In Vietnam this summer, at the Temple Of Literature, there was a pond of pink lotuses in bloom. These beautiful, dignified flowers in Buddhism represent enlightenment, being raised and far away from the soil; an emblem of grace and the search for something higher.

The flowers are also drunk as tea. As green tea, the leaves are put inside the day-blooming flowers overnight so that they cannot close, in order to suffuse the tea leaves with scent, an almost cruel-sounding practice that I nevertheless was very enchanted by: so simple, yet so effective.

Lotus tea is available everywhere, in sachets at supermarkets, and is delicious; refreshing, but floral with a beautiful, balsamic aftertaste, and I bought a couple of boxes of it which I have already got through at work. I also, however, bought some of the highest grade variety from a gorgeous tea shop in Hanoi, and have just opened it for the first time and we have been drinking it upstairs in the beautiful afternoon light – this taste and delicately perfumed savor putting me, slowly, into a dreamily relaxed state, detached for a moment from the horrors of humanity and the contemporary world, where everything seems to be going crazy, where interlinked violence that began centuries and millennia ago, through endless intolerance, and arrogant colonialism, and racist bloodthirst, and greed and exploitation, and is still reverberating now through the world on a daily basis, as we hate each other and kill each other and gun each other down…..and so much of it caused by religion.

And despite this purifying tea I am sipping as I rant this pointlessly, even the Buddhists, in Myanmar, are persecuting and ‘ethnically cleansing’ the minority Muslim Rohingya (er, don’t you wonder for a brainless second what the Buddha himself might be thinking about this, people?);   that asshole Modi is stoking up Hinduist nationalism in Delhi and persecuting Muslims; Conservative ‘Christians’ in America walk around with rifles and have no compassion for those in less fortunate social positions , and ‘Muslims’ shout glory to God and then slay people with grenades, slaughtering teenagers at a pop concert. Great. Well done. I am sure that Allah is delighted with your work you evil fucks.

No one seems to be able to RELATIVIZE and understand the simple fact that we are all human beings, and that the only reason they are following their (usually twisted) religion in the first place is because of geography, because of the place that they HAPPEN to be born, and that if they had been born somewhere different they might be just as fervent about that other religion as they are about this one; that if you had been adopted, say, by an Iranian and were living in Tehran, that you would in all probability be a Shiite Muslim, and that if you had been adopted by a Japanese (though you never would be because of the intense xenophobia), but if somehow you were, you would probably grow up as a gently atheist Shinto/Buddhist materialist shopping mindlessly in Yokohama.

Why can’t people understand this fact. We love our country and think it is superior simply because we ARE FROM THERE, not for any intrinsic actual superiority, and the same goes for religion. It is completely, and entirely arbitrary. You believe what you believe purely through circumstance, through chance, through ‘education’, through brainwashing, not through some kind of geographically specific celestial selection process where everyone else on the globe is automatically consigned to hell just because they are different from you, just because the particular religion that you just happened to be born in was for whatever historical reason influenced by that particular belief system. And while we are at it, how about asking how many GENUINE Christians there are out there anyway? Or Jews. Or Muslims. In their hearts, not just methodically going through the liturgical motions. Really, in actual truth? Those who actually follow the teachings of Jesus Christ? Or Muhammed?

I am sickened by it all, by a world that is peopled with idiots who can’t fucking think for themselves for a moment and stop and just use their limited, moronic brains and THINK. Just THINK. T.H.I.N.K. A little bit of relativity is all we need; we don’t need to KILL other people just because they have adopted a different religion (whose God, or central spirit, if he/she/it exists, is probably one and all the same in any case, the spirit of the universe, the creator).

I don’t know. I have no idea either, I am an open-minded agnostic who is interested in religion but full of the most bitter contempt for prejudice, mindlessness and hypocrisy, and despair at the profoundly imperfect species that we are (er….created, supposedly by this vindictive ‘God’ who then punishes his people a la Noah for perverting its ‘free will’…even before I heard about the horrors in Paris on Saturday afternoon, I had, the night before, watched an abominable Nicolas Cage film called ‘Left Behind’ in which pure little children and Christians were suddenly all zapped into heaven from the world (leaving just their clothes behind on the floor, in shopping malls and in drivers seats, to unintentionally hilarious effect), but black comedy or not, the film left a very jarring sensation in my mind as I went to bed, about what kind of religion this must be, where the creator just spitefully picks out a few people he likes and then annihilates all the rest, even though he is meant to be all about love……..this film was in fact really quite nauseating and in any case, mister, er, well in that case,  you didn’t have to make human beings so flawed in the beginning did you? You could have literally made them ‘perfect’ (boring as hell though that would have been), and then we would not be in this ridiculous mess that we are in now, would we? where peope are totally incapable of accepting each other and die for their ‘god’.).

Anyway, I know I shouldn’t really put this up because it is badly written and will cost me readers, because some people are just so prissy and ‘offended’ by ‘swear words’  or whatever and this is meant to be a ‘perfume blog’ and this is just tossed off in anger, but then again why not, I might as well,  I can do what the hell I like on The Black Narcissus, and my freedom of speech and thought is far more important than any other considerations. I have to express myself.  I feel so furious. Not just fury towards those ISIS fucktards who are causing such mayhem and sorrow, but to ‘we’ who invaded Iraq needlessly and created them in the first place, towards people’s hideous limitedness of thought and adherence to ‘scripture’, even though it was written by humans, often centuries after the fact, and that so many of the world’s ‘religious’ people are not actually religious at all, not following the religious tenets, nor truly understanding the often beautiful and inspired messages that Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Buddha and all the rest actually wanted to tell us.

So let me just drink my simple, and naturally beauteous lotus tea, let me sup on its delicious fragrance, and sink into the peaceful moment for a silent second, and pretend that everything is alright.


Filed under Flowers

28 responses to “L O T U S

  1. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    It won’t cost you anything but readers you probably would not have liked after all ; and who most conveniently (to their own chagrijn if they would have been using their brains to what they are supposed to be for) eclipsed themselves before their date of conservation expired …
    Express your rage against the dying of the light … And do enjoy your tea you Lotuseater of a minute or so.

  2. Artemis

    I did wonder whether you would expand on your previous comment about relativising. I am glad that you did. I have been to Burma (part of the same trip where I also travelled to Vietnam – frangipani, pillows strewn with jasmine and temples dripping with incense) and was always struck by the jarring realisation that every Burmese soldier had spent a year as a Buddhist monk. I had always thought Buddhism the least bellicose, bloodthirsty religion. Until the Rohingya.

    Did the Beirut attacks get reported in Japan? How did the reporting differ from reporting of the Paris attacks?

    I have been lucky enough to live in Paris (at different times in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements); I only visited Beirut. Both series of attacks are attacks on our common humanity.

    A poignant post. Thank you.

  3. (I love these kinds of posts. Bad words an’ all.)

    • Thanks. I have a kind of spiritual Tourette’s and just can’t stop myself even if I wanted to. I had run a bath, was just finishing off my lotus tea and before I knew it had posted this. These issues are too important to avoid.

  4. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    It won’t cost you anything but readers you probably would not have liked in the first place. And who most conveniently eclipsed themselves (to their own chagrijn if they would have been using their Brains to what they are supposed to be for) before their durability expired.
    Rage against the dying of the light And do enjoy your tea.

  5. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Sorry for repetition. Did not scroll upwards

  6. Bee

    It’s ok to post a rant – especially when the whole world feels like it badly needs a reality check. I’m Irish and grew up Catholic in Ireland and England and became an atheist when I was about 11 because I could not stomach what people did in the name of religion. When I read the bible it seemed obvious to me that the message was ‘love all, understand all, forgive all’ and not ‘kill every bastard who does not totally agree with you’. The same happens with all religious teachings as they become a vehicle for people’s anger and hatred. I used to be ok with Buddhism until I realised how badly they think of women. Don’t get me started on religion and women! The quicker we evolve past religion the better for all of us.
    And if people don’t like what you say then fuck ’em.

    • Well put.

      I don’t want to denigrate religion per se, because a purely materialistic world based on ‘reality’ also strikes me as hell.

      If only more people, like you and I, could look through, see through, and question it all though. I understand perfectly why they don’t, obviously: I mean Catholicism is so seductive, which is why Madonna can’t get away from it even though now she is supposedly ‘Jewish’ -aspects of it are very attractive to me as well (you can keep your paedophile priests though, thank you). Islam is at least as appealing to me as well in many ways. The music, (the men), the architecture, the more egalitarian aspect in some ways re the poor etc. As for women (and homosexuals) though…….don’t make me laugh.

  7. I think Woody Allen said it best. There is a line in one of his films (iirc) that goes something like, “the problem with religion is that everyone thinks they have the direct ear to god”. I’m certain the list of atrocities, outrages, and everyday types of pain carried out in the name of righteousness could cover more ground than the New Horizons space probe.

    Our lives are brief, and I suppose, aside from all of the horrible, sad news about the multiple attacks carried out over the weekend, I feel such a sense of despair and frustration with the senselessness of it all. For me, personally, it makes more sense to do the best we can for one another while we are here rather than living for some sort of afterlife.

    • I like to think of both (just in case: I am SUCH a Woody Allen fan – I am already mourning his future departure, can’t bear it), but I agree with you entirely.

      Perhaps the answer to all this is education. But then that is hard to get right, not that I know what ‘right’ is. But at least not, for example, like the new South Korean plans to have government approved history text books rather than independent publishers that individual schools can choose for themselves. For me, once you start with the nationalist mantra that this was this and that was that, you are doomed. Only a few intelligent and sensitive flowers will resist it. The rest are already brainwashed.

  8. I support you in your beautiful rant.

  9. empliau

    You remind me of the Archpoet: Boiling over inwardly/With anger unconfined/Now in deepest bitterness/I will speak my mind. Speak it freely, dear Neil. In your fury at the violence and hate that divides us as individuals I hear an appeal for an acknowledgement of our common humanity.

    Of course he ends (and I’m quoting an excerpt from memory, so pardon any lapses): Mortuus in anima, curam gero cutis, which was translated as: Being dead in soul, I take/good care of my skin. I love the Archpoet. And I know you take good care of your skin …

    I once worked at a place with a most beautiful fountain – papyrus plants and water lotus, with large koi darting coquettishly beneath the leaves. It was a peaceful place. I’ve never had lotus tea, but your writing brings back happy hours spent next to that fountain, with exotic plants and sunshine. There’s an east wind coming, Watson – gather ye lotus while ye may.

    • How beautiful this is: like a world unto itself…

      I hadn’t smelled lotus flowers until I went there, and they were far more warmblooded than I had anticipated – less aqueous and cold fresh and more floral and rich, and the way that they put the tea into the flower head so it can’t close seems like some kind of foie gras atrocity and yet the idea of the perfume being soaked into the tea leaves is so fascinating to me (and I love the idea of its naturalness). This particular ‘high grade’ version I have is in fact much more exquisite than the supermarket tea bags, which were nice, but prosaic compared to this, which is precious.

  10. David

    What makes me so sad, so so so sad, is that violence and harm and destruction are being plotted. Organized. Planned. I’m sad because there seems to be no stopping. No coming to senses. No just waking up and saying Nahhh, this is just too fucked up to inflict on someone so let’s just stop. I’m sad because it never stops.

  11. Zubeyde Erdem

    I’m speechless. Thank you very much your honesty, braveness ( as you mention about some readers of this blog) it is so simple as you wrote just: THINK….
    Not only religion matter for everything else… That’s why when I’m smelling a scent closing my eyes and trying to think / feel was the message of that perfume “holy” creator /noise was trying to say through the flowers’s language. Some of them making us happy,some of them relax, some of them melancholic, you named rest of it..
    Such a beautiful mind/ soul that’s why such a simple perfect post.

    • I was embarrassed after I had written it (hence probably the quieter, more ‘adult’ and boring post from today), but I HAD to write it. When I feel something unbearable I have to get it out and express it. Even if it makes me sound crazy, like I probably do here.

      • Zubeyde Erdem

        Ps :
        Work is worship. That’s why,as for me, those noises are all of them holy persons. I don’t think so JOY or too many other unique scents were created in a few seconds although they were very special expert person (well experienced) on their fields. Who knows, how they were suffered ( worshipped) when “that one” up to completed.
        On the other hand, it sounds interesting to me that some of them Jews,some of them Muslim, Christian,Buddhist, atheist or whatsoever.
        I believed all holly noises are aimed to make us enjoy with their work in any way or sense. It is up to our choice some works/souls/scents for melancholy,relaxtion sex,silence ,joyfulness,elegance,anger, confused,mix ………..moods.

    • Zubeyde Erdem

      Work is worship. That’s why as for me, those noises are holy person. I don’t think so, JOY would be created in a few seconds or others. Who knows how they were suffering to create those unique scents ( worshipping) to make us enjoy with them in any way or sense.
      Ps: don’t you think it is funny also some of noises are Jews,Muslim, Christian , Buddhist or whatsoever 🙂

  12. Zubeyde Erdem

    I apologize from Neal and all blog readers for my last comments. I was practicing (to write)those my last doubled comments as a note for myself but mistakenly touch the POST COMMENT button. Sorry for that double comments again ☺️

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