This morning as I hiked across the Erasmus Bridge, preparing my legs for an impossible trail in the Japanese mountains, a string of cyclists appeared on the other side of the bridge, most of them in green jackets.
Undoubtedly the cyclists were heading for the Harbour Office to protest against the outrageous carbon emissions that are going on in the harbour of Rotterdam, especially from cruise ships taller than the flat I live in, some two hundred meters from the black smoke that they produce.
Head and tail of the string of cyclists were policemen in pairs, also on bikes, which made me wonder in which other country do climate protesters and the police together look like cyclists on a leisurely trip, worlds apart from not so lucky protesters in Latin America, for example, where coal is still being extracted from the Earth, traversing the ocean and entering Europe through the Harbour of Rotterdam.
Tomorrow I will board a plane to Osaka, which will cost the Earth and all its inhabitants dearly. So why? Why the plane? Why the mountains? The classical answer of mountaineers, which by no means I am, to the question why they climb the mountain is: because it is there. This is a beautiful answer, but it doesn’t suffice in the Age of Climate Change.
It’s a pull. It’s a drag. It is sensible. It is a mistake.
Gone are the days when Bruce Chatwin could take planes to remote places of the Earth to declare without irony that walking was the way of man. Then, of course, one could also walk bridges, concrete roads and nature-like trails in the public parks of Rotterdam.
A few months ago, a package from Japan arrived at my doorstep, sent by Zen Master M, containing a travel-sized statue of Avalokiteshvara, a wood-carved miniature with two little doors opening and closing the abode of Avalokitesvara, sitting among lotus flowers in mud.
Of all imagined and real pulls, this was the strongest.
It defeats all gravity. Dissolves gravity. Laughs at gravity. It will accompany me at the airport, in villages and cities, in temples and mountains, and stand by me when the accusations start pouring in, or worse, when they are are not forthcoming at all, and unfathomable silence prevails.