Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making Merit

Brovic - Blogging Since 1903, On and Off
February 2012
Making Merit

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - What is it?  The 18th? 23rd? You can lose track of time over here.  People will ask, 'Where'd the time go?'  That's an easy answer for me.  Didn't go anywhere.  You did.

It's not uncommon to lose track of time and holidays in a non-Christian country where everything is upside down anyway - the weather, the stars, their eyes.  No Thanksgiving, as we know it, no Super Bowl, no Easter bunny resurrection of Christ, no Christmas with Christ but with the sales, no not none of those three-day weekend, semester break, where you going for the holidays we all grew up with and learned to cherish within our traditional culture.  Now Bobby cain't even say prayer in schoo.

So, over here, you can erase most of that stuff out as unimportant, you won't need it for the final, but it's not bad to have it in your notes.  I mean, who really cares who won?  What, the Super Duper Bowl?  The Crusades?  No.

For instance, right around the corner is a wat, a temple, Wat Khuk Khak.  It's full of monks, guys who are on it full time.  They haven't got your American three-day weekend or Christmas break, but they've got a begging bowl full of 'buddhist holidays' each month, I think, coinciding with the moon, and other special events throughout the year, big time, where everybody takes    in    off   takes part. Like New Year and the water festival, for instance.  Buddha's birthday.  The candle-lighting ceremony.

Then they've got these smaller local events - deaths and other observances where the family and locals take part, the women hustling around with the food prep and so on, and the men arranging things, setting things up.  That's probably pretty much the same across cultures, I'd say.


Yeah, some might say that sounds sexist.  I can just hear it; 'Well, over HERE, sometimes the women are setting things up.'  That's okay.  I can live with that.  But you'd probably run me out of your kitchen.


Somebody in the New York Times or some other publication said electronic communication and new technology has left us, basically, dummied down, as a populace.  Can't help but feel partly responsible for what he called 'nonsense' and ego-filled blogging.  That's why it's serves one well to go back through one's work and attempt to remove all references to one's self.

How you gonna do that? 

That would be...your records.  Police, juvenile home, transcripts, high school, college, court, hop-skip & jump, mouse clicks, site visits, twits, tweets, tax avoidance, heh heh heh, DWIs, and alllllllllll that other stuff you've recorded over a lifetime.  You thought 'literary references'?

How you gonna do that, remove all references to one's self?  You can't.   

You could say, in your world, you've always existed.  I have in mine.  Time didn't go nowhere, and neither did you.

Sound screwy?  No screwier than believing it's one's sacred duty to kill.  A lot of people buy into that. Sacred killing sounds not only screwy, but fantastically insecure and downright maniacal, but people cling to such a path and have it guide thought, word, and deed.  It only becomes real if you believe it.

It's just someone else's idea, the idea of a karmic record, and over here they believe you can do something about it.

This morning I hollered at my neighbor, my gardener, who has moved to a new location on the west side of the lake, just as he disappeared past the house on his 'sling', a motorbike with a one-wheeled open side cart.

He promptly turned and met me at the roadside, speaking a mouthful of Thai so fast like he usually has for the past six years that I've never understood a word he's said.  He pointed across the lake and made an eating motion with his hands, spooning from a bowl.

'Now?' I asked.  'Dio nii?'

He vigorously nodded yes.  I was to go over to Carl's and eat with four other farang, I think.  He kept holding up four fingers, I don't know why.

Drove over there on the motorbike to Carl and Mon's restaurant where there were four tables of Germans having breakfast but no one particularly interested in having me join them, other than a nod and, 'Guten Morgan'.

I went to the gardener's house, a small thatched hut with another small thatched hut housing some of his family, and another small plaform out front with a thatched roof where they'd set out mats, and an altar, and candles, and flower arrangements, and the women were getting the food ready and the men were setting things up.

The gardener had invited me to his making merit ceremony, and I was really, really, slow to realize it.
About twenty local faces were there, and here came five monks.  All the men were wearing slacks, so I raced home, changed from swim gear to proper attire, grabbed that watermelon and a sleeve of plastic cups and got there just before the monks started in on an hour-long mantra.

No shit.  An hour.  I thought they'd broke it off at 45 minutes, but they started up again, and while most of the two dozen local folks, mostly older folks, sat with their palms clasped in front of them, some people conversed openly with one another with folks arriving on motorbike, not like mass or where everyone is quietly reverential.

I sat sweating, withdrawing into the wave of the mantra, in 'the zone', like in sweat lodge, and thought of family and friends and 'all those with whom we interact in our lives.' 

There were three old monks in back with two younger guys in front.  I was particularly impressed with the young guy on the left, whose posture, form, recitation, and calm indicated his effort. The old men just seemed to be effortlessly blowing through the ceremony as long-time practitioners. 

They got to eat first.  Then they served us old men sitting around one table, then everyone else.  There was one little kid, the gardener's granddaughter, and two dogs who skedaddled as soon as they let off that long string of firecrackers, ending with a loud boom resonating across the lake.

I wasn't even hungry.  People kept pushing me food.  Throughout, though feeling quite welcome by everyone, I felt like an outsider, just like on the rez.

Like the daily 'feeding the monks', they say such ceremonies make merit, perhaps off-setting some negative baggage, bad karma, I don't know, but I think today focused upon a future venture by the sponsoring party, the gardener, my friend.


There's a little grey songbird that built her nest in a fern outside my entrance prior to my arrival, and flits away whenever I approach or leave.  There's two eggs in there, and I'm trying to condition her to sit tight on those soon-to-be-chicks, avoiding a glance, become small, ethereal vapor passing through, that she need not feel threatened or afraid.