Sunday, 8 February 2009
The Good Ship “Todos Santos”
Todos Santos is a very small town. Maybe not as small as the cruise ship passengers think, after being disgorged from their sleek buses at the Hotel California for the allowed 2 hours for lunch and a stroll of the settlement, but still a small town in every aspect.
We have a mere handful or so of dine-out restaurants (even less if you have not qualified for a TARP bailout package), 2 coffee shops, 1 bookstore, 1 theatre (usually closed except for specially authorized “Mexican” productions), no cinema, no nightclub, no department stores, no malls (unless you are desperately seeking trinkets), a couple of yoga classes and 1 spiritual teacher. While, in season, there is a constant trickle of entertainment, the calendar is thin enough that the events don’t overlap. In fact, you can perhaps liken Todos Santos to a stationary cruise ship, parked in the constant sunshine for the winter cruise, taking on passengers for short or long stays, and then operated by a skeleton crew in the tiresome summer.
So what does this mean for life on The Good Ship “Todos Santos”? As for cruises in general, some people can’t stand the thought of the boredom implicit in the finite universe of a ship, and wouldn’t go near the place. The 2 hour tour is more than enough for them. For those that do stay, the bounded nature of the town has a subtle but pervasive impact on life, which was brought home to me by two passengers who disembarked last year and noticed the dislocating change of infinite choices when living in their version of “the real world”. A paucity of choices – often being reduced to the binary “do I go or not?” –provides an artificial cocoon of safety and predictability to counter the noisy babble of debate and decisions needed in the real world. A cocoon that is even more sought after by many in this time of general economic hardship.
Days become clearly labelled with the “events of the day” – Sunday Dharma , Monday Yoga , Tuesday Zumba and Ecocafe, etc. Dining out choices (if you, as some do, eat out most days) may be refined to the simplicity of “not where we ate last night” or even “not what I ate last night”. Or you may just decide to cement the safety bubble by becoming a virtual hermit, selecting “none of the above”.
On reflection, maybe a less kind metaphor for Todos Santos then is that of a well-meaning institution, where the inmates are kept from harm by a strict and prescribed regimen of routine and managed choices. An institution, of course, managed by the inmates who have committed themselves to this place.
Taking away the froth of decision making in normal life should free up time and energy for introspection, to delve inside, to better ground yourself in the world. Or at least that is what I would expect. Does it happen? You probably wouldn’t be reading this if there weren’t some small windows opened up by the constrictions of Todos Santos. What I find most surprising, though, is the ingenuity of we inmates / cruisers to re-engineer our lives to restore us to insanity.
For every moment spent in quiet reflection, there is gossip (or to be culturally sensitive, “chisme”) to be devoured, fertilized and sent on its way, house projects to be obsessed over, good works to benefit furry animals to be planned, games to be played. Even blogs to be written, for those technically inclined. Anything, in fact, to fill the time, to make us busy and avoid the simplicity that, at least partly, drove us here.