In Bali you have to claim a religion. It is the law.
“You won’t find any atheists here.” our driver Ketut told us. You can choose any religion you want, but you have to pick one. About 95 percent of the populace has chosen Hinduism.
I have always been fascinated by the stories and idols of this colorful practice. The devotees seem to have a tireless passion for their gods that seem to perpetuate without question.
The wisdom of this religion comes across in the Balinese’ everyday lives, even their driving. There are no specific road rules in Bali. You can get a license without taking a test. As wise Ketut put it, “We need no rules. Our rules come from inside.” According to him, if you follow the laws of your religion, you have all you need to get by.
When we first arrived on the island, we were shell-shocked by the erratic driving of both the cars and the motorbikes.
It was pouring rain and we were so glad that we didn’t have to find our own way to the remote hotel where we were staying. The two-lane highway was windy and full of pot holes but probably the most foreign to us was the symbiotic behavior between the drivers. Cars would take each other over while huge trucks were coming toward them on the opposite side of the road. Every time it looked like we would not make it back into our lane, the truck would slow down and the other car would let us in.
Ketut was surprised when I asked what the speed limit was. He asked back, “Why would we need these here? We can never drive fast anyway with this traffic.”
He mentioned at one point that there were no laws about drinking and driving, “We decided drinking and driving is not good for us so we don’t do it.”
This perfectly logical approach to handling a two-ton piece of metal made me wonder why a culture like ours needs such strict guidelines. How have we gotten so recklessness and aggressive? My answer came by looking to the Balinese people again.
There is a sensitivity that is ingrained in their culture that ours seems to lack. Common courtesy is reinforced by a daily practice of placing offerings in front of every shrine in every house and temple on the island.
Within these delicate and thoughtful packages are gifts that honor
and Each Other.
The meaning behind the ritual seems to be taken to heart and keeps the harmony between the people.
I myself am trying to keep the Bali philosophy and go with the flow here in LA. When someone cuts me off or rides my tail, I just smile and wave and take Ketut’s approach of having compassion for the poor guy, since he must really be in a hurry.
It is conceivable that one less person with road rage will help bring balance to our streets.