Pre-dawn Wednesday, early UP after a restless night, partly due to ongoing contemplation of working future after just finishing my job, partly due to the ongoing rolling thunderstorm that seemed to last all night, but mainly due to being a little (understatement) excited about the impending North East Monsoon season surf on Malaysia’s East Coast. Three hours drive to surf bliss, Boil water, make the coffee and park on the Balcony. As per normal I look out and UP to the pre-dawn sky and am astonished. Eyes blink and then blink again, not really understanding what they are seeing. The sky is crystal clear, the decreasing night velvet covering sprinkled by a dusting of so many stars, too many to count. Focusing, the outline of the milky way is visible, just, but still visible. Wow! So rare in this tropical urban pollution box of Kuala Lumpur to witness. I feel wonderfully alone yet connected to the greater universe. The scents of the nearby Forest Reserve start penetrating the nose, wonderfully washed from last night. Truly I feel alive and vital. Nature has refreshed itself and me in the heart of this inner urban existence.
Surfboard is in the car, travelling munchies included, car started, favourite tunes plugged in, a tank full of gas, car pointed to east coast with dreamy sandbar lefts and away we go. The mountain range behind KL is in stark relief as I approach. Every detail finely enriched with this wonderful clear air. A fine and rare sight indeed. Every trip to the East Coast over the last five years, the mountains always partly or fully shrouded in mist or clouds. The place of imagination and myths – fairies and spirits, maybe Tarzan’s holiday lair. Looking UP I gulp in this detail, fearful that it may never be seen again. UP cannot be for too long as I must focus on the favourite part of my drive, the Genting bends through the range with almost no other traffic. Racing lines locked in…….
A few mere weeks ago – the daily work traverse of the last three years……..
Prepare for work, stroll down the street after a some light overnight rain, nose and mouth suck in the organic fresh of the Forest reserve. I look UP as per normal to see what the day sky will bring. Sky is clear, the blue partly diminished to grey from our early morning cancerous urban smog of a million cars, buses, trucks and motorbikes. Already the humidity is nudging my sweat glands to wake up. Eight minutes to the LRT (train) Station at Masjid Jamek. As per usual at the T Junction, dodging red light running cars especially motorbikes. Further on, playing chicken with motorbikes on the footpath – they win as per usual. Holding my breath as I move past a Bus stop where two buses are disgorging and then engorging passengers. Exhausts from both pumping out black smoke due to stuffed diesel fuel injectors and depositing a fine black aerosol for all the pedestrians lung consumption. Stress level on the up and the train station has not even been reached yet.
Near the LRT station, many humans moving, most with heads down to mobile phone screens which are casting more light than the early morning sun partly concealed behind buildings. Anyone else observed the almost fresh blue sky? To look UP or out of this downward world appears to be a thing of the past. Is it only me and the sitting street beggars that peer ahead or UP? Am I becoming a dinosaur, soon to be extinct? It certainly feels this way. Only eight minutes ago, I felt alive and alert, the senses drinking in the new day. Now? Am isolated, no time to look UP, careful not to be run over by the downward walkers. So many to avoid and with only a minute needed to gain the relative sanctity of the train. Harmony and co-operation does not exist. Discordant are our movements and sounds. No care, no smiles and awareness of others extends 5 millimetres out, never far enough.
The entry to the LRT turnstiles has my personal logistics kicking into action as the work trip is always against the peak flow. Several other anti-peak travellers are recognised, a couple of slight nods. Maybe they look UP as well? Maybe not as the telephones are pulled out whenever there is a bit of space. Oh well, focus must be applied to the now with 30 seconds of dodgems against the non-caring peak flow downward walkers. Gaps found, am through the turnstile. I lose track of the other off-peakers, every person for themselves at this time. Oh no, for the second week the UP escalator is still out of commission. Only way UP is three flights of stairs to the platform. Has the sky smiled on me? The stairway is clear. Purpose applied, stepping quickly, but not quick enough as another train disgorges the contents. I am to the second flight and here they come, 10 wide and 30 deep, stairway not visible. Stomach sucked in, shoulders braced for the oncoming ruck and maul, I crab walk up the side the only refuge being the handrail. Already many of the downward are at their phones coming down the stairs. No one falls or trips and no one notices the lone off-peaker until they collect my braced shoulder, they look UP, surprised and a little irritated that someone could dare to use the rail line to move against the flow. On auto, the heads go down again.
Finally, the platform is gained just as another train arrives. I cannot move quick enough and the downward spit themselves out from the train before the sanctity of the space next to the opened door can be reached. Their focus are the stairs and their phones. It is only five metres between me and the train, but I have to penetrate this human river. Cannot! I must, I still cannot. Just as the tail of the human river comes into sight, the whoosh of doors occurs and the train leaves without any of us non-peakers! There are five of us when there were just hundreds. We glance around and vaguely nod to each other as we did earlier, all a bit uncomfortable and embarrassed with ourselves for our failure to breach five metres to the train. Two minutes, another train with a fresh human river out and we are in. Phew!
Ten minutes later, off the train, two minutes walk to work next to the River. Just me, the flowing water, a few scattered crows and early morning Sun shortening it’s shadows and heating the day up. UP is where I look, the Blue is still there and a light breeze is picking up. All is peaceful. “It is a lovely day out there, sky is nice and clear”, I state on entry to the Office. Staff vaguely look UP, unintelligible grunts greet my comment, then heads down checking yesterdays English Premier League results, catching up on local news, but no real reaction to the weather announcement. The one middle aged Apple-watch wearer looks UP and states “won’t be sunny for long, rain 80% chance at 11am. Head goes down again, satisfied with his certainty based on watch world.
11am comes, the Apple-watch wearer and I are on-site “sangat panas” (very hot), he states, shaking his head and checking watch weather, which now states 20% rain chance. There has not been a cloud in the sky since sun-up. Ten years ago, he would have satisfied himself with weather forecast by simply looking UP, as I still do. Now? The gadget obsession has relegated him to a dependency on tech to exist. Tech has succeeded in shutting out nature, reducing our senses to only see the binary code product. If my workmate had chosen to look UP and to the left a bit as I did, he would have observed the birthing Cumulonimbus clouds near the mountain range no more than ten kilometres away. If he had chosen to notice, what had been light wind conditions were now rustling the tree leaves more vigorously as the storm pre-cursor. “I reckon it will be bucketing down by 1pm”, I state, with the smallest resigned smile. Apple-watch check again- “no way” is the reply. It is left at that. The storm comes through a bit later than my forecast at 1.30pm which does bring forth a bigger smile from me and a sarcastic dig to the co-worker to check his watch or alternatively just listen to the now almost deafening rainfall on our Site-office roof. He checks and the watch states “haze”!
Nature loses, Tech wins
As homosapiens our roots are birthed in and bound to Nature. In Cities we have drifted almost light years away to become slaves to tech. Our lives are now entwined, our brains conditioned to this thing called tech. Once introduced, we cannot turn away. Tech dominates us. We have become servants to the machine and the machine has become us. No longer, do we even feel the urge to amaze ourselves at the delights of nature, whether it be the admiration of the rare sparkly velvet of the Milky way, observing with wonder the co-operation of a troop of Monkeys moving through their shrunken urban wilderness (see “Crows, Monkeys and Cars” 23/7/19), feeling the breeze picking up as a Thunderstorm precursor, seeing or assisting a fellow human needing to navigate through crowds.
It is raining as I write. This urban place is being washed by Nature. This stuff called rain falls out of the sky from being derived out of our Oceans. Cycles of down, UP and around again is the Nature of things. How many of us know or even understand this ecological process? How many understand the nature of heating water (lakes, seas and oceans) that evaporates to a gaseous state, forms clouds, cools into a liquid state and descends as rain? How many care? Homosapiens were always part of the earth ecology. We moved where warmth and water was, which led to food sources. A symbiotic process that lasted for thousands of years. Now we are downward looking at items so small that they can fit in your pocket or on your wrist for our daily fix of life. Nature has become irrelevant until you step out of the office at the end of the day, phone already out in palm, head down and raindrops hit the screen. Weather is checked, “but it only says 50% chance of the wet stuff”. Disgruntled and slightly damp, back inside to retrieve the umbrella, back out again, look UP, curse inwardly at the weather not cooperating with the Tech device, rather than reveling in Natures wash.
Symbiosis, ecology, synergy and sustainability are words that for many years described the natural processes. Now we hear, speak and read of these words describing Business processes and relationships. Many would now believe that these words originated as business terms because they come up as this context on Google search. Origins in Nature? So what! Connections we are failing at. The Globe is warming far quicker than before with Climate modelling going back to the 1970’s (in hindsight) predicting pretty closely to where we are now. Those calls then, some 50 years ago fell on deaf ears. What now? Check our tiny tech?
We now have a new generation of humans (Generation Z for those that love labels), that as children all appear to be taller than their upward looking parents. What of their latter years? I think back to my Nan when she was in her 70’s and about 3 inches shorter than she was 20 years previously. Many years bent over doing the tough things that generation did assisted her shortening. We naturally shrink as we get older – a fact. Generation Z, what is the future for them with their almost downward looking existence? For one, no idea what they are doing to their posture, no idea about the weather, no idea as to the difference between the smell of freshly washed nature and the pollution of millions of vehicles, no idea why that Mountain range looks so sharp or if the Mountain range actually exists. One fact is for sure that they will all be much shorter than they are now. They will become experts at pot-hole inspections, whether they like it or not. Maybe all our pavements can be turned into tech screens to assist with reducing the impact of Generation Z’s downward mobility.
So, come on everyone, especially the new Generation, drag your faces away from the downward looking to the UP and marvel at where you are. Enjoy this freedom of Brain connection, not with binary code, but with Nature as that is where we are derived from. You never know, given the time of year and a clear night, you might just get lucky and spot Santa and his crazy reindeer’s. Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year to all in the UP time of 2020.