An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of February 4, 2008
Issued from a ciber in San Francisco Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO

The most colorful spot in this tiny community of gray, cinderblock homes dispersed among sun-bleached, drying-up weeds is the little Catholic church, lit mostly with multicolored Christmas lights. Some homes still have their Christmas lights up. In this community where many people need basic medical attention and more varied diets, but just can't afford it, and electricity is expensive, these perpetually lit lights can seem an extravagance.

I think I understand what's behind them, though.

The main reason is that people here are just glad to see bright lights and to entertain a sense of otherworldliness. They crave something completely different from the everyday world of weedy landscape, deteriorated roads, bare cinderblock walls, the endlessly blue, empty sky, the same chores, the same people, day after day, year after year.

Normal people hunger after sensory stimulation, even if it's nothing more than blinking colored lights. This is the root cause of recreational drug use, for loud music, self-destructive behavior, and often, I believe, even wars. People and whole societies can get stuck in such boring, unfulfilling routines that even getting sick or having your city bombed sounds better than continuing the same unending, meaningless, boring existence.

People usually seem to pass through three stages with regard to "stimulation."

First, there's the child constantly discovering new things, many of which hurt or threaten. For them, life often is too stimulating. You've seen how normal children long for security and predictable routines.

The second stage comes when the child's goal of attaining security and routines is accomplished, yet the adult continues obsessively striving for security and routines. This leads to a life so void of stimulation that it's drab, uninteresting and unfulfilling.

The third stage is when the soul aches for the stimulation it's been denied. This is a dangerous state, for our society supports us only as long as we live the lie that secure routines represent the height of civility. Basic guidance provided is to participate in religions, sports and excessive consumption. Some of us can't relate to this philosophy, however.

With regard to the human need for stimulation, there's a fourth stage that becomes available to those who receive enlightened guidance, or are smart enough to figure things out for themselves.

That stage consists of following the Middle Path between the colorless world of security and routines, and the self-destructive world of excessive stimulation-seeking. For me, The Middle Path became clear only when I simplified my life (too much background noise and clutter deadens the senses), and began living closer to Nature.

Think spending a week or two beneath a big tree picking seeds from pumpkins, then maybe the next week shelling corn and grinding it to make the next year's cornmeal. The jobs themselves can be rather tedious, but they don't last long enough to defeat the spirit, plus the workplace is congenial, and the tasks themselves are meaningful. This community's traditional manner of being appears to follow the Middle Path.

Finding the Middle Path is both a journey of the mind and spirit, and a physical passage largely consisting of leaving things behind. For some it's mostly mental, for others mostly physical.

The sensory-rich but sustainable Middle Path is hard to find and stay on, but my sometimes successful, sometimes failing experience has been that  taking it is worth the effort. Facebook Icon.