This blue marble

– and yet it spins

Above the Andaman Sea

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And so it is time to again say goodbye to the coconuts, the lovely mornings in the jungle, and my newfound love the snake fruit. As I switch Bali to Langkawi I will again miss a great festivity. This time it is the celebration of the victory of good against evil. Kids await it like ours do christmas, because they anticipate new clothes and dancing the Barong dance in the streets for 10 days.

How awesome it must be: a half-day ceremony at each temple, then food and celebration and dance, and more of the same, for days.
The core of Balinese belief is that evil is kept at bay by offerings. Thus, anything that affirms the power of good is important. And what could affirm it better than the positive energy created by celebrations and boundless joy and laughter? This is also why it is the children that dance the Barong: the instrument symbolizes good, and combined with the innocent joy of dancing children, the victory of good can be reaffirmed.

As I watched the sun set in the Andaman Sea, I wondered about how cultures celebrate the same things so differently. The Balinese celebrate with laughter and joy, whereas in many Western cultures the same days are loaded with solemnity and sadness. Independence Day on Bali is a party, whereas in my home country of Finland it is a serious affair, with candles, laurels on soldiers’ graves, and commemoration for those who died for our country. Easter should be a celebration, too, but instead of parties and parades and cake we focus more on the death and suffering of Jesus than the fact that he miraculously came back to (eternal) life again. This should be reason to party if there ever was one. And during christmas we are quiet and remember the birth of Jesus with some splashes of elegant joy around the dinner table and when the kids get their presents. But no celebration, even if nobody died and one enlightened being was born! Even cremation on Bali is a feast. Sure, people cry at the burial and when the bodies are retrieved. But, oh what joy erupts on cremation day, and in particular the following day, when the ashes are scattered to the five elements. This is party time, with food and dance and laughter. Why not, since after all the spirit of a loved one is finally free from worldly struggles, and ready to be reborn for a second chance? In my country all we usually do is dress in black and cry. Even if the person was 92 years old and it was her time to go.

It is an art of living to recognize and accept the things we cannot change. The Balinese know this art, and they throw in a flower offering for good balance, and a smile for good measure. How would our world be if we all knew what the Balinese know?(Above Bali and Malaysia; September 2016)

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