The Buddha Technology by Douglas Reid - Read Online
The Buddha Technology
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The Buddha Technology is a novel about a spiritual journey and the clash of technology and spirituality. It follows Tom Sander’s travels across a continent, from being a troubled young adult, who tried to run from his problems, to a new found wholeness and sense of purpose.
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ISBN: 9781483529646
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The Buddha Technology - Douglas Reid

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Chapter 1

Strawberry Hills RV Park

It was a frustrating day of looking for work. Tom Sanders was trying to shake off a feeling of panic that had been growing all day. It came on this morning, when he looked at the calendar and counted the number of working days until he could be evicted from the RV park for not paying his pad rental. Where would he go with almost no money?

His fruitless search for employment had taken him to fifteen places, and he didn’t just dropped off resumes. He insisted on speaking to the manager at each place. Often a lower level functionary would try to send him on his way. At one hotel, they threatened to call security because he wouldn’t take no for an answer. In several restaurants, he even offered to clean tables or do dishes for a few bucks, but got no takers.

I’m sorry. We’re not hiring now. But if you’d like to leave your resume… he heard so often.

Yea, we’ll throw it in the wastebasket as soon as you’re gone, he mentally completed the statement.

His assertiveness did result in a couple of positive contacts. He was able to outline some of his skills and experience. They said they would call him in for an interview if something came up.

The manager at Denny’s in downtown Victoria was genuinely impressed by him (looking around at his staff, you could tell he didn’t have the cream of the crop to choose from). The fact that he had worked in a Denny’s in the United States, the fatherland of Denny’s, was also a strong point in his favour. However, it didn’t look like there would be a full time opening for at least a month – and then there was the wait for his first check. There may be some casual work coming up, though, and, who knows, one of these winners might just not show up for work one day.

At the downtown library, he used a computer to search various job web sites. He came up with a few leads and wrote the contact information on slips of paper they provided by the computers. Back at the camper, he had an aging laptop that his parents had given him in high school. However, he had to go to the park lounge to get Wi-Fi, and they had the world’s slowest internet service there.

On the way home, he stopped at the general store on the highway near the RV park. He stretched his tall, lean form as he got out of the cab of his Ford pickup truck. His track coach in middle school told him he had a runner’s body. Running was what he loved to do, not only because he was good at it, but because of the way it made him feel. He felt like this was what he was born to do.

Tom had dark hair. It was thick on top and getting a bit long, at least for him. He was generally considered to be good looking, but not in a way that really stood out. These days he dressed mostly in jeans and a cotton shirt. He wore a dark blue waterproof jacket with reflecting stripes on the back.

At the general store, he picked up a few groceries, using some of his dwindling supply of cash to buy it. Before he left the camper, he searched every nook and cranny for change and took a five dollar bill from a stash in one of his drawers.

Sorry, he said to the attractive young woman behind the counter as he went through the painful process of finding and counting out the change. He was glad no one was behind him – he recalled the frustration he often felt when waiting in line, while some senior slowly counted out coins from a change purse.

I was running low on change, she said, smiling sweetly. She thanked him and scooped up the change

Thank you, Tom said. It struck him that he was becoming more Canadian all the time - now he was thanking people for taking his money.

He briefly contemplated asking her on a date, after all, he was free now. His relationship with Sarah, his common law partner in distant Tucson, had recently disintegrated. But then he remembered his financial situation.

This sucks! he thought.

Have a nice day! she said, flashing a wide smile and brushing back her red hair.

You too.

He got into the truck and continued driving. A sign ahead stated Strawberry Hills RV Park. The name came from the fact that the flatter area of the park used to be a strawberry u-pick farm.

His sister, Corrine, loved the Beatles. She frequently played songs from a compilation of their songs on her cd player. Tom was reminded of the song with a similar title when he saw the sign. Living is easy with eyes closed. played in his head.

Tom turned his truck into the access road. As he drove, he rolled his window down and shut off the radio and fan. He took a deep breath of the fresh air. It had rained only a short while ago and the warm air was heavy with moisture.

On the short drive into the RV park, he passed a parcel of land that, only last week, had a For Sale sign nailed to a tree near the road. The lot was being bulldozed. The trees were stacked in sorry heaps, ready to be hauled away. He couldn’t help wondering if they would go to a pulp mill, or if they would be just regarded as waste and dumped somewhere out of sight. In earlier days, the piles would have been drenched with gasoline and burned, but bylaws prohibited that now.

It killed him that these people would buy a lot out here, presumably because they loved the natural surroundings, and then decimate it. Then they would plant lawns, shrubs and flower gardens, followed by a fence to keep deer from grazing on the rose petals and shrubbery. It seemed insane to Tom.

He loved the smells that flowed from the woods around the RV park: the wildflowers, the cedar and fir trees, the junipers planted in rows between the sites and the bulbs that were starting to come up in the planters - at least the owner cared about things like that. Some of the other RV parks were cleared and gravelled or paved.

The owner, Mr. Sheppard, had built the park about 30 years ago, when RV parks were more lucrative. Now, with expenses going up and rent staying almost even, he was not getting rich. He was hanging on partly out of concern for the tenants. It was very expensive for them to move their units – half the park consisted of manufactured homes. And there was a shortage of good parks in this part of the Island.

A lot of his income came from short stay tourist visitors, but there had been a noticeable decline in that revenue since the last increase in ferry rates. It was getting very expensive to take the ferry, especially when it involved pulling a long RV. And that market was very seasonal.

When land values jumped about ten years ago, parks closed, one after another. There were usually articles in the paper that painted the owners as heartless capitalists and bemoaned the fact that these poor victims would be unable to come up with the money to move. They would not get much for their manufactured homes, and some of them would eventually end up homeless.

Mr. Sheppard was a member of a park owners association. When he attended their meetings, he would often hear them railing against the fact that they had become a combination of social workers and one of the few providers of low income housing. They were business men, but they were forced to make up for what society wasn’t doing for those below the poverty level. It wasn’t the park owners fault that many of the low income housing units in the city had been remodelled and sold off as condos that their former tenants couldn’t afford to buy.

Despite his good intentions, Mr Sheppard’s secret hope was that Victoria would expand out his way and he would be able to sell off some or all of his land to a developer at a good price. That would be his retirement nest egg, and tenants be damned if the price was right. He would feel bad for them for a little while. At some level, he did care what happened to them, but it would be goodbye to so many headaches. As the novelist David Mitchell would say - his conscience did have an off switch.

The countryside surrounding the park was completely unlike the landscape in Tucson, where Tom had lived only a few months ago. The only similarities were the low, rounded mountains, the ridges and rocks.

The flora and fauna were utterly different. The tall, ancient firs and cedars of the northern rainforest contrasted with the tall ancient cactus of the Sonoran Dessert.

The lush rainforest floor replaced the sand, smaller cacti, the creosote and mesquite bushes and a variety of sparsely growing smaller plants that maintained a toehold on existence under the hot Tucson sun, waiting for the almost non-existent rain.

When rain did come, the desert floor erupted into a variety of blossoms. The small pools that formed were miniature gardens. Each flower tried to make the most of the short interval of moisture to produce seeds that would lay dormant until the next blessed rain.

The Tucson’s fauna was almost totally unlike as well: there was the roadrunner (made famous by Saturday morning cartoons) and several kinds of small mammals: small pigs called havelenas, coyotes, rabbits and various rodents.

These all miraculously survived the merciless sun, coming out only at night to feed on insects, and whatever plant life endured the harsh daylight. The smaller mammals drew their life-sustaining water from this meagre fare and the tiny hidden sources in the earth, known only to them. The snakes and lizards warmed in the morning sun till near desiccation and then retired to their dens to wait out the scorching heat of the day.

On Vancouver Island, there was abundant rain, uninterrupted lushness. Everything eventually turned green with mould and moss. There were roofs on derelict buildings that were covered in the thick green. An abandoned truck, once shiny white, was now green, brown and black, rusting in the constant showers. The branches of trees were also covered in bright green moss and the forest floor was covered with a variety of ferns, mushrooms and small flowers.

Tom felt displaced sometimes. He had lived in Canada before, but that was many years ago and it was in Vancouver, not on the Island. When he arrived in Canada a few months ago, he had visited his old neighbourhood near Broadway and he barely recognized it. It had gone through a complete cycle since he left. It was once a thriving community that housed a lot of the students and faculty from the University of British Columbia. There were many who were more hippy than student, and now most of them couldn’t afford to live there. Now there were upscale restaurants, boutiques and high rises with small condos that start at a half a million. Vancouver had become such an expensive place to live.

He spent an afternoon in the downtown eastside, visiting Chinatown, walking down East Hastings Street. Vancouver always had a sizable homeless population. The warm climate allowed for it, although there were a few nights in winter when sleeping outdoors could be hazardous, and emergency shelters were opened. Still, he was shocked by the number of people pushing shopping carts with all their possessions stuffed in garbage bags, caught in the downward grind of addiction, disability and mental illness. Many were huddled in doorways, in a futile attempt to keep dry. Wandering through that part of the city felt like falling into some dystopian future in which society, as we know it, had collapsed.

He liked living on the Island. Many of the people he met here were more down to earth, more accepting, less assured of how great they were than some of the people he met in Vancouver.

Vancouver Island was not a cheap place to live either, but somehow these people seemed less driven than people on the mainland. There were remnants of the counter culture here – people who had done the back to the land thing and drifters who had come here from the Prairies and Eastern Canada. Musicians, artists and New Agers abounded – especially in places like Saltspring Island, where Tom had spent a few days last fall.

There were niches where the poor and disadvantaged managed to subsist. This RV park was one of those niches. His neighbours had been very helpful, advising him on how to apply for a Social Insurance Number so he would legally be able to work, directing him to the food bank and advising him on how to apply for welfare. He had applied for welfare, but it would be a couple of months before he would see a meagre cheque – they put up plenty of barriers here to discourage people from applying.

Once a week, they would have pot luck suppers, organized by the park association, and some of these suppers were attended by musicians who lived in the park. They put on impromptu jam sessions that went on well into the night.

There were problems here, as well. On one occasion, the police attempted an arrest of a man suspected of dealing drugs. He barricaded himself in his trailer, resulting in a standoff that lasted half a day. Despite that, this was a good place to live.

And there were definitely a few eccentrics living here.

There was Harold, who left a successful law practice in Calgary to explore art. There were rumours that he was actually fairly well off, having saved a lot from his lawyer days. He lived here by preference, having no stomach for the fast paced, competitive, and affluent lifestyle that was the norm on the West Coast.

He had built an enclosed porch onto his manufactured home, where he spent his days churning out paintings. It was hard for the park residents to believe that any of them sold. They were totally abstract and hardly anyone in the park looked at them without scratching their heads. It was great, though, to have a source of legal advice in the park for the price of a bottle of wine.

Then there was the former teacher, Nancy. She was a middle aged woman, who, according to the rumours, had had a nervous breakdown and hardly came out of her house. She could be seen occasionally peering out between the blinds of her window. Tom’s neighbour, Darryl, said she was one of those goraphobics.

The winner in the most eccentric category was Sam. He was a tall, unkempt man in his early 40’s. Sam could be seen every day walking down to the lounge to pick up the mail, sometimes openly muttering to himself. According to rumours in the park, he was a schizophrenic who, if he took his medication, was usually was not too bad. He attended many park events. It was a mark of the tolerance in the park that most of the tenants accepted him. A few of the park tenants even kept an eye out for him and offered him support.

Nancy was probably the most regular of Sam’s visitors. She lived in the unit next door and, on the rare occasions she left her house, she slipped over to check in on him, to make sure he was taking his medications and looking after himself.

A black SUV was occasionally parked in front of Sam’s unit, often on Sunday, and a well-dressed couple were seen going to visit, carrying a shopping bag or two. They would stay for an hour or so, put some garbage bags in their trunk, then leave.

There is a saying among the locals: Victoria collects so many crazies because they head west and run out of land. The term crazy was just an excuse to write people off, according to Tom’s way of thinking.

Tom arrived at his unit and got out. It was a fifth wheel with two slide outs. It was large enough to have a bedroom in the back and had all the comforts of home – a flat screen TV in the living room, air conditioning, a fridge, gas stove, microwave and a bathroom with a shower. It was well insulated - enough that he was comfortable through the temperate west coast winter. It was a few years old, but the former owners hadn’t used it much and it was in good condition.

His neighbour, Darryl, was a carpenter. He helped Tom attach skirting around the bottom of the camper to keep the wind from blowing under it. This eliminated the possibility of pipes freezing and reduced his propane use. Darryl gave him a list of materials and only asked fifty dollars and a case of beer for the labour. To top it off, he had drunk some of the beer while they were putting up the skirting. A few days later, Darryl invited him over to finish off the case, and