Mae-On Cave, Doi Saket Hot Springs


You can ride it in a loop from Chiang Mai. Total driving time is a couple of hours. Simply head east on the 1147 (highway goes by Promenada mall) , go to the cave, entrance fee 20 baht, 10 baht to park a motorcycle. There are monkeys. Too many monkeys. Nasty critters. Climb the steep staircase up, and then a treacherously steep on down into the cave.

It’s not a huge cave. It’s dry. The usual number of Buddhist statues.

After we left, we ate lunch and then continued on another half an hour or so to Doi Saket Hot Springs, one of our favorite hangouts. You pass through the most beautiful scenery, and it’s not yet been developed. That’s the good thing about being surrounded by mountains on all side. It doesn’t take long to get out of town and all that development.

One hour soak in hot mineral water is all you can take.  Get too limp and you won’t be able to drive home. A private cabin and tub is 200 baht, then a massage for 150 baht. I fell asleep. Then after drinking a coke to wake up drove home, 45 minutes. Highway 118 is under construction, so that part is kind of scary.  A wonderful half day trip.

 

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IQ AND ME


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When I was twelve, I took an IQ test and scored a 75. The nun who administered it took me aside and sadly informed me that I was borderline retarded and should not attempt going to a college preparatory high school. She said I would be better off pursuing vocational training, like small engine or shoe repair.

Turned out she was right. A few years ago I took the MENSA test and passed, so I guess I got smarter in the interim. She was right about the vocational training suggestion, though. In the long run, I would have done better learning how to do something practical, and might have prospered if there had been an established need for my services.

Instead I tried to enter the world of college teaching and never secured a full-time position that would lead to tenure. I took social security early and live on a pension that would not permit me to live as anything but a charity case in America. Today, I live in Thailand, where my social security pension is enough to live without having to eat my lunches along with my homeless neighbors in church basements.

The reason I scored so low on the IQ test I took when I was twelve is because I was very angry. I had been repeatedly humiliated and stifled by schooling and it was all I could do not to leap out the window like young Jim Thorpe and run off into the woods. I could read better than any of the other students in my class, but reading facility wasn’t something the nuns measured. We were learning to diagram sentences, a grammar game I could never get the hang of because I saw no point in it.

To this day, I am very sensitive about the notion of IQ. Testing and schooling are not high on my lists of activities. From my time in academia, I never met a college professor I thought was especially intelligent. I met many people who knew how to follow rules, play the game, and kiss ass, but I met very few brilliant people.

THE FOLLY OF TEACHING LITERACY


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Can literacy be taught? I don’t think so. You have to enjoy reading and writing and the thinking that goes into it before you can be taught anything, and even then you’ll probably end up being self-taught because you’re already interested. Being taught rules won’t help. Rules just take all the fun out of it.

I’m good at learning foreign languages but have no interest in rules of grammar. I think I’m good at it because I don’t care about the rules of grammar. Correct usage will come from practice, but the first steps are to have fun communicating in this new lingo.

School and schooling are a way of killing any natural interest and resultant delight that comes from interacting with the world. Standardized testing is the ultimate distillation of schooling and all that it entails. If you don’t get off on taking tests, then you’re probably not going to do well in school, anyway. Might as well start a garage band or learn to work on your own vehicles.

Certifications are false promises delivered by educators and enforced by those empowered to police the marketplace. The missing ingredient that cannot be taught is “get up and go.”

If I really want to learn something, I’ll find someone who’s good at it and ask him the explain it enough to get me started. Then I’ll go it alone.

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SHAME MEETS COURTESY


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The Buddhists believe that desire and suffering are conceived at the same moment. I have decided that courtesy and shame have the same relationship. Here in Thailand, I have been attending public swimming pools for eight years now, and I realized that I have never seen a male Thai person’s penis. Thais are very shy, almost puritanical about nudity. There are many Thai couples who have never seen each other naked, even though they’ve had children together.

Thanks to happy ending massages and places like Pattaya and Patpong Road in Bangkok, where thousands of prostitutes line the streets, you’d think it would be otherwise here in the Land of Smiles, but no. You will never see a co-ed sauna here, nor any public displays of skinny dipping.

One of the first things babies here are taught is how to “wai” that hands together greeting made in front of the face…

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The Futility of Addiction


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Released from the obligation to work, many retired people find themselves to be unsuspected addicts. With plenty of time on their hands, they are free to finally ruin their lives through addiction. Alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, sex…almost any activity can be ruinous if taken to an extreme.

Addicts usually spend a great amount of time rationalizing their addiction before daring to confront it. It’s not that bad yet…You’d do this too if…I only do this because she doesn’t…I’m just letting off steam…besides, what else is there to do in this stupid place?

Addicts often wishfully conclude that if only they take their addictive behavior to an extreme, they’ll somehow “break through to the other side” and prove to themselves that this way lies folly. They’ll tire of the game. They’ll have finally had enough. By “maxxing out,” they’ll find freedom from the compulsion.

You can never get enough of what you don’t need.

An addict is like a man digging a hole so deep he can’t climb out of it, but he’s convinced himself that if he digs faster or harder or more efficiently, he’ll finally find a way up and out. He can’t face the fact that he won’t be able to take any action to climb out of the hole until he first stops digging.

To use another metaphor: if you’re walking down the wrong path, walking faster won’t get you where you want to go. Imagining your goal around the next corner won’t help. You’ll simply have to realize that you’ve taken the wrong path, stop, turn around and painful as it may be, retrace your steps until you get back to the place where you made a wrong turn. You’ll have to chalk up all the time and energy you spent going the wrong way as loss. There is no other way around it.

Lamphun Temples


Northern Thailand, a small city in between Chiang Mai and Lampang. Two historic temples.

 

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The temple in the top two photos dates from 750 A.D.  Older than Charlemagne. The golden jedi in the second three is gold plate and leaf, not paint.

Avuncular Gestures


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The word means to act like an uncle. Uncles might wish you well, might even go out of their way to help you, but they don’t feel the same responsibility or dread of shame regarding your behavior. They’re not your father, they’re not your boyfriend. They’re the brother of one of your parents.

If I can trick myself into feeling and acting in an avuncular capacity towards all the people I encounter who aren’t my nieces or nephews, then I will truly be a happy man. I will be giving without thought of reward.

I’ve met people much richer than I who when I say something like “You’re pretty well off” counter by insisting “Me, I’m just barely getting by. Now that guy over there, he’s well off!” Rich people who can’t control their spending don’t feel rich. Those who dread losing everything don’t sleep well at night.

Little avuncular…

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