What Is Village Thinking?

The philosopher is likely a man of the city.* The man of the city lives among many, many faceless others. He knows a few people in the city, perhaps his family is there, and he may know those within his neighborhood. But the idea of the city and its faceless and nameless others is an abstraction. He knows they are out there but he does not know them. He thinks of them as composing “the city” that he is also a part of. He considers the city and what would be good for the city and what should be changed in the city. He makes these considerations based upon his own life and experience and what he has learned from the very few people he knows in the city.
Or the philosopher is alone in the city. The city and its faceless-ness allow him to become alone. He becomes anonymous in the city. He can disappear in the city. The philosopher disappears into himself and begins to think philosophically through a form of solipsism. He disappears from the others of the city, and the others disappear to him. Despite being surrounded by them, he may begin to doubt whether others really exist at all.**
For the city teaches the philosopher to think in one of two extremes: He makes abstractions from his experience and thinks and makes assumptions and political policies for all the others in the city that he does not know; or he forgoes the political and social and makes abstractions solely based upon himself and all the others of the city are made to disappear. Both the abstract idea of the many others and the abstract idea of a man entirely alone, are philosophical biases of the city philosopher.
But what sort of philosophy happens in the small town? The village? The small community where all the neighbors are known by name and recognized? In such a place there is no anonymity. Everyone is known by their name and face and perhaps a family history. Economics, politics and philosophy cannot be conducted as abstractions and speculations on the unknown others. And so, too, a thinker in the village can never begin to think of himself totally alone in the world. To be surrounded by family and neighbors who know your name is to be unable to make yourself anonymous.
Abstract and speculative thinking may not be possible in the village. But what sort of thinking is possible? What is village thinking?

* Indeed, the first and still most important work of philosophy is The Republic of Plato, a book about the city and all who live in it and outside it.

** Descartes is a prime example.


Las Chinches

Like the mosquito the bed bug is awakened by the carbon dioxide of a potential host. As I spend much time in my room at the hospedaje at Piura, Peru, which I realized rather recently is home to these creatures, my carbon dioxide has invited these tiny parasites to feed. Like the mosquito they prefer to feed in the evening and night hours and leaving one's light on does not deter them. They have a certain fearlessness when hungry and remarkable ability to sneak through small spaces and cracks. Like the mosquito, they are parasites that feed upon the host’s blood.

I have always hated the mosquito. The variety of mid-western North American mosquito I grew up with tortured me before biting with a buzzing in my ears in the darkness as I tried to sleep. The Argentine variety I have also encountered and it did none of the buzzing in the ear but instead a direct and fearless assault. Never have I encountered a faster more aerially agile mosquito than in Argentina. There they came in hoards, with thousands of them appearing from the fields upon you.
In Colombia and other northern parts of South American the mosquitoes are fast and do not alert you to their presence with the ear-humming. But they are fearful, anxious insects and only stop to bite for a moment before flying and landing again to bite. The North American and Argentine mosquito, in contrast, alights on the skin and stays until it has finished feeding, giving one the opportunity to smack and destroy it.

But the bed bug should bother me less. The bed bug does not carry any diseases such as the mosquito with its West Nile and malaria and river blindness. It also does none of the buzzing in one's ears before feeding. You are not aware of the bed bug’s presence until you begin to scratch yourself after it has fed.
But it is the wide red welts from their feeding that bother me. The bed bug takes in such a great deal of blood, particularly the mature bed bug, and swells to so large size that if you were to kill it after feeding you would explode it into a vast red, bloody smear upon your bed sheets. That amount of blood taken can be disconcerting. It is for me.

While the immature bed bug is crushed easily, turned into a tiny dark smudge, the mature bed bug when he has not filled himself with blood is difficult to destroy. His thin body is not easily crushed under a thumb or napkin or shoe and I have often seen them play dead waiting for me to leave. Still I should be less troubled by the bed bug as, before, unlike the mosquito he carries no disease. Also the welts though wide and unsightly stop itching and heal faster than the mosquito's bite.
Nonetheless, I am convinced that the idea of being assaulted by parasites from the air is much preferable to a ground assault. There is something about the slow, plodding, hesitant-less attack of the bed bug parasite that troubles me. The mosquito at least recognizes that it can be killed and at times will fly defensively. This recognition of its own possible death from feeding makes it a less disgusting parasite. The bed bug though is without fear or mercy. And it is this characteristic that can be most troubling for the human host.


The State, Morality and Freedom

21. Any manipulation or destruction of originary morality (how men relate to one another economically) inevitably serves the purposes of the State. The State’s laws become the default measure of what is moral between men. The State thereby controls morality. The State stands for morality. The State has a monopoly on moral life. What is right is what is legal.
22. A man sent off to kill for the State is an acolyte of a higher and holy power.
50. To be middle class is to be totally exposed; to have an edge on nothing--To be domesticated and servile to both a job, a way of life, and a government.
52. To have an edge is to have a skill that liberates a man so that no boss or government can affect him. Around his edge he develops his life as project. To have an edge is to be free. (Money is not an edge.)
55. The middle class (read: the indebted class) are the cubicle worker slaves of the oligarchs, enslaved by an interest rate or the fear of losing their middle manager positions. The lower class are the military class, the soldiers sent to give their lives in the oligarchy’s wars and expand its empire. The stability of the oligarchy subsists in both the middle and lower classes' voluntary acceptance of their social/economic position.*
* The State's error in the Vietnam War was not simply in having a draft, but in sending middle class men to fight alongside the lower class. The middle class is a worker slave class, not a fighting class, and to demand that the worker slaves also give up their lives is for the State to demand too much. In contrast, the Iraq and Afghan Wars, the torture and indefinite incarceration of prisoners, drone attacks in multiple countries and a Presidential 'hit list' have resulted in very little public (middle class) protest.


About the Road

Why you ride & Why you stop

He goes on the road with his bicycle because he needs to work something out for himself. He needs to rid himself of something through solitude and suffering, and then through solitude and suffering begin to put something else in its place. He goes on the road when he is spent, has nothing more to write or to say. When there is nothing left to write or to think there is no risk on the road. To die is nothing to this man with nothing.

But when he begins to develop new ideas, when the gods have been generous with him, then to continue on the road is to risk everything. He must stop and protect himself and take the time to develop these ideas without interference. He must surround himself with security, for when there are ideas to be worked out everything is at stake. When his projects are completed and there is no more work to do, he may again go on the road and make himself worthy of new gifts from the gods.
But he also goes on the road to find the good place. He finds good people, and if he is lucky he finds a good woman, and he stops at the good place and he stays there. The good woman is just as much a divine gift as any idea and he will learn much from her. The road led him to her and to the other good people and in the village he will get his work done. His work and the woman and the good people who are of the good place was why he went on the road. Now that he has found them to go further on the road would be a mistake.


Morality & Economics

Preliminary notes for a forthcoming investigation
In the epoch of finance it was very hard to get people to be good to each other. That is at least what the philosophers thought. They thought that science had displaced religion and now there was no moral anchor for human conduct and ethics.
These philosophers were university men and their belief in scientific progress and technology and their distrust for metaphysics had made them atheists and materialists. At the same time they were also very affected by the horrors of the Holocaust. Indeed, many of the important continental philosophers were Jews and did philosophy in order to make arguments to stop the next Holocaust. But since they also denied the existence of any God, their moral arguments needed to be made without a metaphysical foundation. It was a difficult problem for these men. How did you get men to be nice to each other without any moral anchor, any metaphysics?
But these efforts were all in error.
Historically, men were kind to each other and didn’t hack each other to pieces not because of some religious reason, or edict from a State, or argument made by a philosopher. It was economics. It was trade. Men gained something from respecting and keeping alive “the other”, to use the language of the continental philosopher. Religion only came along and formalized many of the ideas men were already practicing between one another. Religion simply codified what was already manifest in the first market relations between men.
It is man’s interventions into markets and the resulting distortions of economics that cause moral decline.
Verily, one must return to the idea of hoarding and the ancient prohibitions against it. One must not annihilate one’s trading partner. One must not strip him of everything. But, verily, all sorts of annihilations, both large and small, are favored by the oligarchs of today and their central banking and regulatory apparatuses. Indeed, the men most admired in western societies are those that have hoarded and annihilated the most. Hoarding has become the dominant (moral) value,.
It is when the rules of the game are changed to protect individuals and favor particular groups that moral life breaks down. Both fiscal and monetary policy are rule changes designed to conduct these redistributions. Regulations and laws are also created and amended to provide selective legal protections.
But economics cannot be successfully manipulated. Inefficiencies build up over time and then express themselves suddenly and violently (recessions-depressions-civil wars). Indeed, the manipulated economies have created so much inefficiency and indebtedness as to cause a breakdown in moral life. But with the violent breakdown of these manipulated economies there will appear a new expression of moral life, of an originary moral life, long since suppressed. The re-emergence of morality will coincide with great violence and social upheaval.
The decline and failure of these manipulations may take many more generations, but with this rebirth of morality will be a return of love, a return to family, and the return of mothers. The churches will once again be respected and priests and ministers will re-assume their roles of leadership in communities. Goods and service will be created with much greater care and individuality. Artisans will re-appear. Great art will once again be made, art that matters to all men.
Economics will become moral again. And the nature of man’s morality will reveal itself. Not some morality founded on Gods and written in philosophy books, but a morality that lives in men and operates through human action. The books of the philosophers and religious men are just commentary upon this originary morality, which is itself an originary and un-tampered with economics.
Morality in this originary sense is a fact of the species
. It is a fact that modern, manipulated economies have attempted to subvert and suppress. All attempts by man to alter or deny the facts of his species have had disastrous unintended consequences. And it is through debt creation and economic manipulation that man denies a central moral/economic fact and most endangers himself and his future. Irresponsible and excessive debt creation allows him to think he has broken the first economic/moral relation: that a man no longer needs to work in order to eat.*
Indeed, there will be terrific bloodshed and pain to restore this originary economics/morality. But that bloodshed is only the flipside of the violence already perpetrated upon the people by those who manipulate economics. Men in needing to fight so that they might eat are expressing the primary economic/moral impulse, upon which all moral life is based. Men will tolerate tyranny. But when a tyranny denies them too many meals men will go to war against it.**
* A discussion needs to follow on what is morally & economically productive work. Any debt-based work that raises GDP is today considered productive. But what happens when that debt was built upon inefficiencies and is totally unsustainable? When that debt collapses it annihilates real wealth. A distinction must be made between the work of planting a small garden in your backyard to feed your family and sitting in front of a computer screen and day trading Treasury Bond futures contracts. The former is morally & economically productive while the latter is not.
** Indeed, there are always economic reasons for armed conflict, even involving Muslims (supposedly the people least concerned with life on this earth). The Arab Spring can be viewed as a food protest after central bank cheap monies caused a bubble in food prices and poor Muslims were starving.


5 Aspects of the Great Philosopher

First, a philosopher must have his physical health. He must be strong. Wittgenstein was strong and his philosophy displays that strength. Nietzsche was weak and infirm and his body betrays portions of what he writes (he writes of what he would like to have been).
Second, a philosopher must have experience. He must have left his own country and lived in foreign lands. He must have had to struggle with daily concerns in new languages. He must have had to struggle with the simplest aspects of life, things he never considered while in his home country. He must have had varied jobs, both skilled and unskilled, and worked alongside many types of men.
Third, a philosopher should know extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Wittgenstein knew both and this knowledge is understated in any examination of his writing. It is also better to do philosophy when poor than when rich. But to do philosophy while poor and hoping to become rich will doom a man‘s thinking.
Fourth, a philosopher must have taken physical risks. He must have felt pain and been fearful. He must have had concerns about whether he would live or die. He must have been insecure. It is best to perform these physical risks when he is young and vital and naive. Wittgenstein received formative training in this area in the trenches of WWI. It resulted in the great insight in the Tractatus of “the mystical.”
Fifth, a philosopher must not be at a university. He must not receive acclaim from academic men or have a following. It is essential he not receive fame or money from doing his work. Ideally, a philosopher would do all his important work and then, just before his death, when he was no longer thinking clearly or doing philosophy, he would catch a momentary glimpse of fame. Because fame, the applause of lesser men, is also an experience worth knowing, though it has in all cases been destructive to active philosophers.


Dying in Los Organos

It was bright and hot at Los Organos. The mototaxis drove up and down the Panamericana and into the square. Behind the pueblo were sandy cliffs and the wind blew up the coast and through the dusty streets. The malecon had been abandoned and sand was drifted over the concrete walls and benches and blew across the concrete soccer field.

I was walking along the malecon when I heard the yelping. It came from a depressed area around a disused fountain. There was a dog laying on its side. His body convulsed and shook. He took tiny rapid breaths and the muscles in his neck were tight.

He yelped and staggered up onto his front feet and collapsed, smacking his head against the cement. He lay quietly and then staggered up again and yelped and collapsed. He did this again and again, smacking his head against the concrete. His hind legs were curled against his body and did not work. His front legs would not support him. There was dried blood on the cement where he had hit his head and it was smeared where he had dragged himself through it. His tongue dangled from his mouth, shriveled and dry as pink crumpled paper.

I called out to him, for his attention. He didn’t see me or hear me. His eyes were cloudy and dried permanently open. I watched him laying on his side, pawing at the air in front of him and shaking. I went downwind of him and there was a terrific odor. He smelled already of a long dead dog. That was how some died, men and animals, violently, fighting it to the very last.

I came down the malecon and saw vultures sitting on the fountain. I saw their pink heads and large obscene bodies. As I came closer I saw the black birds down there working on him. They had torn open his stomach and dragged out his intestines and they were tearing at them with their beaks. There were 15 of them all pushing and flapping to get at the clump of insides. The big birds were very busy and ignored me. I walked out onto the concrete soccer field and did my pullups and leg raises on the rusted goalpost. The blowing sand got into my mouth and my hair and eyebrows and stung at my face. Then I did my squats and pushups. I went a different way back to the hospedaje and left the vultures to their undignified business.


For Readers of Ludwig Wittgenstein

So much of Wittgenstein’s writing is asking the reader to imagine practical situations. He asks you to imagine some construction workers doing this and calling for this or that. Or in a store there is a drawer that contains this or that and one gives this or that when a particular word is spoken. It goes on and on this way.

But would it not have been more instructive for the readers and philosophers if Wittgenstein had instead asked them to go work at a construction site? Or to go to a foreign country where they did not know the language and to try to live there? He might have said after an aphorism: “Now, travel to a foreign land you know little of. Take no money with you. Live there until you have learned this or that. Then pick up with the next aphorism.”

Wouldn’t the whole discussion of “the mystical” been better advanced had Ludwig written: “Stop reading here. Now go to a war. Demand to be put on the front lines in the fiercest fighting. Continue to the next aphorism if you have survived.”

Much of Wittgenstein’s writing is basically asking academic, upper class men to imagine what it would be like to work on construction sites, operate a corner store, speak a foreign language badly, or be at the front lines of a war. Clearly, Wittgenstein was sour on philosophy because he felt he was having to explain life, how most people live it and have lived it in human history--indeed, how he had lived and thereby learned to do philosophy--to a bunch of overly-domesticated, physically unfit, university-sequestered half-men. 

On Stylists

For Certain Poets

When they do not have experience from which to work they become stylists. These are men who play with words, often big & fancy words, that regular people don’t understand. But there is a select group of fellow stylists who also understand these words and will write glowing reviews of any work that uses them.

These stylists, however, still need material. To get that material they go to a library, often a university library, since many of them are professors, where they do research. They do research into the lives of men who have had experiences and perhaps lived long ago. These histories of other men’s experiences are something the stylist can attach his big words to and ornament with his distinctive style.

Between studying his dictionary and reading at his local library the stylist can then write brilliantly of great and dangerous adventures without actually having to risk himself in any way. 


Language & Life 2

84. It is through physical dangers and risks and challenges that he learns where the most important words come from, and how to use them. He uproots the entire world and begins again with the simplest things. He learns to make fire with the bow and drill. He lays his own cordage from the field grasses and fashions containers from the fallen oak. He sets traps for the ground animals and fishes from the lake. And the simplest words begin to take meaning for him.

85. Strangely, men who have seen and done much are often silent. That words used by other, lesser men could also describe what they have seen is an insult to their experiences and what they have become. The men most capable of speaking are instead silent.

89. Language allows men to seemingly become more than what they are. It is a cheap trick the poets have long performed upon the masses. But there is no great becoming through language itself. One does not achieve greatness in words alone. Verily, the words of the greatest men come later, or not at all.

93. “When he finally learned to use the most important words he fell silent and refused to speak.”


The Broom of God

4. You must test your ideas. Ideas often emerge while sitting, but it is not through further sitting that one tests them. I once took my ideas to Patagonia on a bicycle. I once took them to Colombia and considered them in another language. I took them with me to mountaintops and into deserts. I exposed them to cold and rain and snow and heat. One tests his ideas by shocking them. One risks himself, his life even, to find out if there is something to them. The results can be unexpected.

5. To live comfortably with one’s ideas in the small room in which they were born can bring only modest surprises. Verily, ideas, like men, long for comfort. In comfort they grow and become entangled and whatever was false in them becomes established. For an honest and courageous man to achieve a greatness he must go into the world in search of what is least comfortable. It is through risk and danger and challenge that he may identify and prune away what is false in his thinking.

19. Later they will say it was all written while sitting. Yes, it was composed alone in a room, seated at a desk. But the ideas themselves were made on the Patagonian steppe, tested in the rigor of a wind they call la escoba de Dios (The broom of God), in a land empty of birds and trees and other men. 


67. To a strong man, physically prepared for it, doubt liberates and strengthens. Doubt shatters the world so that he must rebuild it, must make decisions on how it is reengineered. It is a daunting task, and few men have the courage to doubt deeply enough and fewer still the strength for the rebuilding.

70. Descartes is exemplary of a doubt that cripples and sickens a weak and fearful man. Descartes doubted everything but then wanted his world to be exactly as it was before the doubts appeared. His fear of losing his world, his God, his comfortable life, led him to ridiculous flights of thinking to keep his world intact.

72. But an honest, strong, courageous man will doubt so deeply that the world is shattered and then he will rebuild it without regard to the whims of other men, or even his own security. If there is no place for God, then there is no place for Him. Perhaps there is no place for him either. So be it. But great efforts begin in great doubt.

77. Even worse than writing philosophy while sitting is writing it while lying down.


Fish Bone: A Dialogue

12:33 AM
Moraline: i remember this all you can eat buffet in ushuaia at the end of the world. it was a touring cyclists dream. i went in there and ate for nearly 2 hours. there was meat, fish, salads, asado, barbecued everyhing. great buffet. but then, i ate this smoked fish, and i realized i had a bone stuck in my throat
i kept trying to swallow it.
i felt i was going to choke and die
right there dead in ushuaia in this buffet.
12:34 AM
i could feel myself about to choke and die. it bothered me but then it didnt
then i realized i had to live. i had to get this bone out of my throat.
i had to stop trying to swallow it.
i went in the bathroom and stuck my finger down my throat until i threw up. huge fucking bone. incredible size. thick and very long
problem was i threw up 2 hours worth of eating. i was fucking hungry all over again!!
12:35 AM
so i started all over on the buffet and sat there another 2 hours eating. the owner couldnt believe it. guy was pissed off at me. but it was all you can eat.
how could this fucking skinny motherfucker sit in my restyaurant and eat for 4 fucking hours?
Saint-Maximin: coughing in uncontrollable laugter
12:36 AM
have you published a short story on this?
Moraline: its funny now, but i really could have died. the bone was as long as my pinky finger
Saint-Maximin: it is a good story--choking on a fish bone at the end of the world
Moraline: funny thing is in my throat it didnt feel that big. i thought it was only a small bone and i could perhaps swallow it. i tried very hard to swallow it too
12:37 AM
Saint-Maximin: choking is a terrible feeling. jesus, bulemia
12:38 AM
Moraline: what is worse puking up all that good food you spent 2 hrs eating. what a pain to have to do it all over again when youre hungry
12:39 AM
Saint-Maximin: yes, they are "livre" which is all you can eat--typically 9 reis for a down to earth joint and then 15 reis for a more well to do joint. they also have "por kilo" or by the kilo but it's a rip-off
jesus, 4 hours of eating a 15 minutes of vomiting.
yeah, you can still drink the hot chocolate though.
Moraline: this place in ushuaia was actually kinda expensive. 70 pesos i think. about
30 dollars
12:40 AM
but i ate a ton of food
yeah, i dont mind the hot chocolate
Saint-Maximin: yes but at the end of the world, and especiaally when you get to recharge in the toilet, that's a good deal
12:41 AM
Moraline: it was high quality food. and i ate a ton. worth it. and that fish too i had avoided all day until the end. i saw those bones. stupidly i tried it and nearly died from it.

Language & Life

126. The danger is great. To write too much about life and make of it a deception. What can be said about life then becomes the shield a man uses to protect himself from it. He shields himself against the silence, from having nothing to say.

128. Language is not designed to advance an explanation of the world, but to get something accomplished between men within it.  The men who communicate with each other to erect the house have made more sense of life than the great philosopher. The house is now a protection from the rain and cold, a place where the family gathers. And what of the philosopher’s idea?

142. There are simply facts. You can do no more with them than to point them out. Any explanation of them is nonsense. The will to explain is a bad habit and the most obvious evidence of a man's weakness.

187.  A novel may have a message, as they say. A poem may. So may a film or a photograph or a painting. Perhaps the artist intends these messages to be universal, to function for all men. But in art these messages best function within the work. It works differently for philosophy. A philosopher only has a message. His life and the life of every other man who has ever lived is where he puts his message. A philosopher begins by saying that other men cannot live outside his message. Whether other men want it or not his message has included them. Indeed, some philosophers have attempted to include all things in the world and the existence of the world itself in their message.


Gringos (Part 1)

These young people from Western countries do something called “taking time off.” They go on a trip after college. They backpack it. They ride a bicycle loaded with panniers. They call it ‘adventure’. They call it ‘risk taking.’ They have a book that tells them where to go and where to drink beer with other adventurers and where to eat and where to stay.
They save up money for this trip. Some of them ask people and companies for donations and to sponsor them on their great adventure. Some pledge to travel on their adventure in the name of a cause such as “ending breast cancer” or “curing AIDS.” Some ask companies to give them free backpacks or bicycles or bicycle panniers and tents and other gear so that they might advertise for them.
Many of these young Western people do a few weeks of volunteer work or take some language classes in these poor, under-developed foreign countries. Then they return to Europe or the USA. They put this adventure on their resume and when they are called for job interviews they are excited to talk about it. This trip changed them. They are a new person now. They should be hired instead of other job candidates who have not taken such trips. This trip has been the difference to everything, they say. They have seen poverty and poverty moved them. This trip has uniquely qualified them for the position.
When they learned to speak a few words of the local language they learned things from these people. These people were poor but insisted on giving them food and giving them shelter. These people are poor but gave them things! With this knowledge I will be a better associate at your company, they say. In five years time I see myself here, advancing professionally, sacrificing for this great firm, they say. In ten years too. I have seen and helped the poor and I am ready to work now, ready to improve this company, to be an associate to the middle manager, and my adventures among the world’s poor has been the ideal preparation for this task.



60. In this epoch of the absent gods, the deaths of unexceptional men are called tragedies by other unexceptional men. In this age of democracy every man is called a hero and every incident is “amazing.”

64. Greatness is only measured against the gods. And it is only to a great man that the gods will allow a tragedy to happen. Verily, tragedy is the gift of the gods to great men.


29. Just because it has had a name assigned to it, does not mean that it exists.
30. The world is bent anew for the new word.
32. A man’s life shows more then he or other men can ever say about it.
33. A sitting man is invariably more wordy than an active man. The bigger and more poetic the vocabulary, the less active the man.
51. Scientific showing is something altogether different. It is a showing that has been cornered and scripted and rehearsed. What does not then show itself thematically is rejected and the showing is again performed until it delivers the expected results. Scientific showing is more theatre than life. Science reveals the world according to man’s theme.


A Tiny Crystal

The Peruvian hippie on the malecon at Huanchaco held a tiny quartz crystal. He placed the tiny crystal in my hand.
“This will bring you what you need,” he told me.
“What do I need?”
“It will bring you money.”
“I do not need money.”
“It will bring you love.”
“Look at that Colombian woman over there.” I pointed at Ines. “Mira, parce. You can see that I do not need love.”
“It will bring you security in your travels.”
“I make my own security, parce. A knife works better than a tiny crystal.”

"Then you will not buy this tiny crystal from me? Even for a favor?"

"I have no need for your tiny crystal. I would only lose it and regret giving you soles for it. Sell it to he who has the need."
It stunned him that I needed nothing, that his tiny crystal meant nothing to me. South Americans were constantly wishing or praying for something to happen for them. Peru in particular was filled with witch doctors and brujeria. It was an attitude that I didn’t understand. If you wanted something to happen you made it happen. Certainly there was luck. But luck ran good and bad and you could not do anything about it. Luck was a mystery. And no man could summon it from a tiny crystal.

My Message for Suscal

I met Alberto in the small park near my hotel as I walked up the hill for breakfast. We talked for awhile and then Alberto asked me to prepare a message for the people of Suscal and to deliver this message during the evening church service. I agreed to do it.
I thought I would make remarks about the simple beauty of their mountain culture and the strength of their religious beliefs and how this made their happiness. This I would contrast with the unhappiness of my country and its conspicuous consumption and rejection of religion.
But as the day progressed and I thought more about speaking to these indigenous people, I realized I knew nothing about them. I was only presuming they were happy. I knew nothing of their lives. They wore black wide-brimmed hats and the women had purple or pink handmade dresses and they were all very short and dark and Indian looking. That was all I knew of them. I didn’t understand them in any deep way. Not like I knew America. America I knew well. America I could speak about. But why should I tell these people about America? Why not leave America where it is and leave these Andean mountain people to themselves? Indeed, I had come to South America to receive messages, not to deliver them.
I realized I could not address the congregation. I knew this would disappoint Alberto. I would not know how to explain it to him. I decided it would be better just to miss our meeting at 6pm. If I ran into him before I left I would say I had fallen asleep. I had disappointed people before and I would certainly do it again.
It was better this way. To not make these people any more interested in America than they might already be. I carried with me an intoxicating and dangerous poison and I did not want to spread it. The Spanish had come and changed these people and American culture could easily finish them off. I had not come here to encourage it.
With or without me these people were being changed. In Suscal I saw as many internet shops as food shops, each filled with young people going online. Facebook and videos and games were what they looked at. It wasn’t any different than in Western countries.
After speaking with Alberto I ate breakfast on the avenida principal and a boy and girl at another table watched me as I ate. Neither of them wore the traditional clothing. The young man was dressed in baggy, hip-hop style jeans and the girl in a t-shirt and jeans. When I spoke with the woman who ran the restaurant the boy and girl laughed. My Spanish is of the Colombian north coast and it no doubt was a surprise to hear a strange, long-haired, blue-eyed man speaking it. I thought to myself: though they dress as gringos at least they are not so knowledgeable of gringos as to no longer stare and laugh at them. Verily, when the young can no longer stare and laugh at a foreigner Suscal will have been altogether lost.


God of the Mountains

I had been traveling with a woman. I had been paying other men for shelter and to prepare my food and I had been moving around the country in buses. I had made myself a tourist.
sacrificial area for the mountain god
But standing before the sacrificial alter of the Moche people and looking up at the great mountain above their pyramid, the mountain in which dwelled their highest god, the god of the mountains, I was reminded of sacrifice and my own sacrifices to the god of the mountains. The Moche elder slit the throats of the bound and naked men and drained their blood from the jugular into a golden chalice that was then brought to the Moche priest for the high offering and the blessing of the god of the mountains.
Moche representations of the god of the mountains
I had offered my blood too. I had given sweat and much pain and blood to that self-same god. I had gone up into the god's mountains alone and found him. I had traveled up under my own power and carried my house upon a bicycle, asking nothing of other men and bringing my own food and cooking it. I was far from it now, using buses and taxis and hotels and paying other men to cook for me. But I could get back to it again. I needed to get back to it again. I had payed men to be skillful for me for too long. I had lived among men for too long. I needed to ride back up to the mountain god and make a new offering.


On Solitude

It is in solitary living that he opens himself to the first experience of the world, without the derivative and all-too-human notions of subjectivity or consciousness or science or religion. Solitude does not mean living in a little room in a city and avoiding one’s friends and family. It does not necessarily mean living on a mountaintop either. Solitude is removing oneself physically to a wholly other world, a different world than one knows. Different language, customs, topography, animals, food, the weather, the sun and stars, the love of a foreign woman, the seasons, buildings, trees, and gods and rivers. In such a place a man lives entirely alone. He has little to grab onto, or that grabs onto him. There is no longer the familiar. This is solitude.

As a result of the surrounding novelty, he has the experience of the world in its glory and wonder. He becomes as the child. He makes the discovery of the world as gift.

If he is traveling by bicycle or on foot his solitude is even purer. He lives in concern for his need of food and water and shelter. He asks that no one other than the food sellers be skillful for him. He addresses this new world with his own skills. He lives nearer to the world’s mystery and thereby awakens the gods to care for him.

Indeed, gifts from the gods may be bestowed upon this solitary man. Ideas and visions and new ways of life as mysterious in origin as the world itself.


Epoch of Finance

There are different epochs of men. There was the epoch of technology for Heidegger. It can be generally said to have begun with the Industrial Revolution and extended through the rebuilding of Europe in the decades following the second World War. But with manufacturing sent away to cheap labor countries, the West began a new epoch, the epoch of finance.* Money and debt figures guide life and allow man to manage it. Technology dominates the earth, but finance dominates the future. Finance strips the cash flows from future productivity to be employed and consumed today. With technology man transforms the earth into a resource. With finance, man makes the future certain. Man takes control of time.

With manufacturing sent abroad, Western man now sits to work, no longer using his body or injuring his hands. He no longer knows the machinations that create the products he consumes. He no longer sees the smokestacks of the factories or knows the factory workers who make his things.** He may very well live in luxury condominiums apportioned from abandoned factory buildings in the cities. Most men are no longer employed to do anything related to their needs. Man has moved far past concern for his need and now lives to service the debt born of his leisure consumption. He lives in service to the future, a future he has already determined and harvested.

The West is a sitting and service economy, organized by the wizards of finance, a cabal of bankers and central bankers who guide the flows of money forward and back across time.

* The epoch of finance began in earnest with the ending of Bretton-Woods in 1971 and man was given full control over the money supply. Manufacturing in the USA traces its decline from this date.

** No longer does a man know a blacksmith or a soybean farmer or a miller. Nor does he know who or what built his washing machine or his television or his air conditioner; nor how the chicken he eats was grown and slaughtered; nor what genetic modifications and fertilizers designed the oversized tomatoes in his salad.


The End of Happiness

“Do not fear making babies. Even in a dying world there can be happiness.”

“But won’t it be too hard?”

“It was always too hard. What is too hard changes for the generations.”

“But won’t the end be the hardest?”

“The end? Have you then discovered the beginning that you should inquire about the end?”

“Perhaps you're right.”

“He that would know the end would also know the beginning."


"For very long now men have expected the end. But even if it should end, why should it not end happily?”


Seven Years Old

“Mom, how old will I be in heaven?”

“You’ll be whatever age you choose to be.”

“And I’ll be that age forever and ever?”

“Forever and ever. Any age you choose.”

He remembered that conversation with his mother. He was five years old then and had decided he would be eternally five when he went to heaven. Then, during his sixth year, he realized being six years old was even better and decided he would be eternally six when he went to heaven. But now, in this his seventh year, it was going so well that he decided to be seven eternally. He could not imagine any year going any better and he promised himself that however good being eight seemed he was not going to change his mind. Seven years old was it. He was going to be seven years old for eternity.

But then he thought of a problem. What if his friends chose different ages? What if they chose to be much older in heaven? They wouldn’t be able to play together. What if there were no other seven year olds? He would have no friends and nobody to play with for eternity. The problem began to really scare him. He needed his friends to agree to be seven years old eternally with him. It couldn’t be that hard. He had already gotten his friends to agree to become astronauts and go to space with him. Before that they had agreed to be cowboys with him. He had good friends and he wasn’t worried. They would all go to heaven and be the same age together forever and ever and everything would go on eternally for as good as he was having it now, in this, his seventh and best year on the earth.



42. The less skilled a man is the more money he will require to make up for his lack of skillfulness. He must employ others to be skilled for him.

59. To be skilled is to have a security more secure than any amount of fiat currency.

63. The desire for money is an expression of his passivity. One wants to be secure enough to no longer do anything, to no longer feel anything. Verily, money obstructs the motivation to learn new skills.

67. A man of great and varied skill is fearless and confident. He knows he is ignorant of nothing. He requires neither money or other men and his life and his happiness he makes for himself. But the wealthy man is always fearful for his wealth, for stripped of his money he becomes helpless, unable to call upon those with skills to act for him.

86. Some skills: cultural (languages, customs, geography, etc.); physical (strength, speed, endurance of pain, coordination, self-defense, street smarts, experience against fists, knives, guns, etc.); technical (medical for his own body, bicycles, motorcycles, small engines, electrical, plumbing, etc.); economic (Austrian economics (von Mises, Hayek), history of fiat currencies, central banking and its effects, inflation/deflation dynamic, the carry trade, the yield curve, trading knowledge to protect any assets, etc.); survival (constructing shelters, water, fire, hunting and trapping, foraging for edible plants, farming, fishing, etc.); weapons (rifles, pistols, knives, etc.); intellectual (Plato, Stoics/Cynics/Epicurians, Sophocles, Augustine, Montaigne, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Heidegger/Sartre (one should be versed in some highly technical philosophy--it enhances discipline), Tolstoy, Hemingway, Hamsun, Celine, etc.); hard sciences and philosophy of science (from Feynman and Heisenberg to Feyerabend and Popper and Kuhn); miscellaneous (understanding women and their different motivations and handling and directing them, legal defense skills, prison life and survival, horsemanship, painting, music, writing, photography, ethology (Lorenz), etc.)

97. To be free is to be comprehensively skilled. To be free is not to require the skills of others. Indeed, it is in part that money may act as a substitute for skills that makes it anti-thetical to freedom.


A Wounding above Zaragoza

He lay in the ditch. He had fallen. The brakes had failed and he had gone over the bars and into the dirt and rock wall. But he had not gone off the mountain. He was not slain. He was only wounded. I will lay and bleed a little, he said aloud. Then I will get back up and true this mangled wheel and I will ride down from this mountain.


Stare at the Gringo

The Colombian and Ecuadorian both stare long and hard at the blue-eyed gringo on the strange bicycle. But their gazes are different. The Colombian looks upon the blue-eyed gringo and his funny bike with surprise and curiosity. He may smile. He wishes to know more. There is thought and wonder behind his gaze. The Ecuadorian, however, looks upon the gringo and his strange bike with bewilderment. The Ecuadorian’s look is empty. There is nothing behind it, not even the dimmest of curiosities. He is speechless before the gringo. He looks and thinks nothing and could say nothing if the gringo stopped and spoke to him.


Ecuadorian Pullups

At Canoa out front of the hotel restaurant on the beach is a pullup bar. It was a surprise to see it when I arrived and I looked forward to seeing how much of my pullup strength I had lost since not performing the exercise in almost a month. But there were weed smokers and bongo playing hippies around the bar and then some skinny idiots among them were doing jerkups to impress some girls. They did two or three and acted like he-men. I didn’t want any of those fools to be near me when I was working out. They would no doubt disrupt the timed sets I perform. I decided to do my workout the following morning.

I got out to the bar at 8 am, the beach around it empty, the sky overcast and the wind blowing big, crashing waves onto the beach. I warmed up with 30 slow, deliberate, perfect form pushups in the sand and then did slow circles forward and back with my arms outstretched in an iron cross position, 50 revolutions in each direction. I busted 50 mountain climbers to get the blood flowing. Then I started into the pullups, doing sets of 5 strict and very slow with a pause at the up and down position. I felt pretty good but just to be sure extended my rest time between sets to 45 seconds instead of the usual 30.

During my rest period after the fifth set a squat middle-aged guy with the typical Ecuadorian gut comes waddling over with his fat wife and little son and he walks up to the bar. I didn’t think he could do a single pullup and figured he wouldn’t be much of a disruption. He must have seen me doing pullups and wanted to show off for his fat wife and little boy. Maybe he remembered the one pullup he had done in his life long ago.

The guy looks up and reaches for the bar but it is much too high for him. Then he jumps, just getting his fingers around the bar, but not enough to grip it, and his feet are gone from under him and he’s falling backwards and me, seeing this happening in slow motion, watch him land flat on his back, his head banging off the corner of the cement foundation of the left pillar for the bar. Blood is pouring from his head into the sand and he’s laying there, this confused look in his eyes.

Stay down, stay down, I tell this fool, putting my hand on his chest. But my talking seems to awaken him and this idiot sits up and pushes my hand away. He’s back on his feet. This idiot has got to do his pullups. He’s got his arms outstretched and is going to try to jump for the bar again. Stop, stop, I tell him, you can’t reach the bar. I push a cement block under the bar so he can stand on it. He doesn’t thank me and stands on the block with his arms outstretched, looking up at the bar. The back of his t-shirt is red from all the blood running down his neck.

I look over at his fat wife and little son. They don’t seem at all concerned by this. They haven’t said a word. Perhaps this is part of his pullup routine. Perhaps a head wound and bleeding is all part of the warmup.

He jumps for the bar and I’m ready to try and catch him this time, but he gets it. He hangs for a second and steadies himself and then jerks his legs and his midsection and his shoulders just come out of their locked position. His chin has maybe moved a few centimeters upwards towards the bar. Under his breath he mutters Uno. He jerks again, and his gut shakes. Dos. He takes a longer pause and again does the jerking. Tres, and with that he drops down from the bar.

He turns and walks over to his son. He slaps his hand and gives him the awkward fist bump that for some reason passes for a handshake among people of any age and gender throughout Ecuador. They finish this celebratory flourish by extending their thumbs and touching them together. He then puts one arm around his son, the other around his fat wife and the three stagger off slowly across the beach in triumph, the back of his head still pulsing blood.


La Poeta Negro de Ibarra

It was early morning and the other bars in Ibarra had closed for the night. But on the far side of the city there was a small, one room bar that stayed open for men who were committed to their drinking. I was there at this bar, drinking bottles of Club Verde, seated at a wooden table with an out of work carpenter, a belly dancer, a very drunken photographer, and the Black Poet of Ibarra. The carpenter was called Pablo Guerrero and he had brought me to this bar after the one we had been drinking at had closed.

The belly dancer smiled. She was not at all ashamed of her bad teeth. She wore a green sheer dress and sparkling bikini top and had just performed her belly dance. At the other table four old men looked over at her longingly. She was very much enjoying the attention.

The Black Poet of Ibarra stood up and announced that the poem he had been writing for me was now complete. He asked that the pastilla music be turned off. From the pocket of his corduroy jacket the Black Poet produced a piece of broken glass. It looked like the bottom of a Coke bottle. He held the shard of glass to his eye and looking through it he began to read the poem he had written on a small square of paper. The poem he wrote for me was titled “Pedro.” 

The Black Poet was old and sad. His wife of 28 years had just died. We talked of Augustine. We talked of Nietzsche. We talked of the Pre-Socratics. We talked of how life might have been before men became reasonable, before the myths were destroyed and the gods exiled. The Black Poet agreed that logic and science were regional and that these regions were much narrower than men believed. I told the Black Poet that the line in his poem about my having pockets filled with wind was going to stay with me a long time. The Black Poet lived nearby and I slept a few hours on his couch until the sun came up.


With Pedro Moncayo

It was hot in the sun at the plaza. It was good to be out of the cold of the higher mountains. I sat on a wooden bench and watched the Ecuadorian hippies making music. One played a guitar and the other a bongo drum. They were dirty and shoeless and looked in my direction longingly. In the plaza center pigeons alighted on the head of the bronze statue of Pedro Moncayo. There were two pigeons sitting on his head and one defecated and the feces ran down his forehead and slowly down the bridge of his nose. Another pigeon defecated and the feces ran along the same line, a grayish glob collecting at the tip of Moncayo‘s nose. A third defecation caused the feces to grow too heavy and it dropped to the stone base of the statue.

A filthy little black boy with a big, unkept afro was wandering around the park. He was coughing heavily and spitting. He sounded tubercular and seemed to take delight in walking near people and spitting up his phlegm. He would come very close to them and start coughing and spitting. I watched him as he came up from behind me. Beside my bench the black boy got down on his knees and spit up a great quantity of green mucus onto the stone path. Then he began to trace his finger through the mucus making some sort of design with it. I moved to another bench. I was immunized for tuberculosis but I did not want to chance it. The black boy continued to outline something in his phlegm. He was very serious about it.


Security Notes for Bicycle Touring

[This list was originally written for Maximin and is by no means complete]

1. Make copies of your passport. A photocopy to carry with you as well as a picture on your netbook and emailed to yourself in your email. (Also note that US passports sell on the black market for 10k, so should you be really hard up for money it can be sold.)

2. Power of attorney. You can give it to someone you trust in the USA. Can be useful for any banking issues as well as tax problems and medical issues if you are incapacitated. Simple power of attorney forms can be gotten at your local library. Also very easy to terminate.

3. Your bank card is essential to survival. Always carry it in your secret pocket and have the international phone number of your bank emailed to yourself and on your netbook so you can cancel the card if stolen. You also need a USA address on file with the bank that your new card can be sent to. A person at this address can then send the new card to you in S America. This is easier if you have given power of attorney to this person. Also tell your bank of your travel plans. This way they can monitor your card use and put a hold on it if used irregularly. Additionally, many banks if not notified of a S American trip will immediately put a hold on your card or cancel it. Set daily withdrawal limits and credit card daily limits. No doubt the default daily limits on the card are much too high for S American bicycle touring.

4. Adaptor connector for camping stove. This allows you to use the needle-headed butane canisters that are sold in hardware stores. The adaptor screws into the stove and then twist-locks onto the top of the butane canister. Essential when traveling by bike as camping stores are often hard to find to purchase the specially designed screw-on camping butane canisters. Also, hardware store butane canisters are cheaper than the camping canisters. I lost my adaptor and don’t think I’ll see another one outside of Argentina, a country of people who enjoy camping. I consider this my most serious loss of gear. 

5. Another well known security precaution in hotels is to leave your TV on while out of your room. Make sure its loud enough that someone putting their ear up to your door can hear it.

6. A knife is a good weapon. A switchblade is best since it only takes one hand to pop it. You can slowly bring out money from your left-hand pocket with your left hand--getting the thief to watch that hand--while bringing out the switchblade in your right from your right-hand pocket, popping the blade and keeping it hidden by your thigh, and then, as you slowly hand the money towards the thief, handing it to thief’s hand holding the knife, you stab the fucker in the throat, while pushing his knife away from you with your left hand. But only do this shit if you feel you must. Switchblades are also good for cutting things when camping and for cooking too, as well as cutting your cardboard boxes for transporting your Bike Friday. Switchblades are illegal in all states except for New Hampshire. It may be something you purchase when arriving in S America.

7. A better weapon for defense is a sort of heavy stick that unfolds and you can whip people with it. I don’t know the name of it and I wish I had one. Perhaps they make them to fit in pockets. With this you can whip it out and keep a knife-wielding attacker at a distance while you fuck him up. You should strike for his knees or shins first, bringing him to the ground, then you can hit him some more or begin to stomp on his face and kick him. Then, later, if you’ve taken a particular dislike to him, you can get out your switchblade and cut into the bitch. But keep in mind that if you should bring out your knife you had better be prepared to kill with it. This is true especially in Colombia where letting a guy live is certain to mean a life-threatening future problem. He’ll be coming back for you with all his friends and well armed.

8. Carry a bit of money in your regular pockets to give to a mugger. A wallet with a few bills in it is even better. Its always best to avoid violent confrontations. Most of these guys are professionals.

9. A good pair of shit-kicking stomping boots. These may be heavy and you would only wear them when off your bike, but they are great for fighting. Just kick a motherfucker in the knee and he’s going down. The groin is a good spot too but can be hard to kick just right, so go for the knees or shins (shins are very sensitive). He’ll go down (or at minimum be unable to walk towards you) and then you can stomp the shit out of him. You should always attempt to get a guy on the ground first, especially the big guys. Got to take out their legs. A good pair of shit-kickers does that easily. Then stomp until he’s no longer a threat. You can also kick further than you can punch, meaning a kick is an offensive move that also keeps you protected, while a punch always leaves a man open to the counter. Perhaps you can purchase these boots when you find a place you want to stay after touring for awhile. Obviously its really a luxury to carry these things in panniers while touring.

10. In any violent encounter in S America be prepared to fight 7 guys. Miguel the Ninja of Buga told me this and I believe it is a good rule to follow. So get the lead guy down and then be quickly turning to take on the next guy. You need to work quickly, and that is why getting a guy in the knees and getting him down is important so you can turn and fight the next one.

11. Be aware that the thieves with knives and guns often look for couples. Its an easier robbery to grab the girl and then rob the both of you. Be aware of this when walking with a girl. You’re actually safer without her.

12. If the thief has a gun give him what he wants. Don’t fight.

13. Some robberies may involve them stealing your clothing, including your pants. This means your secret pocket and its contents is being taken too. You may indeed choose to resist depending upon what you’re carrying and your assessment of the attackers and situation.

14. Walk on sidewalks at the edge of the street, not against walls or buildings. That way if someone comes at you from in front or behind or from an alley they’ll have a harder time pushing you against a building or into an alley to rob you. You also have an opportunity for escape by being able to run into the street. Also, a cop in a car has a better chance of seeing the robbery.

15. When walking at night back from the bar or club or walking in a bad area I have often put a good-sized rock in my back pocket. If you can throw hard and accurate it makes a great weapon against a guy with a knife. Hit him good, then run.


To Gods, To Men

1. The gods have withdrawn because of boredom. Men no longer interest them. Only great men and those who attempt a greatness can awaken the slumbering divinities.

2. Who among you would live enough so that the gods would be in conflict over you? That some of the divinities would side with you while others would seek your destruction?


Back in the Saddle

Last night, the night before my first ride in over a year, I unfortunately had the great idea to get drunk and go to whorehouses with Miguel, the Colombian ninja. We visited two of them, the first filled with the ugliest whores I've ever seen. I had them play "4 No Se Ve" by Nejo and Dalmata, telling the fat whore that should be the theme song of the place. She didn't understand. The second whorehouse was better and we wasted the night drinking with a table full of whores. Cops raided the place and Miguel and I just barely got our knives hidden in our shoes before we were searched.

I woke up terribly dehydrated and hung over and forced myself to get on the road. I threw up 3 times on the Pan American, bonked once, and stupidly didn't stop for lunch when I passed a roadside comedor. I had to ride 40 km with only a banana until the next roadside restaurant. I arrived shaking and starved but felt too awful to eat much. I told the waitress to watch my bike and passed out on the table for an hour and a half.

I tried a new way into Cali thinking it would be better than the old, shitty, dangerous, pot-holed, traffic-crazy route I normally take. In fact it was much worse and involved significantly more riding. I got lost in some shit poor barrio on the ege of  the city but then somehow came upon Eclipse, a sex motel I had taken some girls to. I remembered that cab ride back to Grenada clearly and made my way across the city as the sun went down behind the mountains. Ran into a coke dealer on Sexta I hadn't seen in years. He pissed off the wong guy and someone had fucked up his hand. His pinky and the finger next to it were curled up into his palm and useless. Cali hasn't changed.


Dialogue on Greatness

Questioner: And what is this 'greatness' you are always rambling on about, Moraline?

Moraline: What are you prepared to die for?

Questioner: Clearly, you mean a metaphorical death.

Moraline: No. Your death. You. Dead. No longer living.

Questioner: Really dead then.

Moraline: But the bigger question is at your death will the gods be in attendance?

Questioner: What gods?

Moraline: I can see that you have nothing yet to die for.


La Guajira (Part 4)


It was dark and very early when we left for the sea. We drove through Valledupar in darkness and passed the coal mine and as the sky lightened the mountains appeared as a high black silhouette against it. With the sun came the heat of the day and the road continued through the valley, through dusty pastureland and then following along a river it was green and lush and there were rice patties. We left the river and climbed a low pass and descending into the next valley the road was broken and pot-holed and her brother swerved and braked and it was very rough driving.

Passing us were convoys of pickup trucks with plastic barrels stacked high on their wagons. Her brother said they were smugglers bringing gasoline into Colombia from Venezuela. They had made their drop and were rushing back for the frontier.

The road forked and turned to dirt and broken asphalt and we entered a pueblo of rundown cinderblock homes. Along the dirt road men were selling the smuggled gasoline from plastic barrels. We stopped opposite an abandoned service station and her brother got out to negotiate the price with a young man. Up the road a team of men were breaking apart the asphalt with a jackhammer. The jack-hammering was very loud and the air was very dusty and the whole pueblo smelled strongly of gasoline.

It was late morning when we made the coast at Riohacha. The beaches at the north of the city were empty and said to be polluted and the sea broke in a long gray line along the sand. There were some Arhuaco men selling artisanales on the boardwalk and we stopped and got out to look at the mochilas and jewelry.

The Arhuaco were short and long-haired and dressed in white tunics and pants and wore a white conical hat called the tutusoma.* They did not speak much Spanish other than the prices and chewed at the coca leaves they held in their cheeks. Each man held a long-necked gourd called a poporo and as they watched us each dipped a black rod into his gourd, covering the end in a white powder which they then put into their mouths. Then they gently rubbed their rods, wet with saliva and powder, along the neck of the gourds.** The youngest of the Arhuaco tried hard to interest us in his mochilas but he wanted too much for the hand knit bags and we did not buy anything.

We left Riohacha and drove east across a long and arid plain. It was noon now and very bright and goats wandered through the sandy scrub and across the road. To the left, through the heat-light, you could just make out the blue of the Caribbean Sea. We drove another thirty kilometers and turned off onto a one-track dirt road that led back to a Wayuu settlement along the sea. There were five of the Wayuu homes called caserios and a boy ran out and directed us to park before a thatch-roofed hutch along the beach.

It was very hot and we sat down at a wooden table in the shade of the hutch and ordered beer from the Wayuu boy. The water was emerald green and clear and the white sand was bright in the sun. There were fishing skiffs tied off in the deeper water. We were the only ones at the beach. The boy returned with the bottled beer and we asked about lunch and if he had fish but he did not know Spanish well enough to understand. We were hungry but the beer was cold and it tasted delicious in the heat.

* The tutusoma is meant to symbolize the snowcapped mountain peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta which the Arhuaco consider holy and have pledged to protect. The Arhuaco believe these mountains to be the heart of the world and that the well-being of the world depends upon them. By protecting these mountains the Arhuaco protect the world.

** The white substance inside the poporo is a powdered lime made of burnt sea shells from the Caribbean coast. The coca leaf when chewed with powdered lime becomes a mild narcotic. Only Arhuaco men are allowed to use the poporo and its ritual is intended to symbolize a woman: “The hole in the top is penetrated by the poporo stick. The powder of burned sea-shells inside is the essence of fertility, and for a boy to grow to manhood he must learn to feed on that. That, and the coca leaves, harvested only by women, will make him fit to father children and tend the land -- to develop a relationship with a woman in the flesh, and with the Mother Earth. The poporo is the mark of civilization. Eating from it reminds a man of what he is, and keeps him in harmony with the Great Mother. The ring of calc which builds up around the rim is saliva (the fresh water of the body) mixed with shell-dust (the seed of Serankua, dua, the seed of all life). Created during contemplation, by thoughtfully licking the stick and rubbing it on the neck of the gourd, this calc is also described as a book: ‘We write our thoughts in it.’” (The Heart of the World, Alan Ereira, 1990).
Copyright © Moraline Free