RAN ZILCA — RIDE OF YOUR LIFE — 2014
One more of these books about a ride across and around the USA looking for some kind of epiphany, revelation, enlightenment that comes from easy-going and free-wheeling enjoyment of a trip that has no problem since you are running on a very expensive motorbike, with a very comfortable bank account and a credit card, and with a full family in the back that can always run to you if by any chance you end up in a hospital, or even a cemetery or a morgue. There is no adventure if there is no pain and work to experience all along to just survive and earn the little money you need to eat, find some shelter and find a way to go to the next stage when you have the money to do so.
This trip, like the one of Steinbeck in his Travel with Charley or the one of William Least Heat-Moon in Blue Highways, and so many others of any race or creed, is a leisurely middle-class (even upper-middle-class due to the expensive motorbike) vacation in a life that provides no surprise any more. And what’s more he learned little from the road and the people he could have met and spent some time with, but he did not, because his target is to go from one place to another and meet there pre-arranged people for interviews, and these people are intellectuals of some kind or other, university, academic or simply of the spiritual preaching type lolling in comfortable resources. So do not develop any illusion about this book. It will not teach a lot to the vast majority of people who have to work hard to just survive or live on. We are not dealing here with a survivor but with a temporary escapist who is looking for comfortable thrills from motel to motel, from gas station top gas station, from no danger to no danger, from no effort to no effort.
He is obsessed by Buddhism and most people he meets are referring to this philosophy, including the Dalai Lama and his Scientific Exploration of Compassion and Altruism. This version of Buddhism is designed and in fact reconstructed to fit with the American middle-class. Buddhism is not a science. Buddhism is a philosophy and it is based on three concepts: impermanence (anicca), cyclical birth-life-death ternary curse (dukkha), and absolute instability of self (anatta). Buddhism is based on the fact that anyone, any individual can, engage with enlightenment that is a personal eightfold path that has to be trodden by each one of us individuals with the only strength of our mind, solving all difficulties of living and even surviving day after day, to eventually reach the end of it, enlightenment itself, nibbana in one word. It is an individual and difficult path that we have to walk with the sole resources we have and if possible resources we have to earn at every single step with a begging bowl or with our work. And yet we have to think of others and serve them as much as we can with compassion and love because it is our positive tasks of generosity and support to others that give us the proper energy to activate our minds towards our sole aim and target: nibbana, our enlightenment that is all the easier to reach if we have a lot of merit earned in the past by our actions of compassion and love to others.
The Buddhist version you find in this book is reductive and very trite with some, especially the last two, opinions that overemphasize the individualism of our consumer’s society and the rejection of past and future in some kind of equilibrium that must only benefit our present, with an allusion to homeless people without seeing that their day to day life is not their choice, is not a liberation but an enslavement, is not in any way ethical or altruistic but only the result of some kind of victimization our consumer’s society is imposing on the weaker among us, and I should even say imposing it with even more force on the weakest among us. Think please to the many million people who were foreclosured by banks in 2008–2009 by the subprime crisis which was the cruelest possible experiment of the banks and the rich to impose consumer’s society and enslaving credit and mortgages onto those who could not afford such luxury, and then turning their enslavement into a way to make money through speculation by a very few minority and to the sole benefit of this very small minority.
I find this book in many ways a sorry excuse for a wealthy man to make us believe he has some bangs of conscience in front of his daily pre-programmed and over-satisfied over-satisfying life. And he dares wrap that up in some kind of Buddhist discourse, with no compassion for others, no love given to anyone else but himself and his own, no support for anyone or anything that is not in any way a hazard in and to his life of enjoyment with no crisis apart from the midlife crisis of a wealthy man. He is, in other words, the slave of the situationist selfishness he advocates with others: he thinks, lives and imagines only what his wealthy situation of a middle-class or upper-middle-class MAN (and I mean here MALE) enables him to see, hear, experience, reflect upon etc.
The trip across the USA from coast to coast and back with no credit card, with no money in the bank, with no more than a ten-pound bag of clothing, is still to be done. Imagine Of Mice and Men, with two credit cards, two bank accounts, no work along the road, and a safe haven in the back to which George Milton and Lennie Small could always have come back, safe and unmenaced, unchallenged. Enjoy the story of a saturated mind in a body that has never known hunger or thirst, even in the Death Valley. And he did not even choose to stop in KOA camping sites. He used motels. Shame on that touristic more than easy riding trip that would have shamed Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) of an old hippy time film in which the two men and their Harley-Davidsons were at least trying to survive with nothing in their pockets and bags, except some marihuana, though they had some backland that was not entirely miserable and poor, be it only because of the Harley-Davidsons they were running. But they at least did not go to motels.
I was severely disappointed.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU