Pra Atchana: Calling the Earth to Witness (detail)
“What the material world values does not shine in the same truth of the soul” ~ Rumi, “Not Intrigued With Evening”
“You have been interested in our shadow” ~ Rumi, “Not Intrigued With Evening”
Somewhere, the gods are laughing hysterically. Somewhere, Sisyphus has paused in his uphill struggle to push his boulder to the top, and he is grinning sheepishly. Somewhere, at some point in time, all of this became an ongoing comedy of errors.
I’m just curious: Who forgot to send us the memo?
Last night, just because it could and because it would be the worst possible timing, Corey’s truck died in the parking lot of the nearby shopping center. Oh, we knew that the truck was living on borrowed time, but we were hoping against hope that it would give us at least another month, time to get the van down from Ohio, time to get Corey on a boat, time to park it and let it rest until the repairs could be made.
Mais non. ‘Twas not to be.
Which leads me back to my original statement and the question that keeps going around and around inside my brain: exactly who did we piss off this badly, whose crappola list, who did we offend in this lifetime or a previous or next in order to keep getting served cold Haggis when a nice, healthy mango salad would do?
“Look instead directly at the sun” ~ Rumi, “Not Intrigued With Evening”
I hear from those of you out in the ether, and I know that we aren’t alone. I know now just how many of you are in the same dire straits that we are navigating. Believe me, it does help with perspective.
But exactly when is this merry-go-round going to stop? Trust me when I said that I am beyond nauseous from the circling and circling, never arriving, never achieving any kind of forward momentum, the kind that grown ups are supposed to be able to achieve.
Actually, a better metaphor might be that horrible cups and saucers ride. You know, the one in which the cups and saucers spin themselves, and then the whole ride spins? My father actually had to ask the man who was working the switches to stop the ride one time when we were at a local amusement park. I had turned this lovely shade of ecru and was shaking violently all over. Carnie said he’d never seen a reaction that bad.
My cousin thought that it was hilarious. She would. If I had been able to manage anything but dry heaves, I would have hurled on her, kind of how I feel like hurling at the world, leaving just this stain on the sidewalk of life to show that I had been there for a moment, but frankly, had had enough.
“We are born and live inside black water in a well. How could we know what an open field of sunlight is?” ~ Rumi, “Moving Water”
Internal playlist: Life right now reminds me of that Sting song: “I’m so happy. I can’t stop crying.” Laughing through my tears: “everybody’s got to leave the darkness sometime.”
Or maybe Rocky Horror’s “Time Warp” would be more appropriate:
“It’s astounding, time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely, not for very much longer
I’ve got to keep control . . .”
Visions of torn fish nets and too much lipstick: “And nothing can ever be the same . . .”
Time warp would be a perfectly logical explanation for what’s happening. At least it makes more sense than the real explanation: There is no explanation.
“Don’t insist on going where you want to go. Ask the way to the spring.” ~ Rumi, “Moving Water”
Moving along . . .
Did you know that in Thai culture, claiming to be haunted by a ghost is perfectly acceptable?
No, I’m not digressing. I beg the court’s indulgence whilst I attempt to make connections . . .
In Thailand, if I were to tell my landlord that my apartment has the spirit of a dead person, I would not be recommended for psychiatric counseling. On the contrary, spirits abound in Thai culture.
Spirit houses, or San Phra Phum (Abode of the Land Guardian Angel) are incorporated into most Thai homes so that the spirits can be left offerings for their well-being. It is believed that most homes have their own household spirits.
Fortune tellers, contrary to being frowned upon as in Western culture, are highly respected and consulted for most major decisions.
I find that to be a very logical way of looking at things. For example, let’s just say that Corey and I accidentally insulted the spirit of someone’s departed great aunt Mei by stepping on her threshhold (big no, no). Great aunt Mei would hang about for a bit to remind us of the error of our ways until we could perform the necessary rituals for her to rest in peace.
Quit looking at me that way. I’m serious.
“Your living pieces will form a harmony.” ~ Rumi, “Moving Water”
Thais, almost 95 percent of whom are Buddhists, also believe in animism, or spirit worship. Animist spirits stem from the belief that it is not just humans and animals that have souls but also plants, rocks, geographic features, rivers and even natural phenomena such as thunder. These spirits can have an effect on the well-being of those around them. I am not feeling the least bit cynical about such statements.
My own acceptance can be attributed to my personal beliefs in pantheism, that god is in all things.
I found the following passage on Teaching the Ghost: The Thai Supernatural very illuminating:
The greatest fear of an average Thai is of a break down of the social order and the resulting chaos. This explains why the system of hierarchy is so entrenched there and why an average Thai is so ready to unquestioningly follow a superior . . . in 700 years Thailand has never had a civil war. The Thai fear of chaos is personified in their spirits. Thais pay respects even to spirits that are dangerous, not because they have any love for them but because they leave people alone if they are respected. These can be the spirits of women who died in childbirth, malevolent nature spirits, ghosts or, most dangerous of all, the ghosts of people who have just been let out of hell but who have not been reborn in the human world yet. They have something of a chip on their shoulders. One thing that all these spirits have in common, besides their malevolent nature, is that they are part of no social hierarchy. Their world is everything that Thais fear—a world of chaos with no social order. If not respected they can unleash their violent natures and their social chaos on humans.
My point? Somewhere, somehow, we have—to mix my cultural metaphors—opened Pandora’s box and unleashed a very chaotic spirit that wants appeasement. Certainement. It is the only thing that makes any sense at this point.
Somewhere, lurking about us, is a spirit who is lambasting us with chaos. Unfortunately, not having been made aware of this, we have failed to proffer the proper respect, our inconsideration in trampling on a door sill rather than stepping over it.
“There is a moving palace that floats in the air with balconies and clear water flowing through, infinity, everywhere.” ~ Rumi, “Moving Water”
Karma. Joss. Fate. Nirvana. Infinity. Big concepts. Big questions.
Here are a few interesting things to consider if you are planning to build or place your own spirit house to appease the spirits that dwell on your land:
- Erect your spirit house in front of a tree.
- Do not place a spirit house to the left side of a door.
- A spirit house pointing towards the North or North-East is considered especially lucky.
- Your spirit house should not face towards a road or toilet.
- A spirit house should not be located within the shadow of the main property.
Remember, the spirit house is intended to honor and placate the spirits by providing an appealing shelter for the spirits, which admittedly, can be finicky and interferring, not necessarily good or evil. Traditional offerings to the spirits include edible and non-edible items such as rice, candles, flowers and incense.
My mother has two marble Buddhas in her house. My mother is the least Buddhist person I know. However, these small figurines have been in her home for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it is time for a spirit house and some prayer bells in our own environs.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
Translation by Coleman Barks
More later. Peace.