“Today, I feel evil.”
That was all I wrote in my journal on May 22. I was starting to get really sad about rules, how they are always multiplying, and how love has somehow gotten all tangled up by them.
I went on a walking tour of some strangers’ most sacred space— a cemetery. The celebration of death is one of the most holy rituals of the hybrid Mayan‐Catholic belief system. The thought is that death is no end to life, but a mark in the cycle of life. When someone dies, their body is preserved in a way that keeps the hair and some flesh from deteriorating. The corpses are placed inside a small wooden boxes with no lid, and then placed on shelves. Families come to the cemetery to celebrate and learn from the dead……… we went to tour it.
I am not religious. I don’t believe in any metaphysical truth to reality, and I don’t believe in the existence a fixed material world… I guess I would consider myself a pragmatic existential humanist. i.e. reality is generated by experience. There is nothing governing the human will outside of our physical limitations, so the world is a constant product of our will to experience it. (Yeah… I’m still working on it.) I don’t believe knowledge is anything but attaining consciousness of experience. So there isn’t really any idea that is legitimate or illegitimate, because the idea has been produced. If I have an ethic, it is to value humanity and liberate experience.
It is our ability to generate experience that can free us from the power structures that have presented us with a reality as-such. Refusing to let a fixed idea define my reality is the constant struggle, but also the necessary hope. And that is why May 22 was the day I felt most evil. I let someone define my experience for me before it happened. To me, this was the ultimate example of how objectifying and anti-humanist tourism really is. Even though I didn’t think it was ethical for us to tour the cemetery, I participated. I perpetuated the delusion, I became the delusion. Before we entered the cemetery, my tour guide gave us a long talk. He heavily implied that our presence was an exploitative, intrusive, and disrespectful privilege… and then we followed him in and let him direct our experience. So of course, the experience unfolded exactly as it was prescribed. I mean, that is the very core of tourism though… Having a guided experience.
To me, experience is all I have, it is my only core truth, the closest thing I understand as sacred. So, my sacred center was annihilated by participating in the annihilation of another person’s sacred center. And honestly, I don’t even know whether or not our presence there would offend the people who consider it sacred. But the intimacy of the place and fact that we “toured” it offended me, and I still did it. He said we could take pictures, so I did. But the entire time, I felt guilty. I was pretending like I could tour humanity. So, it was dehumanizing to the tourist, at the very least.