Love is Progressive Part 2:
• A Dream in a Dream in a Dream
Based on a True Story (Robert and Ria's "Little Adventure")
The setting: Leaving Switzerland after attending a peace conference, somewhere in midair at 35,000 feet above sea level, Robert and Ria are sipping cranberry juice.
Ria: Look, look Robert. You can see the forest if you look out the window.
Robert: Wow, I have never seen the Alps before. Reminds me of the Sierras though.
Ria: I love the forest of the Alps. Do you see it? It's so mysterious and full of life. A doe can appear out of nowhere.
Robert: Oh, I can see one now from this airplane. Haha. Do you remember when we were in that other forest?
Ria: What other forest? Oh, you mean the jungle forest! That was quite a little adventure.
Robert: That's quite the understatement. How often does a helicopter run out of fuel in the middle of the jungle?
Ria: Remember how terrifying it was when we saw the snake. We just froze.
Robert: That was a Gaboon Viper.
Ria: Yeah, Bitis Gabonica, the largest, heaviest Viper in the world.
Robert: I bet you didn't know that at the time.
Ria: I had no idea what it was; I just knew it was scary and it looked dangerous.
Robert: Before we could say anything or even make a move, an arrow came out of nowhere and killed the snake.
Ria: And right there we were saved. Then that little man our savior appeared out of the jungle.
Robert: Yes, our Mbuti Pygmy savior, Sembagare, my ancestral tribe (both laugh).
Ria: Do you remember when we told our helicopter pilot, Jean Phillippe to tell Sembagare that we are lost in this forest, and Sembagare just roared with laughter. And we didn't understand why he was laughing, since the whole situation was so dramatic.
Robert: Yes, he thought it was hilarious that somebody could get lost in his backyard.
Ria: Some backyard! Those tangles of jungle vines all over the place; it looked more like a trap to me rather than a path, but Sembagare seemed to know every nook and cranny – really, how can anyone be lost in the forest, as far as he was concerned? This idea seemed very silly to him.
Robert: Yup, my ancestral tribe sure knows their way around the forest, because the forest is their grocery store and home. I am glad Sembagare showed up when he did.
Ria: And Sembagare was such a handsome, muscular little man, and very friendly. Did you see his eyes? They projected kindness, and he just may have saved our lives.
Robert: And I must say he was very hospitable just like my family. Haha. He promptly invited us to his village and home..
Ria: Very hospitable, peaceful people. I was impressed by their dome style huts built from vines and decorated with leaves. You know, those huts were aesthetically pleasing. Each hand made, each different. And what a great concept; when you need to patch the roof, you just add more leaves -- so practical too.
Robert: You are the expert on aesthetics, Ria. As humble as they were, they were nice little homes.
Ria: And the berry muffins? One wouldn't expect to be served blueberry muffins in the middle of the jungle.
Robert: The children were so well behaved, but were sure curious about us. And they weren't afraid of us at all when we showed up with Sembagare in their village.
Ria: And they did not have to be scolded once.
Robert: Yes, because they were raised differently than we are used to. I would call it a form of nurturant parenting because they parented by example and by letting the kids learn on their own.
Ria: These children's parents certainly didn't tell them "don't do this" or "don't do that" throughout their childhood.
Robert: When children are raised like this, they don't have the typical anger and rage later, and they can be creative and learn to do things on their own. If you recall, Jean Phillippe told us that one time he saw a Pygmy toddler going toward a big bonfire, and he automatically tried to stop the child, but his mother waved at him to let the child go, so in his bewilderment, he did so, and sure enough, the child stopped when it became too hot. I would say he was about 10 feet from the fire, then he turned back. That is called learning through natural consequences.
Ria: You know, these children seem so secure and comfortable, just like the grown ups. Did you see that there was no apparent social hierarchy? Nobody was serving anybody; from the tiniest child to the oldest adult, each person was an equal entity. They were comfortable being themselves in their environment. If there was any distinction among the people, it was their obvious respect for the elderly. Before we were served any food, they asked the grandparents to join us and sit down first.
Robert: I could not help but notice, silly. They have a saying that "Thank God if you live to grow old." Remember when Jean Phillippe told them of my Pygmy ancestor. I was surprised that they believed me despite my European appearance. I guess they are very honest people.
Ria: I saw no sense of skepticism in them. They were preparing a big feast for us anyway, but they felt honored to have a distant relative there.
Robert: When they found we like crab better than wild boar, they changed the main course for us to freshwater crab, and gosh, those delicious wild mushrooms.
Ria: The quality of the honey was so wonderful, deep amber color, and with a strong exotic aroma. It almost made me dizzy.
Robert: It's quite different from what we would be used to at home. I could do without those roasted ants, though.
Ria: I was hesitant to taste the ants, but once I did, they were unusual but not bad at all.
Robert: I noticed that the older people and children were served first.
Ria: Of course, old has a different meaning there than in our culture. The elders have the experience and honor to gain the respect of everyone. They are even considered beautiful.
Robert: Yes, they have worked all their lives and have given a lot of love to other people. The word old in their concept is something very special, and it represents wisdom, like it's supposed to here but it isn't really.
Ria: There is another Pygmy saying: "Children are peoples' treasure."
Robert: Well, that's why if a Pygmy woman becomes pregnant before marriage, she does not have to choose to marry the father of the child. They may have sex before marriage, but the mother always knows who the father is, because they only have one partner at a time. There are usually several men waiting to marry the pregnant woman because children are very desirable.
Ria: Childbirth in the Pygmy community is a very special event. Before giving birth, at the time of pain the mother sings and walks around, and doesn't always lie down to give birth. She typically squats on a flat rock by the river. The midwives hold her on each side, and literally breath and push with her until the baby is born.
Robert: Wow, that is fascinating. Where is the father when the baby is born?
Ria: The father is not there at the birth of the child, but after the birth he knocks on the hut asking the the new mother's permission to be let in to see his baby. He goes in, holds the baby with great care, and typically cries because he is so happy.
Robert: I heard that Pygmy fathers are very involved in raising their children. Men and women equally love and care for the child. In fact, I saw fathers holding their babies for very long periods of time. That reminds me that I never saw any Pygmy baby crying during our stay. Jean Phillippe told us that during the first year, the baby is never separated from the mother, and is in constant physical contact with her.
Ria: If the baby does cry, it is only for a moment because the baby’s need is immediately met. They nurse the babies often, which satisfies the baby’s need for close contact, attention, or nourishment.
Robert: I noticed that, but I was really surprised when 5 year olds went to their moms to nurse.
Ria: And when the mother has no milk, another mother will nurse the child until the biological mother's milk is ready. They really do take care of each other and Pygmies don't discriminate by gender. That's an amazing thing about their culture. There is no power differential between the genders and they make all their decisions with equal consideration for the opinions of both men and women.
Robert: And they don't seem to need a penal system or an official government. The Pygmies have no chiefs, no courts or prisons. They do not want individual power, they prefer shared decision-making. I was amazed that they really don't understand the concept of greed.
Ria: Yes, they have no such. Haha. I tell you dear the “isms” –any ism- even democracy cannot work without responsible, caring people managing it and participating in it.
Robert: Pygmies have the most interesting ways of dealing with disputes.
Ria: It's funny that we witnessed such a dispute. It was some contrast; in the middle of this peaceful environment, I remember all this yelling and screaming when a husband and wife went at each other.
Robert: I guess all cultures have arguments between husbands and wives.
Ria: When we ran out to see what all the commotion was, it certainly seemed very serious at first.
Robert: Yeah, there was the husband with a large stick about to end the argument by ending his wife.
Ria: But she went off and got an even bigger stick of her own, longer than she was tall, and stood her ground. There was a lot of finger waving going on. By then, the village women were holding back the woman and the men were holding back the man.
Robert: And then the other men gave the husband the largest stick of all. "You can surely kill her with this" was what they were saying according to our translator, Jean Philllippe. You are a strong man, go ahead, use this stick, it should not be a problem for you to kill her… They kept saying that until he became embarrassed and everybody broke out in laughter.
Ria: The whole idea of physical violence became completely ridiculous. It was ingenious of them to just laugh it off. I remember everyone was clapping happily at the end.
Robert: So conflict resolution through laughter. Sometimes people take themselves too seriously when humor would do better.
Ria: Yes, a sense of humor helps every relationship. And that's when we saw the smallest Pygmy ever appear, remember? And they are not too tall to begin with.
Robert: He must have been the official "village clown." Funny, he also was like the village wise man. His judgment was to decide the conflict with a tug-of-war between the men and the women.
Ria: And the women lined up on one side of a huge puddle, and the men on the other side. Even the older children participated; men against women, boys against girls.
Robert: Let's see who will win (wink wink). And each side was pulling hard.
Ria: And then I remember the most touching thing happened. When the women's side couldn't pull hard enough to break the tie, and they were about to lose, some of the men ran over to the other side joining the women.
Robert: That was compassion in action I would say, Ria. Nobody wanted to see the women lose. They recognize that physical strength is not relevant to the solution.
Ria: There are no winners in physical violence; people can't be convinced through physical aggression. Pygmies are secure enough to laugh at themselves. They have a high level of respect for themselves and others.
Robert: Any society which is compassionate is better than one that lacks compassion regardless of its system. Pygmies seem to be free of hatred, and do not have strong competitive feelings.
Ria: There were no winners or losers in their tug-of-war; instead, there was love and compassion. The events were more like entertainment for everyone involved.
Robert: And lots of singing followed afterward. It was very entertaining and harmonious indeed.
Ria: The music they made was beautiful. Their songs are so special that they are famous among musicologists throughout the world. But the strongest memory of a sound I have is the sound of their laughter, and I was impressed by how comfortable they seemed with each other.
Robert: Yes, just like I feel so comfortable now.
(Chuckling he yawns, stands up and stretches.)
He looks at his watch and Ria, as she is sleeping with her head tilted slightly to the left.
Robert: Hey Ria, wake up dear! We are almost there!
Ria: Oh Robert, I had the strangest, wonderful dream.
Robert: I just woke up myself Ria, and I had an amazing strange dream too.
Ria and Robert to each other at the same time: "What was your dream?"