Warp its sense of being? To what extent can we transform it, and how much does it transform us. How do we value it? For what ends is this power used? 

The actions of those who sought and seek to profit from the power of the falls have dulled the energy in their zones. There are creators and maintainers of the “tourist trade” who build attractions and amusements from thrill seeking rides to today’s casinos and line the banks with garish hotels, with an eye to profit and blinders to the glory. There are those who immediately sought to harness the energy for industrial ends, building power plants and factories that line the banks, creating a heavy industrial “oasis” permitted and enhanced by the cheap energy from the falls. As i meander away from the island, I feel my spirit sink.

The energy of the falls is used to light much of the eastern seaboard, and thus its power is spread and diffuse. As we turn on the lights do we remember and are we thankful to the source from which it came. And if we do not, do we push the energy away from the falls. The flow of the falls themselves is controlled by the power plants and international agreements – much of the water is diverted for electricity for the power plants that fuel our lives. It flows the strongest in the summer day lights hours, and more is diverted in non-peak tourist times. How would the power of the falls affect us if we felt its full force? What we experience today is mediated, the power harnessed for other ends, for industry, for a softer life, for the artificial lights that illuminate the night. But how would we feel if we bathed in its glory and how would our internal lights glow? And how do we feel when we stand under the massive power lines that carry this generated power along its way?

The lights that shine from the amusement places seek to divert our attention from the falls. The goal not to illuminate the”light” that shines from within but to make a profit, and i feel it sucking, as it seeks to suck the dollars from my pocket. As a child i always wanted to visit the haunted houses and arcades that fanned Lundys Lane on the Canadian side, and now i want to cover my eyes and shrink from it. And the goods sold, the tourist trinkets to help create memories, the items that say, hey, i was there create another experience all together.  Like the overpriced candies, ice cream and sodas that are sold along the streets and boardwalks, they pull the energy from me, temporary highs, but ones that leave you to crash, and come crawling back for more. And i feel it sinking, sinking, the empty Rainbow mall and storefront, decaying cheap motels, and a lack of life. 

And how much garbage can we dump into a place – taking the light and leaving our discards behind. I think of Love Canal as i pass the decaying factories and current chemical plants and wonder how long this contamination will linger. Once factories lined the gorge, the “tailrace” of colourful waterfalls of waste that gushed out of the factories was once a major attraction that came second to the falls themselves.

Mother Nature, the universal force struck back with storms and rock slides that destroyed a major power plant back in ’56 (in recent times considering the history in the stones). Was she telling us that we could not just take without honouring her. The industries have now gone, the remaining ruins barely visible, the town hollowed out, with vacant boarded up homes, empty shells of buildings and people, and high crime.  The energy in these places is heavy and sad now, yet life flows on and away.

And we rebuild. A newer power plant sits further down the gorge. Shiny casinos built to replace the dying industries provide some glitz and bring in busloads of people who sit in front of machines in a trance, eyes glazed, hoping, praying for that magical moment where they will strike it big. Attention diverted from the falls to the machines and the chance to win some money. Despite the shine, there is a heavy gloom.

Yes there is also life renewed. Along the gorge on the American side past the Rainbow Bridge where factories once stood, there are now trails and parkland. Parks line both sides of the gorge with paths for walking and benches for sitting, resting and contemplating. Preservation efforts continue, and if it were not for those of the past, those which created the parks, and the gardens, those which came from those who valued the falls for themselves and sought to maintain them, we might have decay all around. It is thanks to the consciousness of others who valued the natural energy of the place that i was able to sit on Goat Island and bask in the universal life force. it is and was that energy that feeds joy to a place. As i remember this, my spirit soars, and i and my writing feel less heavy.

I ask myself, how do we define place – just what do we mean when we say Niagara Falls? What is this place in our minds? How far does a place exist and what are its zones?   Where do the borders begin and end – and not just the international border that divides the falls and the gorge. Borders are felt rather than defined by lines on a map. And how does our location determine how we define a larger place and how does our definition of the larger place determine our location within it? What energies do we brings to a place and how much do we strip away?
What to we look at and what do we turn away from?  What permeates into our minds and our visions though we would rather it not be there? What do we seek out and focus upon?  Which vision is “real”? That of a powerful spiritual place, or that which shows the excesses of our civilization in decay.  What is the dance between the two, and how long can they exist side by side. Can I write about the falls without writing about the decay that surrounds? Can i see the kernal of light amongst the decay and the garish coverings?  How does our gaze not only affect our experience of place, but also the place itself?
But the energy of the falls is strong, and while that has been its downfall in recent times as people try to strip it away, it is also its strength. It is the reason why we keep on flocking to it, to feel the lifeforce gathered so strongly. Can we weaken it and destroy it all together, or do we need to have faith that it will endure, that it is stronger than us? I imagine the life force flowing, cutting through the denser heavier places on its journey out to see, and the power and beauty of that journey and i smile and have faith.

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