Gateway

By William J. Furney
The Bali Times

We were driving up to Puncak, the chilly hill town outside Jakarta, last weekend and as we snaked up slowly amid a seven-hour tailback, I looked up at the misty sky full of resonance and envisioned a door to another place of continued conscious existence.

I had the day before been to the site of the hotel bombings in downtown Jakarta. As I ducked among reporters’ cameras and snapped images of the carnage at the Ritz-Carlton, I was told by phone there was another bomb inside and to leave the area. Soon after, the device was found and removed.

In such things, you are at the mercy of fate: We had been planning to be at the hotel the previous evening, but cancelled, and at least one friend had stayed over at the Ritz-Carlton after a late night there. She checked out shortly before the breakfast-time blasts that killed nine people, including two suicide bombers, as she had an early flight to Bali.

It has been a familiar scene in Indonesia these many years. We get a collective sense of familiarity and security and then the deadly cycle turns once more. Prior to the first attack on the JW Marriott, in 2003, I had been there for an evening engagement and remarked on how robust the security was – it was among the first to have x-ray body scanners.

With this latest terrorist atrocity hovering over us, we departed for a breather to cool Puncak, long the brief retreat of choice for hot-and-bothered Jakarta folk.

Stuck up the mountain with no discernable way down, due to total gridlock – picture thousands of cars stretching dozens of kilometres along the windy roads, all with their engines turned off and sitting there for multiple hours with nothing to do and nowhere to go – we checked into one of the peak’s finer auberges (last room available!) and after dinner are talking about life on earth and its ephemeral nature.

I believe it is important for our development as humans to achieve a sense of finality about our lives, to explore the meaning of living; and through whatever means – religion, spirituality, meditation – attempt to probe beyond what we know or are limited to.

The 40th anniversary of the first moon landing this week gave pause for reflection on humans as a species and what we have achieved. Technological and medical progress, for sure, but other than that, not a lot. When we think of our place in the vastness of what’s outside our planet, it’s horrifying. To think that we are so incredibly insignificant among the sheer scale of what envelops our world is deeply unnerving.

But it is in airy places such as Bedugul in Bali’s central highlands and in West Java’s Puncak that it’s possible to see – or at least to feel – a vibrational theme that may herald dimensions our inadequate selves cannot perceive. Up there in packed Puncak, I had a lingering sense of a portal-like presence hovering in the sky, through which one could pass and take a glance back at where they had been, and say: “That was interesting.”

Swimming in the ocean in Bali – such lovely, generous waters, just like the beautiful island’s people – it’s shivering to float on one’s back and peer up through at the sky and picture a glimpse of yourself from the heavens, all of this immeasurably huge universe spinning and moving around at the greatest of speeds, and whirling and crashing and slamming. And yet, somehow, in the place we call home, it all seems so perfectly usual and it is all taken for granted.

There is a massive disconnect between people, their lives, the place where they live and that with which it is contained. It can be tempting not to contemplate the complexity: just to plod through.

Or to take a moment to break from all the dross: We had the time of our lives in Jakarta: We laughed, we cried, we could have danced all night (and did). We took on a timeless form.

My friend said: “This is life. This is what living is all about. The rest is just bull.”

william@thebalitimes.com

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