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Musings from the Train

(A few thoughts from the Bulgarian Express, a 23 hour train ride from Chernivtsi, Ukraine to Sofia, Bulgaria)

Romania is depressing. Simple as that. Everything seen from the train appears to be in slow degradation towards uselessness, or already there. I can only imagine that the outer ruin is either reflective of an inner hopelessness, or inspiring such hopelessness. Perhaps no one here remembers which came first. And perhaps I am wrong. The poverty I witnessed in India is downright uplifting compared to this. There at least people make use of everything so aging concrete building skeletons don’t seem to exist there, and here they are in indelible part of the landscape. Mind you, this is simply a perception from the train, not gleaned from interactions with Romanians, or from walking the countryside first hand. My friends, Eddie, Rudy and Ella – didn’t mean to offend. In fact on the other hand, I have a better sense of how truly far you’ve come in your lives.

Industrial society is only good for those who can actually harness its benefits. All others are the industrial society. Agrarian society seems vastly ideal to industrialization, which requires poverty so that there are always people willing to perform the filthy, repetitive, uninspiring, back breaking, disabling, soot breathing, jobs required to feed the machinery. I think it’s much better to grow rice, eat fruits and vegetables, siesta in the afternoon, work hard yet simply and want for little. It’s the dream of riding the industrialized magic carpet that lures hand and hair into the cogs. I know farming isn’t necessarily an easy life, but how difficult it does become when the people don’t own their own land and thus can’t profit from their own labor. The large scale factory farms serve the same function of industrializing the lives of farmers.

I wonder how many people are taking off right now, on foot, wandering until they find something better, because they are trusting a voice inside that knows, that purely knows, that their life is not manifesting as it should. How difficult that first step into the unknown. It can be difficult for me at times to step into that unknown, and I’m simply a leisure traveler.

I wonder if the church’s frowning upon birth control is in a way to help ensure that people continue to need the church. Having children at a young age, and/or having many children (both consequences of limiting birth control), help to lock people into a cycle of need and dependency, thus creating newer and newer generations of “customers” for the church. I’m sure it’s not that simple, but it sure feels like it’s part of the equation.

I read in some of my research on Bessarabia that priests were the ones leading and inciting mobs in Kishinev (now in Moldova) in 1903 and 1905 to “kill the Jews,” and kill they did, over 60 of them, seriously injuring many more and destroying 1,500 homes and businesses. I simply don’t understand human nature. I can understand how poverty can lead one to scapegoat others, but I don’t quite get how a priest can do the same. I know there are bad individuals everywhere, but hatred is hard for me to understand. I guess, when I see young boys in the churches in the Ukraine wearing robes and chanting and swinging incense chain and brass at the holy images I have to realize that the priests aren’t necessarily holy at all, but that they are first and foremost products of their families and the belief structures inherent within them. Children of bigots can become priests just as easily as children of loving people. I’d like to think that a church structure has a Director of Priestly Quality Control which ferrets out closed-mindedness and removes it from the church, but even in modern times in more advanced cultures and religious institutions, there can still be an institutionalization of racism, hatred, sexism, homophobia, pedophilia, etc. So I guess I shouldn’t expect much from 1903. But still, it’s ridiculous. Awful really. Amen.

The man I’m bunking with on this train is spending a total of 49 hours on trains getting from somewhere in the Ukraine to his home in Sofia, Bulgaria. His spirit is very sweet so perhaps that’s why he seems to enjoy this time without complaint. Silly me, I was complaining inside when they switched me from one berth to this one, and now, despite my grumblings, I have a new friend. Lessons learned without pain. We don’t always have to punish to get our points across and try to change behavior. I’m already wiser, thanks to the reward. He also was patient in teaching me the Bulgarian National Anthem. A very proud sounding song which sings of the natural beauties of their land. Fun to learn a new song in a new language.

I saw a man out the window of the train pushing a wheelbarrow, I assume he was pushing it because I didn’t see him for more than a second as the train whizzed past him so there wasn‘t really enough time for me to see actual movement. There was a tilt to the barrow which leads me to think he was turning to the left and the load was heavy. There were perhaps fruit trees around him, so my best guess would be garden/orchard scraps, but I have no idea. For me, this man will be forever in this pose, frozen one moment in time, yet what of his life? Who is this man? What terrible things has he done and does he regret them or not, or does he think things that he has done are terrible even though most everyone else thinks otherwise? Has he aspirations? Are they for himself or perhaps others in his family? Does he love his wife assuming he is married? I know nothing about him except a romantic belief that his life is a struggle and that he sometimes turns possibly heavy barrow loads to the left. Nothing. Nor will I ever know. We really know nothing about each other. The best I believe we can do is know ourselves deeply so that we can see more accurately the nature within each other.

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