January 2014, Singapore
As I was sipping my coffee in an air-conditioned hotel in Singapore, my thoughts wondered back to the sweltry roads of Bali, where I’d discovered (and come to appreciate) a more natural way of living, despite its mismatch with any of my usual expectations regarding social norms, personal hygiene, road traffic, or health and safety. A way of living that was less comfortable, possibly more risky (for my standards), but definitely more fulfilling. One’s rapports with the land, the sea, the Gods and the departed were all key aspects of that way of living, all intertwined in a genuinely organic way.
Over there, religion and the economy, for instance, are two facets of the same set of beliefs, which is directly translated into norms and action at every level of life. A family would bring offerings to the temple both for their own health and happiness and for their source of income (be that a shop, a rice field, or any other job). They would have a dedicated space in their home temple for the soul of their parents, as well as a special ceremony for any new endeavour. They have special gods for every aspect of life, and distinct ways of talking to each of them – because they are as moody and alive as humans. Mother land is one such god, and the Balinese wouldn’t dream of upsetting her in any way.