Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Not Pathetic: It's Ascetic

Hung out the other night with a guy who's adopted an ascetic life style.

He's pretty hardcore.

He's from Santa Barbara, CA, and came out to Asia on a spiritual quest of sorts. For the last 11 months he has neither worn shoes (or socks) or touched money. 

In fact, he hadn't planned on doing this for so long. He's on a journey to India, but a lost passport kinda threw a wrench in the works. Well, the embassy got him a new passport somehow, but... he has no visa. He can't leave China without one, and he can't get one without buying one. With money. He's kinda up the creek on that one, thinking about how to sneak over Tibetan borders. 

First question. How does he eat?

He would walk through restaurants and grab food that customers hadn't finished. "French fries are good for picking up." Sometimes, he'd go for 3 days without food. Sometimes people would give or buy him food. Veg only. And sometimes he's teach english at a monastery and dine with the monks. He was definitely thin, but seemed fine.

Food is the only thing he let's people pay money for. Although when a handful of us went for dinner, we hopped on the bus, and he got all stressed out that we paid for his 15 cent bus ride. "I guess I'll just call that part of the dinner cost," he said forlornly. 

He can't speak chinese, but he can more or less write it. 

2nd question. Why no shoes? Dunno. But he did say he's intentionally framed himself as an outsider. His feet were pretty dirty, though the rest of him seemed quite clean. His hair was long, his face unshaven, but you know... he was clean.

3rd question. Where does he sleep? Usually on the street. Do note that it's pretty darn cold at night in BJ these days, below zero for sure. Sometimes he's invited to spend a night at someone's house, but he only allows himself to stay at one person's place for one night. 

He calls himself a prisoner to the rules that he created for himself, accepting the hardships as His Path. But he admits that he hopes that he can get to India soon, since he feels like hanging around BJ is a total waste of his time. Well, i don't know if my own spirituality would keep me uppity either in his shoes. 

So. Yes, his lifestyle is extreme. Yes, he has a life filled with hardships. For example, when i commented on his red eyes, he said that he's been wearing contact lenses in his eyes for 8 months straight, since he has no saline solution or lens case; he's well aware that his "rules" are f'ing with his health. But, talking with this young guy, he struck me as an intelligent, articulate, and sensitive guy. I'm sure I'll see him again sometime. He might join in for meditation night sometime, but i don't know how Q would handle him at this point. Hey, i'm well-acquainted w/ leftcoast hippies, so i can get on this guys level okay!

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