I am not Christopher Columbus or Marco Polo, over here. I am uninterested in traveling and adventure. In fact, I had spent almost two years in Cambodia, having never once left the confines of PP. Why should I visit tourist sites, such as Angkor Wat? I have already seen pictures of them. Even if I did want to travel, whenever I had time I lacked the money. Likewise, when I had the money I lacked the time. I spent all my vacations home contentedly reading, watching films, and/or surfing the net.
That changed recently, when older sister invited me and my girlfriend to visit her orchard in Kampot. She wanted to review the recent efforts of her employees. She thought we might like to join her and the kids for a countryside picnic. How could we say no?
Older sister is a former fish monger whose industriousness and gumption have transformed her into the proprietor of a modest but successful export business. Modest though it may be, I suspect I shall never create a significant fraction of her wealth and property. Recently, she started reinvesting profits from her primary business into a new venture: consolidating small farms in Kampot into one large mango, papaya, and Jack fruit orchard.
On the appointed day, we awoke at too early o’clock in the morning. We packed ourselves into the Lexus SUV: older sister, gf, 2 nephews (16 and 19), 3 nieces (6, 11, 12), and myself. Quickly the Iphones and Ipads were being fiddled with by the kids. While older sister buys a few toys, she is not ostentatious, nor does she behave in an elitist manner. She labored long and hard to earn all that she now has. Indeed, she, her husband and her children can often be found working alongside and even recreating with her employees.
We cruised down the highway out of PP and towards Kampot. Massive tracts of farmland devoid of anything save the occasional emaciated cow flew past us as Iron Maiden’s profoundly awesome album Brave New World blasted. I wish! Sadly, the oldest nephew had us listening to shitty dance remixes of already shitty pop songs.
We eventually reached the farm. Only stopping one time to pick up grilled duck and chicken, as well as deal with 6 year old Srey Meas’ car sickness. The farm was silly big and quite beautiful. Quaint wooden houses and distant wooded mountains being the only notable landmarks in all directions. We were given a brief tour. Of course, the grandeur of autumnal rural Connecticut was in no way rivaled by what my eyes beheld, as lovely as it all was.
The mountains, silently sleeping in the distance, roused memories of my boyhood running around forests with friends, pretending we were heroically resisting an invasion by the aggressively evil USSR. This kindled within me a desire to go camping and climb mountains. The gf immediately rejected the idea. It had taken her years of effort to pull herself up, educate herself, get a cushy office job and buy a modern home. She had not endured all of that in order to cook on a campfire and sleep in a tent sans electricity and running water. I thought of Green Acres.
In time, the others headed back to the farmhouse. Older sister needed to attend to business. The kids wanted gf to take them back to play in the shade by the farmhouse. I decided to wander and ponder a bit.
Looking up, I saw a vast azure expanse. This lead me to think about the logical and linguistic differences between “to think blue”, “to think of blue”, “to have blue thoughts”, “to think of blue thoughts”, and “to have thoughts of blue”. This quickly lead me to wonder: “how long (or short) can (or must) a thought be in order to qualify as a thought?” Naturally, I wondered, if Smith said a thought was of x duration, then what would count for and against the claim? What would an experiment to test the claim look like? Next, I grappled with whether or not all mental content is thought. Obviously not, emotional states are mental content. I compared and contrasted the following concepts: “mental content”, “objects of consciousness”, and “sense data”. This rightly lead to whether or not we must be able to reduce a thought to a propositional calculus in order for it to qualify as a thought. Finally, I wondered just how much the English grammar system contributes to, our models of thought and consciousness.
I wasn’t making much progress. I couldn’t seem to find my way out of the well worn grooves of the various theories that I had explored years ago. Besides, philosophy of mind was never my specialty. Well, my stomach intervened and demanded I abandon the philosophizing for more nutritious pursuits.
When I got back, it was lunch time. Everyone had settled around the large wooden table shaded by a grand jack fruit tree. Gf’s mother had prepared for me a special plate of her BBQ pork ribs, which I washed down with a good number of beers. Everyone else was eating the chicken and duck, along with unnecessarily extreme portions of rice. About 5 dogs and an uncounted number of chickens circled the table. You see, whenever the others finished a piece of chicken or duck, they would toss the bones over their shoulders for the scavenging dogs and vicious chickens.
I should remark that I had never before associated with chickens. My previous experiences with chickens were rooted in the sanitized chickens of cartoons and the typical city chickens walking streets in developing countries, which you quickly pass by. Upon closer inspection, real chickens are ugly, revolting, disturbing, cannibalistic meat machines. Anyone who thinks it is morally wrong to eat chicken has obviously not spent time with chickens.
Now, a reader might protest. Is it not inconsistent to assert that it is not immoral to eat chickens (or other animals) and assert that it is immoral to eat people? Well, I do not think it is a metaphysical “fact” (whatever that may mean) that people ought not to be eaten. I have studied enough ethics and meta-ethics to leave me rather skeptical about such matters.
True, I do favor a version of Aristotelean ethics stripped down of as many metaphysical assumptions as possible. Yet, that is hardly enough to provide the sort of robust “ought” claims that most ethicists favor. But, do we really need abstruse theories to justify not eating people? As social primates, we have evolved in such a way that we are averse to cannibalism. For good reason, psychopathy is not an evolutionary stable strategy. That’s not to say that we are innately altruistic. Rather, we have tendencies towards in-group cooperation and out-group conflict. Violence is a tool we use for good reasons, not for its own sake.
Do chickens feel pain and suffer? Sure? Am I morally obligated to mitigate such pain and suffering? I think not. Besides, Chicken Milanese is too tasty to care.
Anyway, after lunch I settled into playing chess under the overhead porch of the wooden farmhouse with one of the nephews. His style of play was typical for a teenager. I tried to teach him chess techniques, such as the discovered attack and the fork. Also, he was entirely too impatient to learn how to develop his pieces. In time, I had enough beers in me for it to effect my game. That and a few minor miscalculations and he almost defeated me one time.
In my defense, I was also distracted by an awesome rainstorm that had begun shortly after we started playing. The heavy shower assaulted the countryside and the thunder and lightening caused the younger children to cower. The storm lasted for many games of chess and cans of beer.
During the car ride home I was drowsy from the days excitement. I closed my eyes and thought of how wonderful it would be to laze about in a hammock, smoking apple flavored tobacco in a pipe while gazing at the stars filling a Kampot night sky. Of course, it would be difficult to hook a hammock up to two trees in such a way that the sky would be wholly unobstructed by tree canopy. I juggled and tinkered with various tree/hammock configurations in my minds eye, until sleep washed over me.