My Vocation


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I’ve been under the impression that they’re going to let me out soon, any day now, but each day that goes by I find that’s not the case. The administrators and supervisors who could or should know, avoid me when they see me in the hallways.

When they brought me
here, they lavished me with praise. I was the kind of young man they
wanted. My vocation was immediately apparent. It would be an insult
to God and a grave mistake for me to squander such an opportunity to
serve Him.

As time went on,
their enthusiasm waned. I was no longer the idea candidate. Other
boys came and went, but I remained, having been thoroughly charmed by
their appraisal of my gifts. Boys like me were the reason this place
existed. I was their walking mission statement.

My original mentor,
Father Pretorious, a kindly old man with rheumy eyes…

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Where are the Dead?


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We recently enjoyed Halloween. Even here in Thailand, the days get noticeably shorter this time of year, and the temperature drops at night. That’s a good thing. Thus begins our high tourist season and the hotels, restaurants and massage shops finally become profitable again. For this they endured eight months of suspended animation.

I find myself remembering those who have crossed the veil before me. The older I get, the more of them there are for me to recall. They had distinct personalities and with little effort I can imagine having a conversation with any one of a number of them. So where are they now?

I find it more difficult to imagine that they no longer exist than to visualize them somewhere else, in another dimension, one at which I will arrive any day now. I can easily admit that the body dies, but not the spirit. It can’t simply vanish, can it?

For some reason, over the last two weeks more than six of my friends have suffered heart attacks and strokes. Vascular surgery and stents have given them a newly extended warranty, but that temporary fix will eventually lapse. Since death is certain and forestalling it a doomed enterprise, why not just surrender as soon as the grim reaper knocks?

It would be easier if all this weren’t so hypothetical.

No Cause for Panic


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When things fall apart, it will be very sudden. Everyone will be taken by surprise. ATM’s will stop working. Recreational travel will cease. Borders that were once open will close indefinitely.

No one will be in charge, so there will be no one to complain to. People who don’t know any more than you do will try to reassure you that matters are under control, but they’ll be lying.

You won’t be able to observe much directly. You’ll see barriers that say “Road Closed” but you won’t be able to see why the road is closed. The reason for the closure will remain hidden. Rumors will fly, but no one will know the real truth. Most of what is said will be mere speculation.

It will steadily get worse. Food and water shortages will get everyone’s attention at once. Electricity outages, sanitation lapses, business closures, all will contribute to a mounting sense of panic. The more there is to panic about, the more the people who pretend to be in charge will say “there is no cause for panic.”

 

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Buddhist Lourdes or Fatima


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I began today by listening to Bertrand Russel’s 1927 lecture “Why I Am Not a Christian,” quite a brave thing for the BBC to broadcast at that time. I wish I had heard it when I was in grade school, for I wasted a lot of time practicing Catholic voodoo to ensure salvation for myself and others. Russel takes a dim view of Christian hell.

Today we went to the Wat Doi Kam, which is the Buddhist equivalence of maybe the Catholic shrines of Lourdes or Fatima. The Temple is located on a hill only a few miles west from our house. People come in droves to pray for good luck, facilitated in their efforts by a now-deceased holy monk. You say a short prayer three times, burn some incense, promising to return if your wish is granted and then leave an offering of fifty jasmine flowers. I’ve done it twice, once with my friend Nick last week, and today when I brought Wipa and Ken and his wife Jiew. So far I’m still waiting for results.

We all agreed it was a wonderful, colorful place, and not nearly as crowded as the temple on Doi Suthep which is serviced by tour buses.

Here are some pictures from it. A glorious day, puffy clouds, clean air, not too hot.

they’ve even got a golden statue of me in my present condition. How did they know I was coming?

 

 

 

Not Ready to Apologize


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Many of the Agent Orange victims of our war effort in Laos and Vietnam are still alive. They are still hideously malformed, requiring constant care from family members. We have never apologized, much less sought to make things right. We have never offered to pay reparations of any kind.

When you search the Internet for Agent Orange Victims, you come up with posts about our soldiers who were injured dumping Agent Orange on Vietnamese and Laotian civilians, and the forests and farmland in which they lived. Many people ask for compensation to be paid to our soldiers, but nobody is suggesting we pay the people on whom we dumped this toxic chemical.

Nor has anyone suggested that the stockholders of Dow Chemical or Monsanto (now Bayer) ante up. That was a long time ago, and even though we were embroiled in an undeclared war, those unfortunate people were “the enemy.”

Speaking of undeclared wars, the conflict in Korea was also such an affair “a United Nations police action” enforced by the country who gave the world napalm. We dumped plenty of the sticky, jellied gasoline on North Korea, and night-time bombing runs by Curtis Le May’s newly formed Air Force burned millions of civilians to a crisp as they slept.

Neither the Korean or Vietnam Wars accomplished what they intended. After hostilities ceased, the borders remained as they were at the start. Millions dead, billions spent, and few lessons learned.

Could Be Worse


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How lucky can one man get? I ask myself this occasionally, when I’m not actively focused on what I lack. How much time do I have left? There’s no way to know that, so I might as well act as if time were running out and I’d better hurry.

These are the ways I drive myself crazy. These questions and compulsions come from inside me, not from outside. The world isn’t insane, I am.

If you hang around people who seem content, either they really are or they’re hiding their inner turmoil. Maybe serial killers seem to have the Buddha nature. At least we’re sure they have the ability to create a plan of action and follow-through. Those are qualities I sorely lack.

And then there is the issue of codependency. I’m always worried what other people think of me, how they feel at this moment, and those worries preclude any chance I could champion my own interests. Again, serial killers suffer from none of that. They don’t care what their victims think or feel.

But I am lucky not to have been born a serial killer, nor to have become one along the bumpy road of life. Yes, things could be worse, much worse. For this I am grateful.