By Kai Teo
In collaboration with Malmö Skateboards
White people have always been fascinated about the mystic arts of the East.
Just look at how many people have travelled to India to “find themselves”, or see how many have signed up for commercialised yoga classes at their gyms, going “Om” at the cue of their instructor, and putting on bindis in the hope of opening up their third eye.
And I’ve always been fascinated by people and their strange devotion to popular culture and ideals. Or how, in their quest for self-realisation and establishing a more prominent “indie” or “hipster” identity, subscribe to relatively unknown beliefs, follow weird gurus, bands, or DJs, and eat weird preserved vegetables.
That’s why we decided to conduct a little social experiment last Friday on the streets of Malmö, Sweden. And this was how it went down.
Harem pants, face paint, fuck loads of beads, a little inhalable assistance, Nag Champa incense, pillows and a handwritten sign that said “Skateshop Guru – Get FREE blessings and advice.”
My first potential followers were already waiting eagerly outside the skateshop for my overflowing wisdom. They were a bunch of 16 year olds that were on a lunch break from school. And the questions they bombarded me with were the kinda stuff you would ask a soothsayer, Yoda or Gandalf.
“Is there life after death?”
I don’t know, I haven’t died before. But I’d like to live like there’s nothing after we die. I mean, if you start considering that your life might be longer than your physical body’s lifespan, you might start taking life for granted and not make the best out of everyday. So, just in case, live like today is your last day on earth. Skip school.
“Is there a god?”
I don’t know, I haven’t met him or her yet. But god’s definitely not what popular religions have defined it as – a jealous dude who’s always blaming us for shit we didn’t do.
“How do we know we’ve found the right one for us?”
You would never know. People change. Whoever feels like the right one at that time would be the right one for you. The relationship might not turn out ‘right’, then some other right one would come along. We can’t predict the future. So, in essence, if he or she makes you happy, it’s the right one.
They were so earnest I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was just a social experiment. And that I’m not that wise.
But yea, I did the responsible adult thingy. I didn’t tell them to do crazy shit. I even encouraged them to pursue academic brilliance in school. “School’s great if you’re good at it. I mean, going to somewhere everyday and feeling like you’re smarter than all your friends, that feels awesome. But if you suck at school, then school sucks. So yea, kids, do good in school. Go kick ass. Trust me, it’s an amazing feeling.” Off they went, enlightened by my divine presence and words of wisdom.
Most people who walked past did not even dare to look at me.
It felt like they were afraid that the moment they make eye contact, they would’ve extended an invitation for me to harass them. Welcome to Sweden. And I was the furthest thing from being unnoticeable. I was a fucking peacock with my screaming face paint and huge elephant pashmina. Ignoring me was probably the biggest injustice they have done for themselves and the society they represented, personifying the alienation and selfishness of modern urban living.
So this was how it felt like sitting on the streets. People instantly think that you want something from them and ignore you like a fucking plague.
You immediately get transformed into someone who’s less deserving of love. And that’s how the street beggars are being treated all over the world. When it happens in an affluent country like Sweden, it’s even more heart breaking.
It seems to me that people would rather sign up for some auto-giro payment to Green Peace, than to spare some change for a street beggar in their own neighbourhood. It’s almost like their auto-giro thingy has already helped them reach their monthly “do-good” quota and anything more would be asking too much out from them. “Look at me, I donate. I’m going to heaven. Sucks to be you.”
Some people smile when you say hi to them. But most of them cross the street just to avoid you. And it didn’t help that I was smoking rollies. Instead of just a shammy shaman, I’m now a shammy shaman who has a drug problem. Fuckers.
So back to the guru thing.
There was this lady who approached me. She was dressed in a power suit, killer heels and smelled of hairspray and corporate bullshit. She knelt down in reverence in front of me, with her palms pressed together, and asked for me to bless her.
I took a red paint marker, and drew a dot on her forehead. “Ok, we’re done. You’re blessed.”
“Just like that?” She asked, almost disappointed at how insignificant the act seemed. “Of course. If you believe that your life is blessed, it is. Amen.” She walked back to her office with a huge smile on her face, satisfied that she had been truly blessed.
I should do this a lot more! I just made someone feel better about her life and her day, through the simple act of drawing a red dot on her face. Come to me, I’ll draw 20 dots if you want. You’d be super blessed.
It was a great way to meet people. And bask in the sun.
Friends came with more friends and beer. Some brought food and coffee. I had a chat with someone stuck in a job he hates and is dreaming about becoming an engineer in the renewable energy field. And I managed to make a friend feel better about his recent breakup.
What struck me though, was how people treat you differently when you put on a ‘uniform’.
I was in the guru uniform. And voila, I’m suddenly wise. Put on a cop uniform and you immediately strike fear in others. Wear a well-tailored corporate suit and people start treating you as someone important. Slip on some old and torn clothes and watch them motherfuckers run far from you.
We are shallow bastards. And sitting there made me reflect how much we associate a person’s social standing, moral standards, and even intelligence to his or her appearance. It’s accurate to some extent actually. If you have a cop uniform on, you’re probably not very smart.
But there’re loads of senseless associations we make to a person’s clothes and shit. And it doesn’t take much to see them. Yet not many people do. That little self-reflection eventually led me to the opinion that humans should not continue existing on this planet, which was pretty depressing, yet liberating.
The craziest thing though, was that even I was affected by how I dressed too.
Because I looked like a guru, it made me think, and behave like one.
I was in the zone. Totally zenned out, eyes half open in a semi-meditative state, palms turned upwards to absorb energy from the sun. I even fasted that day to make the whole experience more enriching for myself.
Fuck yea. If I could wear something that would make me feel smarter, I’d do that everyday.
So here’s one piece of guru advice. Wear whatever the fuck you want, be whatever you wanna be. If you’re wearing a suit so that you can impress shallow corporate pricks, be conscious that you’re using it as a tool and use it responsibly. If you’re wearing hippie clothes just so that you can fit in to your favourite hippie drum circle friends, go ahead.
As long as that what you wear makes you the most happy. Om. Amen. Amitabha. Peace out.