Changing Temples Pt. 21 What Condition Our Condition

“Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”
Kenny Rodgers and the First Edition
with Glen Campbell on Guitar. 1968

I like to think that it is some form of artistic sensibility in operation, but I have always had what can only charitably be described as an over-active . . . . .. Ah! how I would love to probe your mind to see what word(s) you might use to fill in that blank. Whether because you know me (too well) or you have a sense of the human condition, if you guessed “libido” you would have been wrong (though that is also certainly true). No, my fill-in was fantasy life. Is there a difference?

If truth be told, I have had to constantly (and I can count decades of such constancy) reign and constrain. Keeping a “present mind” has always been a great challenge – greater than my capacities, but, like the Light Brigade, I keep charging into the the canon fire of reality. Seemingly vast sections of the “self-help” section of any real or ether book store are aimed at present mind, in one form or another. I’ve done my fair share of sampling over the years. I am a New Age Sensitivity Training survivor.

With the “use by” date rather visibly imprinted on my particular corporeal package, I sometimes feel that I will have it all well figured out on the day I die, for I certainly have not demonstrated such comprehension to date – no matter how often I’ve been reminded or recognized the perishability of the contents of that package.

So here I sit in ancient, or is it modern, Istria watching as Romans or is it Venetians or Croats walk by. They and many others have walked this street over the ages. The human parade is what I fantasize walks along these streets, the composition of which makes one entirely unsure which age he is observing. I do not abide by the conception that humans have changed over the last . . . well, how long do you think humans have retained the characteristics we see – like fantasizing? Let me be blunt, my unapologetic bias is that technological change can be a very specious indicator of change in the fundamental nature of the human condition – that condition which operates from the inside out.

One of my favorite indicators of this abiding condition, that I cannot be sure whether I watch 1st. C. Romans, 17th. C. Venetians, or 21st. C. Croats, comes from an Ancient Greek named Hesoid (who lived sometime between 750-650 BC, about the same generation as Homer). He said: “The dilatory man is always suffering calamities”. I first found this reference in Michele Montaigne, who cited it to show it was certainly an active human attribute in the late 1500’s when he was writing his famous Essays. So, some 2700 years after Hesiod, some 425 years after Montaigne, what is not true about that insight into the human condition? What could be more true of that parade than that we continue to manifest that same characteristic some 2700 years later?

Somewhere in our ancient past we became this conscious being, this compilation of more than just instinct but a being of compiled faculties: projection, reflection, contemplation, communication, fantasy – all constructed or interwoven so as to satisfy wants and desires that transcend the mere organic implementation of skills to survive and perpetuate – how else can Art, for one, be explained? Are not the human wants and desires we see in the Pageant not merely fantasy in different guises?

We now have some verifiable, identifiable thousands of years of in kind variations of individuals walking in the parade: Theseus and his 13 companions marching into the city of Minos for his rendezvous with the Minotaur, Odysseus walking into the welcoming arms of the Phaeacians offering their boat for the last leg of his journey home, Aeneas marching into Latium to be wooed by two fighting groups – descendants of Troy and descendants of “those who several generations before had descended from the trees” – and in choosing would bring about the transformation that would become the great Roman Empire, the Gallic prisoners of Caesar walking behind him in his Triumph in Rome (a uniquely special parade only decreed/allowed by the Roman Senate for great victories – but accompanied, as was the tradition, by a man standing behind him in his chariot whose responsibility was to whisper in his ear “remember, you are mortal”), or Wayne marching on Denver in protest of war: “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh”, “Hell no we won’t go”. Each of these was fantasy trying to interweave with reality.

Our universal, human parade is one of fantasizing about our obligation to end the scourge of the Minotaur, to never forget the importance of home and hearth, to recognize the necessity of escape from Troy, to acquire the power of Caesar, to end a wrong headed war. Our condition is to incorporate fantasy into intention. We imaginatively conceptualize. We create a digestible mix of fantasy, obligation, responsibility. I would add that the very oldest of records or rememberant myth show that in every culture our condition is to dose ourselves with any substance capable of disguising for a brief moment the vast indifference of Nature to the fantasies we began to weave when we wake up the next morning. Consequently, perhaps the hardest fantasy of all is acceptance that the parade will go on without us. It is perhaps that fantasy which is part of the very condition when seeks to bring a sober depth to our attempts at making this life significant.

Continued . . .

Changing Temples Pt. 13 Deportation Pt. 3

Changing Temples Pt. 13, Deportation Pt. 3

“I am trying to move on to Italy as soon as possible as I hate this Catholic country with its hundred races and thousand languages. . . . Pola is a back-of-God-speed place—a naval Siberia . . . . Istria is a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear little red caps and colossal breeches.” James Joyce

The grand experiment to be able to continue my personal version of the Grand Tour by avoiding Deportation concerns was largely a failure I am afraid. Almost exactly to the minute three days later, I am on the train back to Venezia.

The final important Avoidance Behavior was the “Exit” stamp from Croatia. If buried somewhere inscrutable, then my “exit” from Shengen Agreement requirements within 90 days would be a fairly respectable varnish. Of all the Passport pages to choose from, the border officer choose the same one as the Entry Stamp. So, there visible to even an undiscerning eye is clearly straight forward evidence of only a three day visit to a non-Shengen Country. Well, nice try. Now I have to rely upon other behaviors and hope Fate will smile a bit.

The sunnier aspects of the three days lend some solace. One very unprofound insight for instance. Pula was a nice and even interesting place to visit. The insight for me was a new one in travel. Nice to visit is significantly different than a place where you fell some deep urge to stay. Visiting implies moving on, and Pula was nice within that particular travel concept. I did not make it to Pula’s version of the famous Croatian beaches, which by all accounts are spectacular. But Pula was a place where you have to work the public transit system to get there – to the tune of 20 minutes or so, which wouldn’t be all bad of course.

But the reference point is the kind of place one is tempted to stay in, and by that I mean truly stay in – we’ve all been in a place like that or imagined one. Twenty plus minutes just to see the coast and beach (as opposed to the bay and harbor) does not bring a place up to my “want to stay” standards. I suspect the Croatian coast would reveal villages and towns of that type, but it would take a “back-of-God-speed” effort, concerted research, and either a rental car (meaning one is unlikely to do anything but visit anyway) or the challenges of rural, inter town buses. With only three buses out of Pula each day to the main rail hub of Trieste (65 some miles), you get some idea of the challenges referred to. Of course the discovery might be quite remarkable because no tourist hordes.

The price of living was also a sunny aspect. Roughly only one-half to one-third the cost of Venezia. Because I am paying rent in Venezia I didn’t save anything much really. Probably went in the hole some. But it was still nice to not pay such a premium.

So, I am back in Venezia. I have to say I am past the magic phase, though moments of sun diamonds or moon diamonds on the Adriatic – choose the gorgeous sparkling of your particular preference – belies that on occasion. Still, three and one-half months in, I have returned to the ordinary attempts to fill the day. That is a fascination for another time.

Continued . . .

Changing Temples Pt. 11

Changing Temples Pt. 11
Deportation Avoidance Behaviors

“I am trying to move on to Italy as soon as possible as I hate this Catholic country with its hundred races and thousand languages. . . . Pola is a back-of-God-speed place—a naval Siberia . . . . Istria is a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear little red caps and colossal breeches.” James Joyce

I am in violation of the Shengen Agreement! There is no perfect remedy for my violation, only a thin veneer of fakery. I can apply that veneer by going to England or to Croatia (or any country outside of the EU zone). Even that is not entirely accurate for I can come into total, acceptable compliance by just going back to America for 90 days before I can “legally”come back to the EU – which means Venezia to me of course. At this point I do not want to go home, let alone for 90 days. Croatia is closer than England and the transit cheaper, so I am escaping to Croatia.

I am escaping, as will be revealed in more detail below, very much like Bilbo Baggins running off without his pocket handkerchief and other things an altogether complacent Hobbit or human might need. In my case, no maps, an iPad choosing this moment to be completely balky with Internet connection, absolutely no idea of which town I should go to, only the intent to avoid a Shengen Agreement expulsion, fine, and embarrassment.

Perhaps if I work backward this will make some sense. By 9:12 a.m. this morning I had gotten out of bed (a major undertaking), exercised, packed, eaten breakfast, taken a Vaporatto Boat across Venezia, purchased a train ticket to Trieste (at the far Eastern part of the boot top of Italy), and was on the train to Trieste. From there Croatia is close – I cannot tell you how close at this point remember because I have no map and no Internet!

Where did all this start? To really show the instantaneous nature of the intent to be in this train seat at this time of day, I refer to last night’s dinner – which given custom and circumstance did not begin until 9:45 p.m.! I had asked a fellow from the ExPat Group if he would have a rational discussion with me about the “length of stay” issues in Italy. The she of the them is from the US. The he of them is Veneziano by birth, trained and admitted to the law in Italy, the UK, and New York. They have worked their way through all the issues regarding extended stay – all to say I could expect a very rational discussion.

It was way too rational! I had been just drifting along with regard to stay limits thinking because of the official Italian web site I had consulted that I was good for six months. He proceeded to outline the Shengen Agreement – which in short provides that someone from the US can ONLY be in the EU (that is, anywhere in the EU) for 90 days out of 180. I knew my passport had not been stamped or examined by Italian immigration, but I was not sure if it had been stamped by Swiss authorities when the porter took all the passenger passports on the overnight train from Paris to Venezia. At dinner we did not know, as one does not risk the carrying of their passport during everyday activities. But, given the actions of the train porter, it was likely.

The gist of the consult was go to Croatia, try to add a Croatian stay that might be veneered into 90 days just by having the most recent passport stamp be from a non-EU country. Croatia joins the EU on July 1 this year.

Sure enough, this morning I looked and my passport had been stamped on March 5th. By even the most charitable of calculations, as of today I am in violation of the Shengen Agreement. Thus, I am on my way to an unknown Croatian destination. I am hoping the cellular data network will work in Trieste – it will not be any good in Croatia at any rate (all country specific here). All this because I like Venezia, and want to stay for awhile!

I had some recall of my friends saying Poula or something of the sort. In the Trieste train station there were maps for sale. I looked at the cover of several and saw that Pula was indeed closest and near the sea. One bus ticket later, and off I go to find a WiFi spot since my cellular still refuses to give the necessary signal – it gives a signal, but not 3G and thus incapable of connection. Bars and cafes go by in succession. No WiFi signs. I begin to ask, each and everyone refers me to what I translate as an Internet store. After wandering (with bag, of course), I found, used, and got a reservation for lodging, as I am very disinclined to arrive in a strange place late, 5 p.m. in this instance – particularly a popular resort by the sea in high season.

Of course, despite the description, the place is four miles plus from the bus station. Gotta love it.

Continued . . .