Paradise Lost – Or Perhaps Found
Perhaps the strongest emotions that can be generated in the human entity (other than anger) are those associated with leaving and the word "goodbye". It need not necessarily be a separation from a person whom we have come to love over a period of time – perhaps a lifetime – but it can also be letting go of feelings of attachment to a place with significant memories of times experienced in that place. It could be a place where one has grown up as a child – or perhaps a place where family members have been laid to rest – maybe even a past love who has been placed to rest there.
Where I am concerned, it has nothing to do with citizenship or any facet of the country where I was born and raised – it is all about personal issues with people I have known, respected and loved – and places, times and events that were significant and shared with those people. I have had dual US and Australian citizenship since a child but the US way of living does nothing for me at all – and I choose to live in Australia only because I see it as marginally better than life in USA. I am neither inspired by "The Star Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America" or "Advance Australia Fair" and "Waltzing Matilda" – so some would say I lack patriotism. That's probably a fair comment as I could never be accused of jingoism. I'd rather listen to "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin.
On the occasions when I have been back to USA there have never been feelings of sadness at leaving Australia nor feelings of excitement at arriving in America. The reverse has also been true. Likewise, I never felt anything about leaving Australia to go to Britain. However, where Thailand is concerned, the feelings are vastly different for me. For my first visit to Thailand, there were some feelings of sadness at leavng long-time friends – but no feelings of sadness at leaving Australia – only feelings of excitement and anticipation of arriving in Bangkok. I knew this place was so very different and, even though I had never been there previously, it felt like coming home. It has always been like that for me – every single time I fly into Bangkok or Chiang Mai feels the same. When the time comes to leave Thailand, I become quite depressed a couple of days beforehand, leaving is worse but coming back to Australia is something I never want to consider.
Many would probably say I am one of the genus called "queer cattle" (particularly in Oz terminology) – that doesn't bother me since I have always believed it best to be totally honest where feelings are concerned. There are those who will say "Home is where the heart is" – and I have to agree totally with that statement rather than the cynical statement that "Home is where I hang my hat". You cannot be happy unless you are in a place where you feel love for your surroundings and for those with whom you mingle every day.
Stick published a sub last Frday (26 July) – "The Old Hand" – a sub that I enjoyed reading so much. I would never call myself
an "Old Hand" because I don't believe 14 years (some there and some away) qualifies me to take that title – but I understand what Anonymous was writing about. It was all about private, treasured memories from the viewpoint of a
man who has seen it all (wins and losses) and accepts it for what it is but can still look back with fondness. He writes "I’m not alone at the bar; there are four or five clones of me doing the thousand yard stare, all no doubt playing
their 70’s favourites around in their heads".
I know that "thousand-yard stare" so well – but I am fortunate in that I now always engage the mamasan or a couple of girls at the bar in conversation because I truly am interested in them as persons and I want to hear their stories. Funnily enough, at many bars, those 70's favourites are still played – but I am gradually encouraging the mamasan at one particular bar in Patpong to play Thai pop music. She was ecstatic the first time I asked her to do so. Her response was "You like Thai music?" – with a surprised look on her face and a smile. Then, out came this big box of discs and we sat comparing notes and stories while singing the occasional verse from the song currently playing – that was so nice.
When not there – from Oz, for me, it's "The 4500 km stare" quite often at the work station – here in body but mind in BKK or CNX.
My second wife was a British health professional who held many responsible positions in hospitals in London and in Australia – and who always said to me that "change can be seen as a threat or a challenge – it depends on how you perceive things". Of course she was right (she was always right) – but still I dislike change, not because I see it as a "threat" but because I associate change with loss of contact with those that I once loved (and still do in many cases) and the totally-unrealistic expectation I have that things should remain as they are. Well there you go – there is a sure-fire recipe for disillusionment. Perhaps that's been my whole problem for so long.
From what I can see, perhaps everything comes down to your own particular belief system – some call it religion but I think that term is too polarising. In The West, we see parting and goodbyes as the start of regret at not seeing that person again or, at best, for a long time. Christianity teaches us that we only have one chance at this life "so you better make it good, Boyo – there is always that brimstone pit in hell waiting for you". Comforting thought, isn't it? However, if we are good, we will be reunited with all our past family and loved ones in Paradise or Heaven (depends on if you are Western or Asian). For some of us, that could create more problems than joy – I wonder how a punch-up would go down in Heaven when old loves come together. That could be interesting to watch – maybe a bit of skin and hair flying around there. I wonder if God or Saint Peter would intervene. One thing's for sure – it would be a case of "Get back downstairs – we'll have none of that up here you know!".
From the Asian point of view, what happens will depend on how good you are in this life – but don't even begin to imagine you are going to get to Paradise in one lifetime – unless of course you become "Arhat" (completely enlightened and worthy of Nirvana) in one life. There are too many Asian belief systems to speak broadly about this, so let us just stay with Thai Theravada Buddhism and speculate what your future prospects could be. Some people have said to me that Thais are not really Buddhists – but I find that a bit unkind and possibly offensive. That's like saying The Pope is not a Christian – or that His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, is not the real thing.
We are all products of our upbringing and life experiences – and I honestly believe that most Thais are of good intent and truly do believe in the teachings of Guatama Buddha. However, there is the fact that there are a few extra deities being worshipped in Thailand – Ganesha, Shiva, Krishna, Rama (to name a few) – and I do think that some Thais get a bit confused with that. As an aware Thai Buddhist, one should believe that the whole life is a road where one must try to adhere to the basic precepts and do as much good as possible to make merit for the next life. I think most Thais follow this guidance. Of course Thais grieve for lost loved ones (as do all Asians) – it is a natural human reaction, regardless of the Buddhist teaching of avoiding "attachment". However, Thais believe that there are many lives other than this one – and I believe they are absolutely correct. But if I am wrong, I would hate to be in a Thai paradise and be involved in some of their punch-ups when old enemies meet – or when mia nois meet the real wife. Of course, in reality, none of these people would even be brought together in Paradise after those deviances – now would they? It would be a case of "Sorry Somchai and Araya – you ain't coming in here. You got another 500 lives to go before you become eligible".
Anyhow, I have decided I am going to come back in the next life as a Thai – born into a rich Thai family. Obviously, there must be a bribe to be paid for this privilege, so can someone please tell me how much – and where it has to be paid. Now I don't want any scammers to pick up on this one. This is rigi-didge!. I'm serious about this – so any honest souls out there who can give me that information of how much to send to their PO Box. Of course I will respond immediately – would I lie to you?
Picking up on one of the minor points you make about when the wife comes across the mistress, do a search on YouTube of Asian wife meeting Asian mistress – there are some hellishly nasty cat fight videos out there!