By David Barrett
Do you hold images of heaven…those descriptions and utopian paintings fed to us in Catholic school and museums? I reflect on these while sitting in the morning light within our garden in Bali.
I realize for me, this place comes closest to satisfying the memories, or the gestalt of paradise. There is a clear sense that life is in total harmony in this place…the gentle climate, the lush vegetation, the plethora of fragrant flowers, the symphony of birds, the reflective shimmering of the pools of water, the architecture that weaves order in such sympathetic ways with the garden, and maybe most importantly, the relaxed, open smiles on the faces of the Balinese people. Happiness and gratitude are inextricably connected. Love is not just a romantic illusion, but a descriptor, synonymous with life. It radiates from the smiling faces and projects from the laughs that shake the body. It is the way it is…a natural state of being. It is heavenly.
Now this said, there are distinct signs of “the other”; of purgatory or even hell. It is seen in the impact of modernization on Bali. It is felt in the traffic jam of internal combustion engines clogging the narrow streets of Ubud. It is the noise of the motorcycles and scooters buzzing in and out of the jumbled mess. It is the choking burn of the fumes. It is technology, materialism, and tourism invading paradise.
So this is heaven and this might contain hell. I feel bad for a culture that, even under these pressures, still seems to hold paradise at their center. They coexist with the pressures that have distanced most of us in the modern, western world. We are split, they are still whole.
Is there any way to mend this fissure? If I can have any hope, it is to challenge the next generation to become the modern designer, or weaver, to figure out how to bring us back into connectivity. We should have programs, grants, career paths, and global challenges to recreate heaven on earth.
The merger of spirit and material must always be the first criteria for progress. If it is to be in the past, we will be left only with nostalgic replications and we will be forever lost.
From a hopelessly in love with Bali traveler.