Brenda Pugh McCutchen
August 25, 2014
Bali is magical. For centuries it has conducted itself according to its world view as the naval of the universe, the keeper of peace in the cosmos. Omnipresent rituals reenact forces of good fighting bitterly with malevolent forces which try to upset balance and peaceful co-existence. The Balinese wisely understand that good can never eradicate evil, yet the effect of positive can neutralize the threats of negative so as to achieve balance and harmony.
To truly visit is to look beyond the lush tropical beauty of rice terrace vistas outlined by coconut palms to find the unforgettable treasures in the people, their stories, and the arts. Both art and story intertwine in daily ceremonies and temple rituals where visitors can glimpse the unseen spirit world that interacts at all levels in the tight-knit communities.
To explore the layered Balinese heritage is well worth the effort as there is no place like it, especially for artistic stimulation and renewal of spirit.
Those who are willing to bypass the luxury resorts will find beautiful Balinese owned and operated hotels around the island that envelope one with invitation into the more authentic community.
Be prepared to notice how life revolves around family and the trust in what is sacred. Notice the evidence of the spirit world everywhere–in the temple ceremonies, in the mask museum, on the stages, and in the daily presentations of canang to heap blessings on the tiny island and its people. To relish this culture, as well as to honor it, is to investigate the heritage, the stories, the arts, and the Balinese traditions while there in order to learn why the Balinese are shaped by them. It is the character of the Balinese culture to live out their beliefs in a refined, respectful way. Their demeanor is quiet and polite, boisterousness is shunned, and rudeness abhorred. Follow suit. Be as Balinese as possible by dressing modestly, speaking softly, and respecting the temples as you enter. Interact personally with locals to better appreciate their arts and culture. Those will become the unforgettable moments you will treasure from time spent in Bali.
To show my gratitude to the Balinese teachers and friends, the arts and the artists, and the patience of the Balinese spirit, I constructed a little book that introduces others to this special culture to prepare the way for them to further explore it. It is my goal to see more Balinese visitors inclined to appreciate the culture than to go to strictly bask on the beaches. To ignore the richness of the culture is to dishonor it. How can the Balinese tolerate the sheer numbers of tourists who are careless, obnoxious, and oblivious to the culture, who go only to party and play or to be massaged and pampered? How many of us who appreciate the culture will it take to neutralize such a negative effect and eradicate the brewing resentment? How long can the daily Balinese rituals keep the balance between negative and positive? It is up to responsible travelers to tread lightly on cultures which are as delicate, finely-tuned, and special as that in Bali.
My hope is that more visitors take time to honor the culture, know to dress discreetly so as to respect the traditions as well as express gratitude for the care and warmth showered on them by the Balinese. To have the opportunity to experience the balance and harmony which Balinese men and women have worked so hard to achieve is a gift beyond anything else you could find on that beautiful island.
Brenda Pugh McCutchen leads an occasional study tour to Bali to introduce interested visitors to a different Bali than tourists see. Her new book of stanzas and photos, Bali—Images to Inspire , offers insights about various aspects of Balinese culture. It suggests what one might seek and how one might approach some of Bali’s unique cultural treasures. Find it at dancecurriculumdesigns.com
Brenda Pugh McCutchen, M.F.A.
Dance Curriculum Designs LLC
Columbia, SC USA 29223-7400