Two days ago, we found out that we can go ahead and build a fifth floor onto our new building. That’s good news in a lot of respects, but unfortunately, our neighbors are turning green with envy. So it’s a mixed blessing, at least at the moment. Two neighbors have aimed an evil eye at our project so I’ve been sitting inside the house today burning incense and chanting to ward off the negative vibes.
“Well I guess Mars is up Uranus or something.” John said when he came back inside this morning from his rounds with the work crew. He was referring to the cosmic weirdness of how people tend to work themselves into a lather in cycles that often sync up. “The planets must be out of alignment because everybody is pissed about our windows today.”
The neighbors to the west are cool with us. Their alcoholic son has been employed by us off and on (he takes time off due to occasional drunkenness) for a year. But the neighbor to the east is just not the most wholesome dude we’ve ever known. He’s an all-around shady kind of guy; shifty, sullen…that sort of thing. Periodically he sends his wife or daughters over to complain to us that we have windows that look out onto their property. Periodically he says the windows are okay. He disappeared for about a month and we enjoyed his absence. John speculated that he went to jail or got thrown out of the house.
The neighbor diagonally behind us is a special person. He has a landfill of illegal things going on on his land. It’s nothing too shocking. He’s not a member of a cartel or anything, but he has a horse tied up in a tiny little enclosure next to his mechanic’s shop and he rents to a painter who works under a tent without proper ventilation. This neighbor regularly threatens to cap off our sewage pipe (which unfortunately passes through his land) about once a month, presumably when he gets low on cash.
School started today and my theory is that everyone has their feathers in a bunch over changing their schedules. That, and people see our building rising higher and they assume that we have the cash to grease some palms, hopefully theirs.
In English, I would use some Neurolinguistic Programming on angry folks who want to prey on me to blow off steam. Usually, people who go up against NLP end up leaving in tears–not because I’ve hurt their feelings but because NLP tends to expose the soft underbelly of things. NLP is like a linguistic kung-fu. You can use your opponent’s aggression against them when NLP is properly wielded. If Bruce Lee had been a psychologist instead of a martial artist, he would’ve been an expert in NLP.
Unfortunately, I’m not skilled enough in Spanish to use NLP on opponents. I bought a book on NLP in Spanish (it’s called PNL) and the technique mostly the same as English (kind of because Spanish speakers can use the subjunctive in unusual and important ways and I’m nowhere near mastering that yet), but the problem is, I have to listen to people’s words in Spanish and the actual, tangible meaning of what they’re saying. Often, I misunderstand on the most basic level what people are saying to me in Spanish. I can’t space off momentarily when someone is speaking to me in Spanish or I lose the thread of things and then I have to ask clarification questions to catch up. In English, I don’t just listen to words or ideas and I space off a lot and listen to another voice in my head that tells me what people are trying to say as well as a series of questions about things the people have strategically left out of their speech. I listen to the symbolic meaning of what people are saying to me. I listen for their emotion as well as their use of definite and indefinite articles (the’s vs. a’s and an’s can be pretty revealing). I listen for how they arrange their words and what they aren’t saying so that I can map out what’s missing. In Spanish, I have none of these skills yet.
I still struggle to say, “Buenas tardes” in the afternoon for crying out loud. To me, “Buenas días” should be totally appropriate all day long (but it’s not). In fact, I rather like, “Hola”, but it’s sort of stand-offish here in Guanajuato as it turns out.
So when the neighbors start picking at me and John, we’re left to devices that I’ve watched other people use on each other to start minor wars in small communities. Someone pushes me and I have to push back or evade and then counter. I have to linguistically kick them in the metaphorical nuts. I have to strategize and come up with ways to make it uncomfortable for them to go up against me as an opponent (so as to encourage them to back off and never ever come back for more).
And while I’m irritated by all the envy and anger swirling around me right now, this situation has reminded me that a lot of people don’t know NLP in English. Those people resort to defensive behaviors because they don’t know any linguistic kung-fu moves. This is true in every language I suppose except maybe Tibetan because I think Tibetans only speak in NLP all the time. Now, given, a lot of the shitty-angry people in the world never wanted to learn linguistic kung-fu because they kind of enjoy a good fight. This is a true statement. But still, I think that some people would probably choose to read a magazine or soak in the tub over having a spat with a neighbor over whether or not a cardboard box in the alley blew out of their trashcan or someone else’s. Those people who missed their Epsom salts soak because their neighbor had a cob shoved up their ass probably engage in the conflict out of a lack of other options (like NLP). And a week later, the city council has a meeting over taxing people who throw cardboard boxes into the trashcan during windstorms. Seriously?
I mean, c’mon folks—we all have to live together on the planet and for the most part, humans choose to live in close proximity to each other because we’re supposedly social creatures. But people pick at each other all over the planet. That’s why so many societies build multi-generational dwellings that form a protected square with a courtyard in the middle I suppose (that and the problem that governments worldwide tend to be oppressive and meddling).
In Arabic societies, people plaster evil-eye amulets all over everything to ward off envy. They don’t bathe their children and they let their kids’ noses run and the snot gets smeared all over their faces so as to keep strangers from wanting to kidnap them. These traditions originate in Bedouin society and they explain the presence of things like heavy curtains that obscure everything inside of the house and even parts of the house from other parts of the house. The idea is that if people can’t see what you have, they can’t covet it and the envy problem, the evil eye, can thus be avoided.
So while Arabs/Bedouins put evil eye amulets on everything to try to get others to stop envying their stuff, Buddhists try not to care about their stuff. They try to be unattached to what they have. Of course, Buddhists take the whole unattachment thing beyond the scope of this article, but I suppose the goal is kind of the same: to develop a buffer that makes it so they don’t have to worry about their stuff. Would Jesus have ever worried that his neighbor was going to cap off his drain and cause a flood of shit inside his house? If he had, the church certainly wouldn’t have canonized that story I’m sure, although Jesus may have had some good parables to share with people about the experience. If I love my neighbor as myself but he still caps off my sewage pipe in the middle of the night, do I turn the other cheek and let him cut the incoming water line too? Should I take him a bag of peaches for having gotten my attention or do I stop throwing my peaches to pigs and make sure that he doesn’t get any of the crumbs off my table ever again?
What I do know is that some of our nicer neighbors offered to let us move our drainage pipe through their land to solve the problem. I’ll take the bag of peaches to them. And David, our plumber/electrician helped us get some paperwork drawn up to make a contract with these nicer neighbors. And Felipe went to SIMIPAG, the water utility place to alert everyone to the shitty-neighbor problem. Our architect told us that it would be Kosher to saw off the sewage pipe at the edge of our property line and let our poopy water drain onto his land should the problem escalate to this level. That seems unwise, but possibly unavoidable. Let’s hope Mars is able to get back on course again soon.
While I don’t have the linguistic skills to properly defend myself, I feel very grateful for the sympathetic people
around us who are being helpful. And I think it’s important that I stay focused on that part of the ordeal. I know that I don’t really profit from getting too involved when adults start throwing temper tantrums, but I also know that sometimes fights are unavoidable. Tibet is a good example of how it would be unwise as the leader of a country to go ahead and skip that part about developing a military and knowing who your enemies are in case they decide to declare war against you. Sometimes people have to fight. Sometimes people have to defend their way of life or their way of life disappears to the detriment of all humanity. On the other hand though, sometimes the fighting is entirely superfluous—a sick form of entertainment. For now, John and I are on high alert because we’re not sure what this little spat is really about. We’re not sure if this is a tantrum or a full-on war just yet.