Here’s an excerpt from my book, Zentauria: My Season in the Warrior Utopia. The book is essentially an 11-week documentation of life with a secretive utopian community, on a small island off the east coast of Africa. I wrote it journal-style, with a conversational narrative, but I believe the themes, experiences and insights covered throughout might be useful – even inspiring – to others.
Day 7 – 3:33 AM (Guest Quarters)
I am seated at a massive mahogany desk in front of my laptop, surrounded by candles, African art, and the chatter of nearby monkeys. I’ve been staying here in these guest quarters for seven days now, and it already feels like home. It is situated at the end of a row of four other similar structures just outside the Mecca, amongst four acres of exquisite jungle terrain. Mine is called the Giza Hut for its Egyptian décor and various pyramid references, the most blatant of which is the Chamber: a windowless, airtight bedroom, located down a long flight of stairs near the kitchen, twenty-five feet underground. And when I turn off the lights down there and sink into that big, beautiful bed, I am back in the womb, suspended in complete darkness and silence. This is rapidly becoming the second place on the planet where I feel 100% comfortable… the other place that is truly me.
The rest of the Giza Hut is like a spacious and elegant Manhattan loft, with dark, hand-carved furnishings, plum carpet, and lush, textured walls, canvassed in deeply hued fabrics and paint. Windows are ample around here, with each one offering a unique “portrait” of the neighboring Zentauria terrain.
Sometimes I’ll crack a few open either during the day or evening and enjoy the refreshing jasmine breezes. (For full immersion into fresh air and a meditative outdoor ambience, there’s a black spiral staircase in the media room that leads to a Zen garden-themed rooftop terrace.) At the same time, gorgeous Egyptian and Asian draperies are also plentiful, so if you’re in more of a reclusive mood, this place can “go dark” in a hurry.
There is an artful and unusual coexistence of technology and aesthetics here. Flat screen monitors share wall space with oil paintings; various electronics reside comfortably next to antiques and sculptures; kitchen appliances dissolve into colorful hand-woven baskets of fruit. It is the yin and the yang, the old and the new. You feel connected to the ancient, museum-like ambience here without being disconnected from all that is leading-edge and modern.
Speaking of ambience, I’ve heard rumblings about the rich history of this structure, which dates back to the early 18th century. I take them all to heart. There is a deeply-rooted energy in this place. The walls feel as if they’ve retained the vibrations of a million prayers by a thousand monks, soaked up over 300 years. It feels good just to be in here. And I have enjoyed my daily ritual of coming back “home,” lighting up the candles and incense, fixing some peppermint tea, putting on some Coltrane, and opening up a vein here at this desk. I remain easily amused… even 10,000 miles from home.
As for how the other aspects of life in Zentauria are shaping up so far… damn! This place is quite literally like dying and going to heaven. I got all set up in my work space at the conservatory yesterday. It’s a striking two-room studio in a back hall near the percussion department. The drum room is spacious, comfortable, and decked out with everything I need to practice or demonstrate things, including a multimedia projection rig. They have several rows of chairs on hand near the back wall for master classes and what they call “public observation.”
Then my office/private quarters is set up in a space behind this room, and it is over the top: killer art, nice lamps and furniture, lots of interesting books and music, and rugs and draperies I could only describe as old-world royal. This place is like walking into the study of a medieval European castle. (They told me the desk in there was hand-carved ash from 16th century Italy.) There’s even a private “servant quarters” in the very back that’s set up like a studio apartment with basic furnishings, a full bathroom, and a kitchenette. I could feasibly stay there for days at a time, which I might be inclined to do if I didn’t love the Giza Hut so much. We’ll see.
These people are so generous, it’s mind-blowing. I have two main apprentices and one personal assistant. They are basically around to help out with anything I need, anytime, large or small. Incredibly, the two main guys, Logus and Tong (both percussion students), gathered a bunch of drums, cymbals, hardware, and Latin percussion instruments from a holding area at the conservatory and reconstructed my exact drum set-up, based on pictures and video from my website. I could not believe how accurate it was, right down to my intricate 10-foot pedal setup. At the same time, my assistant, Jarna Tszyu (last name pronounced “Zoo”), has been all over it. She’s a university student who takes this gig very seriously and has been invaluable in getting me all set up with day-to-day logistics like food, supplies, how commerce works (which is a whole other trippy story), and anything else I’ve needed to know.
Everything here in Zentauria seems to be some combination of practice and service. My service schedule, as discussed, will consist of a couple presentations during the week (in the form of an observation period, class, or lecture—my choice), and at least one solo concert appearance, where I can choose whatever kind of ensemble or format I want. Otherwise, I’m like a researcher, or an investigative reporter… free to cruise about the island, check things out, talk to whoever I want, then document all of my findings and observations.
Needless to say, things move very fast around here once conclusions are reached. Jin took me on Zentauria’s own PTV (public television) yesterday and introduced me to the community via an informal interview setting. He asked me a lot of questions about my background, my past lives and my meeting with Q, and what I found so compelling about Zentauria. He would often interject things to the camera in different languages (Chinese? Zentaurian?), but then quickly return back to English with a childlike smile, realizing that the dumb-ass American before him spoke only one language. They also rolled a few video clips of me playing drums and had me read a few excerpts of my writing from various manuscripts. It was basically an on-camera welcoming to the island. At times, I felt compelled to subtly bolster my résumé, so as to appear more worthy of being there. But they didn’t seem to give a shit about my social status or (minuscule) level of fame in the rest of the world. That’s clearly not why I’m here.
Jin also told everyone I had carte blanche to observe the community and document my experiences here. If I didn’t know any better, I would think the Council and the citizens of Zentauria were looking for me to document the particulars of this place through the filter of a westerner.
So… looks like it’s official: I am now an honorary Zentaurian.
Check out our official Zentauria page here for ordering info and more excerpts.
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