Nong Khiaw, Laos

I was rolling across northern Laos on a bus, looking out the window at the jungle-covered mountains and the rice fields and the little villages, and Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” came on in my music mix. And it felt right somehow. True.

You say the hill’s too steep to climb
You say you’d like to see me try

You pick the place and I’ll choose the time
And I’ll climb
That hill in my own way.
Just wait a while for the right day.
And as I rise above the tree lines and the clouds
I look down, hearing the sound of the things you’ve said today.

Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd
Merciless the magistrate turns ’round

And who’s the fool who wears the crown?
And go down,
in your own way
And every day is the right day
And as you rise above the fear-lines in his brow
You look down, hearing the sound of the faces in the crowd.

It’s an ambiguous song. Is it calling us to be fearless? Yes, but wait a while. Yes, but maybe fearlessness makes you an idiot.

Maybe what feels true is the call to fearlessness despite the cynicism, without any anthemic grandeur, and without any promise that rising above will free you from “the sound of the faces in the crowd” or “the sound of the things you’ve said today.” The neuroses come with you up the hill. Climb anyway.

But at the right time. And for me, now is the right time for some kinds of climbing and not for others. Laos is a lazy place (if you’re a tourist, not if you’re a Lao trying to scratch out a living), a good place to let go and drift and wander and wonder. To think, or not to. To notice. To rest. For me, that’s a special kind of adventure. I think it’s been a lot of years since I’ve let myself get this relaxed, this open. I feel very Californian. It’s nice.

And then there are hills to climb, but I’m waiting a while for the right day. Living in Korea is one. It’s coming — I can see it off in the distance — but it’s not here yet. I’ll climb that hill in my own way yet.

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