I met the most interesting man in the world today
Like I said, I've met lots of interesting people these past few weeks. I met a lovely French lady who is a folk violinist, and we sang and danced together for hours with a big group of people before enjoying some cooked seaweed. A week later I was out and about with my 2nd favourite parasol, which caught the eye of a gentleman who told me his father bought one very similar to it in North Korea, while he was stationed there in the Korean War. A few days later I'm sitting on the beach late one evening with a new friend I made. We have the entire beach to ourselves, and there is a brilliant waxing moon. The weather fluctuates between bone dry and still, to monsoon conditions every few minutes. We're not fortunate enough to see a Moonbow (a rainbow created by moonlight), but he regales me with all sorts of interesting stories of his life, such as spending a few weeks in intensive care in Lhasa due to altitude sickness, sailing hundreds of miles up the Amazon River, and having free drugs with every snack or tea he purchased in Laos (including free demonstrations on how to use them).
Now these are just a few quite interesting people I've engaged with in just the past two weeks. Frankly they're just the tip of the iceberg of interesting folk I have met over the past few years, all within the tiny area of this little village. That's not including the fascinating people who continually enrich this village by actually living here permanently, there are plenty of those too (do I count as one? I like to think so).
But recently I met one man who I can only describe as the most fascinating man in the world. He was the most intriguing person I have met in a very long time, and despite our very brief meet, he has had a very strong impact on me.
It's a glorious sunny day, and I'm walking someone's dog for them. It's early morning, a lovely time of day for a walk, since no one else is up yet. Dogs are not allowed on the beach at this time of year, so we tread carefully on the narrow path on its fringe. This particular dog is a beautiful black and white sheepdog, fiercely intelligent, quiet, and very cuddly. As we trot along the path, we see a man sitting in the lotus position, with a book laid out in front of him. We are passing him, and he looks up and smiles.
I couldn't guess his age, I think he was somewhere between 30 and 60 years old. All he is wearing are some shorts and a fedora. Whatever is age, there's something about him that is very youthful. He has an expression of calm joyfulness, very dark and pensive eyes, and a very tanned complexion.
"What a beautiful dog. I used to have one similar." he says.
He has the exact same voice as the actor Sean Bean! He's very softly spoken, but still very clear and confident. We chat about dogs, and the joy that they bring us. The pages of his book flutter and turn from the warm sea breeze.
"See the wind is telling me what pages to read."
Then a monster horsefly, the size of a walnut, lands on his leg.
"What a beauty," he says gently, "most people would swat it away. I've done it before, and it's left me swollen up and sore. But now I've learnt that nature is really a mirror of yourself. The way you treat nature will reflect onto you. If you show hostility to it, it'll respond in kind. But if I just leave this beautiful creature do its work, and give it the gift of my lifeblood, it won't harm me." I'm a little sceptical, but then the horsefly takes off, and a tiny drop of blood beads on his leg. There's no swelling, no pain. Maybe he has a point.
"I love it here, everyone here is an angel. I think this place has the most angels in the world. There are a lot of angels in Tibet, but then Tibet is huge. There's probably more angels per square mile in this village than anywhere else in the world." My scepticism boils up again. I know for a fact not everyone here is an angel, but it's such a lovely sentiment how could I challenge it? Then, the profound poetic conversation takes a very sudden and quite tedious turn when he randomly asks,
"Do you know what time the café opens?"
He invites me to walk with him on the beach. I am very tentative, since dogs aren't allowed on the beach. There are plenty of meanies who hate dogs in this village. It's like a cold war between dog lovers and dog haters round here. He smiles, then unhooks the leesh off the dog."There are no rules for dogs, they make their own rules. Come on, let's make a wish."
We walk to the seashore, it's a gentle neap tide. I'm constantly keeping watch for the dog, making sure he doesn't wander off. I'm also anxious that a local vigilante may phone the police to arrest the heathen that let's his dog on the restricted zone of the beach. But my new friend is carrying a very large blue ball to the seashore. It's an absolutely gorgeous Lapis Lazuli crystal, nearly the size of a football. It looks like he's holding an entire galaxy in his hands. At the seashore he hands me the crystal and tells me to make a wish. "But don't wish for something selfish. It's better to wish for others. You could wish to help all the suffering people in the world, like the starving or sick, or anything else magnanimous like that. Then we'll put this crystal in the waves. So I have a little think, and wish for health and happiness for my loved ones. Then he takes the crystal and washes it in the water. Then he tells me to carry the crystal, because we're going to follow the dog.
We walk along the damp sand towards the cliffs. "What a beautiful day. What a beautiful view. Everything is so beautiful, isn't it?". I see this same view every day, and quite agree that it's the most beautiful place in all the world. I like to think I'm not just being biased, I like to think I don't take it for granted how lucky I am to live here. But maybe I can't help but get used to the views here. Maybe I overlook things because I am so used to them. I tread very carefully because I don't want to ruin my shoes, I haven't had them long and need good shoes for my very important job of walking everyone's dogs. "You're looking where you're stepping too much. Look around you instead," he says. I'm worrying about my shoes, I'm worrying about the dog wandering off, I'm worrying about random things I have to deal with months from now, and things that happened months ago. But then I realise this random man, whom I've only just met, is right. I'm worrying too much, I need to relax more.
On the shoreline are hundreds of jellyfish. Lots of people think they're ugly pointless creatures. They are blobby, and sting you, and smell awful when they wash up and die. But my new friend sees them in a very different light.
"Aren't they so beautiful. Look at the colours. Look at the shapes."
The peculiar blobs that line the beach are all different shades of blue, turquoise, azure, silver, purple, pink. "Look at the circles in them, they look like Celtic Crosses," he says.
Lord knows how I managed to get one, but believe it or not I have a degree in marine biology. To me those purple circles in a jellyfish are its reproductive organs. But my new friend says that maybe these bizarre creatures' gonads are what inspired the Celtic Cross, a beautiful symbol that represents love, eternity, and oneness. A lot of cultural symbolism derives from naturally occurring shapes, maybe he's right.
"Look at this guy! He looks like an alien from space!" he says excitedly, "And look at this one! Doesn't this one look just like the eye of a dragon?" I'm totally enamoured with his way of looking at things. He points at the sand, the pebbles, the quartz, the seaweed, and sees landscapes, towns, cities, worlds, and even galaxies within them. I feel like I'm being taken on a journey, away from a world where people look at things with such a cold clinical lense, and to another world where we see beauty and warmth in even the most seemingly mundane and tedious things lying on the ground.
"I love foraging, let's find something to eat." he says, and we find and share a rosehip. "Do you know the most wonderful meal in the world? The morning dew from a rose's petals."
Then he lights some incense sticks, and we walk together through the forest. I wonder who this intriguing man is. Is he a Buddhist? Is he an eccentric? Is he a drug user? I only wonder because I've never met someone who can think so profoundly, and have such a novel way of viewing things. But maybe he's not that novel, maybe he's more real than most people. Maybe he sees things the way we were intended to, but most of us have forgotten how. Either way, I feel excited to meet someone so different, who has a delightfully refreshing way of seeing the world. Everything he's told me, like how I should worry less about where I'm stepping and look around at the beauty of nature more, I already know. But sometimes you take what you know for granted, and you need to be reminded every now and again.
Then we part ways. He says he's going to meditate in a field full of sheep for a while, but maybe we will see each other again soon, "to share some peppermint tea and a chinwag".
Our totally chance encounter lasts no more than say 30 minutes, but I'll never forget him. I since met others who encountered him. Most of their opinions were marinated with cynicism, suspicion, and distrust. They called him strange, uneasy, weird. There are too many judgemental people in the world, even in this village of angels. But I'm glad to have met him.
Ever since meeting this sagacious stranger, I've started to soak up more from my surroundings. Now I try to really notice things more in my surroundings. Even the cold gritty mud I walk through teems with life, and is no less real and interesting than the dragon's eyes that litter the beach. The cold sharp feeling of raindrops on my skin feel just as real and lovely as the warm embrace of the sun. If we don't stop to savour every moment, we won't have enough time to truly live. Look for the joy in everything, even in the things we have grown accustomed to thinking are dirty, tedious, or painful. Don't simply wait for the next window of sunshine when it's raining, enjoy the rain. Perhaps the best lesson of all here is don't judge people too much, be prepared to hear what they have to say, and always be ready to learn something new.
That's another joy of dog walking.