There is a Hungarian animated sci-fi series from the seventies about a rebellious, gifted boy and his talking dog exploring the universe in an inflatable spaceship. It’s really a satire, of course, holding up a mirror to some ludicrous phenomena in society. The amount of puns, the cozy atmosphere and the (probably intentionally) naive visuals make it a classic in the culture.
In one of the journeys the travelers glimpse a planet revolving extremely fast on its axis. They manage to land and discover a society with an extremely accelerated pace. People are born, go to school, get married, raise kids, age and die in a matter of hours. Of course our heroes try to save the day — I won’t let on if they succeed.1
Made by: Pannónia Filmstúdió - https://hu.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1095439
And that was in those peaceful seventies! It seems that now we have really arrived to Rapidia. But why? Life seems to be a bit easier than it was a hundred years ago when you had to trudge along to the creek to do laundry by hand and cut firewood with a two-man saw. How come we don't have time for even a half of what we would want to do? Why are we always in a rush? What happened to time? Where has it gone?
I spent one of the most insane periods of my life in Calgary, in a depository of adolescents that was called a high school. One of the most prominent features of the building was the lack of windows. Who needs sunlight? Who needs air? We'll control all variables for the kids, install eye-loving neon lights and air conditioning set to eighteen degrees. This advanced way of operation has since made its way to Europe by way of multiplex cinemas where scarves-hats-jackets are a stiff requirement even in August. But normally you are not put on a breathing machine. You can still use your lungs to take in as much air as you need. Time, however, has long been treated as if it was some kind of a press that you get placed inside and then someone pushes the button. Who cares whether it’s summer or winter? Who cares when the sun comes up, who cares whether your internal organs are still -16 degrees and such trivia? When the siren sounds you must yank yourself awake and go.
In his book West of the Thirties, anthropologist Edward T. Hall writes about the different ways in which four cultures in the southwestern US — Navajo, Hopi, Hispanic and Anglo-Saxon — perceive the world. A Native American, after an arduous journey to a trading post several days' walk away, could find it closed, knowing the owner might not be back for days. I can vividly picture how passengers on the poorer side of the suburban Budapest commuter train would react to such a situation.
The Indians sat down and waited quietly, for days if necessary. They were probably able to do this because they were present in the moment. It is good to be alive. Otherwise, who the hell would bother with all that chasing after game (nowadays money), women, all that hauling of bricks, fixing broken sewage pipes and the rest. We would sit down under a tree and wait for the final silence to descend on us. But we don't because life is a joy, and I suspect that most living things: animals, plants, are continuously in touch with this feeling. So are ‘primitive’ humans. When the tiger came, we got scared, ran away or fought the beast, and once it was over the fear disappeared completely. We returned to that low-intensity everyday feeling of nirvana.
Civilized humans seem to have somehow forgotten this happiness. Therefore we cannot just be, that state seems empty, even frightening. We always have to do or make something: homework, a festival, excuses, plastic storks, treadmills, nuclear rockets. In English we even ask: How do you do? At one time, all the weirdos from Hungary I knew kept swarming to Turkey like bees who have discovered honey. Because it was pretty much the closest place with non-European time. Where we didn't have to squeeze ourselves into the box of externally controlled minutes ticking away. Where it was still possible to experience the flow of eternity.
Of course, aimless vagabonds are suspect. So one must make excuses lest the neighbors start whispering. A friend of mine has invented the idea of organizing trips for groups, in which case traveling becomes work, i.e. proper activity. Studying abroad is also appropriate, after all, in the Middle Ages people embarked on journeys to say, Holland and returned home with special skills. This sort of thing still happens today. There are also medicinal journeys, just add up how much six or seven years of psychoanalysis would cost! Walking into the horizon is a much better deal, even accountants would be happy with the figures. Poets, with palms on foreheads, can wave the disclaimer that they set out to find inspiration. But actually it's all about stepping out of your habits and stepping out of organized time.
At this point you might think: “Is this dude implying that he's embarking on a journey? He must be in search of lost time.” How did you guess? I'm not returning home until I find out where our time has disappeared to. I won't promise I'll bring it back, but at least I'll bring some news about it.
The question naturally arises as to where the dude is heading. Well, that’s going to be more exciting finding out along the way. Even from the comfort of your easy chair — let alone my position who will be less concerned with finding picturesque verbs than finding somewhere to sleep. For luxury travel teaches us nothing, therefore tourist feats are avoided. Hotels and museums can rest in peace. I will let on as much that there is a destination, with stops along the way, to reduce the sin of burning kerosene. Flying is a terribly polluting activity, yet there are places you can't really get to any other way. Thus we have arrived to our first hurdle: How does one balance a respectful lifestyle, one that allows for a livable planet with adaptation and flexibility?
As for our newsletter, the timing might relax a bit, and there may even be less text and more pictures like in tabloids. One must be moving with the times! Almost two decades ago I was the second last in my circles to bend the knee before the eavesdropping device marketed as a telephone. And, until last week, I did manage life without a microcomputer euphemistically called a smartphone. Yes, the one with the unremovable battery. Okay, I bought it second-hand from an Arab shop to somewhat reduce the amount of heavy metals dissolving into the groundwater. Again the choice between the nutty habits of society and the ideal way of life. And there's another consideration: the ancient thesis that the combined I.Q. of a phone and its owner can never be more than 200. The smarter one is, the fewer points are left for the other.
On the journey we will continue the search for mental patterns empowering a healthier, more free and friendlier society. In the process, we will also probably find answers to some very ordinary things. How is it possible to carry your house, office, kitchen, everything you are likely to need in the desert or jungle with a seven kilo baggage allowance? How can you get along with unknown people, speaking unknown languages, with their authorities, with venomous snakes? In any case, they must have less venom than passengers on bus 9 in Budapest.
Leaving your routines makes it easier to experience eternity. Why are we on this Earth? Some answer to this question might well emerge with the new landscapes opening up in different time zones.
Look for Mézga Aladár különös kalandjai — Rapídia. There are translations of some of the scenes on YouTube in a few languages, although I couldn’t find an English version.