View Full Version : Stunning Javanese Fieldwork Experience: How Different Can We Be?

03 Jul 2021, 01:42
The questions that were always foremost to me and that all those who love eventually have to face are: "Where are you?" or "Why did you leave me?" or "What went wrong?" or maybe "What hit me?" or "Why me?" Javanese community is a beehive of knowledge transfer, intimacy and shared feeling and a prolonged event in keeping track of the Other. They have one another and know that this is what's important. Java's collective consciousness is so vibrant as to be virtually palpable. I recall musing that when a glass fell in Solo, everyone in Java knew about it before it hit the ground. In the velvety embrace of this throbbing volksgeist, my two years in Solo were somehow longer than the rest of my life together. For example, I had never had any special interest in astronomy or the like (in fact, I did not even check to see if you can find the Big Dipper in Java's night sky), but, with no prompting of any kind, I found myself delighting in following the sun's slow progress from solstice to solstice in the shadows cast in my little back yard. Another perhaps delicate curiosity was that whenever I passed water, I found myself tickling on my lower abdomen beforehand. This had never happened previously and stopped when I left Java. You figure it!
A final example will require a bit of context. When we first arrived in Surakarta we stayed in the home of Adhisapoetra, who was to become a very dear friend, for a month while we looked for a place of our own. One day my wife reported to him in her halting Indonesian that she had seen a mouse. He looked calmly at her and asked "A little mouse?" somehow communicating that in his home, mice were not considered in this disrespectful, deprecative manner. They have their place and their part. He carefully exposed the erring imputations that she had packed onto “tikus,” presenting the same word with a very different set of meanings and associations as if instructing a child. Later, in our house there was a rat that exercised (danced?) at night in the area above our bedroom and kept us awake. I put out poison and a while later my nose reported a remarkably unpleasant smell. I went following the scent and was looking up about 5 meters to a brace supporting the roof out over our water pump. Suddenly a bulk fell from this high beam and landed at my feet. It was the rat in an advanced state of decomposition with maggots moving the whiskers about. I marveled: How in heaven's name had this happened? Admittedly, I was pleased not to have been a little farther forward, but this is the kind of miracle I came to expect in Java and hopefully gives some idea of the piquant, poignant and often petulant grace that filled each day.
The Javanese have worked open much of the often-structured interference (inbetweens) with interaction, being together, knowing and being known. In this reductionistic era, here are a people who practice awareness that the Other's influence on each of us is not a philosophical question but a simple fact we need to face. As we have so aggressively forgotten in the vicarious experiences that saturate just about every moment of our largely virtual lives, Reality is the final arbiter. By way of contrast, Java's modus vivendi applies the deceptively simple truth that we define our own context with what we do and do not do: our influence on existence is always on its way back to us, embedded in relationships of every kind, and that is Reality.