So back at the farm I drew the above, uh, “diagram” in my notebook. Showed it to my travel-mate Sean.
He said: “It looks like an acid trip. ‘Everything is connected, man!’”
I responded: “Nah man, it’s not that. Whenever we go to a new place—like Chala today—I always find myself trying to figure out how well people there are living, but don’t really know where to begin looking. So I’m trying to organize my thoughts a little.”
Sean: “Well, people need three things. A place to eat, a place to sleep, and a place to poop.”
Me: “That’s enough to keep you from dying, but life is more than that.”
S: “Are you on some kind of personal quest to find the meaning of happiness?”
C: “That’s not why I made this, but yeah, basically.”
S: “Well, I’ve probably told you my philosophy a bunch of times.”
C: “I’m not sure you have.”
S: “It’s all about empathy and appreciation. The more empathy you have, the more you will appreciate the world we live in.”
There was some elaboration of this idea. I asked: “But why is that the true purpose of human existence?” Some talk that I can’t remember about neurons, and then Sean explained that his goal in life is “textured consciousness.”
S: “It feels good to learn new things, and that adds layers that your brain uses to appreciate things more. That’s why I want to travel a lot and do lots of different things. It’s a human tendency to form patterns and habits in your thinking, so I want to make an effort to break those patterns. Then I’ll have a more textured consciousness. For instance, since arriving to the farm I have gained more appreciation for cumbia music and for motorcycles, and I’ll use that to deepen my appreciation of other things.”
C: “But implicit in that is an entire philosophy about what the purpose of humanity is, and how we should spend our lives. I have some things I could say about that, but for me I guess it’s still an open question.”
S: “Well, for me it’s textured consciousness.”
From the bathroom of the guesthouse at the farm. When we first arrived I wondered if Alvaro—our dreadlocked, solitary, intellectual and wonderfully accepting host—intended the empty space as some sort of statement. No, he said, a previous volunteer broke the mirror while trying to clean it. But after two weeks of relaxed work in the mornings followed by hearty meals, reading on the beach, afternoon hikes, and games and stories shared by night, I thought the framed nothingness was a nice reflection on the farm’s hermetic lifestyle. As if to say: “Neither vanity or insecurity here.”
Earlier this month, Gustav, Sean, and I spent two weeks on a farm on Peru’s southern coast through WWOOF. We spent our time digging a hole for an outhouse, collecting rocks to build an outhouse, and collecting more rocks to repair a wall that was destroyed by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake the week before we arrived. During that time we compiled lists of Most Famous Rocks In World History and Best Songs About Rocks.
Most Famous Rocks In World History
Best Songs About Rocks:
Any city of 10 million is bound to be hectic but Lima moves with a unique fervor, at least among places I’ve visited. In recent decades, Peruvians have flocked to the city to escape an economically neglected and war-torn countryside. Lima had half a million residents in 1940, 3.5 million in 1981 and has 10 million today, faster growth than any government could ever hope to order or control.
As such, life in Lima is frenetic and spontaneous. Bus drivers race from stop to stop, literally competing with each other for riders. Many neighborhoods were originally built by squatters in what 30 years ago was desert. Residents who can’t find work make their own; vendors peddle everything from candy to self-help tapes to UV lights that identify counterfeit money. Everywhere is crowded: sidewalks, parks, stores, vehicles, and especially roads. In one taxi ride our driver, caught in a traffic jam, blasted onto a 100-yard stretch of empty pedestrian promenade to bypass the stopped vehicles and then veered back into the road at the front of the pack. “It’s Lima, everything is possible,” he said.
Perhaps all the raw energy results from everyone trying to get a leg up at the same time. Peru’s economy is growing steadily but the nation’s export-led, laissez-faire economic development model doesn’t organize how the wealth is distributed, so Peruvians are left to carve out their own spot.
For better or worse, the entire world is urbanizing at a similar rate. In Lima, call it a work in progress. Entire swaths of the capital lack plumbing, clean water, or trash removal, and the city’s streets have the most crashes of any in South America. The organized chaos also boasts results, though. Peru has cut its poverty rate in half, from 54.4 percent in 1991 to 25.8 percent last year. But questions remain: can the same economic policies uplift that last quarter? How long will it take? Are there other development strategies that would work better, or is the messy Peruvian way the only way?