Have you ever had a particular moment in an extraordinary location where space and time were forgotten? Or are you seeking such a thing for the first time? In any case, the concept of a paradise is an elusive one, and here in Bali the word gets thrown around quite a bit. So let’s investigate.
When you first learn of Bali you may have read or heard of it as an Island of the Gods. Indeed, there are Balinese temples not just in every village, but in every home too. There are even micro-temples in Balinese shops and warungs (cafes). In addition there are daily offerings to the gods that inhabit each and every corner of this sometimes other-worldly island. Why? Because these gods are very powerful! They need paying attention to, requiring ongoing devotion.
But can an Island of the Gods be a paradise? Is it relevant if the gods aren’t your gods? Or if you don’t believe in any gods?
I think the relevance is this: when you visit Bali you can interact with people who have embraced other values than material goods. The ceremonies and offerings are constant reminders of the limits of the material world.
Like the old saying goes, “You can’t take it with you.”
And so if Bali doesn’t quite live up to your vision of paradise, at least you can be in a place where most if not all of the people aren’t taking advantage of your tourist status in order to rip you off.
So, so you think you can tell Heaven from hell Blue skies from pain Can you tell a green field From a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil? Do you think you can tell? — “Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd
Thanks to NOW! Bali for the photos. Follow their Instagram here
Our builder, Wayan, is a leader in his local village and twice a year hosts a Balinese ceremony.
(Photo: Wayan to my left, his partners, and the site foreman – in a striped shirt)
Wayan invited Shelly and I to a post-ceremony celebration of music, dance and Balinese cuisine at his home. It was a privilege to be a part of his extended family. Everyone was generously and genuinely willing to open their hearts to us.
If there is one constant here in Bali, it’s that of dynamic change. Trying to capture a particular “neighborhood” is at best a blurry snapshot, as cafes pop up, villas and shops appear, and the landscape is suddenly, almost magically different.
Swipe your way from Pererenan beach to the main road, Jalan Raya Canggu:
Ok I know I mentioned some excitement around the idea of getting the concrete slabs in place for the basement and living areas, but then the workers went off to another Balinese ceremony for three days (it was supposed to be two days).
I was warned that there was going to be plenty of ceremony breaks and for that reason many builders hire workers from Java. But my builder is Balinese and I really don’t mind it too much, since my confidence in my builder is very high. I know he wants to do an excellent job and so that keeps my spirits up.
We will have to push our excitement for the slabs into the near future (this coming week!). The main benefits of having slabs are: no mud around the structure itself, and secondly that the slab provides a flat and solid surface for the scaffolding (which enables the construction of floors and walls).
The Balinese are an island culture, but one of their many unique qualities is that spiritually they look to volcanos (skyward), instead of the sea. It’s not that they don’t like the sea. It’s just that the volcanos represent spiritual elevation and a home for their gods and ancestors.
It would be interesting to determine how many island cultures take to the sky spiritually, versus the sea. My theory is that the creation of terraced rice fields enabled the Balinese to cultivate their rice at higher altitudes than other island-based, rice-oriented cultures.
Had they cultivated rice only at the lower altitudes they’d be closer to the sea and might have included aspects of the sea into their spiritually. But that’s not the case. They remain an animistic and Hindu culture and Mount Agung and the other volcanos remain critically important to the world view of the Balinese people.
Kites represent a very real mode of play with the sky and the wind and the spirits above.