25 October 2008

Letter 4.2

Bangkok -- BEAD

It's come down to the crux and so it's the end of the road here in Thailand for me. Next stop: Sri Lanka. Well, it's changed its name and I've changed mine, so we might still have things in common, even if they are uncommon things. However, I've still got a month on my visa, so I'm going to spend this time in the North backwoods country wandering, which is a complex form of walking and sitting. Complex, but not complicated.

This will be the first time I've returned to a country after a long absence (except for the U.S.), so it will be interesting from that point of view to see what changes have gone on there, and how conditions might have to be adapted to. And, of course, I'll be arriving with a rather different set of intellectual baggage -- it's a good thing that the airlines don't charge overweight for that! -- and be in a very different mind-set than 15 years ago too. (I like the way certain epochs of my life have worked out in round numbers. It makes accountancy so much easier. I think this is a gratuitous or accidental feature of my life-script. Act 97, Scene 16 finds us back in...)

3,5 years in Thailand. Well, that's not a round number, but that's because Thailand (unlike Sri Lanka) is not a round country, nor is 3,5 a whole or rational number, for the same relationship. It's a country fragmented into area vs. area, city vs. country, new vs. old, M16 vs. AK 47, and getting more fragmented. It seems clear that the divisive forces dominate over the cohesive ones, so Thailand, too, will come to the end of its road. Nor is it a rational country, even -- I'm sure -- by its own definition of 'rationality'. Emotions which cannot be expressed lurk beneath the surface of every relationship, an unseen motivator making situations forever irrational.

But my time there has been of use to me in a number of ways. It's a strong contrast to Sri Lanka, and so gives me a broader perspective of the way I can relate within different systems, a more coherent set of values about what is truly of value to me, and it's given me, until 6 months ago, the space (and time) I needed. Also some more difficult lessons, the one of the past half year perhaps the most trying, and still leaving much to be learned about it.

As for writing, I've mailed the lot off to Sri Lanka, including your conclusion to Worthy Bones (which I haven't had a chance yet to go over carefully). I think the book needs to be re-conceived in certain ways. (That's a new one, eh?) The characters need to be more human, less character-ish. The plot needs to be honed down. A lot of extraneous matters needs to go – e.g. Carmen's Israeli experience, a real shift for Jizi, and Mohel has to be less a Batman and more a real person with a problem related, somehow, to the matter at hand. The philosophy must emerge from the story, and not bury the story. And the tone, in the middle chapters, should be lightened up. We'll see what kind of set-up I can arrive at in Sri Lanka, and whether the space I'll be in there includes paper and ink. If so, I'm thinking of a few things -- revising Getting Off, some short stuff, carrying on with my Dhammapada verses -- here's a couple.

Once this mind fared as it wished, quite free
to wander where it lusted, as it pleased.
Today I shall restrain it properly,
as the mahout trains the rutting beast.

Be watchful of the mind.
For non-remiss aspire.
Rise above the unrefined
like a tusker from the mire.

'That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions and, were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions' – Santayana

How's the old sod near Sooke?


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