Fearless Puppy
The Cherry on Top of the Fruitcake
Many tourists act a little wilder while on vacation in a foreign country than they do at home. This is even more pronounced here in Thailand where there are so very many opportunities to do the wild-and-crazy. The locals around here are usually very tolerant of tourist behavior, but they talk about you. This is true anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Thailand, Brooklyn, or at the North Pole. If you are a little different, at least a few of the locals are going to bust your chops—especially if you’re from out of town. Gossip of this type can happen whether you are wild and crazy or not. There may also be some finger pointing and giggling. Most of the finger pointing is just good-natured amazement, especially in a place like rural Southeast Asia where the locals find a zoom lens camera about as miraculous as we would find a working intergalactic starship with transporter beam. Mild shock and innocent confusion about foreign customs, or bafflement with advanced technologies, is harmless. But those are not the topics here. The topics here are staying in your own canoe and letting bad stuff that flies in one ear fly as quickly out the other. These can be support beams for perseverance in the face of adversity, insult, or even danger. In spite of heavy competition from my fellow travelers for the position as cherry on top of the international fruitcake, I have become known in southern Thailand as “THE Crazy Alien.” Most of my fellow non-locals who get any special attention from the locals are simply drunk and bizarre. The natives expect this. But when locals see an American person who is a bit older, they suppose that he is like the Americans they see on TV. So when they look at me, they see something that falls very far away from their frame of reference. Here is a person they cannot explain. He is not at all “normal.” He is living in a Buddhist Temple on a foreign continent without studying Buddhism. He cannot even communicate in or understand the native language, has no money at all, has no way to get home, and is writing a book about a culture and religion that he is slowly learning very little about. When the book is finished, he plans to get back to America–somehow, and with absolutely no business connections and no related experience at all, sell novice writing for lots of money. He will then give all the money away to build combination educational/spiritual resorts that are entertaining destinations for guests. The purpose of these resorts will be to perpetually return profits that will be used to fund an increase in the number of Wisdom Professionals in the world, beginning with the sponsorship of resources for Buddhist Nuns and Monks. The purpose of that is to help alleviate suffering in human beings, and in all other living creatures affected by human beings, to the greatest degree possible. More wisdom equals less damage. His long-term goal is to build enough of these resorts through which he can gain enough profits to make it financially possible to increase the total number of Wisdom Professionals in the world by one percent. Logic dictates that his odds of success may be roughly the same as the odds of one person winning a multi-million dollar lottery jackpot prize twice in the same week. The Head Monk and Teacher, and most respected member of this community, has given all the compassion of Mother Teresa to the foreign lunatic including hospitality and privileges usually afforded only to Monks. The foreigner works on the writing in his isolated cabin with the intensity and introspection of a lone Monk, stopping only now and then to completely fall very far off the other end of life’s pendulum by mysteriously acquiring massive expense-free doses of alcohol, ganja, and lodging at fancy tourist places along the beach. Even the folks living and working in the resort towns, miles away from their village and Temple, are not used to seeing behavior like this—not even from the most certifiably loony and highly medicated tourists. I must seem even more bizarre to those of my neighbors who have rarely been out of this hundred-resident, isolated hamlet and have never seen those tourists. It is very lucky for me that Thai folks respect crazy more than Americans do. Sometimes I wonder exactly what they think of me—but not often. Every moment spent thinking about what other people are thinking about me is a moment I’m not thinking about what I actually need to be thinking about. It would suck to be on my deathbed watching someone else’s life flash before my eyes. A life steered by concern for what other people think of it is a life un-lived. I don’t have the time to worry and wonder if other people think I’m strange. I have books to write and Wisdom Teachers to sponsor. I do have a sense of logic. It is easy to see how what I’m doing might look strange to others. It is easy to understand why some folks might think me a lunatic. Maybe I am one. But if you are reading this, maybe I’m not.  Fearless Puppy