Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Selfishness, self-protection and germs

Ever wonder at so many people declaiming, now that we have the internet, and so few really paying attention? Maybe it has to do with a clean slate to mess up.
At 55, for the first time, I am dealing with issues most people deal with most of their lives. But hey, I only noticed that maybe I was becoming an adult at 36 (I wasn’t really, not quite yet), but now I’m head of a family of 5, with a baby boy. And I’ve problems with my brothers over inheritance and family issues. Plus a couple guests at home, one of whom I don’t want.
My wife, a tribal person from a border area un-demarcated when she was young (and then controlled by opium warlords), didn’t know what a country was when we met. I thought that fantastic. And yes, she is fantastic – today she got great praise for her from the sister of my business partner when I had a beautiful store. The sister worked there for a while, and we became close. Went through a lot together, due to my house blowing up from a gas leak…
Well, I’d asked my friend Elizabeth to recommend a lawyer, as my older brother, executor of our mother’s estate, hasn’t communicated with me for most of the half year since her death, and not only demanded that I not communicate with him, but that I take all my things out of the house I’m one third owner of. But, as I wrote to Elizabeth today, I learned a lot about things when I lost so many from my house blowing up and burning down, and I’d changed my mind about a lawyer when my wife explained that I’d be ruining something potentially important for her and our son by bringing suit.
Now, I quite hardily believe that she could easily become more important to my brother than my brother to her, and quite soon, what with potential for rising seas, dramatically curtailed food supply, increased human angst and anger, and other problems we’re all reminded of occasionally. She can provide for herself – from nature.
And we’re practicing doing just that – raising food. Her mother has always kept chickens, and now we have over 60 here. There are raptor predator birds about, and many of the chickens prefer to sleep close to our house, by the front door, on the cement landing. They leave shit there (not to be crude – it’s what it is!).
And little Eugene sometimes tries to put that stuff in his mouth.
So, just now I was cleaning it up, scraping, sweeping, mopping… and thinking of a matter that’s been on my mind for days.
Bird flu, germs, and nature. When the shit’s on the cement, it seems more virulent than after I sweep it off onto dirt with plants. I’m confident that not only does it break down more quickly, but that the microbes, in competition with more of other life forms, cannot multiply as quickly or dangerously.
An interesting aside to this is that I usually keep a compost pile, and now that we have chickens, don’t really have one. The chickens eat it all!

Now, back to my wife, who has never read a book on her own (when I met her, she was illiterate, though able to talk in her native tongue, Chinese and the Thai we use together). As I comment in the “Community as Wealth” section of the “Rare Treasures” thing I posted (next one), her people “help each other, and are seldom desperate, nor in need of charity – from folk they don’t know, anyway (and from ones they do know, it’s another kind of thing entirely: more a kind of investment).”
Well, her best friend from childhood, heavily pregnant but husbandless, has been staying with us, and I don’t mind (‘though things got a bit exasperating when I used half an onion and tossed the chopped other half into a stew she was making – a devotee of Goddess of Mercy “Jao Mae” Kuan Im, she’s vegetarian and eats neither onions nor garlic, something I somehow fail to understand). And now a desperate friend of my teenage sister-in-law, who lives here with her 6-year old brother in a room now housing four, has come to stay a second time, and I just don’t want her here.
Not only is the house already crowded, but I don’t know her, don’t trust her, and don’t like her. This makes me feel small, petty like the way I see my older brother. I don’t want to be that way! But what my older brother says about me (that I do nothing for him – something I take exception to and would dispute if it were worth the bother) is how I feel about my new guest, and this really gives me reason to pause.
I remember when I was a teenager, feeling I had no place to go, with needs that could not be met, depressed because I simply didn’t know what to do. What I ended up doing was going to college – which this girl has no choice about.
I tell myself: I simply can’t help all who need help. I’ve already taken in three people I have no real responsibility for. But that’s not right. My brother-in-law (hard to think of the little boy as that, but it is so) wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for me. He was born 3 months premature, and if I hadn’t decided to pay for his care, he would certainly have quickly died. Because I love my wife, and understand what’s important for her, I did what I felt right, and accepted some responsibility. Taking in her childhood friend is similar.
But then there’s self-protection. My baby son can’t take care of himself – when I’m done here I’ve got to clean up another mess he’s made. And I can only do so much, tolerate so much disruption to our lives, contribute so much to others. We must recognize our limitations.
Which, in my opinion, Americans no longer do, and germs on the cement-perched chicken-shit, too. Some germs, and viruses, kill their “hosts”! Not a great survival strategy, and maybe what people are doing to planet Earth (please forgive my harping). Sometimes we’re in competition, and recognize and deal with that, other times we assume too much, take too much, and end up getting brushed away.
Which is what I felt I had to say today.

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