Thursday, September 10, 2009
Sniffing The Green Spice
This little soiree went down in Erlian, China about 3 miles from the Mongolian border with a group of rugged folk from Ulaan Baatar, the Rome of the ceaseless, surrounding Mongolian steppe. All dirt tracks lead to it. The woman on my right is Tyyn, an originally pixily helpful sprite, and then, mysteriously disappearing skipping stone. She had made weird talk of introducing me to her school in the capital, but vaporized in a miasmic burst of damp morning mist at the train station across the border. I suspect that the travel-nervous, Eurotrashy Frenchmen-backpackers we picked up en route, with my snaggle-minded interpreting (as I had already become one with the ruggeds somehow---for I had drunk beer with them---even having had downing contests with the next guy I'll tell you about), may have confused her then auspicious perception of Westerners, thereby incriminating me, infecting me with the dreaded disease---the real "White Man's Burden." Of course, she knew I was a Jew, and so quite distinct, looking different and acting in no way alike; but nonetheless, I say, the damage was done, for I had sacrificed to lay myself down across the abyss as a bridge between the titan Mongols and the edgy Frenchman, so that we might all get across the border in one "peace".
So, back to "the next guy I'll tell you about": He went only by a brash sobriquet of the day, although to my knowledge Mongolians do not actually take this name in more sober nomination, viz., "in vain", "Chingghis Khan", we roared together, creating a monster between us, which means "Genghis Khan" in the Khalkh dialect, as I heard it. Of course, this idolatry had to be in pure fun, because THE Khan is accorded the respect of some status that is non-existent in non-"Transturkic" cultures. If I were any less sensitive to my own background, I would have said, G-D forbid, "a g*d"; but this it is not---in Mongolia, human honour has a level of sanctity that makes the heavens rub up against the skin like spring zephyrs. Clanmansship, valour, and family loyalty become as necessary acts of faith out on the unforgiving plain. The Secret History of the Mongols, an old record, perhaps cherished sacredly, of the exploits of the great khans, explains these phenomena. Such a humanism in a syncretic web with "The Higher", so authentically, without dustructive pretensions about gender control and a panentheistic way of going about one's daily chores on the open steppe, this makes one squinty-eyed, faced with the systems WITH pretensions about G-d. Perhaps the only other people with fewer pretensions are the Piraha People of the Brazilian Amazon. I am not saying such a way is Better, for I myself am of a people with pretensions about G-d, who strive NOT to have them. This very moral striving is what works for the world in our particular mission. The needs of the brokenness of the world call for sheer pluralism of action, and so we all have our own missions. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
This man, the new "Chingghis", was an obtuse slope of Naadam muscle, one eye cut out by a stray-handed shard of glass in a vodka brawl in the streets of Ulaan Baatar, years back. He and I became quick friends over the long day crossing the border. At the actual border, I had to use my best Putonghua to convince the Chinese guards to let him pass through into his own country. He was perfumed enough by this point to right blow up if I were to have lit a match within two kilometres of him. No less hopelessly plastered was he that he couldn't still embarassingly flirt with the unamused-looking Mao's poster child, or better yet, Mao's pin-up of a lady customs agent. Now, one might say alcohol was the "friendship" between us and the friendship was nothing if at all sober, but then one has never been to Mongolia; where even the nuclear moonshine of barbarous khans, can not ever intoxicate the sober ties of transsteppe fealty.