Memories of Thailand – Part 5 in Farangland
We are over 3 months into our 6-month journey in Farangland and I find myself missing some of my Thai habitual practices. Most of all I miss my Saturday nights in the Big Mango, especially hanging out on Cowboy for starters and finishing off the night in Hillary 2. Oh, the memories ?
Memories are different in Thais and Farangs. I used to wonder why Thais, with so little, are often happier than the farangs who visit, and who in comparison have so much more. I believe the answer lies in memories. We farangs have a problem with letting go of past (bad) experiences whereas Thais do not. Thais live in the present. Yesterday is gone, today is here, and who knows what the future will bring. Thais live in the moment.
Farangs have discovered this and of course, have renamed it, to call it their own. We refer to it as mindfulness. There are many definitions of mindfulness and it is very popular in educational settings these days.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
We farangs surround mindfulness with activities like yoga and meditation as we have difficulty achieving it. I believe Thais simply do it. Once you buy into Thai mindfulness then it explains many things.
We farangs worry way too much about the future. We strive after pension plans, life insurance, achieving wealth, and guaranteeing our future will be positive. Happiness is a home without a mortgage, a line of credit, a new car, etc.
For Thais, happiness is a communal meal with family and/or friends, and a smartphone to share those experiences with their wider social net. When you live in the present, it does not get much better.
In Farangland we often comment on corporate memory. Corporate memory can be summed up by, ‘It is not what you did for me last year, it is what you are doing for me now.’. Corporate memory is best illustrated by professional sports teams.
Thais have personalized corporate memory. That is why it is not a good reason to lend money to Thais. They seldom pay back loans. My own perfect, personal example is when my wife’s brother wanted to borrow 25,000 baht to buy a 10-year-old Honda Accord in ‘great’ condition. This request was complicated by the fact he could not start making payments until his motorbike loan was finished in 6 months. I, as an experienced farang, knew that the loan was not a good idea, because of the past, present, future issues discussed above.
I mentioned this to my wife, but she was torn by familial ties (inculcated in the Thai educational system). I mentioned to my wife that her brother would only consider paying the loan if he was getting any benefit from the loan proceeds during the length of the loan. I stated that it was highly unlikely that the car would last 6 months before needing repairs that her brother would not be able to afford. However, logic (especially future oriented) often loses out to karma (good things happen to good people) thinking and we made the loan. Needless to say, the future came to be, and we never received one payment on the loan and the brother’s thinking is, why pay for something I can’t use.
However, in the long-term, it was a good deal as we never have to lend the brother another dollar. He probably would have nickel and dimed us to death in small handouts over the years. The brother, however, can not understand why we won’t lend him any more money. Go figure.
I could never understand why, when a Thai messes up, they often run away. The situation could be a car accident, loan due, or a pregnant wife. Running away, changes the present immediately and possibly negates the past and the future can only be better. They simply do not rehash their decisions because of selective memory.
I used to think that religion played a big part in Thai thinking. After all, Buddhism gives you a mulligan or two whereas most religions give you one shot and then a happy or not so happy ending. However, I have found most Thais that I know really do not have a good understanding of Buddhism.
As I age, I have begun to realize that things do not make you happy, people make you happy, and you can’t take it with you, and the only things you leave behind in life are the memories that you leave behind in the people you interacted with in life. I miss my Saturday nights in the City of Angels, but most of all I miss those Angels and their welcoming smiles ?