Sad Stories: Fallen Trees

I was in Bali’s capital Denpasar yesterday, primarily for a doctor’s appointment, but with a couple of hours to spare, Joni drove me to the Kumbasari market.

I first spent 30 minutes or so buying scarves on Jl. Sulawesi before heading over to the market area – at which point I realized that I had just walked into a construction site: A massive orange bulldozer was at work, belching fumes into the crowds, grating around at anything in its path.

A surreal scene then unfolded in front my eyes.

With the force of a T-Rex, it lunged at a small grouping of trees. It tore away at the trees relentlessly, their branches and leaves, until all came crashing to the ground. A crunching sound, like bones splintering into pieces.

Overkill: A sure sign of progress mad.

I stood there awestruck- and baffled: It’s Bali and nobody is making offerings at the site, not a single person is in sarong and sash with hands locked together in prayer.

What happened to Tri Hita Karana? This tri-partite cornerstone of Balinese Hinduism mandates that man must keep in harmony with himself, the divine and the environment; i.e. nature.

Apparently, concrete urban jungles trump natural ones.

It used to be that not a branch could be shorn from a tree without someone making offerings, without ensuring that the gods would not go crazy… The Balinese calendar lists the days on which the spirits and deities of nature are gifted with offerings, flowers, foods in gratitude for the rice, the flowers, fruit and all that sprouts from the earth.

And yet.

What about the trees?

When I came home, I flipped through a book of Pema Chödrön’s teachings I’d just finished reading, When Things Fall Apart. She writes about impermanence and how it is the essence of everything… and a principle of harmony. Although she focuses on human relationships, Chödrön’s larger message is that everything is in a constant state of flux. Rather than deny or struggle against impermanence, we should embrace it as the natural scheme of things.

Somehow, this time, that scene, just doesn’t seem like it fits into the natural scheme of things…


    1. Thnx Lottie.. it was one of the saddest sights I’ve seen around here in a while. People smiling – as they do, out of shyness, surprise, or the futility of it all… Bali is my teacher too…(with a few Wayans thrown in for good measure!!)

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