1 March 2008: Return from Central America

Texas customs officials (Are you independently wealthy? Are you sure you’re just a student? Why have you been to Guatemala 3 times in the past 4 months?), a slumping economy, and the start of grad school and reduced student loan availability with astronomical interest rates (thank you, Mr. President) stand ready to embrace me as I prepare to reenter our land of plenty.

On the upside, I have just mastered the language of the demographic that will constitute 1 in 4 Americans within the coming years, and these people share my sentiments re: US customs.

After finishing my Spanish lessons, I left my host families and set off via bus for Nicaragua and El Salvador. This was supposed to be a relaxing end to a journey in which $853 USD had been stolen while I was on an airplane home to CO to attend to pressing matters. In some respects, it was, and in some respects, I spent nights translating for assaulted German tourists who decided it would be safe to use an ATM in Managua after 6pm and couldn’t understand why you don’t contact police in Central America. Excepting idiots and misfortune (poof! previously accumulated karma from that good deed disappears), the journey was revealing and troubling in a way I haven’t experienced since Africa two years ago.

A visit to San Salvador at 3pm shows prostitutes who somehow strangely manage to look more offensive in the little clothing they are wearing than if they were just strutting around completely naked. The moniker “El Conquistador” is, however, +10 points to the marketing department of that establishment. A visitor entering Managua, Nicaragua is greeted by a city of 2,000 people living in cardboard boxes, red and black striped Sandanista flags proudly flying. You can still see the bullet holes in the colonial architecture of Granada, and Parque Central, like any other in Latin America, moves to a distinct, laid back rhythm with an aggressive undercurrent of price hustling and potential suckers (hint: they’re all white) as Cuban beats drop and Flor de Cana ron flows.

Final observations would be that Americans, second only to Israelis (a people surrounded by nations committed to their imminent destruction) are the most aggressive people I have encountered anywhere on this planet. Our sense of entitlement is astounding. Some would argue that Central America is violent, and in sectors not overtaken by Western commerce (e.g. diplomatic zones of capital cities), this is certainly true. And yet, there is something comforting about the “violence” in these countries as opposed to the violence in the US. The violence here is largely physical and has, for the most part, easily understood motivations (e.g “I have no roof over my head, shoes on my feet, clean water to drink, food to eat, or clothes to wear–this idiot shouldn’t have worn a $1K Nikon to brunch”). The violence in the US, on the other hand, tends to me more of a psychological and intellectual nature: it takes the form of lawsuits, nationalist regulations, and other far more insidious (and difficult to understand) evils that seek to destroy a psyche and a complete person rather than to just take a possession, or even a life.

In Benjamin Barber’s excellent book “Jihad vs. McWorld” he eloquently argues that both the concept of “jihad” (be it by extreme Muslims, Christians, or any other kind of fundamentalist) and McWorld (e.g. capitalism that manufactures wants to create profit rather than addressing existing needs (clean water, etc.) to both profit and serve) are two seemingly opposed extremes of the same evil. Both feed on each other in a never-ending, cyclical pattern, and the argument is strong that there may be equal amounts of freedom in a Taliban controlled society as in one in which people are kept ignorant via exorbitant interest rates on education and consumer goods. In one, however, we are allowed to have just enough, to be just satiated enough, that the incentive to question and fight disappears until well beyond the “Oh Shit” point of realization.

Over the 35 hours spent sitting in buses, I knocked out Richard Bangs’ “Adventures With Purpose: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Earth” in which the famed explorer and Expedia founder wrote a book lauded to be, “not about providing thrillseeking joy rides or mindless ego tripping moments.” This is clearly not my brand of travel blogging, and an apology isn’t forthcoming. The things we do to challenge ourselves in our respective lives–the limits we push in our sector of this planet, hopefully to better ourselves and those around us–these are the thrillseeking joy rides, the ego tripping moments, the Kerouacian ride that makes us seem either larger than life as when tempting fate or blissfully insignificant as when standing on a beach at night, the few moments that we actually live; these are the thrillseeking, ego tripping instants that shed light on how life was meant to be pre fluorescent lights and mortgages and xenophobia. Thinly veiled civil norms cannot cure the primal realizations in each of us once the fire is stoked. It’s a cool thing to watch a scorpion crawl across your path, to hike a jungle in the middle of nowhere with someone you met on a bus that almost rolled, to swim/kayak a lake that is the crater of a sunken volcano, to ride on top of a goat on top of a derelict bus, to cram as much as possible into your time before it’s stolen back from you.

It was a good year. When I’m 80 and my nephew wants to know what his uncle did, I can tell him I was one of the last Americans to see Cuba under Castro, the “terrorist” Maoists in Nepal, the Sandanistas, Everest before global warming started to wreak havoc on the mountain (already) and my advice will be to follow your path and don’t believe the hype.

The consummate expat and mi mejor amigo, “Jungle” J. Sermos, said it best: “Whenever you see these things, think back to everything you’ve been taught, think back to the excesses you see where we were born, and remember that our successes and aspirations are built largely on the backs of the broken dreams of entire continents.”

Everything I say is my own form of propaganda–don’t believe it. My greatest aspiration would be that people are motivated to seek the experiences and questions for themselves and ask “Why?” Whatever different answers we come up with are infinitely better than the current ignorance. We live in a country, in a world, in a global marketplace, that relies upon–plans strategies around–our ignorance. Education via real life experience in the largest, most interesting teacher in the world, our planet itself, will always show people different individual experiences and recurring themes, no matter what corner one inhabits.

I’m down to the last 8 hours of my trip, and the lyrics to “Eurotrash Girl” by Cracker playing in the background are fitting:

“Called my mom from a pay phone, said ‘I’m down to my last.’ She said, ‘I sent you to college, now go call your dad.'”

Parrott

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2 December 2006: The End, Middle, and Beginning

The is written in the spirit of aphorisms I come to meditate on while studying several hours a day with a Bengali guru: “Love says it is Everything; Wisdom says it is Nothing.” The emails are written out of Love, displaying my wisdom–and I don’t know shit. You’ll probably live a much happier life if you remember that as you read my writings.

Before long yet another phase of my journey comes to a close with the next “in transit” point being Denver, CO. I lack the wisdom and diction to adequately convey the things I would like to, but I have attempted to compile malleable “conclusions” about the last 3 mos of my life, as well as some updates on recent adventures. Mauritania, as it would turn out, was a nice slice of chocolate cake compared to the following times. I have split the email into bold-faced and capitalized subject headings so that those of you who don’t want to read the novel can just browse to what interests you most. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I write primarily for me, “in recollection and amazement for myself” as Kerouac so wonderfully put it.

Many of you know me better after my journals and many immediate family wish they didn’t know me as well as they now do, and the people closest to me are pouring 18 year old Glenlivet and laughing their heads off that Parrott found a way to spout his craziness and propaganda via email PA from Mauritania and Tibet. For my part, I’ve got a smirk on my face and nothin’ but love for ya in my heart. Thanks for the inspiration (on behalf of many of you) to start the journey, the motivation to continue, and the wisdom to stop before stagnation and complacency set in.

RELIGION

I’ve seen the world’s largest statue of Buddha (26m tall in gold), hidden monasteries, gold-encrusted crucifixes of Christ, temples and shrines and mosques to Allah, Shiva, Ganesh, gothic cathedrals, ancient burial sites. I’ve combed through texts on Sufiism, Tantra, mysticism and beliefs of all religions at sacred libraries at monasteries and in Ladakh. I’ve studied with a guru at the Institute for Buddhist Studies in Choglamsar, meditated, lived in monasteries, met yogis who can levitate and make snow melt, read the Bible, read the Koran (in English) with an imam in a mosque, read literature on everything from Buddha to Jesus to “Christ (peace be upon him) in Islam.” I’ve watched Buddhist monks cart out flour sacks full of money and Christians collect them in offering plates, all taken in elaborate, awe inspiring places of worship, and often from poor and dispossessed masses who can barely afford a meal. If all the gold in Tibetan monasteries was melted, some political clout could be purchased and Tibet would be free. The world over, a statue is a statue is a statue, irregardless of what deity it is said to represent.

In a sacred Tibetan library, I come across the book “The Unity of All Religions” which beautifully decries the monotheistic tensions resulting from “one way” doctrines of any faith, asserting that “the wise of any religion recognize that there is One Truth, One God” and that He is the same for all peoples. Ever since the age of 14, and increasing exponentially with the blessings of a phenomenal education, life experiences, and travel, my conscience remains unable to condemn most of the world to a Christian hell because my parents read me the Bible instead of the Torah or the sutras. (Most of the world, it is worthy of note, are far more devout and pious in their religious observances as well [than Westerners]). There is, I believe, one God, and if you force me to admit to anything I will call myself Christio-Buddhist, though I respect that it takes equal belief in an opposite direction to have “faith” in the fact that god does not exist.

Every religion has some tall stories, absurd fanatics, and true believers. God loves them all. In the end, my personal religious beliefs serve only to isolate me further from any mainstream religion and subject me to the future potential of a Christian hell, a vengeful Allah, or reincarnation as a lesser life form if Lord Buddha or Brahma know anything. Somehow, I still manage to sleep wonderfully peaceably at night.

One of the funniest and most comforting things I have come across is encountered when one deplanes at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi: a large photo of a kayaker plunging into Class V rapids with the tagline: “Incredible!ndia: RELAX–There’s always rebirth.”

And then again, maybe, as the Leadville 100 finisher suggested to me, the “final outcome” of a life well or poorly lived is just that–a life well or poorly lived.

THE WORLD AT LARGE
1. I could drop the Jay-Z line “Been around the world seen the same thing twice.” It’s cliche, it’s true. Everything is simultaneously exactly the same and completely different. However, it is grossly inaccurate to assume that due to this truism one can effectively understand the world and different peoples without interaction with them on their turf–a Moroccan Muslim is a scary thing, much like a Jerry Faldwell-esque Christian. A Senegalese Muslim, one the other hand, is more like a Southern Baptist in a 50 Cent video.

2. The planet, unfortunately, is a landfill. In a way that I cannot explain, and that cannot be fathomed unless it is seen firsthand. It is an absolute landfill, even in the most beautiful places. Continue to Recycle and shop at Whole Foods on the premise of being eco-friendly and Doing the Right Thing; fear for the future your grandchildren inherit, and prepare them accordingly. This doomsday prophecy has been ongoing for generations, and I have the utmost confidence that one day we will all learn the hard way.

3. EDUCATION is, in my opinion (humble or not) the main issue facing everyone, everywhere. It’s easy to attribute developmental problems in places like Africa to a lack of education, but not so much in the US. We’re educated, right? We’re Western, we’re capitalist, we have a good standard of life. Well, no, not quite. What we have is enough material shit to make us content to remain ignorant. Fight for your mind. Heed the advice of the Buddhist yogis and strive to eliminate the “3 Delusions” of which the other 84,000 delusions and all of mankind’s troubles stem:
1. Attachment 2. Hatred 3. IGNORANCE

4. In the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) who are all supposedly vying for that “number one spot” in the next 10-50 years, I pay special attention to India and China. The Indians are Intelligent, Ambitious, and Hardworking. The Chinese are Intelligent, Ambitious, Hardworking, and Ruthless. Edge: China. It’s a very worthy concern.

Two philosophies are at play here that fill my heart with reverence for our educated combatants and inspire future action (It is coming, and it’s best to be ready if you don’t want your great-grandkids in internment camps): 1. “Civilize the mind, but make savage the body.” -Chairman Mao 2. “The nation that makes a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.” -Thucydides

5. At first, I had a bleeding heart. To some degree, I still do–it’s psychologically very difficult to see Africa, India, Tibet, etc. Nevertheless, I want to say a huge Thank You to Albarelle, because there are two notable things he said that changed forever the way I traveled and lived:

a. stop traveling as an American and start traveling as a human (it does not matter how things are done in the West or what would happen back “home”–the laws, customs, and practices you subject yourself to are those of the host country)
b. Never stop working and fighting–there is nothing in this life you are entitled to.

6. J. Krishnamurti, in his book “On Fear” wrote that Fear is always absent in the Present Moment–it only occurs in anticipation of an event or post-occurrence, but never in the actual moment. As I look back on things that have happened, I realize how incredibly terrified I was either before or after, yet how incredibly lucid I was in the Moment. Insane things, in the Moment, seem commonplace, trivial, and not worthy of note. That phenomenon may be termed “the Zone” or “Flow” or a host of other things, but it is special. It is sacred. It is what I consider being “There,” an active participant in one’s life. When the day comes that I hand over this dust I’ve tried to combine with mud to make something slightly more noteworthy than muck, the way I want this expendable life to be remembered (other than by what I leave) is with a simple inscription on the urn:

“He was THERE.”

Live with a vengeance. Listen to Dylan Thomas and “do not go gentle into that good night, but rage, RAGE against the dying of the light.” Listen to Joseph Heller in Catch 22 and “be furious that you are going to die.” Be Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena.” Be EPIC. Take every sappy, cliche, Hallmark-esque mass produced motivational quote and understand that some people internalize, believe, and live them, and theirs are the dreams that come true, the impossible that is conquered.

But if you do nothing else, live a life that is THERE in whatever your place is.

THE “REAL” (insert country name here)

You’ll never see it. You know why? Most of you (myself inc.) are white and have money. One can only see and understand so much without changing your skin color, educational background, sexual orientation, economic status, etc. etc. Most of us are just fortunate enough to see the segment of a different nation that caters to the white tourist, and that is often enough of a culture shock.

As much as humanly possible, however, I have tried. The last 4 weeks of my life are spent exclusively in yak shelters, monasteries, at the homes of local people, and the like in places where I see no other Westerners and I am viewed like the animal in the zoo, not the other way around. I have been to a place Lonely Planet (a guide book is the only regrettable investment I make, and they are all sold off within days) describes as “the ends of the earth” and then proceeded 2000km further south. I’ll tell you what it’s like to sleep at 3000m wrapped in nothing but two wet blankets, to stumble outside at 3am to shit over a hole in the ground (literally), to drink moonshine made from millet in front of you, to sleep with 12″ knives under your pillow because you are 40km (hiking, and another 21 hrs by local bus) into a jungle and there are no police, no military, no rule of law, and the thief is in the next house over tied to a post with his ears cut off down to the lobes
and his face bashed in. I would never in a million years tell you I’m not scared, but I swear to God I Love That Shit:)

THE “FAVOR BANK”
Tom Wolfe and Paulo Coelho both allude to this in their writings. It’s a very real thing. One of my goals prior to leaving was “establish a worldwide network of contacts.” Chances are, if I came across some obscure individual who I thought could potentially help you with something, I shot you a one line email. 1 out of 50 times it works, but the one time it does, well, let’s just say I manage to leave with job offers for working at a Rec Center with inner city youth in East Timor, a travel writer for virtualtravelguides.com, some fashion mogul friends on 5th Ave. NYC, escorts courtesy of Lt. Colonels in the Indian Army, and amazement at how many U. of Denver GSIS professors are in India and Nepal and show love. The importance of networking and sharing contacts with others, essentially, motivates me to always be considering the aspirations of my friends and hope that they are always considering mine.

DEATH

My writings and musings are chalk full of it. I’m not morbid, it’s just a strange sort of bedfellow for me. Each morning when I wake up, I feel suicidal while I brush my teeth–it’s a function of the reality of the world we inhabit. By time I have spit and rinsed, I’ve conjured a way to make a fucked up planet better and resolved the will to go on. The way that I personally weigh what I truly want to do and what is truly important to me is to barrel towards that ultimate precipice (through physical or mental mediums and triggers), assess where I’m at and where I want to be, and move from there. It is hard to be or do something one does not truly want to do or be when he/she is facing the potential last moments of existence, and courage to change and act progressively is, for a certain type of individual, often a byproduct. It’s a good thing I’m not a psychiatrist.

COLORADO
It’s where some of my heart is. I intentionally leave reasons and pieces of myself all over so that if I ever aspire to be complete I must remain in perpetual motion, scattering, gathering, and living.

In the not so distant future, I will be complimentarily hammered on board a 21 hr British Airways flight with vodka tonics draining down my throat, antagonized stewardesses at my beck and call, and “Queen: Live ’96” blasting through my head phones : “But if I crossed a million rivers and I rode a million miles, then I’d still be where I started (yeah be right back where I started)–Keep yourself alive, Keep yourself alive, it’ll take all your time and money honey, but you’ll survive…”

Love life.

Parrott

15 November 2006: Tibet/Nepal

“Andrew,

Sounds like you are pushing too hard to do things, back off or you’ll end up dead, you’re young fit strong and stupid, be wise and sensible, let the Ego go.

That’s the best free advise your going to get in your life.

Ade”

Ade Summers is a ridiculously fit 60 something guide from the UK who now works in Thailand, Australia, and Nepal and does ERP work to supplement his income; we became friends in Kathmandu.

His letter reached me after his words almost came true. In this part of the world, each passing second may as well be the equivalent of a year back “home” for me.

A few days ago I returned from Tibet to a different Nepal. I came hobbling under the weight of my rucksack due to another injury on my other ankle (I couldn’t feel the severity or any pain for days due to the extreme cold), thus delaying the jungle trek by 3 days. I stole in under cover of night via a 20 hr Land Cruiser ride in which the driver nodded off at the wheel, 3-4am was spent with teeth chattering on each other like jackhammers as a tire was being changed in the Himalayas, and the Tibetan brandy I bought and mixed with Coke (because the menu was entirely in Chinese, no one in my vehicle spoke English, and the universal signs for loco–fingers twirling by head–and drink were the easiest means to procure something that would alleviate my well-placed misgivings about the night that lay ahead of me) coursing through my veins.

After crossing back into Nepal at Kodari and hiring a Jeep for the 5 hour drive to Kathmandu with a Japanese couple, a new Nepal greeted me. At village checkpoints in the hills (where the Maoists dominate) the vehicle was surrounded by 15 men tapping bamboo sticks menacingly wanting to know what nationality I was. My unorthodox ability as a white man to ramble on in Spanish is a skill that astounds and confuses Easterners and will never again be taken for granted by me. I have been scared. I have been Scared. I have never, until a few days ago, been SCARED. I almost bought a plane ticket home that afternoon. Swagger and braggadacio are replaced by the legitimate fear of a makeshift bamboo rod hemorrhaging your brain in the dusty streets of a forgotten land. I gave the issue serious thought, but finally the prospect of staying in country and witnessing the sudden and dramatic change of a people and a nation–even in subtle undertones like 180d body language and eye mo
vements–held too much curiosity and wonder for me.

Once in Kathmandu, I set about doing what I had delayed for 3 months and put myself to the test I had set for myself. If there was one event I hoped would happen abroad, this was it: rock bottom. I wrote the email below to two of my best friends, and 10 minutes later I went mad:

“When all is said and done, I am a Hallmark card with about a 55% success rate. Fuck what they tell you–it’s not about family, it’s not about friends, it’s not about money, it’s not about health, it’s not about God, it’s not about material shit, it’s not about living like a hobo; I’ve had all these things and I’ve lost them all as well–the fact is, I honestly have no fucking clue what it’s all about, I just know that I’ve done all of it as well and as hard as I could.”

That was the moment I finally knew Something, which was that I knew absolutely Nothing. I typed the above email out, retired to my room at 4pm, and drew the shades. I spent the next 15 hours with chills and shakes hallucinating scared to open my bedside drawer because there were snakes in it (there weren’t, but in those hours Fear, Potential, and Lunacy reigned supreme). I banged my head against the bedpost and I tried to cry but couldn’t and my face contorted in ways that would leave Jim Carrey unemployed. Kerouac went insane from delirium tremens–I went insane not from substance or drink but from the sheer vitality of life, and for those dozen hours I was stark raving mad. The incident was part of what I hoped would happen to me in the East, but I had delayed triggering it for a few months because I was having such a good time what with life and adventure and all.

I wanted to be in a place where the best efforts of friends and family and lovers could not reach me; I wanted to be in a place where all of the pitfalls I have succumbed to in the past are easily obtained; I wanted to be in a place where my friends are the arms dealers in the market and the Khukri (knife) outfitters for the Ghurka soldiers and where I can obtain destruction cheaper than you can wash your car. I wanted to internalize my cheesy Hallmark quotes and live the dream and find out if I still had a purpose, a reason, a “next thing” or a “present thing” or another chance to see how blue the sky can be, and the truth is that for 15 hours I thought there was no more gas in the tank.

But I came through the night and the next day the sky was never bluer, music pierced my soul a little more, there was the beauty everywhere that is only seen once you’re blessed with your 80th new lease on life, your infinite “second chance” or “next time,” a pardon from the Almighty or maybe just Life laughing cruelly and saying, “I’m not done with you yet son.” I don’t care why, I don’t need to know, I hope I never do. So if you’re still here this far in due to curiosity or horror or beumusement or empathy or sympathy I’ll tell you about the “vivid moments” that make this macabre ballet we’re all in so special.

Life is about appreciating the youth you know is going to leave; it’s about trying to hang on to the Moment you know is going to pass. Life is the knowledge that no matter what I do and what I leave even my name was given to me and is not mine; it’s the hope that the dust I have taken and attempted to combine with mud to make something more than muck lasts as the tide rolls in, and the knowledge that it won’t but that it doesn’t matter. Life is a table full of Belgians and Frenchmen and your volunteer partner from the UK and people from Grand Junction, CO sitting around a table rolling spliffs and listening to Dave Matthews plead with the American Baby to stay and Jack Johnson is telling me that if we keep throwing stones into the water soon there’s going to be nothing left in the well and the Tibetan brandy I bring is passed under the table and dumped into Pepsi and it is one of the best Family dinners I have ever had. Veg Chowmein with jam toast on the side. The main rock star in Nepal at present, Robin, is our friend and his band takes the stage at the Bamboo Club and Life is now a Bad Company cover because the chords strike hard and deep and you Feel Like Makin’ Love–Uhh! and the Kathmandu night closes in on an aging singer with a French wife who is sweating out blood and tears for a country and people that aren’t going to make it, screaming hope and visions of a better life for youth who aren’t listening, putting his soul on display and magnified through an amplifier in the purest essence possible for this man and all the neighbors hear is the racket of rock and drunks, but it’s really someone’s soul just trying to break free. Life is Andy Coopland turning to me with sorrow in his eyes and saying “If only we could figure out how to get Robin 100,000 USD instead of 100,000 Rupees” and me replying that if Robin had 100,000 USD it would not be special and he would be ruined, but that in exchange he might have food on his table tonight.

Life is seeing Brian and his songs manifested in this Nepali man across the globe, it’s in seeing the straight hustler of Dave gleaming in the eyes of the man who tries to sell me a “real” North Face shirt for $15 USD, it’s in the worst substance I ever did turning into the chalk that the gymnast uses to gain her grip on the bars at the meet when I would see her wink on the Jumbotron and fall in love with the smile. Life is the fact that I see each of you in a beggar on the street or as the driver of a bus or as a soldier in the Indian Army and sometimes I run through streets chasing people down because I swear to God I just saw Albarelle as a little child throwing a ball at his friend who was looking the other way. Life is the flow of everything into everyone and everything, the ripple of a butterfly’s wings that creates the tsunami. Life is fragile and temporary and for most people in most places of the world, life itself does not hold that much value–a meal is worth far more. Life is family screaming at me why I went around the world looking for God when I can open a Bible in Denver and me screaming that I’m not looking for anything, I’m Living, and why would I read a book when God has placed me in a temple–can’t they see the mountains??? Life is funny and cruel and brutal and very hard and worth every moment of every thing, and in the end it’s a gift too good to give up, even if there might be snakes in the drawer and one day it will be snatched from my lungs as they try to hold it all in.

Life is Joe Simpson (Touching the Void) writing in another book: “Whatever span of life I might be allotted, 35 years or 100, it seemed imperative to do everything now, when I still could, physically and mentally. I may yet discover that I made the wrong decisions, that there were so many other things, better things, I could have done with my life, that I can only look back and regret. I am afraid of the passing years betraying all that I once was and did. Time is cruel like that.” Life is Ade Summers telling me to let go of the Ego and me not caring what I was and did because I always am and do the best I can Now and that is the utmost that can be expected or hoped for. Life is not knowing what World Heritage Sites look like but claiming to be a doctor from the US and measuring health and wealth of a population by visiting people in Fukang Tibetan Hospital. Life is a mother in a garden and students and profs at university and people at work and friends pulling triggers and other friends having triggers pulled and getting silver stars and purple hearts and I realize that when I had absolutely nothing and was going mad, the sole reason I came through the night and loved the blue of a Wednesday sky is because you woke up too.

A country changes, a revolution begins, and life continues on as usual everywhere, and in the end the only reason you might remember my expendable name and use of oxygen for my time allotment here is because you helped create the person you call the name. Thanks.

Parrott

9 November 2006: Tibet/Everest

I’m giddy to be writing this email. I mean, giddy like the Prom
Queen just asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance, and we can all
remember what Sean Connery once said about winners, losers, and
prom queens.

I’m in Gyantse, Tibet at present, living the dream/nightmare,
happy as anything. The Chinese military is terrifying. They are,
in military parlance, “Motivated! Dedicated! Lethal!” Maybe it’s
the ruthless efficiency, overt repression and psychological
control with which they run Tibet. Maybe it’s the fact that if
you step incorrectly in the hatched section of the road you get a
step towards you and a hand toward the rifle. Maybe it’s that 3
weeks ago they shot a nun and two young children. So as we tear
across Tibet in a Land Cruiser, it’s not surprising that our
Tibetan driver and “guide” demonstrate a visible fear of the Chinese.

I’m traveling with a British couple (he’s a marketing genius,
she’s a gorgeous Romanian, I’m exercising restraint) who quit
their jobs, rented the London pad, and have been all over the
world for the last 13 months. We throw a few extra Yuan to the
driver and he takes us to Sakya monastery, which is a bit off the
beaten path. Conveniently, the Chinese military/police is holding
an annual conference at the hotel right around the corner from the
monastery. The guide parks the Land Cruiser behind the locked
iron gates of a secure hotel and tells us, “If anyone asks how you
got here, you took a local bus and came alone, you do not have a
guide. I’ll wait here, find me when you’re done.” Well OK then.
Giddyup.

The experience rejects 3 days of journaling and to give words to
it would probably trivialize something that should not be touched.
I will say that in the most intimate moment, I’m standing in the
great hall watching about 40 monks in puja (prayer), slowly
rocking and chanting beneath burlap sacks as they mash the yeast
that is their lunch in their hands. The candles and incense are
lit, the drum is thumping a beat that vibrates through your soul
and back again–it’s absolute perfection until a young monk brings
in 8 boxes of Pepsi and begins to distribute them. The scene
makes you want to fall to your knees in penance and put a gun to
your head for any role you had in bringing Pepsi to Shigatze, Tibet.

There’s an awful lot to be said about Tibet, but the bottom line
is this: I’ve seen villages with no heat, no toilet, no anything,
as this region is a high altitude desert (ave. height 4300m),
unspoilt and untouched cultures that take you back hundreds of
years. I’ve also seen commercial centers and the Chinese machine
and they are for real. Believe the hype kids–the East is the new
West.

And then there’s Everest. I’ve been journaling like a lunatic
trying to put this down on paper in a coherent way. We drive to
Rongbuk monastery (world’s highest monastery at an elevation of
5000m). At 5000m, you are breathing 53% of the oxygen there is at
sea level. I stay in a “hotel” that is straight out of a horror
movie. There is a tiny little compound that looks like a prison
at the base of the monastery 10km from Everest. No electricity,
etc. etc. The positive about my room is that one wall is a window
which Everest dominates (we are beyond fortunate to be able to see
the entire mountain clearly for 2 days). The negative is that it
is a prison cell (I’ve been staying in lots of them) with a door
that does not lock, a corridor 50m long I must walk to reach my
room, no company, a night that hits -20 C, and a candle that goes
out in the corridor (at 3am I will piss in a water bottle rather
than go to the “toilet” outside because I am that much of a wimp).
Since my door doesn’t lock, I have to barricade it shut with the extra
bed, which tears up all the carpet and breaks the brittle wood of
the bed (I’m living like Bon Scott in Barcelona and do no damage,
but I trash my Everest room, how’s that for irony?).

At 5000m you stop physical training if you have a shred of
intelligence. If you’re me, you face Everest out your window and
run in place for 30 minutes, then do pushups and crunches, all the
while talking to the mountain like a man possessed, maybe because
I am alone, maybe because I’m at about 16,500 ft in -20 C wearing
nothing but sweatpants exercising, maybe because the altitude has
hit my brain, maybe because it’s love at first sight. Whatever
the case, 3 hrs later my resting heart rate is 90 bpm and the
freight train hurtling through my brain does not allow me to sleep
a wink, but that’s ok, because I lie stark awake for 8 hours and
stare, and talk, and just love it. I don’t believe in last looks
or looking back of any kind, but a day later I will damn near
knock myself unconscious trying to walk backwards and catch a last
glimpse of the most beautiful thing I ever saw.

The only way I can explain the Himalayas is a description of
Annapurna 1 I wrote to my best friend a week or two prior. I
almost hesitate to send it, and it will probably seem nonsensical
to some of you, but if your brain has that wonderful glitch in it,
it’s the equivalent of baptism for the religious.

05:00 27 Oct

“Staring at Annapurna I from Poon Hill, I can intuitively
understand and feel the gravitational pull a Himalayan mountain
affects on a certain kind of person. (My exact thoughts: “It’s
just THERE. Right in front of you. You can reach out and touch
it. It has to be climbed. It looks challenging. It looks fun.
It looks like a Killer-a mountain is one of Nature’s most lethal
immobile predators. A tiny, semi-sane portion of your brain
interjects: ‘It’s fucking suicide.’ ‘No,’ you say, ‘Suicide is the
Barbie blonde at the bar who wants half your assets. Suicide is a
cubicle. Suicide is routine.’ ‘No,’ you say. ‘That mountain-even
in ‘failure’-that mountain is a triumph of human potential, a
middle finger to fate, and an affirmation of the Divine.'”

And as much as I am a true believer in Balance and Robert Pirsig’s
“The journey is the mountain” and all that feel-good speak, Fuck,
sometimes, SOMETIMES, it is entirely appropriate that the
mountaintop is the “journey,” if for purposes no more noble or
complex than Fun and Testing Limits. Buddha himself said it best,
“Everything in monderation. Even moderation.”

While I’m running I tell Everest that although the relationship
will be far from monagomous, either I’m going to claim her or
she’s going to claim me before I turn 32. The moon just smiles
off the North Face at me, and all she does is give me a headache
and an accelerated heartrate. Typical.

***

So Tibet is great and grand and wonderful and I’m now preparing to
hike 3 days into the jungles of Tapelejung in Nepal. I’ve been called “a
disillusioned fellow crying for help” and someone who “gets it”
with equal sincerity, and either way it puts a smile on my face. One’s life should not be
lived as an apology (there’s too many beatniks on this list for me
not to attribute that to Kerouac in “Big Sur”).

The woman I love most (mommy)has been put through hell and back on
my journeys (as many of you mothers have pointed out to me), and
when she’s confused as to my personal choices I send the following:

“I read the emails from people questioning me (in their entirety),
I process them, I think about God and my choices and life and
everything else, and I remain wonderfully happy to be who I am,
where I am, doing whatever it is I’m doing, and that’s as true in
Denver as it is in Shigatze. Always a good day to live, a good
day to die, and another wonderful Moment more of oxygen that I’ve
been blessed with (even if it’s only 60% at this altitude).”

Lachiam (Jewish: To Life–).

Keep it Real.

Parrott
>

1 November 2006: Nepal: the nature of Good/Evil

This writing is dark. It’s just a forewarning. Like, Hunter S.
Thompson/Oliver Stone dark.

I’m not going to talk about the time I got threatened with being shot
in a Maoist parde or what it feels like to hang upside down for 5 min
with all the blood trying to rush out through your nose. I’m just
going to say that I absolutely, unequivocally love Nepal and extended
my stay–adrenaline doubles as Tylenol and heroin for me. If you think
I’m just running my mouth, I’ve seen Death and said my last prayers
feeling convinced it was the end a few times since my last email, and
the thoughts I have and convey to you have withstood that test. Looks
as if changes will only occur “over my dead body” 🙂

I’ve gotten some really cool emails from y’all. Lots of emails from
soldiers sharing sentiments that were best expressed as follows:

“While your travels have brought you closer to nirvana and peace and
all of that mine have brought me closer to madness, rage, insanity.”

Yeah, sitting in the mecca of Buddhism is a little different than
having to look into the eyes of another living, breathing human and
pull the trigger.

But, the more I thought about it, not really.

I feel legitimate sympathy for the myriad individuals who have to go
Over There and then come back with their psyches readjusted and animal
instincts primed and pretend that they fit into modernism’s guise of a
“polite society,” especially given the fact that War is nothing more
than civilizations conducting their everyday business when they don’t
have to wear suits and ties and say “Please” and “Thank You.”

I think, however, that if one travels–scratch the word “travels” and
make it “lives”–with an open mind a similar phenomenon occurs. Just
as “toda la via es sol y sombra” if you recall from Spain, the light
occupies as much of life as do shadows, the key is just knowing when to
use what where. It’s fair to say that my travels have brought me as
close as I desire to get to “peace” because quite frankly after about
48 hours I find serenity suffocating. I read a book for a day, then
bungy jump off a suspension bridge. Chill for a day, then paraglide.
Read for a day, then rip through the mountains on a motorcycle. But
just as many episodes have acquainted me with the evil I carry inside.

A week ago I sent out a half facetious yet 51% true (do that math)
email to a few people saying that I always rode on top of local buses
because the odds of survival in a wreck were greater if I could jump.
A week later, a bus plunged off a cliff, killing 42 people, and the
Himalayan Times carried the following blurb:

“The decrepit bus met with the accident because it was carrying
passengers far in excess of its capacity, said Budhathaki, adding that
those who jumped off the hood of the bus survived.”

That paragraph is loaded with irony and understatement if you have any
semblance of familiarity with 3rd world travel.

So no shit there I am, riding on the top of a bus, stretched out under
the sun, when I get to thinking about all those emails and the evil
inside me that conceals itself at times solely because I don’t want 10
years in Nepali prison on a ration of 1kg of rice a day. Here, you get
12 years if you kill a cow, the same penalty for killing a human.
Given the number of people 40+ on this list, I’d still have my youth
intact at 34, right?

In developing nations, the saying is “Anything is possible”
and there is no amount of trouble and fun money cannot get you into or
out of. Ironically, these impoverished people have a better
understanding and implementation of the hustling nature of the phrase
“Money makes the world go ’round” than even Westerners I think.
They’re more American than I am. I don’t know if I bought out or sold
in–I just objectively recognize a system, and while I don’t
necessarily agree with it, I’ll milk it until I can put together
something better (that will be equally fallible albeit in a different
way).

The truth is, I really don’t think I’m a particularly honorable or
unselfish or even “good” person, I just love and am happy with myself
regardless and don’t need any more than that. When the day comes that
I cross that bridge, either Heaven is going to get a sinner or Hell is
going to get a saint, depending upon which ledger of actions you choose
to read. Either way, as far as I’m concerned it’s a fair coin toss and
I’m more than happy to return this “borrowed dust.”

Looking up at the sky with my arms twisted into some twine to keep me
on the top of the bus as we hit the “bumps” in the road that send
anyone but the most corpulent airborne, remembering to pass to the left
with my French friend, it all just washed over me.

I’m evil. Very much so. I’m also OK with this, as I think for the
most part I know when and where to exercise this. I’m also good. I
had no say in my birth and odds are I won’t get a choice about my death
(though I do take comfort in the following Jules Verne proverb: “Those
born to be hanged will never drown.”), so I think the important thing
is to assume an active role in that middle portion that is the only
segment of life we have any illusion of “control” over. Actively live,
make sure you die while you’re still alive. Simple, right?

I don’t think I’m unique, or special, or noteworthy–I think I’m
expendable. I think if I would vanish tomorrow most people, save some,
could probably smoke a joint and watch a Guy Ritchie flick, read
Walden, and follow it with a Nike commercial and have a somewhat
accurate synopsis of the basic machinations of my existence. I
actually feel pretty good about this, because accepting notions of a
life without responsibility will do that to you (make you feel good;
until you realize the pill you’ve swallowed).

It all comes back to my assertion earlier that losing the war does not
mean the battle is not worth it. Human expendability–a job will
replace you within hours, my significant others have demonstrated a
tendency to replace me while I’m still present as I eat my morning
toast in the kitchen, and on and on and on–is not the issue.

We don’t matter. At all. But what we leave behind, that’s a different
story. Servant leadership is possible whether you’re a CEO or a janitor.

For the time being, I’m just leaving behind filled notebooks with
check-plus worthy cursive that looks “girly” as I have been told; Word
documents full of essays and reflections on all aspects of existence
from a degenerate, demented, delusional psyche whose use of
alliteration is more identifiable than his moral code (it’s present,
but it’s my secret)–brief snapshots for future civilizations to comb
through and try to judge the level of 21st century madness as they
colonize Jupiter.

But back to those soldiers. War is as much of an illusion as
peace–they’re both just different cycles of humanness. And if today I
have to two-step and tomorrow you want me to salsa, I’m bound to miss a
few steps, aren’t I? It’s unfortunate, it’s not fair, and it’s
arbitrary at best. Life is still a damn good thing. If I had one cent
for every Rusty Nail I’ve had with a combat vet or for every joint I’ve
had with a hippie, you’d find me in Betty Ford. I don’t think either
one is better than the other, but my sympathies and loyalties tend to
lie, admittedly biased, with my family and close friends, who are, for
better or worse, the ones pulling the trigger. My heart goes out to
you, and I always make sure to spill some liquor.

If you spend hours meditating in isolation, you’re either going to come to grips with the infinite good and evil
that you carry and fall “through” it, or you’re going to be scared of
yourself and go genuinely, irrevocably insane which is going to
facilitate some unhappy actions. I think the better option is to make
peace with oneself.

“To be born is the greatest victory in the greatest competition
anywhere, ever–Ohhhhh what a Champion! But a Champion for what? To
eat McDonald’s, drink Coca-Cola, and watch TV? NO! We must continue
proving we are worthy of the victory we achieved by outswimming
millions. You are fighting for a place in life, for a woman/man, for
food–act like a Warrior!”

~Radomir Kovacevic

Fight.

And whenever you get the chance, Share.

Off to take my meds and rock the Bamboo Club until my lifestyle again
includes periodic exposure to sunlight…

Parrott

16 October 2006: Katmandu, Nepal

Namaste…

Cancelled the plane ticket to Malaysia. To New Zealand. To Tahiti.

Continuing my belief in Serendipity/”Il n’a pas de hazard”/God/FUN I accepted an invitation from a lama to study Tibetan Red Hat Buddhism at Hemis Monastery in Leh, Ladakh in November. Leh is the northernmost point in India accessible to tourists and is alternately known as “Little Tibet” and Little Siberia; 60% of locals leave after mid-October and temps plummet to -40 C. I get personal instruction in Tibetan, Ladhaki, and Hindi in a picturesque location for the price of my blood temperature.

I spent a week in Leh recuperating the foot (after my Jeep driver got stuck trying to ford a river in the Himalayas on an 18 hr ride at 3pm and I had to get out and push; it would have been cold if I had feeling, I’m sure). Within two days of visiting an “Amchi” (traditional Tibetan medicine) and paying $2 USD for some herbs I cannot pronounce and can barely gag down I am walking/kind of running/hobbling/rolling sans pain. A Belgian from MSF (Doctors Without Borders) confirms that if indeed there is a break, it is minor and can be rebroken and reset once the adventure ends, but the prognosis is good.

I fly to Nepal and the flight is full of 30 and 40 somethings who quit the job, sold the house, sold the car, dumped the girl/boyfriend and took 6 mos to escape comfort and determine the next step. I feel comfortable and insane at the same time.

In addition to the crazies (read: a 62 yr old grandmother wandering India for 2 yrs in search of a spiritual guru because she does not want to be raped and die in a US nursing home-I kid you not), there are plenty of Coloradoans. No one goes to Leh at this time of year unless they have a good story and/or reason to be there (mountaineering, Buddhism, hiding from the Voices). I meet a DU prof who runs NGOs in India and Nepal over coffee one morning, and the big world becomes a bit smaller (“Where are you from?” CO. “No shit, where?” 23rd and Emerson. “Oh, you KNOW where this convo is heading…”)

Life is good. Nepal is phenomenal and within a few hours I leave to trek Annapurna and make a push to get on Everest base camp and see Tibet. I think this is the last email for a while/possibly the trip for a few reasons.

Never in my life (and I spend a decent amount of time questioning paradigms within the house of madness upstairs in my head) have I devoted as much time (or had as much time to devote) to three key questions my cousin asked me one evening:

1. Who are you?
2. Where are you going?
3. What will you do when you get there?

The answer to #3 is, of course, “Keep Going” (love ya Brett). 46 short days have undoubtedly set in motion events that have both confirmed and altered paradigms and the course of my life; each Now represents a chance for complete change, much less 60 Nows per minute x 60 min x 24 hours x 46 days. Each day is an incredibly long time if you live your life in the moment and the potential for sudden, radical change should never be disregarded as it provides Hope and a reason to wake up each day. No one is perfect. I hope the person who returns to you is both a complete stranger and a more welcome friend.

The hardest (and paradoxically best) part, in my opinion, of traveling alone is the complete absence of relational contact, which results in virtually no contact with anyone who knows “Andrew” longitudinally and can assess my psychological state and decision making ability in relation to past behaviors. It’s alternately a blessing and a curse, but always a welcome challenge. I am, upon further reflection, camping out in a monastery 40km from a city that is accessible only by airplane 3-4 times a week, a decision that screams “Rational Thought Process!”

For anyone who has taken offense to my writings, felt the tone was condescending, or just does not like me because I am bald and have no problem saying what I think, let me clarify:

1. I have never met anyone better than me; I also have never met anyone worse.
2. We are a pride of Lions content to live as sheep.

I have never tried harder to do the right thing and affect those close to me and the space I inhabit in a positive manner. If I didn’t question every reality important to me, both at home and abroad, the trip would be worthless; the questioning and indecision means people/things are becoming more, rather than less, important. There’s no better way I can express that sentiment.

The last thought is a journal entry from 15 Oct:

“Seeing more of the world does not make me an Optimist (not that I was before), but it makes me believe in the Individual more than ever. I don’t feel better about the World, but I feel better about the people in it. Just because we’re going to lose the war doesn’t mean it’s not worth the fight.”

I’ll see you sometime Soon, somewhere in the world, hopefully where it’s warm.

One Love.

Parrott

7 October 2006: Manali, India

The disclaimer here is that views expressed within are not for children under the age of 8.

If there is only one thing about Life that I wish to communicate to people this is it, and it is
an article, though it bears no scholarly merit other than my own
admittedly manic and overzealous lust for all things.

I am currently somewhere in the Himalayas. I know exactly where; I’d
prefer not to say. I am 20 hours by bus (minimum) from the nearest
city, there are no airports, winter is coming. Not long ago I had a
20,000 ft mountain and had procured a personal sherpa, guide, cook, a
pony, clothing and supplies via some locals. I also had a $30 USD
paraglide trip and a $20 USD helicopter ride in the Himalayas. I am
touching the Infinite in a paradise my wildest dreams could not have
fathomed in an environment that seems tailor made for Andrew Parrott.
Then it happened.

Last night I had dinner in the home of a local friend (Bill) from
Kashmir and his brother. We listened to Marley and Indian rap,
discussed “Who Knows Tomorrow?,” Freedom, and Culture, burned a few and
watched “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.” At 12am on the way
home, a very tiny, very drunk man stopped us in the street and blocked
the way. Bill and I managed to get around, and the linguistically
versatile pronunciation of “Fuck You” from the man was nothing more
than another drunk on another night. Been there, done that, wrote the
Bible on it. Until the man got a larger friend and hired a rickshaw
driver to follow us the 1.5km back up a hill to our homes.

Bill and I start to run, and after we turn a corner my immediate
instinct is to vault the stone wall to my left so the driver can’t see
where we went. I yell this to Bill, but he doesn’t hear. As I am
vaulting the wall and am midway over, feet suspended in air, I look
down and hesitate-maybe there is a dog? maybe there are snakes in the
pit below me? maybe I don’t want to leave Bill?-then reverse direction
in midair and push myself into the street. I land and my left foot
explodes in white. hot. light. buckling my legs.

The rickshaw pulls up and blocks the road. The tiny man jumps out
holding a glass bottle by the neck while the larger man waits in the
back, visibly sober and reluctant to say anything to a white person. I
curse myself for not having my switchblade, I curse myself for not
committing to the vault over the fence; make no mistake that I am very
Scared, but I am also very Pissed. I am pissed that I could destroy
this little man and that instead I am doubled over trying to hobble up
the road, unable to balance, unable to defend myself. I have a camera
and about $150 USD in my bag but it is evident that all this man wants
is Trouble and an offering, I decide in that instant, would only serve
to (a) provoke him and (b) make me feel like a Bitch, which I am not.

Luckily, I flag down a passing motorcycle and Bill and I run/limp/roll
down the hill to his friends’ house. The short ending to the much
longer night is that a group of 4 Indian males assists me as I hike 1km
uphill to my house (because I am still with Marie and she will worry if
I am not home), all the time reassuring me that “Me Hyun” (“I am there
for you.”) and telling me that if they were in America I’d do the same
for them, something many people have told me on many different
occasions.

This phrase makes me feel guilty the world over because I know that in
the past I would most certainly not be doing the same for them if they
were in America.

Nevertheless, I hike the 1km home with their aid, the whole way
preaching the Gospel of Pain according to Andrew Parrott, explaining
how I feel Alive and my brain is sharp and telling them that if there
is a feeling comparable to doing a line and simultaneously having
electricity injected in your veins this is it and it is COOL because I
feel HERE. They laugh and I think at this point are more scared of me
than anyone else in the night.

When I arrive home my ankle has swollen to the size of a baseball. I
really do not know if it is broken or not because I have run 5
miles-fast-on legs that are fractured and claimed afterwards, “That was
a great workout–I could really feel the burn.” I have yet to meet
many people who are better at dealing with, enjoying, and thriving on
any kind of pain on any kind of level than I, yet who are poorer at
preventing its onset.

Marie and I talk for a while and she reminds me of our favorite saying:
“Il n’a pas de hazard.” (French: There is no hazard; English: there is
no coincidence; there are no “accidents”). I devote considerable time
to thinking about this statement in the coming time.

I have stayed with Marie because as a virtual stranger she asks me
questions like “Do you love yourself?” makes statements like “It is
important to be crazy” and is the daughter of a prominent osteopath who
is helping implement holistic medicine in India for 6 months. She has
had a knife to her throat in Burkina Faso and a gun to her head in
Nepal, after which she had a conversation with the Maoist rebel about
his beliefs. She has a boyfriend, I respect this (who am I
becoming???), and our conversations could not be closer or more
intimate between a mother and her child.

I know as much about Western medicine as anyone in this town, “help” of
any kind is at least 20 hours away, and that is that. Besides this, I
do not see Western doctors or take approved medications much anyway,
even in the US, so I am not missing out on much. On the bus here I
told Marie that I was simply going to travel until Life stopped me and
told me to wait, and that has happened. I was briefly disappointed,
but am honestly not upset-I know most of you do not believe that. Life
wants me to wait and learn, I have Time, let’s see what is Revealed.

I still have my mental edge: I sit in a garden outside of our cabin in
the mountains, read, journal, and experience. I wash clothes in ice
water, force myself to take daily 1km walks (the swelling goes down, my
body readjusts to strains), and do crunches until your hand is cut to
ribbons if you touch my stomach and pushups like I am some kind of
horizontal pogo stick. (Shout my friend for the suggestion that limiting food intake by 1/4 makes your brain sharper and increases mental faculties).

I contemplate, I think, and journal entries dating back to 2002 are
solidified and confirmed and what I need to do is made known. All I
want to do now is Share that.

The man who has hands down had the most influence on my life in the
last 11 months and who has helped numerous “ordinary” people realize
that they are warriors always tells me that “In Champions there is no
place to hide.” The Bible says “If you are lukewarm I [God] will spit
you out of my mouth.” My February journal reads, “The only people who
live in the Middle are those with a reason to hide.”

The moment that I vaulted the stone wall becomes symbolic for me. It
was a middle, lukewarm, “hiding” moment of hesitation, and because I
did not commit I am injured. Why did I not commit? Why do many humans
not “commit” in the deciding moments of their lives, opting instead to
finish that legal brief or watch the TV show or deal with “it”
“Tomorrow”?

A long maintained belief that attracts women who travel with me,
repulses my mother, makes Patrick H. call me “a fucking idiot” and is a
chief reason I initially chose West Point is that Life is lived most
fully the closer one is to Death. Place “Proximity to Death” on the
y-axis of a graph and “Moments of Life” on the x-axis, and I submit
that x and y values increase exponentially in linear fashion. Every
time I skydive, or cliff jump, or get in an Indian rickshaw (I have a
SWEET video of Delhi), it is an Affirmation of Life for me, it is as if
I am saying: “I know and am comfortable with who I am, Whose I am, and
what I stand for, I can lose anything in the next moment and be OK,
give me my adrenaline and let’s enjoy the ride.” If for any reason I
cannot jump, then I know something is wrong and take time to reassess.
That night I could not jump; Life was kind enough to force me to take
time to reassess.

I made a list of the things I have, and it was Ideal. A job I love,
moreover with people I love; a great education; phenomenal
family/friends; spirituality; intimate relationships; I live in LoDo
with my best friend since 5th grade, I am a white middle class male.
Check, check, check, check, check. Why couldn’t I jump? What makes a
man/woman?

The words came; I wrote in my journal:

“If what you Have is what you Are you are worthless/
what you Are is your Core beliefs, values, virtues, vices/
if your Core hesitates in the face of Death you are living a Lie/
There is only one way to know”

The last sentence is probably making some people cringe, and hell, it’s
making me cringe. None of this is impulsive writing, I’ve had it in my
head for years, wrote it long ago, and recently knew it would come on
this trip. It’s not uncommon or unusual, as the writings of countless
individuals in all manner of disciplines reflect a similar belief, from
soliders to statesmen with personal favorites like Lance and Willy
Unsoeld falling somewhere in between. It is, however, I will venture
to say, something few follow through on and with varying results.

The message I would like to communicate is that mankind is a pride of
lions content to live as sheep. 2 October 2006: On this trip “nothing
has changed and I have found nothing-what I AM has just been revealed,
as you can never create more than who you are but we often settle for
drastically less.”

All over, people believe in Love. Love everyone, cherish Freedom, who
knows tomorrow? not a single person I have met disagrees with these
statements or articulates a “meaning of life” that is vastly different.
I think about another mentor who told me that “The purpose of life is
to give and receive Love at the highest level” and then paralleled that
to God-and I’m not referring to “God” in a Western sense or an Eastern
sense or in any sense other than as something that I, personally, just
believe IS-and “agape” love.

I could care less what religion or beliefs, if any, you are associating
with but would encourage you to think if maybe drawing the line at Love
is not just a step premature of something that is equal but at the same
time greater. I’ll show you evidence of this greater concept in the
Tao, in the Bible, on a run in the mountains, etc. etc. etc. If you
think I’ve gone soft and become a hippie, you have not trained with me,
you do not understand how much I miss the competition of my job, and
you were not there on the night of my injury when I wanted to Destroy,
because there is a time and a place for everything. This trip has
confirmed and shown me why I am skeptical of Ganesh, respect Allah and
Yahweh, hate mass religion, love Christ, and practice Eastern
philosophy.

Many of us are socialized and do not think outside of the box, and
therefore remain tragically ignorant to a world of possibility.
I
mentioned that I did not get vaccinations and do not really follow
Western medicine, I’ll add that ever since a month ago at the start of
my tenure in Africa the places I have traveled are sometimes so remote
that the only choices available are to eat local food or subsist on
Little Debbies, and you know how I feel about candy.

By developing a structured immersion program (first bananas and other
concealed fruits, then gradually start brushing teeth with local water
and spitting it all out, then a tomato rinsed in bottled water, then a
local dish, then mountain water, etc.) I have been drinking mountain
water ever since Granada and eating local fare with “the people” ever
since the end of Spain and I have never been healthier. The Cardinal
Sin of traveling-local food/water-is, if the brain is properly applied,
in my opinion, a matter of proper visualization and will. Our bodies
and minds were designed to evolve and adapt and they will if we let
them, even though we have tried to beat out this impulse in the name of
Efficiency and Convenience.

Visual imagery learned at West Point and in hypnotherapy and meditation
sessions has already reduced swelling by 50% in my foot and has me
limping. Exercise is rebuilding tissue and repairing. I will be
functional again soon; for now I am patiently waiting and learning new
worlds, because although it sounds funny, it is not “hard” for me to
climb a mountain, but it is hard as hell for me to sit in a meadow all
day.

The second I am better, whenever it is allowed, I have cleared a visa
and air ticket for Nepal. I knew what I needed to do about a week ago,
and it becomes more evident every day. It involves a local connection
I have and some more patient waiting to see if I can jump. The thing
is, it doesn’t matter if you “jump” in Nepal or at a university or in
Des Moines, IA, it’s just important that you can jump. People like
Lance do not achieve superhuman limits; they achieve human potential
that we have been conditioned to believe is “impossible” because it
requires more effort and discipline on myriad levels than we have been
conditioned to give or believe we are capable of. The same with diet,
with health, with education, with anything-the greatest things that
have been done and that have yet to be done lie within each one of you
in whatever your place in life is.

So all I ask, the only thing that is important to me, is that you Think
for a bit and make sure you are able to jump when your moment comes.

PEACE.

Parrott