In light of all my travel and resultant spotty resume, I sometimes wonder if I need more stimulation than most people just to feel alive. I’m terrified of routine, or boredom, of having to endure what other people gladly do just to stay solvent. For some reason, I don’t feel like I should have to play by those rules. I don’t do boring or tedious.
But who does? The trick, of course, is to find everything interesting. That’s the ticket out of this false dilemma. The easily bored are the most boring of all.
Status, income, the attention or approval of others, don’t have the power to transform me for the better. They are fickle friends anyway, and can’t strike at the source of the problem because that’s not where they live, either. Try telling an anorexic woman that she’s not fat. See how far you get with that. You can’t modify a mental mechanism without knowing what it’s doing for you to begin with. Every thought pattern or habitual response is ultimately a coping mechanism, and you can’t expect to turn one off unless you have a substitute ready to insert in its place.
If I want to feel at home anywhere on this planet, I have to become a regular Joe. It finally occurs to me that imagining myself to be a savior or a genius or a uniquely qualified anything is delusion. Delusion is ultimately the most boring state of all!
So these realizations have brought me to Thailand, of all places, because I have the hunch that in some weird way I might be able to fit in. It’s not too much to imagine that people here might want to learn what I know and teach me what they know. From what I’ve experienced with Thai massage and Thai food, that’s a lot.
Most Thais I meet smile a lot, laugh easily, and don’t seem to need anti-depressants, while the Thai kids I’ve met have probably not yet been diagnosed with ADD. An absurd number of American adults are on an anti-depressant, and an even more shocking number of school children are either on Ritalin or Adderall. By the way, isn’t an adder a poisonous snake? Does that make Adderall the mother of all vipers?
Thais have their problems, sure, but one of them doesn’t seem to involve a conspiracy between the medical and pharmaceutical industries to ensnare them in a chemical straight jacket. Just that fact makes me optimistic that I might be able to find a place to fit in here.
On my last trip, I visited an orphanage and the neighboring Father Ray Foundation in Pattaya, the Las Vegas of Thailand. Pattaya has more than its share of street kids, runaways, unwanted babies, and these two organizations are doing something about it. I watched a video about the Father Ray Foundation’s programs (it’s on Youtube) and I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes. When I was there, I got to meet a six-year-old boy whose drunken parents had tossed him on a bonfire. Rescued by passers-by and brought to the Foundation, he was understandably freaked out. In shock. Big-time traumatized.
Instead of loading him up with therapy appointments and Paxil, they quickly put him into a new makeshift family with a surrogate mother and other orphans as brothers and sisters.
Of course in our country, we have been conditioned by our belief in popular psychology and the movies that promulgate those beliefs to cluck our tongues and say, “Maybe he seems OK now, but wait until he’s 18 and becomes a serial killer.” Then again, maybe not. I got the impression he had simply put it behind him, the way the Southeast Asian tsunami survivors had who explained to the flood of grief counselors we sent them that they saw no need to rehash a bad experience. Let it go. Move on. Thank you for coming all this way, but no, we don’t want to talk about it!
You can see the boy I’m talking about in the last shot of their video. He’s the one in the Superman T shirt, on the left, in the front row. The other kids are all hamming it up, and he hasn’t quite joined in yet, but you can see he’s thinking about smiling.
As it stands, my 401K could buy me a badly used mobile home, or a slightly better used RV. Those choices look grim to this aging boomer. So if I can open my horizons to health, pleasure, sanity, and free myself from the economic lash of poverty that would condemn me to spend my twilight years living in a van down by the river, it behooves me to jump at the chances offered by Thailand, Nicaragua, Argentina or Ecuador. Like the kid in the Superman shirt, I’m thinking about smiling, too.