My brother, Paul, has always had a consummate sense of humor and, when I was a kid, even a look from him was enough to leave me howling. I still have a photo of him when he was around 18, still wearing his white shirt from the night before, which he must have slept in, with a comforter around himself, talking on the phone and flashing me a bleery look. Not a word else was spoken. That look was enough to break me up.
A weekend with him and his wife Fran is always a great restorative for me.
But equally astounding for me is a trip to what I’ve come to consider “Tomorrowland.” But to say more on that I have to introduce two new words:
Rajasic is Sanskrit for something characterized by stimulation, activity, movement.
Sattwic is Sanskrit for something characterized by gentleness, balance, tranquility.
Vancouver, where I live, I consider to be rajasic. People are on the move. They become irritable, pushy, sarcastic. It’s like … well, a normal city in North America.
But Victoria, where Paul lives, has always struck me as overwhelmingly sattwic. A town that time (or speed) forgot. Never rushing, never pushy, never out of sorts. The meanest badass in Vic would be a pussycat in Van. I’m always kidding my brother about it because Paul has chosen to be a psychotherapist in a sattwic community. What is there for a psychotherapist to do in a sattwic community? Study and teach transformation, of course. And so Paul has.
When Paul and Fran celebrated their umpteenth anniversary their friends rented them the whole top floor of a hotel and feted them. Most of the top floor was needed to make room for their many friends. I never knew they had so many but I wasn’t surprised.
Well, back to Victoria. When I arrived in the city Friday around sunset, I watched a biker at a stop sign, talking happily with another motorist beside him. I could hear his motor split the evening quiet in my mind.
When the light turned green, he took his motorcycle and, rather than gunning it and screaming out as in Vancouver, gently put it into gear and entered traffic. My mouth was agape.
On an earlier visit to Victoria, I stood next to a giant of a man with a Mohawk in a fast-food line. He reminded me of Hulk Hogan. And when it came time for the line to sort itself out, I remember the man stood back, said “Excuse me,” and let me in. I stared at him in his Mohawk. In Vancouver I’d be tiptoeing around such an imposing figure.
Busy waitresses in Victoria are never surly. Motorists are constantly competing to let each other in. Even babies wailing in Victoria seem to wail sattwically. No matter what the outside appearance of a person in Victoria is, and here I’m always chiding my brother, they respond in a gentle and balanced way.
Why, the Hunchback of Notre Dame would never have carried Esmeralda over his shoulder up the bell tower in Victoria. But then there wouldn’t be an angry mob in Quasimodo’s Victoria either.
Ask a psychotherapist in a sattwic community how the typical couple fights. What insults might they hurl at each other? You never let me serve you! You’re always trying to give! You never take!
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m getting a glimpse of the Fifth Dimension, when it came time to give my brother an example of how Victoria might be, say, a year from now, the only thing I could find to say was that it would be more like … well, Victoria.
This city is Tomorrowland and it’s one of the few this side of India that I’ve seen like that. So spending a weekend in Vic is like spending a weekend in sanity and reminds me of where we’re headed. I’m back here now in Van, ready for another month with gunning bikers and surly servers but never far in my thoughts from sattwic Victoria.