SEPTEMBER 13, 1955
SANUR, Bali, Indonesia, Sept. 13—In telling you about the dance which is given in connection with the cremation ceremonies, I think I should have explained some of the customs and beliefs surrounding death.
When a person dies, the body is wrapped and laid away, but the cremation may not take place for some time and the priest must be consulted and name an auspicious date. Certain times are not suitable and a poor person may have to wait until he has accumulated enough for the feast and other festivities.
Death is not occasion for sorrow. If the person has lived well on this earth, these people believe he or she will progress to something better. This is true even of a child. Therefore, they believe, even a mother must not mourn.
Children's birthdays are celebrated up to five years and neighbors will bring them presents. But after that age, even if a child celebrates a birthday, there are no more individual presents but the gifts are for the whole family's use. No grown person ever celebrated a birthday, so it must be easy to lose track of ones age. And, it seems to me, this might certainly be an advantage as time goes on.
There is also no time in the year set aside for a general interchange of gifts.
If a parent or close relative goes on a journey, then the custom is to bring back gifts to the children.
Mrs. Oka's children, when she talked to them on the telephone today, asked that she not forget to bring them some cookies, but she told me she might make the gifts books. She says all Balinese children want to learn and go to school but the facilities are still very inadequate and there is room in the schools for only about three out of five on a full-time basis.
We went into an art gallery close by the hotel this afternoon where a Mr. Pandy has his studio and a collection of carvings and other handcraft work for sale. I especially like the carvings of animals.
Wandering along a path that lies between the rice paddies late this afternoon we came on a lovely small village temple. No one was near but the place breathed peace and quiet, and we could see where all the offerings would be laid. These offerings will be food or fruit with flowers.
I have been reading on this trip some books we have laid by to reach for sometime. One is George Kennan's book on fifty years of american diplomacy. I found it most interesting, for all of the time he writes about I can remember and some of it I was close enough to watch develop. I find Mr. Kennan delightful to read and his thinking stimulating to follow.
Now I am enjoying very much Arthur M. Schlesinger's "Paths to the Present."
Neither of these books are recent publications but I feel they are good reading for a better understanding of our present-day situation. If the past can help us to understand the present and if knowledge of the past can prevent the repetition of mistakes, then as citizens of a democracy we should study the past.
Delayed telegrams, or rather messages, kept us from leaving here Thursday and reaching Bangkok as early as we have expected. It is impossible for us to leave until Sunday and all we can hope for is that some sightseeing can be arranged during the week in spite of a crowded schedule of meetings.