the sun is shining early in the morning and the sky is clear and blue. or at least so is the entire 16 meters of sky or so that is visible from the banks of a small narrow winding creek running through a small narrow winding valley which barely divides two long narrow mountain ridges. three little old men are seated lotus fashion on the earth before a conglomeration of sticks and stick weeds. structures constructed roughly in a circle around one long pole stuck in the ground and braced with three other short poles atop which flew a tattered piece of cloth that might once have been black, which had a rough white circle painted in the centre of it. the installation been fashioned in the absolute roughest of manners into what appears to be an attempt to make a small collection of about a dozen of the ugliest gazebos ever made. they were each made of between four and five upright sticks simply stuck into the ground, atop which was lashed with vine a circular shaped framework fashioned out of even thinner and more crooked sticks rising to a conical point. around this was tied loosely with yet more vine the dried stems of a variety of tall poorly dried stick weeds in an imitation of thatching that would have been impressive if made by small children. however this particular group of structures was not made by small children. or even large children. this entire project was the work of one very old little man.
po: (looking skeptical) what is it?
hama: are they for burning?
po: these are almost as pitiful as hama’s bangra shack. speaking of which! do you know I’ve seen people on the road actually stop and throw water at that lice infested hovel! like it was a real shrine or something!
hama: i told you it doesn’t matter. now you’re surprised to see that apparently it really doesn’t matter. if there’s a shrine by the road anywhere people will stop and throw water. that’s just what people do. they can’t help themselves.
jin: it’s true! I’ve seen it too. people throwing water and praying to our hama. even when hama is there himself people still throw water at the altar! they even leave bangra sometimes! what hama did there really works! so i decided that I’m going to start a project of my own.
po: so let me guess that’s what those piles of brush and weeds are then?
jin: yes! i built a village!
po: that’s being generous with yourself, there’s nobody in it
hama: if you build it, will they come?
po: but we already live in a village… or didn’t you notice?
jin: i built it so people could come and give up the world. where they could live together and dedicate their lives to worship. if people do come then it will be a new kind of community. people will commonly come to commune in this community
hama: like a new tribe?
jin: well not exactly no… it will be different from our village. people will renounce their worldly possessions. no one will own anything. everyone will own everything in common. the people will work together in complete harmony and share everything. thusly they may be dedicated wholly to worship
po: so you’re building a village for poor people?
hama: yeah like a leper colony except without any lepers? or will there be lepers?
jin: no no no, no one is going to be poor. everyone will be wealthy.
po: but you just said no one would own anything. that’s pretty much a defining characteristic of poor people. that’s why we call them poor in fact.
jin: no the people in the village will have everything they need. they just won’t own any of it. it will be free for anyone to share with anyone else.
hama: so nobody owns anything? but everyone shares everything?
jin: yes. exactly
po: people will be sharing things they don’t own?
po: (jumps up and points at jin) so it’s a village of thieves then!!
jin: NO! what?!?! nobody is going to be doing any thieving!!!
po: people going around sharing other peoples stuff is a bunch of people going around thieving and trading away the spoils!!!
jin: no! you can’t steal something if nobody owns it! nobody is going to own anything!
po: i don’t know it sounds like a bad habit to get people in to if you ask me! what about when they leave your village! if they go into another village and start sharing things that belong to other people then that’s thievery! you’ll get them strung up in a tree somewhere with a sign!
jin: why would we need to take anything from another village?! people will share what they have here! nobody is going to need a sign
po: (looking around in puzzlement) but they haven’t got anything here! and if they haven’t got anything and they don’t own anything then how are they going to get things they plan on sharing with everyone?
jin: the people will produce what they need here in the commune! they will work together. everyone! there will be no divisions between them! men and women will work side by side and share not only the product of their labour. but share their duties and obligations equally. young and old men and women everyone will be the same! it will be a glorious community of divine worshipers
hama: i don’t think i understand. it reminds me of something though….. if i try and use an example…
po: oh! an example!
jin: yes! an example!
hama: (clears his throat and takes a breath) yes… for example… i have heard stories of the city state of platchulpoot. they say that the armies of platchulpoot go out into the platchulpoot valley and raid villages there. they burn the villages down so that the villagers have no homes to return to. then they round up the villagers by the hundreds and march them back to the city. when they get to the city they are auctioned off at the public slave market, and they are bought by the many and various firms that control and manage all the business in platchulpoot. the price that the firm pays goes to the cities coffers and is considered to be tax that the slaves supposedly owe the state of platchulpoot. which the state claims it is owed for things like building the roads that the platchulpoot armies used to come raid the people’s villages and march them back to the city. after they are sold as slaves. then whatever firm it is that bought them will march them off to a dormitory somewhere in the city. there they are stripped of everything they might have managed to keep with them. if they are of a different tribe they are marked with platchulpoot tattoos to show that they belong to the platchulpoot tribe so that even their identity is stripped away. they are all made the same, men and women and children and elders. none of them owns anything, they have no ancestors, no kin, and no home but platchulpoot. the only rights they have are the rights of cattle or property. the slaves are poor and so they all share whatever they get in common. they are fed and housed and clothed by the firm that buys them, and so they all work, eat, sleep, and dress together as one all exactly alike. they must work until they have fully paid their bond. which they owe to the firm that bought them at auction and in doing so paid the taxes they were said to owe. when they have paid their bonds they are no longer considered slaves. as they are no longer slaves then so they must leave the dormitories in the city which are for slaves only. then they have no where to go but to the filthy disease stricken slums that surround platchulpoot and then there they are called “citizens”. they cannot leave platchulpoot. no one may travel on platchulpoot roads without a passport. and no one but high ranking officials appointed by the king or nobles who are relatives of the king or powerful merchants from firms sanctioned by the king can get a passport. the ordinary citizens are forced to live in their base poverty outside the city walls and sell their labour where they can for whatever they can get. these “citizens” of platchulpoot are more wretched than the slaves even. those captured from foreign villages sneak away from the city whenever they get a chance. those who can’t sneak away, or have no home to return to, or who were born in platchulpoot and have no other home or tribe, often sell themselves into bondage to a temple within the city walls. or such ones might sell themselves to one of the firms within the city. my point in telling of all this here is that i might explain the plight of the slaves. what jin has said brought them to mind. they live as you say without worldly possessions of their own and yet are completely dedicated to whatever work they must do. they do not live in the world. somehow they are apart and separate. yet they do not live without food or clothing and they are not allowed to steal. their behaviour is governed by strict rules of conduct and if they do not follow such rules they may be punished. and yet without such slaves platchulpoot could not exist. everything which is done is done by them. nothing moves in the state of platchulpoot unless the slaves move it. it is at once terrible and magnificent.
jin: YE GODS!! i want nothing like that! the slaves of platchulpoot are apart from the world but it is because their world was taken from them. everything has been taken from them but the desire for what they have lost! and the desire for what others may have has been increased! though they have nothing they still have their desires. and furthermore they have not the freedom to seek after what they desire. they are stuck between wanting and not having. they cannot get and therefore cannot have anything. even the choice has been taken from them but not the desire. to give up the world one must truly choose to give it up. if a person has not chosen to give up the world then they have never truly given it up
po: oh i see, you want the people here to CHOOSE to be poor instead of kidnapping them and forcing them into poverty?.
jin: i want the people to choose to be wealthy! they may only become wealthy when their desires have all been satisfied! for it may be easily seen that to live in want is poverty! but what is not obvious is that it is possible to have a great many things and still be consumed with desire! to want a thing, and then to have it, and for desire to be not satisfied in the having of it, this is jealousy, greed! because of desire one may want not only what one may have but also what others may have. because of jealousy one may want to keep others away from one’s possessions. i wish for the people to give up their desires and in the giving up of desire to feel satisfied in their souls. when people have given up desires and are satisfied completely, satisfied in spirit, only then can they be truly wealthy. we shall be wealthy in our souls here!
po: yes and poor in your bodily frames! you’ll starve to death in a few weeks with no food or clothes or houses or even tools with which to build. you will have a colony of beggars then and i’d rather be a leper than a perfectly healthy beggar.
hama: oh? and why is it better to die than to depend on others? don’t we all depend on others for everything anyway? whether they buy things or those things are given to them. almost everything everyone everywhere has comes from other people.
po: but we don’t simply beg for what we have! we don’t take things without giving something in return! we all do our share to reciprocate what we receive, it isn’t all going just in one direction. sure i depend on the carpenter to build my house, and i depend on the weaver to make my cloth, and the blacksmith makes my tools. but i am a farmer! i put my hoe in the ground! i work! i grow crops and i save seeds and the food i produce goes to feed the others who produce what i cannot produce by myself.
hama: (shaking his head) yes yes we exchange gift for gift, we trade with money, we barter this thing for that, we borrow and we lend. but what is wrong with accepting what is freely given?
po: it is not wrong to accept charity if one is in need. there can be no harm in the act of accepting what is freely given. but it is wrong to live solely on what one can get from others without giving anything in return. it is wrong for the same reason that the king of platchulpoot is wrong to take slaves and force them to pay taxes when he gives nothing in return. the slaves are made to labour in great hardship that he may receive the gifts they give him, while he does no labour at all. he produces nothing, even that which he gives to others was made by other hands. all that he has he has taken from others and all that he can give away he takes from others. yes the king of platchulpoot claims that he has given the people many things. but those great projects which make the city of platchulpoot famous even up here in the hills were created only to satisfy his vanity. even if the city demands a thing the city is his vanity. the roads he has commanded to be built his armies use to march across the land and to haul the spoils of warring and taxing back to platchulpoot. the king has commanded aqueducts be built to bring fresh water to the city and brought the finest doctors and the best medicine and ordered sewers and tunnels to be built under the city to carry away waste so that it is not exposed to the sun or air. but these works he commanded because disease bred in the slums where the poor are so crowded and filthy threatens even the nobles in their mansions, behind the walls of platchulpoot which are renowned. it is said no army in the world can enter platchulpoot when it’s gates are shut! but the common people who do not even live within the city walls threaten to lay waste to the city! it is the king who commanded that slaves be brought to build the city and populated it’s slums with commoners who he taxes to maintain it. his greed, pride, vanity has commanded a city so large and extravagant that it is crumbling under it’s own weight. all these wonders that have been worked. they have been worked by the common people and paid for by the common people and the common people have no use at all for such things. for all his life, no matter how long he lives, the king will never make a thing of worth. he is worthless. his very life causes hardship to all who support him. better he should die and leave the people in peace.
Hama: it is his jealousy that causes so much hardship. He has desire that he cannot satisfy. He has power over others but not over the world. 10,000 souls tremble at the stamp of his foot and he is at the mercy of them all. But he is not accepting what is freely given he is taking what was never offered.
hama: how did we end up here?
jin: i thought we were born here?
po: no jin built a bunch of brush piles and started calling it a commune!
hama: oh yes and you were saying they couldn’t not own stuff
po: no i was saying they didn’t have anything and jin started saying they didn’t need anything and I’m pretty sure he’s gonna feel pretty differently about that around dinner time.
jin: (scowls at po) jin: ok fine so people will still need possessions. the village itself will still have property. but we will share it in common anyway. no one person will be any different than any other.
hama: that will make marriages awkward i’m sure
jin: i mean no one will be better or worse
hama: who is to say if any one is better or worse anyway?
jin: i mean greater or lesser
hama: everyone the same size?
jin: YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!! (gritting his teeth at hama) everyone will be equal in standing. no one will be wealthier than anyone else. we will all be free of want and jealousy and therefore we will truly be free as people. that will make us all wealthy. we will work together as one united whole. we will ignore our differences and cooperate whole heartedly like…. like…
po: like a village?
jin: YES! exactly! like a village! ….. except uhm you know…. more…
hama: like a family?
jin: YES! like that! like a family.
jin: but different
jin: maybe it would be better if i start from the beginning.
po: yes, i think it would
hama: yes, i think it would
jin: the other day after hama explained his shrine to us i couldn’t stop thinking about a thing that he had said. he said it was the mind of man that was holy! i couldn’t stop thinking about that! we worship the gods because we believe they are holy, but really it is us the worshippers who are holy. believing in divine things creates the very divinity we believe in, which means that it is we who are divine. we create divinity within ourselves and then we bestow it on the gods by worshipping them. if we have a need for gods then we will find them anywhere and everywhere we look. we will create gods to worship without even realizing we have done so. if gods are to be found wherever we look then we should look within ourselves. if we look within ourselves and we find godliness there then we should look within each other. so i thought that if hama can build a shrine to himself and others will come and worship there, then what if i built many shrines where people could come and worship and be worshipped?
(po and hama sit together in a hush. all is quiet amongst the three for a few moments)
hama: you have seen much more than i showed you jin
po: i like your idea jin but all this stuff about giving up desires and everyone being the same I just can’t get on board. Of course we’re slaves to our desires but they’re OUR desires that’s why we’re slaves to them. There’s no point and no fun in being a slave to someone else’s desires.
Jin: but people’s desires make them miserable and greedy. Why keep fighting a reality you can’t control? Why not give it up?
Po: because we have no idea we can’t control that reality. We can’t even see how little effect we have. We can’t see how much effect we have, or any of the far reaching consequences of the actions we take. We are blind, dumb, ignorant, selfish, animals bumbling around in the dark and knocking into things. But we’re so remarkably blind and dumb that we have no idea we’re blind and dumb. We just keep on knocking around bumping into stuff and imagining rainbows and unicorn turds the whole time. But that’s the wonderful thing about people is that they don’t know they have no choice and no effect so they choose and they effect things anyway simply because they think that’s how everything ought to work. Of course our dreams never reference reality. They’re dreams b’gods. They aren’t meant to reference reality. They’re all that protects and saves us from reality. Giving up your dreams and deciding you don’t care if you’re alive or dead doesn’t make you free. And it certainly doesn’t make life any more worth living. it’s the dreams that make you free, and dreaming makes life a thing we desire.
Hama: yes of course we create our realities ourselves and with each other. we are both part of and partner in the reality we share. There is no ultimate reality under the reality we create. There is only what we create
Jin: but we cannot create it all!?!? Platchulpoot doesn’t stop being a place just because I live in yuchi village!
Hama: well of course not. I never said that did i?
Po:You said we create everything
Jin: you did hama I was there.
Hama: yeah i know! That’s what I said!
Po: then you said we can’t create everything.
Jin: at least you seemed to imply there is more than what we create…
Hama: well you’re not the only two people in the world you know! The people in platchulpoot create the reality of platchulpoot. The people in their thousands believe that they must obey the king and the king for his part believes that thousands of people must do what he says. These people accomplish an astoundingly absurd thing by believing things which compliment each other. Thus it is that they cooperate in creating a reality which none of them could even affect on their own. And of course none of them believe that it’s all impossible hogwash and utterly absurd. Even if that’s exactly what it is. Because it is of course. But obviously if they realized it was all unattainable absurdity then of course instantly it would be. There is no ultimate truth which underlies the reality we see. Only absurdity and chaos.
Po: now I’m definitely not joining this colony of nuts
Hama: you think there is more don’t you.
Jin: it can’t just be chaos hama there’s too much order in the world.
Hama: you confuse chaos with death jin when it is life. Chaos is not the absence of order jin it is the simultaneous existence of every possible order all happening all at once. The absence of any order is death. Only emptiness. Chaos appears in the emptiness and instantly fills it to the brim with order. So much order you can’t move about the place without knocking into something. So much order that it creates utter disorder. This is clearly absurd. And in the face of and using as material this absurdity we create reality because reality couldn’t possibly be more absurd than the chaos it was made out of. Even though of course that’s exactly what it is. It is a mercy and a blessing that we are all occluded as we are. If we could see that there really isn’t anything more than our dreams then we would know that there is no point in trying to be happy since happiness is an impossibly absurd thing.
po: therefore i’m keeping my stuff.
jin: aren’t you afraid your things will just breed desire and jealousy in you po?
po: not as much as i fear that leaving my things will breed starvation in me which will breed desire and jealousy.
jin: i guess you have a point po, we have a need for things which does not respect our higher intentions.
po: no jin in your haste you have decided to forgo the desire for earthly things and reach for the heavens. isn’t it sufficient to be godly? does one need to also suffer to be godly? i do not mean that people should embrace greed and spend their life in the chasing after empty desires. i mean only that to go naked with a begging bowl is not a way to worship oneself. and to ask others to do likewise is not a way to honour them. there must a balance in our lives. better to live simply but live well. do not build a roof so extravagant that the walls collapse under it. but do not huddle in open like beasts. build a happy home, a pretty home, a comfortable home. do not worship money, but do not depend wholly upon others to live. be neither rich nor poor but honest and simple and happy. This is the same as to be godly because it obeys our desires and compliments everyone else in their own desires. to give a blessing is to receive a blessing. when we give our blessings to others they reflect the light of our grace back on to us, to not except the blessings of others is to rob them of the grace of giving. To believe that we are all working for the same things makes it possible for us to attain them. a community of godly people is a wonderful idea but i do not believe that the people in our village are ungodly. we are kind and generous and grateful with one another. we are all equal in standing no one is in charge and no one tells us how to live. how much more godly could we be than to be at peace and to prosper together??
Jin: but what of evil po? People often do each other wrong or cause each other harm in chasing after their desires.
Hama: what is evil? what is good? who is to say this or that is good or evil? We create good as well as evil.
Po: but we desire good!!!. What good is a good that isn’t any good? What’s the difference between that and evil? I say follow your desires foolishly. How can you be a fool to chase after what you desire. If you can attain your desires and be satisfied by them then the satisfaction will let you stop chasing. It’s not chasing desire that is bad it’s when you skip the catching and being satisfied part that the chasing causes trouble. know what it is you truly desire before you chase it. work together with others to attain it. and when you have it be grateful and be satisfied.
Jin: but can everyone get what they want?
Po: it’s easy if they want things everyone can get.
Jin: so what do we do with the village then?
Hama: i don’t know
Po: i don’t care
Jin: alright then it’s unanimous!
Po and Hama: what?
Jin: were building a shrine to the god jin!
po and hama: harumph!!
hama: well if i’d known everyone was going to go around turning philosopher and trying to copy me i never would have called that bangra shack a shrine and made up all that stuff about gods.
jin: it’s not copying if you do it better
hama: haa! lets see people in your shrine before you start claiming anything about being better!
po: well i guess he’s sort of got us roped into helping with this already
hama: who said i was helping
jin: didn’t you say you were helping hama?
po: he’s already had us helping correct his doctrine
jin: i never made any mistakes!! if anyone made mistakes it was you two!! you misunderstood what i was trying to tell you is all
hama: well if you could explain yourself it wouldn’t be so hard to understand you.
jin: well if you’d both get up and help me with this mess we might be able to make one half assed shack between us…
hama: Who knows maybe someone will move in and become a priest…
po: well if they do move into it then lets hope they bring their own stuff! putting together all the stuff you need to make a new village is more than three old codgers like us can raise.
hama: what do you need for a new village anyway?
po: young men.
jin: what about young women
po: jin….. i’m a married man
three little old men help each other off the ground and amble around in different directions in order to gather materials with which to start work on another house. all swearing and joking and teasing each other. the mountains rise above them all the way to the clear blue sky. the sky rises further all the way to the stars. and the stars go on forever after that.