Letter 17 from Eric Arnow Arnow Letter Index
Eric Arnow has his own web site now. For years I've been putting his letters from Asia here. From now on they'll go on his site, the Bumble Buddhist which also now has all the previous ones from cuke and photos more. - dc
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005
I just finished another retreat of 14 days in a Temple outside Chiang Mai, and start a new ten day course tomorrow. It's about 4500 feet up, where the air is cooler and cleaner, and it's fairly quiet, too.
Before coming here, I met a couple of Thai women, who seemed like romantic possibilities. Yet, neither worked out. Both are interested in foreigners, both seemed to like me, but both with significant baggage. The condition of women in Thailand and of men too for that matter is economically precarious.
Ann had married a Thai man for his money, but he had a girlfriend and drank and was physically violent with her, so she left him. But she admitted that she didn't take good care of him either. When I came to Thailand last August, I met a woman whose husband had died last year. She married an Austrian much older than her, they had a child. but he died of cancer. His picture showed him to be fat and unattractive. Did she love him? Nope. But she does get the $600 a month needed to support herself, much more than most Thais make.
There is a big problem with men in Thailand. They drink a lot of whiskey which is cheap and available. Gosh, even young women were asking me to buy them whiskey at the New Year's festival, and I am always being asked if I want whiskey.
Men are also gamblers and womanizers.
I met Phutaraksa at a shop in Chiang Mai. A devout Buddhist, she seemed interested in me since I am a serious practitioner. One day, a male friend drove her into Chiang Mai to meet me. She was leaving for her home village, since after 20 years in Chiang Mai, she had no money and her retail job pays her $150 am month. I live here simply on $500. I don't know how they do it. But can understand why they hit on foreigners.
It became clear to me that Phutaraksa had other challenges. She insists as a good Buddhist woman on no sex before marriage, yet when an Australian man directly propositioned her in my hotel lobby, she asked him for his email address. You can bet I was extremely pissed at her two faced behavior.
As for her driver, I had asked if maybe they were romantically involved. Turns out he was licking his wounds because he had been in love with a woman who asked him for money to start a business. He gave her $20,000 which is a lot of money in Thailand. You can buy a house for that here.
She ended up gambling his money away.
So here it is. Thailand has a big shadow. One Pakistani man I met, married to a Thai woman for 20 years, says 70% of all Thais are untrustworthy. Basically just after your money.
And indeed that is much of my experience.
Meanwhile back in America, we have this idea of freedom and democracy, and can't even hold an honest election. Trillions of dollars missing from defense spending according to Congressional documents, wars based on lies, you all know my EVIDENCE--not my opinions, folks--EVIDENCE.
Most Americans are in serious financial trouble. Excessive debt, shaky economy, etc.
So I went into my retreat and of course what do I find but my own shadow.
Many chances for relationships that I never gave a chance to. As for financial decisions, after the Dot com crash, I sold my house expecting a deflationary housing crisis. And of course, just the opposite occurred. Not a pretty picture.
In the practise, we are training to focus just on our momentary experience. When we breathe in, we know, breathing in. When breathing out, we know breathing out.
Once someone approached the Buddha and asked, "Inner tangle, outer tangle this whole generation in a tangle. Who will untangle the tangle?"
That was 2548 years ago before nuclear weapons communism, fascism, capitalism and mutual funds! And they thought things were complicated then!!!
What is so amazing in this practise is that it becomes so very clear how we cannot do the simplest thing like breathing or walking without complicating it. I am walking supposedly focusing on walking, but actually, I was thinking about how I could get Phutaraksa to love me. What am I thinking???
So I am fortunate in arranging my affairs so that I can take the time to hopefully, straighten my own mind out. As the Canadian monk who lives here puts it, Vipassana (Insight) practise is supposed to help us help ourselves to straighten out our own minds.
How can we hope to have a decent society if we are confused about what is right and wrong or what the consequences of our actions are.
Even after all these years I still have a lot of work to do. My body is not as strong and resilient as it was. For the last three out of the 14 days, I stayed up without sleeping which is called the Determination phase.
When the instructor asked my experience, I told him that my practise of walking and sitting meditation was really more staggering and slumping. But that is the reality.
Walking walking, staggering staggering. But the weird thing is, that in its own peculiar way it is fun, because for all its difficulties, life here is for me at least REAL. I think most people never come to terms with themselves. In the Buddhist literature, it talks of "sons and daughters of good family". That is, people who are at least brought up well. How many families are not dysfunctional? How many marriages are really happy? How many people feel truly good about how they earn their livelihood. Probably not very many.
They say, oh it's the System. Nothing to be done. Just live your life as best you can. But how we participate individually and collectively does matter. I recently took the time to email a client who I feel has really tried to earn a sincere livelihood, It's not easy.
When the government told me that I had to file Suspicious Activity Reports on clients without telling them, I dropped my securities license. But with new legislation creating by executive order, a National Security Service, which unites domestic and foreign intelligence under Presidential control, we essentially have not a National Security Service but a New SS. And the good old NY Times thinks its a good thing. Efficiency and all that. No need for those pesky constitutional rights, or checks and balances.
This is America’s shadow. A country based on principals which were in many cases good, but also maintained by slavery and exploitation. And I submit that it is what I call the Gangster Class, that has been around from the beginning, operating in the shadows, and now apparently strong enough to gut the positive part of American experience.
When Roosevelt didn't prosecute the people who attempted a coup, when Kennedy's assassins got away with it, and when Reagan/Bush got away with Iran Contra, these were all steps down to where we are on now.
So even though my encounters with Thai women are not very satisfactory, and I am seeing Thai problems more and more--and there are a lot--. They are not MY problems. When Thais tell me of their scandals, I tell them they ain't seen nuthin.
Well after all this ranting, I an thinking of coming back to America for awhile in September to do some business and take care of some current clients. On the other hand, based on the above thinking, I have big doubts about being happy in the USA.
I still haven't bought a ticket, but will stay in touch.
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