"And they're breaking down the distance between right and wrong"
from Ring Them Bells by Bob Dylan circa 1989
Truth. Lies. Right. Wrong. We all have to put our stakes in the ground when it comes to what we believe in. And it seems that as we make our way through one catastrophe, another one is closing in right behind us. It’s hard to stay optimistic.
But the issues here on this island, Bali, are not of the earth-shattering kind. It’s more about “When can the tourists return?” and “When can we start a new normal?” So in that regard there’s good news: Bali is open for tourism, at least with 25 countries and for individuals who’ve been vaxed.
Here’s the latest news. And more here.
An upcoming ceremony at a Balinese home.
There is a certain comfort we can absorb from cultures that maintain their ancient traditions. Without idealizing the Balinese, I do find a some happiness in both watching them from a distance and interacting with them on occasion. It would be wrong to say that they are a culture that is lost in time. Their strength seems to come from rituals that increase social bonding. Whether it is praying together, flying large kites in groups, playing music or dancing, there is a synchronicity that flows out of them.
Since most of us are individuals and are not subject to the intense social traditions of the Balinese, let’s take a look at the modern recipe for getting the most out of our lives by Arthur C. Brooks, writing for the Atlantic:
Don’t smoke—or if you already smoke, quit now. You might not succeed on your first try, but the earlier you start the quitting process, the more smoke-free years you can invest in your happiness account.
Watch your drinking. Alcohol abuse is strongly correlated with smoking in the Harvard study, but plenty of other research shows that even by itself, it is one of the most powerful predictors of winding up sad-sick. If you have any indication of problem drinking in your life, get help now. If you have drinking problems in your family, do not take your chances: Keep that switch turned off. Although forgoing alcohol can be difficult, you’ll never be sorry you made this decision.
Maintain a healthy body weight. Eat a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and moderate serving sizes, but avoid yo-yo diets or intense restrictions that you can’t maintain over the long run.
Prioritize movement in your life by scheduling time for it every day and sticking to it. Arguably the single best, time-tested way to do this is by walking daily.
Practice your coping mechanisms now. The earlier you can find healthy ways to deal with life’s inevitable distresses, the more prepared you’ll be if ill luck strikes in your 80s. This means working consciously—perhaps with assistance from spiritual practices or even therapy—to avoid excessive rumination, unhealthy emotional reactions, or avoidance behavior.
Keep learning. More education leads to a more active mind in old age, and that means a longer, happier life. That doesn’t mean that you need to go to Harvard; you simply need to engage in lifelong, purposive learning. For example, that can mean reading serious nonfiction as part of a routine to learn more about new subjects.
Do the work to cultivate stable, long-term relationships now. For most people, this includes a steady marriage, but other relationships with family, friends, and partners can fit in this category as well. The point is to find people with whom you can grow, whom you can count on, no matter what comes your way.
I really like this list. The world may appear to be breaking apart at the seams, and of course we should try to be pro-active in co-creating the world we want. But in addition, if we stay focused on key indicators for health and happiness as individuals, then as we move through the world we hope that others will also be working to improve themselves and others. Every small step is still better than naval-gazing.
Stay well dear readers,
Excellent advice! Dave and I really want to come see Bali as an option to retire. 💝