Buddhism as a Second Language: Welcome to Thailand…

IMG_2692My name is Hardie and I am a workaholic. I started with the small stuff, house raisings and assorted cabin crew, sharp nails into wood and flesh, before moving on to the harder stuff—self-employment! And business!! AARRGGHH!!! But that was just the warm-up to the true disease, a consistent and constant submission to the little man upstairs, who whispered in my ear little things like: “Have you ever heard of multi-tasking?” And that was my downfall, multiple jobs and multiple careers, all simultaneously and in synchronicity—more or less…

Because, as we now know, there is no true multi-tasking, but more like constant switching, so not a true mix of jobs, but an assortment of jobs, in several cities, and countries, and the constant switching between them, in real time, that is largely a waste of time, and energy, like nibbling from a plate of hors d’oeuvres while stuck in traffic instead of having a healthy solid meal on a nice plate in a nice room with a nice family…

But I’m better now. The consumptive mental afflictions that once threatened to kill me are now almost laughable. More importantly, the possession and aggression that I sometimes felt, often against those closest to me, has been reduced to a level low enough to suppress easily and almost instantaneously…

Better still: this comes at little cost to healthy emotions, such that my intensity of feelings has never been higher, while my attachment to them has never been lower, and that’s the Holy Grail of Buddhism—the cup always at least half full, never overflowing, but never empty, of anything except intrinsic reality…

So when the parking lady here in Chiang Rai, Thailand, started hassling me about the ten baht parking charge—forty cents US—I thought she was screwing with me (farang!), so I proceeded to rip her out a new tunnel for the A-train, threatening this and that and walking off in a huff and a puff of smoke, only to realize about five minutes later that the whole incident was imminently avoidable, and mostly my fault, over-sensitive to slights in a country where one can never quite escape the indignity of constantly being labeled as tourist…

So on the way back I apologized and she’s like, “yeah, right”, so I decided to up the ante by opening my shopping bag full of goodies to her: “Could I offer you a snack?”

I’ll go for that.”

“Take your pick,” I holding out four bags on as many outstretched fingers with no malice aforethought or prejudice as afterthought, but none of them worth any more than a half-quid at current exchange rates, so no great loss even if she picks the prize-winning picnic accessory…

“Why did you think I was cheating you?” she’s serious, and hurt…

“Last time (last year, that is) it was only four baht”… (no wait, that’s BS) “you just caught me at a bad moment; I’m sorry,” putting my hands up in a Thai wai pose, for forgiveness…

“I’ll take this one…,” she says grabbing my favorite flavor and walking away almost as fast as her decision, so not TOO fast…

“You got it—and don’t forget to smile,” I holding up my camera, ready at the trigger, no wonder I’m constantly on the defensive at being taken for a tourist…

And she cops a nice sweet pose, typical Thai always ready for a photo. Click. And she’s off…

“Hey, we’re friends now, right?” I still needing closure…

She turns around and bursts into the most beautiful hideous laughter. And that makes it all worthwhile, the anger and the forgiveness and the happy ending. God, that felt good. I’m glad I didn’t have to win. It’s like a revelation, really, or maybe even an epiphany, that here in the midst of the most utter chaos, with life in the balance, and politics not far behind, that somehow I manage to feel a peace, that transcends cause and effect, and that must be religion…

And the moral of the story is: it’s okay to feel anger, or greed, or lust, or envy, or whatever. Just don’t hang on to it, nor for long, anyway. As the Buddha himself said (I’m joking now): “Let that shit go, man! Let that shit go…”