An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of September 22, 2008
Written in Sabaché and issued from a
ciber in nearby Tekit, Yucatán,  MÉXICO

WEEKEND DRUNKS

On weekends most but not all men in Sabacch頧et drunk -- sometimes during the week, too. On drinking days, all day long men sit or lie in small groups beneath favorite shade trees passing around the bottle, everyone a bit dazed, sometimes peacefully nodding off and on. Only a few occasionally get belligerent, which is profoundly different from their usual polite, soft-spoken selves.

This is fairly typical of small villages of mostly indigenous people in this part of the world. Occasionally you enter a village on a weekend and see very few drunks, and then you know that someone has made a lot of effort to bring sobriety to town.

Sometimes the people themselves realize that drunkenness is causing the community problems and a forceful leader or dynamic committee brings social pressure to bear to keep people sober. This was the case back in 28 de Junio in Chiapas.

More typically, religion comes to town. You may remember from my March 8, 2005 Newsletter when my friend Vladimir and I visited the mountain town of Pantepec, Chiapas. The first day we entered town we were struck by the men's appearance: About half were grubby, slouchy and often drunk, but the other half were clean and always seemed engaged in something productive. There were few in-between cases. In Pantepec, about half the town had converted to Seventh Day Adventism, and Adventists preach fervently against sloth and drunkenness.

If I'd been born in Pantepec and if I'd grown up knowing only what I could learn in the muddy streets of that isolated little town, I hope I would have had the gumption to join with the Adventists, maybe even becoming a preacher, trying to nudge my people toward something better. In Pantepec, I wouldn't have had the resources to see religion in context, as only a step toward spirituality. Religiosity would have been the most positive force in my life there.

But, I have ended up here, and almost by accident with a voice in cyberspace. My audience is not dispossessed indigenous people still rather cut off from the rest of the world, but rather you, who can Google almost any information you want, who can learn how large, complex and beautiful the Universe is, and surreal the behavior of subatomic particles, and see in the News how religiosity works out in the modern world.

Therefore, today, here, this thought: As in Pantepec the only force anyone found strong enough to battle habitual drunkenness was religion, in our more information-rich, more broad-horizoned world, where dangers to us all are much more clearly understood than in Pantepec, the only force transformative enough to battle entrenched human behaviors destroying Earth's biosphere is spiritual advancement.

And the great font of spirituality is and always has been experience with Nature.

Open yourself to flowers and birds, crystals and fossils, children and happy adults, natural cycles and a million blossomings, and true, intense, Life- affirming, Life-on-Earth-saving spirituality simply comes, sobering us up, and making us better folks.