Now that I was on the major transit corridor, the opportunity to hit Mandalay the next day in order to flee Myanmar the day after was now an option, and the transit corridor afforded a signal by which I could plot this next move on my smartphone. Did I want to make a hasty exit? Or did I want to go to Pyay on the other side of the Bago Yoma? Despite being the Myanmar Situation’s primary north-south transit link, mobile data service was nonetheless intermittent. Between big chomping spoonfuls of biryani and lost connections, I used a mapping application to zoom into the road going over the mountains to Pyay. But the image wasn't clear enough to discern dirt from paving. When Krishna returned to inquire as to whether I would like a second helping — yes indeed — I asked about this mountainous road, explaining enough of Plan A for him to offer valid advice, once he confirmed his understanding of it.

“You are on motorbike and you want to drive it to Pyay?” he repeated.

“Yes, I want to go through the mountains. Do you know if the road is in good condition?”

“It's a long way and it's very remote,” he said. “What do you do if you break down?” his voice raised to a concerned pitch as he made his way through this question. I didn't speak of the two liter network or the finer points of my tactical approach. I mentioned nothing of the Deviant's Struggle, but painted the picture in a different way, letting him fill in the unspoken details while remaining on the subject of road conditions. As in, how were they? I did this by asking: “Do you know if the road is like the one from Loikaw to here?”

“You drove here from Loikaw?” he asked, his voice now a higher pitch of surprise, not concern.

“I just arrived a couple hours ago.”

“Such a long way!”

“Yeah, it really was. And mostly on dirt roads too,” I replied. “I'm so hungry and exhausted right now.”

“And tomorrow you want to go to Pyay?”

“No, I think I need to rest tomorrow. Today was too much. Do you know if the road to Pyay is paved though?”

“Why do you want to go to Pyay?”

“I want to go to the coast. From Pyay I'll cross the mountains into Rakhine and go to the beach. Do you know if there are military posts in those mountains? I heard there were conflicts in Rakhine.”

“Going to the Rakhine state might not be safe. There were problems between the army, the monks, and the Muslims. Maybe ask someone in Pyay how it is now. They will know better than I do.” He gave me directions for how to get to the road leading to Pyay but never spoke of the road conditions. Most likely because he didn't know.

I sat there wondering to myself what the hell was I doing with myself. Pushing boundaries remained the best answer I could come up with. By choice I had been free of employment for a hazy eighteen months. During that time nearly each and every day was devoted to research, reading book after book and acquiring the knowledge necessary for making my own contribution to critical theory — which at some point I would need to write down. Otherwise I did bits of exercise, met a few new people on the way, and generally did my best to be as distant from the United States as possible. No emails and minimal phone contact.

I was beginning to long for answers as to where it was all leading, particularly when someone respectable or dad-like happened to ask. And in those tragic moments when I broached this question to myself, the lack of answers spiraled outward into nebulous, ungrounded emptiness. I believed in myself. That was my only grounding on this limb I had climbed far out upon. Being deviant without a cause in the Myanmar Situation had the unintended effect of compounding the most nebulous details of my overall circumstance. As a deviation within the greater no-jobby-job deviation, which stood on a whole string of previous deviations — me being deviant by nature — like a castle made of sand I found myself battered and bruised, driving one horrible road from sucky here to sucky there. Meanwhile, I had to accept that the entirety of Plan A was just that: renting a motorbike and driving it all over the place. Not unlike a chicken with its head cut off, one might indelicately suggest.

Now that I was in Taungoo, having just driven through the one village in the one intact section of mountains I had thus far found, discovering that I was not at all up to the task of becoming a jungleman at that point in time, I sat toothless before my plate of meatless biryani, scrambling to find purpose. Amid this mental scramble, the idea of turning north — to turn tail, if you will — was quiltishly easy to embrace. At the same time I knew there was value in proceeding, despite not having a grip on what that value was. Within that emptiness of understanding I inserted the concept of boundary-pushing (a.k.a., headless chicken wanderings) as a means for achieving greater mental and spiritual freedom, using this conceptual stop-gap as motivation to push onward. And when it was discovered, not just at this table in Taungoo but several times before and thereafter, I used this device as inspiration to open my map and plan my route to the next sucky city, which only required a few seconds: I shall take this, the one horrible road leading from sucky here to sucky there.

Deviation Forum
On Being a Causeless Deviant
What's The Story?
Despite ongoing civil conflicts Myanmar has recently opened its doors to foreign visitors, promising reform and a transition to democracy, and Ash Hoden is inexplicably compelled to explore the nation’s jungles. Through a back alley winkie-wink handshake he acquires a mechanically prone Chinese motorbike, which it is illegal for him to rent or drive, and takes to the road. Evolving from a blind stumble to a wide-eyed limp, the voyage reveals a stark, behind the scenes glimpse of the social and environmental conditions found in this oppressed and unsettled nation. Assuming economic isolation equated to an abundance of raw wilderness, he finds desolation instead; frontier zones where resources were plundered and shipped to international production zones, further impoverishing tribes who depended on them. Rather than isolating Myanmar’s natural resources from market forces, international sanctions exposed them to lawless pilfering by its military regime. Aimlessly driving from sucky here to sucky there, struggling to find cause for continuing such a seemingly pointless endeavor, he slowly comprehends the nation’s distinct cultural conditions — preserved by force in a vague midpoint between tradition and modernity.

Myanmar is a fledgeling, incoherent conglomerate of ethnicities and folk tribes, all struggling to survive under an oppressive regime. It is a window through which the preliminary stages of constructing a nation-state are on display, complete with the need to establish a national identity as a means for homogenizing disparate people into a uniform, contemporary notion of The People — much the way it happened in the United States.

Layered into the adventure itself, elucidated piece by piece with each twist and turn, is the birth of a philosophical framework for living an exquisitely less obedient life. The meaning and excitement of Deviation as an ethical pursuit blossoms in tandem with the meaning and excitement of the author’s own deviation. Involving crossings through war terrain, detainment in a remote military outpost, frequent mechanical breakdowns, and lots of pondering about the nature of it all, this is Deviation’s origin story.
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