Thursday, March 07, 2013
The Secret Community Discovered.
Since boyhood I have been fascinated by a mythic kingdom known as “The Secret Community”, first glimpsed in the 1930's movie “Lost Horizon” and hinted at in arcane tomes like those of Lobsang Rampa, where enlightenment, joy and eternal youth would be bestowed upon any who discovered it. Whenever I trekked in the high Himalayas I fantasized that I would wander up some hidden mountain crevice and stumble upon a glowing monastic village clinging to a cliff-face and be welcomed within by a loving, wise people, there to end my days far from the rat-race of the cities below.
As I got older and wiser I realized I wouldn’t be fit to live in such an idyllic community even if I did find it as I am a deeply flawed human, restless, temperamental and neurotically horny, and it wouldn’t be long before the good citizens of Shangri-la threw me out on my ugly arse. Perhaps I hoped “They” could heal me of my problems, my foibles, woes and psycho-sexual fuck-ups and I could then end my days in peaceful contemplation of the meaning of this crazy Universe, for I’m not that bad a fellow. But after much hard-felt cogitation I also figured that such a site is indeed just a myth, this world too corrupt and nasty to allow such a beautiful phenomena to exist for any length of time, at best it would be turned into a tourist attraction, like a meditation theme-park and cash-cow, at worst it would be bombed to rubble as a threat to consumer capitalism.
At the end of my latest sojourn in India, to have one last glorious experience of the high Himalayas, I was taken by a mate in a four-wheel drive way up into the mountains, past the town of Rudraprayag where sacred rivers clash, along a ridge and into the snow. On previous journeys the snowy crags of the Himalayas had always been a distant line of monoliths, seemingly impossible to reach, no matter how much they seemed to hover right over me. But now we drove right into them, deep into the gleaming white crevices, the four-wheel drive’s tyres half buried in snow. We then drove down off the ridge, into a hidden valley, the road gave out and we bumped over boulders, slushed across streams to eventually pass by terraced rice-paddies and orchards, through lush vegetation cultivated as if in a lost paradise.
We drove to the very end of the hidden valley, very close to the Tibetan border, to the village where my mate had grown up, medieval wooden huts perched upon the slopes of the high Himalayas, refreshed by brooks of pure snow-melt, orange, apple and walnut trees in abundance. We stayed there for a few days and I was treated like a visiting Maharaja, the simple food delicious, the people polite and caring. They were all in bed by 9pm, and an exquisite silence reigned till dawn when they arose to begin their activities of daily living, lighting the cooking fires, tending to the animals, fetching water, working the fields, much as their ancestors had been doing for hundreds of years, a traditional mountain-peasants’ life.
And to my harried soul it seemed halcyon, without the complications of town and city. The children played and studied, grew up and married, ran the farm and had children of their own, following hallowed traditions, and saw the world around them as sacred, in synch with their gods. They were a simple people with simple lives, perhaps close to my idealistic myth of “The Secret Community”.
Yet they also had satellite TV and while I waited for my evening meal the kids turned it on and I was bombarded by commercials for Dettol, potato chips and Indica cars, and I wondered what useless desires were stirred in the breasts of the locals that might cause them to be dissatisfied with their simple lot. My good mate who’d brought me there himself had fled to the towns below in search of a job, money, adventure, distraction, and his fondest wish was to one day own a car. After all, it was that four-wheel drive that allowed us to visit his far-off village so comfortable and speedily.
When I got back down from the mountains and was in my favourite restaurant I got to talking with a fellow diner and we both admitted to being tired of all the big babas, swamis, fakirs and fakers in so-called spiritual India who had built institutions and promoted programs of “7 Easy Steps to Enlightenment”, money and fame the obvious agendas, (he thought access to western women was actually the main motive!) We agreed that the sweetest of all souls to hang-out with were the ordinary people who toiled through life, had no pretensions, no money, no adoring retinues, the people you meet in the chai-shops, resting under trees by their fields, walking the dusty roads, sitting on the gutter watching the world go by. These simple people have become my gurus, they give me great joy with their homely hospitality, and they have no bullshit about them. (They can waffle on about the love of their gods but I overlook this as their way of seeing the world as sacred.)
I thought of all the unsung heroes of the world, who do their work without great recompense, medals or limelight, like nurses, teachers, cleaners, orphanage managers, mothers and fathers. That they’re probably all around me all the time, sitting next to me, passing me by, and they don’t trumpet about their greatness, their achievements, their toil, they just get on with it, quietly, unobtrusively, really caring, for the betterment of humanity, nature and the world in general. And that was my epiphany, “The Secret Community” has been around me all the time and I just couldn’t see it, because I’m such a fuck-up, searching for the “Other”, looking for the stars and not where my feet are tramping.
As I foresaw I was flung out of the Himalayan “Community” on my flawed arse and spirited back to Australia and the suicide towers of Northcott. Cursula next door disturbs me every night with witches’ Sabbaths on my doorstep, cackling and guzzling booze or hissing with junkies over the providence of their next hit or hanging from her bedroom window at 4am. shrieking how her zombie boyfriend is trying to kill her; he never is, she simply wants the rest of us to know she exists, eternally.
And my beloved 91 year old Dolly from two-doors up has been moved into a nursing home, no loner able to look after herself, and on visiting her I saw that she possibly has only 7 months left on this planet. Living in this housing ghetto will be unbearable without her, she consoled me when I’ve been lonely and unloved, she was the unheralded queen of Northcott, the real personality who cut the ribbon on the joint when it first opened in 1960, not the Queen of England as the bureaucrats would have it, she only visited later. Oh how can I bear this zombie-land without her, one of the saints of “The Secret Community” soothing the savage beasts by sheer goodness of heart?
If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.