Hole #17: Awareness

The grass is yellow-green and congregates in small clumps amidst the golden brown sand and gravel. There are no trees anywhere in sight and I'm the tallest thing around until the grass-speckled earth rises up on the horizon in a hyperbolic curve to meet the jagged steep mountains of black and red stone. I can see the weathering of the mountains as the dark, craggy rocks crumble down from the vertical jutting peaks to meet the patchy, flat grasslands. Puffy white clouds float in the blue sky and cast their dark shadows that dance down the mountain slopes and then march across the endless steppe. This is western Mongolia and when the wind stops, I hear nothing. There is only the deafening sound of silence. I am a rock, I am an island. I am Art Garfunkel's career after he split up with Paul Simon. Tiny and insignificant. One man standing in central Asia with a golf club in his hand. Never in my life have I been more aware of who or what I am.

I would love to take any world leader and put him in my place now, to experience this peaceful and contemplative setting. I heard that George W. Bush and his father played a round of golf in less than two hours. Now, that's just obscene. Normally, a four-hour round of golf is considered a good pace. I think if I flew Air Force One at supersonic speed, I still couldn't make it across my Mongolian golf course in less than two hours. Is there any question why the world is heading in the wrong direction?

The other day, I stopped by a group of gers to get out of the sun and wind for a while. I had this strange feeling that something was wrong and then I noticed that the ger doors were facing east, northeast, and any old direction. Every door on every Mongolian ger always faces south. You can practically navigate by this. But these gers were built by Chinese construction workers building a nearby road. The problem, I believe, was due to a serious lack of awareness on their part.

My caddy keeps telling people we meet that I'm playing baseball across Mongolia. Despite my best effort to correct him every time, there still exists a lack of awareness there too.

When I first started this expedition, I joked that I'm doing it to raise awareness. Not awareness of any particular problem but just awareness in general. And now that I'm 90% of the way across this country where life for the average nomad/herder family hasn't changed much in centuries, I'm realizing that the world really has become unaware. Understanding of different cultures, our connection to nature, and knowledge of our place in the evolution of this planet all appear to be declining as our human race advances in time.

I observe my caddy's white-ball-hitting sport confusion, the Chinese construction workers' faux pas, and the results of a poorly planned invasion of a Middle Eastern nation with increased pessimism. I'm afraid that awareness is a burden that has become increasingly difficult to raise.

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