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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Spain, the Final Frontier

On our final day in Spain, Mike wanted us to see how the other half lives.  We drove along the Mediterranean coast and saw some beautiful mountains and some amazing villas perched on the edge of open vistas with views which most could barely imagine.  Our first stop was a mall resembling that mall in every area, which is designed to attract the rich and famous.  It was clean, expansive, modern and full of expensive merchandise.  The people in it were “the beautiful people.”   We enjoyed a light lunch and had a little look around.

Susan went off to do her own shopping thing and Mike and I wandered around, spending most time in an electronics / book store.   Mike is very intrigued by the new 3D LCD TVs.  I don’t think he’ll buy one.  There are not one, but two things that can go wrong with it (the TV or the glasses).  Why complicate an intentionally simple life?  We spent more time in the book section.  Most new books are published in English.  Only a fraction of them are translated to Spanish.  It is interesting to see which ones make it.

In a way, the selection of books reflected Mike’s own preferences for life.  There were many art books and many biographical references, some popular fiction and some cooking books.  The technical book and business book sections, if they were there, were very small – dwarfed by the children’s book section.  I guess the Spaniards are clear about balancing work and pleasure.  With unemployment approaching 30% in the area, work is something many only dream of.

Next, we were off to Puerto BanĂ¼s, a place conceived by one man, which is another “lifestyles of the rich and famous” spot.  We saw big boats and expensive cars.  The shop which intrigued me most was an estate shop.  It had many items from, what we determined were mostly ex-wealthy Arabs’, former possessions.  There were many shiny and elegant looking things of little practical value.  It caused me to reflect on Mike’s choice to live a simple, happy life, uncomplicated by the trappings of wealth.

I believe many of the people served by this community seek happiness in the accumulation of material items.  They do not laugh more as a result.  They do not find contentment behind their next purchase.  They believe each new item will increase their comfort in some way, thereby drawing them closer to inner peace.  For most, it doesn’t.

It is clear to me that limiting ones material wealth leaves space for happiness, contentment and inner peace.  Mike and Ang have mastered this.  They have created a beautiful life amongst simple, beautiful people…people who know how to laugh and savor the moment.  Most of us strive for this life, but we get so wrapped up in the means to get there that we never stop striving, regardless of our means.  That’s why Mike and Ang are some of my greatest heroes. 

Although Ang had already left us, saying goodbye to Mike was like saying goodbye to both of them.  Ang has a quiet, yet fierce presence.  Hanging with Mike is not for the faint of heart.  Ang is not faint of heart or will.  Her inner peace is indomitable.
On our final morning, Mike went through the morning ritual of feeding the cats.  It is quite a sight (see FaceBook for pics).  Although Mike seems to enjoy this ritual, it is clear that this is primarily Angela’s project.  In Ang’s absence, I performed the gate opening and closing ritual, as Mike drove out to take us to the airport, for the last time.  I will miss them both until the next time we meet.
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