Bali has just experienced Nyepi, and everyone is better for it.
The Island of the Gods unique New Year Celebration – a quasi Hindu/island custom – sees a strict day of observing silence out of respect for the Gods.
The holiday paradise has been grinding to a deafening halt anyway, with tourism all but evaporated.
But self-isolation is a yearly occurrence for the Balinese.
And for an archipelagic nation that seems to be one of the worlds largest scale breachers of the global practice of quarantining, there was something beautiful about solitude preordained in the calendar.
A moment where cultural tradition intersected with social urgency.
No If’s or But’s.
No motor is to be heard, wheels of industry turn nor the ka-ching! of business transacted.
Not even a light at night. Even the internet gets shutdown.
Everyone stocks up on the essentials.
Bintangs, Indo Mies and the ingredients needed for that dish you kinda remember making from university days.
And of course, an arsenal of downloaded movies in the absence of Netflix.
Stocked up – your ill-prepared Self-Isolation allows no second chances.
25th March 2020
Bali may have been the only place on earth allowed to breath a sigh of relief from the global pandemic for a day.
Respite from the information-action ratio.
A pause from a situation you can do nothing about.
A guilt-free day spent being at peace with yourself.
It’s as if Bali’s ancestors had carved out this day to afford a moment of solace when we needed it most.
Even the memes could wait a day.
Not even a whisper penetrates the air. Just the odd songs of nature.
Blue skies like the good-old-days.
Peace in the style the island was famous for, then built upon.
As the sun sets, the last glimpses of light reveal where to collect the essentials.
Darkness comes without forbiddance. The terrors of night also consigned behind closed doors.
Only the unseen demons allowed to run amok.
Community Leaders politely do the rounds, reminding neighbours of the one-night purge on vision.
It’s the nighttime where the fruits of this collective lack-of-labour come into their own.
The likes of which you distantly remember.
But was it ever this beautiful?
Has the glow of the moon and the twinkling of a billion stars in full view ever been so prescient? So needed?
A perfect metaphor for turning it all off and surrendering to the enormity of everything – the majesty of the universe – to prove the conquerability of any challenge we face on this pale blue dot.
Nyepi has effectively been extended through to 26th March, though lights and internet returned.
No one seems to mind, and only the most anxious and conspiratorial WhatsApp groups have resurfaced in full force.
Otherwise, everyone seems pretty content.
If there was one lesson for the rest of Indonesia, and indeed the rest of the world, its this:
Self-isolation is better with the lights off.
Seeing the wonder of eternity helps us realize a few days in doors is not only an important collaborative effort.
It’s exactly what we need to rethink, reimagine and rediscover what it takes to be reunited with the infinite… and not least, each other.
And perhaps, to self-isolate from the internet; that imposed-connectivity and the stresses that come with it.
The memes can wait until tomorrow.