Mastering the Art of Life and Death

Mastering the Art of Life and Death

Dancing Naked in the Dark- Mastering the Art of Life and Death

Date- November 17, 2017

Written by George Balarezo, Intrepid Global Citizen

The distant sky was as dark as a Michigan summer blueberry. Thunder rumbled as if I was being scolded for daring to cycle on a segment of the earth’s terrain that was above and beyond my physical capacity. Lightening shimmered as the yellowish black contrast was something out of a Diego Rivera masterpiece. Indeed the Xinjaing sky was a work of art in and of itself. However, this beautiful work of art painted by Mother Nature struck great terror into the man riding his bicycle in the foreground.

I was at a metaphorical crossroads. Option one- sleep on sharp stones while running the risk of having my thirty dollar tent blown away by the wind. Option two- pitch my tent under a bridge culvert that would shield me from rain and wind while running the risk of water soaking me at night. I chose option two. This is what I get for not investing a little bit more money into a higher quality tent. The painful feeling of regret filled my chest and made it seem like my heart had turned into a ten kilogram bowling ball.

“Please let me survive this evening,” I thought to myself as I lay awake in my tent that night. The wind continued to howl and picked up strength. It was much more fierce than my tent would have been able to handle. The flapping plastic walls were louder than a set of Bose headphones blasting heavy metal music in my ears. My heart was now pounding as if I had repeatedly absorbed chest blows from Mike Tyson.

A Rude Awakening

I finally entered dreamland when the wind came to a halt. I heard the sound of water from a nearby stream as the warm sun shined down on my face. What a lovely dream! I suddenly awoke but the sound of running water was still in the distance and the sunlight was now gone. The water continued to rumble until it reached the decibel level of an opera house with Pavarotti hitting a high note. Three, two, one- bam! The water came crashing into my tent. My dream turned into a rude reality. Passport! Money! I grabbed my two most important travel items and stood erect in disbelief outside my tent as the knee high freezing water continued to flow into my sleeping quarters.

Naked In The Dark

The clothes I was wearing were instantly soaked with freezing cold water so I stripped myself naked to prevent getting an illness and hung them up on the bridge above the culvert area. The only light I had been using at night up until that point came from the moon and stars. Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found as all I could do was fish around in my tent like a blind man using his sense of touch to drag out all of his other clothes and travel items one by one. I was a helpless victim of Mother Nature’s wrath. It was 4:00AM and the sun would come up in a few hours. Eventually, I dug everything out of my tent one at a time and hung it all up to dry. My shoes were nowhere to be found and must have been washed away somewhere downstream. Along my expeditions into various parts of the economically less privileged parts of the world, I would often encounter barefoot cyclists. Now I would become one of them. If they could do it then so could I. Luckily I was able to retrieve my bicycle as it was parked on a point of higher elevation nearby. One by one I salvaged all of my items and hung them to dry above me. I couldn’t believe this was real. I kept pinching myself but did not wake up to an alternate reality.

The cold started to hit me all at once. I was now running in place butt naked on the roadway above where I pitched my tent for the night to keep myself warm. The nearest town was at least eighty kilometers away and no cars were on the road. All I could do was keep myself warm to pass the time until sunrise. “The sun will come up in a few hours and it will warm up soon. Keep running!” I repeated to myself.

Empty Hands

That is when it all hit me! Wow! If the water had been a little bit deeper I would have been washed into another lifetime. I was lucky to be alive. I was cold and naked in the dark Chinese countryside, but alive! How beautiful it is to be alive! How beautiful this cold, dark night is! What a symbolic moment! I was wearing the same outfit as when I came into this world thirty something years ago. I was reborn with a new outlook on everything. My clothes were wet, the few pieces of fruit and bread I was carrying were now gone. The only things I had were my passport and a little bit of cash which were rendered useless. There is a Korean proverb that says you enter and leave this world with an empty hand. I felt like I was reborn as everything I carried with me was of no use. They say the only way to master the art of death is to first master the art of life. The feeling that I had at that moment was as if I had truly mastered the art of life. I felt an inner bliss just from being able to breath and jog up and down the street in the dark. I was absolutely free and life seemed so simple. Fear, stress, anger, jealously and all other negative emotions just seemed so petty and meaningless. Why was I making things so complicated before? This was indeed a blessing in disguise. I was reborn as a Chinese tiger on that early morning. The tiger was ready to get on his bike again and continue!

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Recently, I am feeling lethargic because I can’t find some special things or situations that make me feel happy. But after I read this article, I could look back my life and rethink myself. What makes me feel passionate and happy is not a big event, but a small things that I thought it is natural. Warm clothes, Safe shelter..are not natural things but what I have to feel thankful. Also I decided to get know how to survive from a severe situation like this article.

  2. Wonderful! From the very beginning I noticed you’re not ordinary man though, your life is the way more dynamic than I thought! It’s never easy to find enlightenment in such a situation. Especially for morden people. We’re educated not to do stupid thing and it puts us far from meaningful adventures. So i believe your experience is also priceless to the others.

    1. Travel is great education and can teach priceless lessons!

  3. Recently, I feel lethargic thesedays, because I think there isn’t any positive situations that I can feel happy or hillourious.But after I read this article, the positive situation which I can feel happy can be a daily life that I think natural. For example, warm clothes, lots of food, safe shelter…

  4. ‘What a brave man he is!’ That was the first words came onto my mind. I just thought about amazing and touching view when I saw the title of this article. How could you survive from this harsh and threatening night? I can’t believe it! Actually, it is the first one of your article but I want to read more now. Sorry but your story is very attractive even if you were in the very dangerous moment. Now I’m expecting to tell my classmates about this story! Especially, I like the last paragraph about your philosophy. I’m feeling the power of expedition. I realized that travelling and expedition is different. Unlike me who just had travelling time, you could pioneer your own way during the time in Xinjang, and got very good lessons. I really respect you and your courage! You are a really good adventurer and writer. I’m very touched from your philosophy about life and death. Thank you for giving me this really good opportunity to this article! I like your homepage! See you soon! 🙂

  5. Wow! What an amazing experience!! It sounds bad the water flew in your tent, but I believe that you will never forget that. In future, I want to ride my bike abroad!!

  6. Thanks for your comments and I am glad you enjoyed the post!

  7. Thanks for the support and I am glad you are enjoying the articles!

  8. Reading this article, I realized how blessed I am to be alive. I was so used to my same-as-usual-life that I forgot how grateful it is to be able to feel the wind,air, sunlight, talking to people I love and eat whatever I want. Even though I wasn’t the person who was directly experiencing this wonderful but dangerous days, only by reading this made me so grateful. Thank you!

    1. Hola Ms. Song! I am glad you enjoyed the article and remember it is a wonderful day as long as we wake up healthy and have family and friends around us!

  9. The title of the article captivated me! So, That made me read this article. Actually, I was scared before reading this article ‘I am not good at English, can I read this article in English well?’.. But, contrary to my opinion It took me a long time to read this, I read this text of your journey with a smile throughout. I was moved by the figurative expression and admire your ability to beautifully describe a dangerous moment of adventure. (In particular, the phrase ‘you enter and leave this world with an empty hand’ was very impressive.) I thought you were just a free person when I saw you enjoying your trip, but I thought you are a great and wonderful person when I read this article. You must be a brave and wonderful person !!

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the article Ms. Lee. Be brave in your life and happy always!

  10. Now, I’m surprise to your unbelievable trip!! While reading your ‘brave challenge’, I feel two-different emotions. I only read it, But i feel great fear what i had NEVER experience . At the same time, I felt like I wanted to be one with nature like Choon-sam teacher! I have fear to travel foreign country a lot. So, I’ve never been abroad.. But, now i got brave little. Thank to your dynamic story. I hope that someday i can feel ‘ALIVE’ during extreme trip too!

    1. Thanks for your nice comments and I hope you feel alive and happy everyday.

  11. It was really impressive. It made me think whether there was a little stress about eating or feeling in the first place, and I changed my mind so that I could think of them as nothing. Thank you.

  12. I really thanks to god to save you in that moments. I think that Weather is the most powerful things in universe. But you overcame that weather and plus , you also get some truth of the way how to live life and control your minds. If I were in that situation, I feel embarrassed and couldn’t think positive like you. I was maybe crying in that situation.
    This dynamic story gives me brave to overcome any difficult moments I must face. Also your thought about mastered the art of life teach me how to live life and prepare my future. Thank you so much!!!

    1. Hello Mr. Lee! Thanks for your comments and I am glad you enjoyed the article!

  13. What an experience! I was really impressed by your positive way of thinking. Considering your circumstances – that you had no other way but to make your way through all by yourself – it’s not easy to feel joy or awe of living. I always thought that feeling ‘joy of life’ was always so far away, something that only Siddhartha could master. But after reading your article, joy of life seems far less alienated now. Thanks for sharing your memorable experience. It meant a lot.

    1. I hope you are enjoying the joy of life Mr. Huh! Thanks for the comments!

  14. It’s really dangerous if the valley overflows! Although you have lost your clothes and your food, you are lucky to have survived safely. I was really impressed with the attitude you had about life after overcoming the death crisis. Also, your description of Mother Nature in China is very beautiful! I really want to go there someday.

    1. Thank you! Xinjiang, China is a beautiful place. I hope you can visit.

  15. What a hard journey! There is many kind of experiences in our life. And I like to listening people’s hardship. It is wonderful that they can talk with me about their marvelous willingness. And it is evidence that they are alive. I feel vitality in this article. Thanks to share your special experience.

    1. Thanks for your comments Mr. Hwang!

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