I owe it to the world

Stirrings deep in the, er, depths of my conscience prompt me to take keyboard in hand again and type. No, I am not backpacking again. Yes, I have a job. Yes, I live in an apartment in Manchester, a city with only one place that sells good Laksa. But life is journey, is it not? Every day is an odyssey, from the brave hoisting of the morning sails as you venture from your duvet-covered womb out into the harsh grey mist of another day, to the weary voyager’s return to the simple comforts of a 42″ flat-screen television and a large gin and tonic. Oh yes. And I couldn’t leave you all alone without the benefit of my guidance, could I? After all, what would be the point of all that travelling if I didn’t continue to share the fruits of my spiritual journey with the world? Could I really live with myself knowing all the little people out there who were relying on my sage advice, hanging on my every word for the merest dewdrop of wisdom to fall from the morning grass-blade of my mind onto the receptive fertile earth of their hearts? No, I couldn’t. I owe it to those people to blog again – and blog again I will!

All great rock bands disband and then, twenty years or so later, as their cash flow wanes, stage a come-back tour, gritting their teeth as they put up with hated former friends on stage and chug out tunes they no longer care about while mindless fans scream with uncritical appreciation. This will not be like that at all. It will be even better than the original Existential Vacation! So be prepared to have your collective minds blown by the sheer depth and mature odour of my wise words. EV has returned. Tell your friends.

Last Prata Supper

Ephemeral; impermanent; temporary; over all too soon…

No, I am not talking about my bedroom exploits. The time has come, my friends, to lay down the mantle of existential vacation-dom. The Big Doss is over. Yes, it had to happen sooner or later. Ultimately the search for enlightenment must end, and end it has.

I am back where I began. I have taken my belongings out of the storage facility and put them on a boat bound for England. I am revisiting the places here that I love, and the people, and bidding farewell to Asia, at least for now. I’m cancelling the roaming cellphone account and getting on a plane with a one-way ticket to Manchester. I have taken a job. I will find an apartment. I will rejoin reality.

So, the question: was it all just a big waste of time? Who knows? Instead of trying to answer this futile question, I will take this last opportunity to write about one of my favourite subjects: food.
And what better location for it? October has been spent in the makan-tastic locations of Singapore and Taiwan. To augment this final blog experience, I have recruited the help of the Thought-provoking Chicken from Taiwan’s Rueihong Night Market in Kaohsiung.

The Thought-provoking Chicken is a kind of gastronomic guru, an ovulating oracle, a squawking shaman, a feathered philosopher … the alliterative monikers could go on forever. But as our subject is the ephemerality of life, they won’t.

As many deeply spiritual beings know, most problems of the soul can be fixed by eating stuff, whether it’s chicken soup, dover sole or ice kachang to counter the heatiness of a surfeit of durian. So in this last ever Existential Vacation, I and the TPC offer you a comprehensive guide to Eating Your Way to Nirvana. In this first and final installment, we list the philosophical properties of various excellent foods.

1) Snails
If you were born in the year of the dog, and mars is ascendent in uranus, try these Taiwanese snails in chilli sauce. If you suck hard enough, or winkle them out of their shells with a toothpick, you will be rewarded with a blend of gastronomic yin and yang.
TPC says: “Snails are much tastier than chicken!”

2) Korean Tinned Meat
I am always on the lookout for authentic ethnic cuisine in the countries I travel to. Sometimes I find a genuinely new, delicious and exotic taste experience. While in Korea earlier this year I came across this delicious potted meat – a genuinely novel culinary encounter for me. Some travellers might stick with what they know, but I bravely tucked in! It made me feel… somehow filled with energy and light. I still wonder what it was.
TPC says: “A delicious alternative to poultry!”

3) Stinky Tofu
If your feet measure more than a six on the Stinchter Scale, try eating this amazing Taiwanese delicacy! It might taste like drains, but at least you won’t be able to smell your feet any more.
TPC says: “Mmmm… tofu…”

4) Beermats
We all know beer is the best medicine. But if you’re too young to drink (like Oli), simply suck on a beermat! Nutritious and delicious.
Oli says: “Gurgle pthththt barp!”

I trust this last, final, ultimate and terminal installment of Existential Vacation has provided the food for thought that you have become accustomed to.

Thank you and goodnight.

Follow that camel!

These are not the camels you are looking for… move along…

I have travelled to mountains, beaches, jungles and plush cocktail bars in search of enlightenment. I have searched high and low and in places of medium elevation for meaning and truth. I have attempted to spread my message of Inner Interiority through the medium of electrons whizzing through the cybersphere. However, there comes a time when one moves on from being the lone pilgrim, when one heeds ones calling to spread the word more directly…

Merlin had his Knights of the Round Table; Yoda had his Jedi; Merve had the Magic Tones. As I wandered through the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco among the juniper trees, I wondered: was I, the Existential Vacationer, missing out something? A following, perhaps? Could I be more effective as the facilitator of a spritually-enabled, task-focused existential enterprise, boldly moving forward in an integrated manner?
The answer, clearly, was yes.
In a flash of insight, I knew I had fulfilled my destiny as a solitary ambassador of fluff, trudging the world with only the humble accessories of backpack, Nikon and iPod. In order to fully realise my potentiality, I decided, I needed to gain followers.
I would become a Cult.
Of course, this being Existential Vacation, a normal cult wouldn’t do. I hunted for inspiration, for transferable concepts which would leverage my brand into a truly apocaplyptic force. Finally I hit on something. Inspired by the Engand Rubgy Team’s performance in last year’s world cup, and their concept of ‘total rugby,’ I have launched a brand new paradigm in cult formation. I have decided to become a Total Cult.

All the best science fiction movies, and many of the best spiritual movements, start in deserts. Think of Sting riding Sandworms, or Obi Wan Kenobi chopping off the hands of Tattoo artists while muppets play jazz. Fortunately – and surely this can be no coincidence – the Sahara Desert was close at hand. Using my previously demonstrated powers of blending in with locals, I disguised myself as a Tuareg and (quite literally) hot-footed it to the sandy wastes, where I was sure my plan would come to fruition.

Once there, acting with lightning speed, I jotted down a list of stuff that a total cult needs. First of all, any cult needs followers. In another of those strange ‘coincidences’ that fill our lives, whose ultimate mysterious significance we must tune ourselves into, a follower duly appeared. I was joined by an existential acolyte, hoping to learn from the master of finding ones inner self through backpacking. She will henceforth be referred to by her Existential Vacation Cult name: ‘Oh Teeny Miracle’. I have encouraged her to start up her own blog as a path to enlightenment. Look for the link soon. Here we see the Teeny Miracle learning one of the early lessons of Existential Vacationism: if in doubt, have a cup of tea. Note the wide staring eyes and manic grin of the Cult Follower. She is learning her lessons well.

Of course, the desert demands respect. And any credible spiritual movement needs a stylish outfit. As The Way of the Purist (desert edition) clearly states in its ‘sartorial desert rules’ section:
1) socks should not be washed – ever;
2) turbans should be worn loosely wrapped and used periodically for the cleaning out of earwax

Sporting our turbans, we marched for days through the arid wastes, gazing at the stars, meditating, avoiding camel dung and picking sand out of odd places. It was a time of exile, forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. (More or less. Actually less.) Along the way, I accumulated other followers, both human and the dromedary variety. The loneliness of the desert took its toll on some, leading me to formulate the third rule: free love optional.

If you would like to join the Existential Vacation Cult, and learn the remaining rules, please send a cheque for your entire net worth plus government certified bailout bonds for any stocks or shares you may own, to the usual address.

Obscurity: is it the New Fame? Discuss.


You know who you are. There I was, watching all those athletes going for gold on the TV. Like Barack Obama, I said to myself: yes I can. I can do it. I was inspired.

But there’s always one person who spoils things for everyone else.

Trying to blend the ying of obscurity with the yang of worldwide fame isn’t easy. Especially when fame, as I have said before, means nothing to me. I was going for the clean sheet. The zero-tolerance approach to subscribers. If I could make a blog which nobody subscribed to, that would really be an achievement.
In fact, until a few days ago, I didn’t even know what a blog subscriber was.
But now those dreams are shattered.

Well, In for a penny, in for a pound. That’s what my old Grandad never used to say. So, I’m giving up the mad chase for obscurity and resigning myself to international acclaim and worldwide recognition. And the first step: get as many new blog subscribers as possible. So, all you existential vacationers out ther: please subscribe to my blog. No, I don’t know how to do it. Click on something. Add something to … er… some list or other. Whatever.

I’ll check again in a month or two. I expect great things. Do not disappoint me.

The Most Confusing Country in the World…. Ever!

Before he became Roman Emperor, the young Marcus Aurelius famously stopped off at Esztergom (left) on the bend of the Danube, set up camp with his army and scribbled down what was to become the immortal Meditations, his great work of Stoical philosophy. He was the great Existential Vacationer of his time. Although he had a retinue of slaves instead of a backpack and a kind of leather kilt instead of Quiksilver beach shorts and spoke Latin, the principle was effectively the same.
The Meditations can be summed up thus: “Life is tough. So stop whingeing and just get on with it.” Of course Marcus Aurelius didn’t have my gift for snappily encapsulating entire philosophies in a brilliantly-turned sound bite. If he had, who knows what kind of success he might have gone on to? Perhaps his stint as Caesar might have merely served as a platform for greater things. And imagine if the internet had existed then. His blog might have been almost as deep as mine!

In the mystical traditions of the great religions, contradiction is crucial. By meditating on the inherent paradoxes which underlie our existence, we become closer to the essential unity which lies beneath, just beyond the grasp of mere minds, that ineffable essence which rationality and logic forever fail to grasp. A bit like that annoying itchy bit in the small of your back which you just can’t scratch, no matter how you twist your arms*.
As my old Zen teacher at the Kwan Um school in Singapore once said, “When you breathe in, think Wo shi se ma? (What am I)? When You breath out, think Wo bu zhi dao (I don’t know). Eventually you will be filled with a great doubt. And with great doubt comes great enlightenment.”**
Wittgenstein said in his immortal Tractatus that “About which we cannot speak, we must remain silent.” However, if we seek out the contradictory, the paradoxical, the stuff that simply does not make sense, perhaps – just perhaps – out of the corner of our mind’s third eye, we may catch a fleeting glimpse of The Truth.

That is why I am in Hungary.

Hungary is riddled with contradictions. It is a veritable epistemological swiss-cheese of paradox, wrapped in the Vine Leaves of Enigma, lightly sprinkled with the Salt of Doubt and baked in the Oven of Mystery at gas mark four for an hour and a half, turning halfway through to ensure even cooking. Even writing that sentence made me feel “Hungary” – which just goes to show how accurate a description it must be***.

Consider the language, for example. It is, famously, the weirdest in Europe. English has more in common with Urdu than it does with Hungarian.
And what about the “Mosque Church” in the town of Pécs?**** Is it a mosque or a church? (Actually is used to be a church then it was destroyed by Turks and a mosque was built from the pieces and then after 150 years it was captured by Christians and used as a church again.)

Then there is the nightlife. Why would anyone form a Billy Idol Tribute band? Only in Hungary (in a bar called The Old Man’s Music Pub). The most famous club in Budapest is called Zöld Pardon. But is it a disco or a swimming pool? The mystery deepens. All I know is that I had very wet legs by the end of the evening.

And then there was the mystery of the Chicken that Looks Like a Yeti. While visiting the bird park on Margit Island, my charming tour guide, Eszter from Esztergom, promised to show me an “animal that looks like a Yeti.” And there it was. Scarily similar, despite its superficial poultry-esque appearance. It really did look almost exactly like a Yeti. And yet we are nowhere near the Himalayas. Something is deeply strange here.

And don’t even get me started on the shopping malls. I almost got into serious trouble in one shop…

So this, it seems, is the latest place to find some form of insight into our true underlying natures. By embracing confusion, we may find clarity. By diving headfirst into chaos, we may see a new kind of sense. By drinking enough beer, we may finally lose our pernicious sense of “identity” and become one with the Cosmos. I definitely lost mine for a while. Was I me? Perhaps I was Elton John? Who knows…?

* This, as any school child knows, is why the Yogis of India first practiced their contortions. They had no idea that their innovation would ultimately lead to an entire industry catering to spoiled yuppies wired on latté and brain dead from watching too many episodes of Sex and the City. Ironic, no?

** I prefer to combine this technique with multiple glasses of beer – I find the doubt, and therefore the subsequent insight, much greater.

*** It’s amazing how much mileage I get out of various versions of this joke.

**** Small city in southern Hungary. Not a gym.

Hungary (like the Wolf)

Now I know how Saint Francis of Assisi felt*. Something is beginning to happen.
Of course, if you’ve backpacked as much as I have, something good is bound to come of it. All those late-night drunken hostel conversations about which is the best type of MP3 player; all those hard treks around foreign cities looking for a Burger King; all those haggling sessions, knocking a precious few rupees off the price of a bootleg Lord of the Rings DVD from poverty-stricken street-hawkers – all of these things must eventually lead to a greater spiritual connection with the world. I knew this in theory. But now the benefits are becoming truly clear.

Greetings from Hungary, part of the next European leg of my navel-gazing odyssey into the unknown regions of philosophical backpacker belly-button fluff. The historic city of Budapest (and I think adherents of the “word-DNA”** theory would agree that the words “Buda” and “Pest” are no coincidence) is witness to my latest revelation. A kind of gift from the Universe. “But what could it be?” I hear you cry. Read on…
It first began to happen in England, when ducklings appeared from nowhere and called out to me. “Give us bread!” their annoying squeaks seemed to be saying. Sure enough, when I fetched some Sainsbury’s wholemeal multigrain sliced loaf from the pantry, they wolfed it down, eating from my hand.
This tameness from wild animals would be surprising enough, but I thought little of it. Perhaps they had simply become tame because my mother had been feeding them every day since they were born. Or perhaps there was something deeper going on.
The next inkling I had was in the beautiful Southern Austrian province of Carinthia, where as if by magic, yet more animals were strangely drawn to me.
There was the dog, which kept asking to have a stick thrown into the Austrian mountain stream, and wouldn’t stop, going back again and again. Then there were the baby hedgehogs who miraculously appeared and frolicked (well, okay, crawled around – allow me some poetic license here) on the lawn.
And then there were the kittens, who decided to communicate with me by tapping out Morse code with their claws on my neck.
Finally, in Hungary, where I was greeted by a charming tour guide (thank you for the clubbing/wading combo, Eszther), a deer approached me to beg for a leafy twig. My suspicions were finally confirmed.

Yes, there is no doubting it. I have gained the magical ability to communicate with animals. Just like Dr Doolittle (ironically enough, as I am currently an unemployed scientist).

What’s the moral of the story? Never give up. Never stop. Keep travelling until it hurts, until your brain cannot stand it any more, until your mind is crying out “please get a f**king job and a normal life, for Christ’s sake”, until the rootlessness and disorientation and meaninglessness of just going from place to place pointing your camera at stuff is becoming so intense that you no longer know who you are and have lost your sense of time, place and physical scale and have clearly become unemployable in the real world. Only then will you receive the gifts due to you. What are they? Only time will tell…

* …as the flames rose to his Roman nose and his iPod started to melt…
**Word DNA is the technique pioneered by fellow traveller Wayne Chen – see previous Philippine posting and http://www.circusoflife.com

What does 'bucolic' rhyme with?

Ah, country life! Nothing beats it. The tapping of the woodpecker in the early morning, the lowing of the cows, the sweet tang of silage in the air, the murmur of the solicitors as they set off on their daily commute to London, the amusement to be gained from mocking ignorant local rustic types … these simple pleasures are what life is all about.
On my quest for inner knowledge and the deeper contents of my navel, I am reminded this week that coming back to where you start from can be more than simply a circular journey. Because, you see, the old place might be the same, but you have changed. This is a profound truth and not at all a vacuous platitude, oh no.
You see, it’s all about Quality of Life. And what could be higher quality than a country retreat to a sixteenth century manor, complete with inglenook fireplace and tame ducklings, which one day will grow up to be deliciously plump ducks, ready for the pot? Nothing, that’s what. Unless, that is, your mum lives there and so you get her home-cooked food every day. Then it’s even better.

I’m a year into this quest now. Still going. Perhaps I’ll take suggestions on where to head next. Any ideas, anyone?

He Do the Judges in Different Voices

Well, it’s all over. No, you fool, I’m not talking about my extended doss around Asia and assorted other countries – I mean of course American Idol. The excitement of watching the two Davids* go head-to-head, literally singing their butts off for at least a minute at a time; the glamour, ascerbic comments and fake tans of the judges; the karaoke delusions of the wannabes; all of it is receding to memory.
Life will not be the same without my Wednesday evening viewing. I feel bereft, alone, much as Jean-Paul Sartre must have felt in the dark days of the 1940’s Vichyssoise government, as he choked on a sour Crème Brulée and was inspired to pen his classic La Nausée.
And I know you all feel the same way. I can feel the cosmic vibrations of despair echoing in the void, chiming an ethereal chord in space, calling out your collective loss like the primal scream of Mother Earth deprived of her Zoloft… or something. Whatever, it sounds bad.
Fortunately, all is not lost! For I, in my infinite enlightenment, bring to you a new contest, one which shall eclipse the so-called fame of Pop Idol, American Idol and all the other Idols put together**. For thou shalt not worship any idol except the new….

Existential Idle!!!!!

er…. I mean

Existential Idol!!!!!

Yes, its a brand new concept in “reality blogging” which is poised to take the world by storm. Top destinations from around the world view to voted ‘Best place to find yourself and achieve inner peace’. Each will be represented by, um, a representative, who will sing a special song they have penned especially to illustrate just how bloody existential they are. Oh yes. I can hear you salivating at the very thought. It sounds kind of like when you get a frog stuck in a vacuum cleaner nozzle, and … but I digress.
The rules are simple: each week, two Existential Destinations will go head-to-head. Their representatives will be interviewed about why they are the most deeply spiritual, and then each will sing their song. The judges, who are Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell***, will give us the benefit of their no-doubt well-informed but ultimately impotent opinions, then you, the blog readers, will vote by posting comments. After the initial group stage, the winners of each group play the second place in other groups, with two special slots allocated to the best losers judged on goal difference. And so to the knock-out round, which will go on until the sun expands to a red dwarf, engulfing the inner planets and charring the earth to a cinder. (Please refer to fig A**** for a diagram explaining this in more detail.)

So, without further ado, I shall introduce you to this weeks contenders in our inaugural one-on-one celebrity existento-musical death match. And the contestants are…. [drum roll]

Byron Bay, New South Wales

versus

The Demilitarized Zone between
North and South Korea

Byron Bay is be represented by Kedgeree Bill, long time resident and Byron’s own self-styled “King of the Didge” who describes his adopted home town in the following way:

Kedgeree Bill: G’Day Mate! In the Dream Time, Byron was known to the indigenous tribes as Wigga Wigga, which in the local language meant ‘place of the blonde dreadlocks’. Then it was discovered by Lord Byron’s grandaddy who wrote anti-war experimental free-form vegan poetry and started the first Poetry Slam. These days it’s just a bonza place to chill, have your crystal aura read, eat veggie burgers and pretend you’re from a hipper ethnic group than your skin tone and passport imply. I mean, I used to be a loss adjuster from Slough. The surf’s great, and we have whales migrating past the lighthouse. What could be more eco than that? And the tomato sauce we stick in our pies is only made from organic tomatoes, imported from ethically-treated slaves in Guatemala. I’ve wrote this song on me didge, which is called ‘The Keening of the Wombats by the lighting of Bill’s Bong’. Here goes…

[Bill proceeds to play his song, a one-note tune on his home-made didgeridoo, carved from ethically-culled rhino horn.]

The judges comments:

Randy Jackson: Whoah, dude, you the dog on a string! You got it goin on, man! You were a little bit pitchy around that one note, but man, you totally brought it on, my man! Etc.

Paula Abdul: [clapping with arched palms] I just love you so much, Bill, [crowd goes mental] and you bring a special light to the world with your aura, we can all share in peace and love and I truly feel that if all the world played the didgeridoo like you then we could really all live in peace, and I truly feel that I love you, I mean that, you’re so special… [goes on in this vein for half an hour before being muzzled by Simon Cowell]

Simon Cowell: I’m going to be honest with you here Bill, because let’s face it this is a singing competition not some dodgy – or should I say “didgy” – New Age busking contest. Last week I thought you were just okay, but frankly I could imagine you in a cocktail bar in Vegas being ejected by the bouncers because let’s face it, and I’m going to be honest with you here, you smell. [Crowd boos. Simon holds up his hands and flashes unnaturally white teeth.] Just an opinion…

The DMZ is represented by The Dear Leader, Kim Il Sung, who, despite being dead, makes the following statement:

Kim Il Sung: The so-called tunnels between North Korea and Byron Bay are a figment of capitalist imagination, and furthermore were dug by the Australians in a pathetic attempt to discredit the last glorious bastion of socialism which is the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. The fact that they have been opened up to tourists in a craven money-grabbing display of greed without paying the North it’s due share of the profits only further establishes the politically and morally bankrupt nature of the Byron regime. Besides, we all know that Byron is full of feral hippies. My song is a tribute to the lasting eternal glory of socialism. It is entitled “Die Hippies Die.”

[Kim Il Sung proceeds to sing from his mausoleum, accompanied by a million backing vocalists in seventeen part harmony, and a gazillion traditionally-garbed six-year-old dancers in tight formation who have been raised in darkened crates until this moment. At the climax, a thousand intercontinental ballistic missiles are released and their warheads ignite on the moon, causing a green glow to pervade the entire earth. ]

The judges comments are as follows:

Randy Jackson: Whoah, dude, you the delicious dog stew! You got it goin on, man! etc.

Paula Abdul: [clapping with arched palms] I just love you so much, Dear Leader, and you bring a special light to the world with your missiles, we can all share in peace and love and I truly feel that if all the world …. etc. [crowd goes mental]

Simon Cowell: [Flexes pectorals and flashes teeth.] I’m going to be honest with you here Il Sung [crowd boos], because let’s face it this is a singing competition not some sort of nuclear standoff, and frankly last week I thought you were just okay, but, and I’m frankly gong to be honest with you here, because let’s face it… etc.

VOTE NOW!

*I don’t know about you, but I was really happy that David Cook won. His rock vocals and the way he orchestrated the SDP’s split from the Labour Party in 1980 really whip the ass of the wimpy boy-band whining and appeasement-style CND politics of David Steel, who should never have been elected leader of the Liberal Party in the first place, if you want my opinion, and I know you do.
**Obviously except for Singapore Idol, which is so good nobody in their right mind would try to compete with it. Yes, lah.
***all impersonated, badly, by me
****fig A and all other supplementary material are available from the printed version of this blog*****
*****not

Dr Kris – the Existential Agony Uncle!

Sometimes life, even on an existential quest, isn’t easy. Perhaps your qi just won’t centre properly, your chakras are all out of whack, or you are tormented by the question of whether taking pictures of the tribal community next to your eco-village is a form of mavaise foi. Fortunately for all you be-backpacked seekers out there, help is at hand in the form of our new in-house agony uncle, Dr Kris. Wise, sympathetic and enlightened, Dr Kris will answer all your problems in a sensitive, solemn, calm and avuncular manner, without any trace of irony or subtle mockery, even if you are the kind of whining, pampered pseudo-hippie narcissist who really deserves a good slap. Please send your letters in to the usual email address. Here is the first batch of Q&A from our packed inbox. Enjoy!

Dear Dr Kris,
I am a Prince whose every wish is granted. I have extensive palaces, land and titles, and I live in the lap of luxury. I have a beautiful young wife and a small child. However, recently I am tormented by the idea that all of this, the riches, the servants, my marriage, all of it, are meaningless, and that life is really all about corruption and suffering. I have secretly formed a plan to go wandering off as a kind of ascetic, and look for a tree to sit under while I contemplate these matters. Should I follow this urge, abandon my life of luxury and seek enlightenment, or am I just being silly?

Yours sincerely,
Sid,
Northern India

Dr Kris writes:

Dear Sid,
Wow, you really have a difficult choice here! Hmmm… penniless wandering and contemplation of your navel versus concubines, riches and good food? Tough one. Before you do anything rash, remember that enlightenment can be found just as much in a glass of fine wine or a game of golf with your flunkies, I mean, er, good friends, as it can sitting under a tree. More so, in fact, because let’s face it, those guys who grow their hair out and let their fingernails go all manky are too disgusting to really know anything. So, I would suggest going out, getting really drunk, visiting a casino or two, maybe singing some karaoke (Engelbert Humperdink is good) and really blowing those cobwebs away. Stop torturing yourself and have a good time. In fifty years you’ll probably be dead, so live for today, and have fun. Be careful to avoid associating with people under trees, hanging round in deer parks or other suspect activities. Next thing you know you’ll be joining a cult, and then where will you be? Mark my words young man, no good ever came from this kind of talk. Now just pull your socks up and get on with your life without all this whingeing, you have a family to think of after all. Tch!
Hope this helps.
Yours in the Dhamma,
Dr Kris

Dear Dr Kris,
Last year I left my corporate job for a “sabbatical” year to pursue my interests of hiking, writing and drinking. I rented a beach house in a tropical country and set out to write a novel, imagining that I would become overnight the next James Joyce, and that the bejewelled words dripping like the essence of life itself from my figurative pen (actually I use a laptop) would inspire millions of readers around the world, making them reassess their lives, recognize their true inner selves and realise that war, poverty and hunger can be made things of the past if we all just, like, love each other enough (although not necessarily in a sexual way, not that there’s anything wrong with that, physical love is after all an expression of our oneness with Gaia), possibly ushering in a new age of enlightenment where freedom and self-knowledge conquer delusion and the chains of desire and hatred and the world lives in harmony in a kind of global eco-community. Although I estimate that I am halfway towards completing my work of genius, I have now run out of money, and my company has offered a pay rise and a slightly bigger cubicle if I return to the accounts department. It seems they are short-staffed and the project team is not fully leveraging the key process indicators to enable augmented delivery of low-hanging fruit in a customer-oriented manner, leading to incomplete client satisfaction with the matrixed triage system.
My question is: what does it all mean?
Your confusedly,
Sebastian Wise,
Philippines

Dr Kris writes:

Dear Sebastian,
Human beings have been asking “what does it all mean?” ever since the first caveman first started to question why he had to club dinosaurs over the head, and whether it might not be a better idea to herd organic carrots instead. Nobody has been able to find an answer. Until now. I am in the happy position of being able to explain it all, especially the two ultimate questions which have plagued mankind and driven it to distraction and drink more than any other, namely “What the hell does ‘leverage’ mean?” and “Who has the better booty, Beyoncé or Shakira?”
For the answers to these any many more fundamental dilemmas, simply send $99.99 and I will rush you your very own copy of The Way of the Purist: How to realise your inner power by not washing your socks for a month, complete with souvenir clothespeg. This book, by the way, renders your so-called novel superfluous. I suggest that the accounts department would be an excellent career move. Be sure to check out the health plan before accepting.
Your friend,
Dr Kris

Dear Dr Kris,
Does dog have Buddha Nature?
Yours,
Miles,
Singapore

Dr Kris writes:

Dear Miles,
What is asking the question? Seriously, have you ever wondered why ‘dog’ spelt backwards is ‘god’? No? I’d suggest you contemplate that fact during your next meditation exercise.
Woof! woof!
Dr Kris

Dear Uncle,
Extra cockle in my char kway teow, can or not?
Yours hungrily,
Melvin, Toah Payoh

Dr Kris writes:

Aiyoh, why you so like that? Where got extra cockle, ah? Last time never got any cockle lah, why you so kiasu ah? Alamak! etc.
Yours disgustedly,
Uncle Kris

[that’s enough agony – Ed]