Development in a wholistic sense

When I arrived to Sri Lanka I was weak and feverish and had to stay

in bed for a few days until I was able to pop back up and enjoy the life
and place I had just flown to. I slept and zombied around for days at the
meditation center in Moratuwa while the class went out and attended
lectures, met people and saw sights. The group plan was then to travel to
a village in Polonaruwa, at which point I stayed behind to recover and had
five days of unstructured time until I planned to take a train to Kandy to meet
up with the group.

After one more night at the meditation center and the following night
up the road at the Sarvodaya headquarters, I was picked up by a rather
wealthy family friend named Krishnan who lives about thirty minutes away
in Colombo, and spent three days with him until catching up with the
group in Kandy. I was so excited to finally see things outside of the street
I had been living on. During my time of transition from Moratuwa, to
Colombo, to the train ride to Kandy, I learned much about community and
development through observation and talking with Krishnan.

Instead of seeing Sri Lanka as a point on the line of upward slope
of international development, comparing it to America and other nations
and rating it in a hierarchal way, I have opted to putting emphasis not on
this plot-line thinking, but on thinking about Sri Lanka in a more wholistic
way, made up of inclusive, interacting parts. It was hard for me to gain
any perspective on Sri Lanka during my first few days here other than
through my interactions with the people at the meditation center, like Tula
who was my loving mother for days. I immediately saw how personal and
caring Sri Lankan people are and that belief has proved true for
everywhere I have been here. My first couple of days actually alive in Sri
Lanka were a transition from the Sarvodaya Headquarters in moratuwa to
living the life of the 1% and seeing Colombo through a variety of
perspectives, one of them being Krishnan’s perspective of living on and
by a wealth of money. Monetary wealth can be so blinding I think because
it seems as though it can easily and quickly have the effect of cutting the
wealthy man off from growing and progressing and opening up their mind
to other paradigms the world and the areas near them have to offer. It’s as
if once someone gains enough monetary wealth to live beyond
comfortably on, their paradigm, wherever it is at that point in their life could close off easily, leaving them feeling entitled to judge and complain
and close their mind to certain new experiences. It’s also easy for me to
think that once someone reaches a point of nearly absurdly comfortable
wealth and starts sticking their nose up at things, then their paradigm can
digress even more over time rather than open up. Once the chase for
money begins, if the goal is solely the chase for money, the perspective of
the chaser narrows and narrows on this one goal while blocking out
others.

 

My perspective of Colombo through Krishnan’s eyes was limited
as it was indeed a perspective of the 1%. He was so nice and helpful and
drove me around to eat and drink and see sights and give me itinerary for
three days, and the whole time I thought he was great and nice but there
was still something that kept me from feeling a genuine compassion
towards him, and lending myself fully to him, because he was such a
double agent. But the thing is, that even if he weren’t the one in the space
of flows, with screens, moving virtual money that becomes very real once
it lands in an account, someone else would be that person. It is very
interesting comparing the feelings that I got from people in Moratuwa,
who most likely do not have excess monetary wealth, but have wealth in
other ways, through compassion and giving, to the feelings that I got from
Krishnan.

During my stay in Moratuwa I went skateboarding through the
streets. Everyone I encountered while skateboarding through moratuwa
knows their neighbors and hangs out in the streets and at the end of their
driveways, stops to talk to others while walking or driving home from
work. I saw community everywhere. There was a wealth of it. A wealth
much different than the kind that some think of back in America. And I
have noticed a trend that one sense of wealth can sacrifice the other kind.
When you know your neighbors personally, you care about them and are
willing to help them out. When I asked Krishnan if he knew his neighbors,
he said no and that people in his high rise apartment building don’t really
interact beyond the passing “hi.” At one point I was in a full elevator going
down to the lobby and nobody said a word the whole time. It felt much
like America, and it was a long elevator ride. This was such a stark
contrast from everything else I have experienced in Sri Lanka, with people
going out of their way to make friendly conversation and help out.

In moratuwa, some kids chased me down on my skateboard and beckoned me down their driveway until the gravel opened up into a front
yard area between multiple homes and I looked to see a huge pick up
cricket game going on before me. I couldn’t speak with the children but
they were so happy to see me there watching them play their sport. They
were showing me their culture. It was the next day that I was standing in
the silent high rise elevator. One thing I think of after this is that wealth
disparity and what one may consider “development” on the line graph
model can come with great sacrifices of community, wholesomeness,
inclusiveness and genuine experience.

-Eli Archer

 

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