Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Customs and their meanings....


Note: In wandering around the internet this morning, reading the blogs I read each morning, I came across this over at Sevenwinds. It is not often I will do this, but I ask everyone to skip my entry and read Sevenwinds. What I have to say below is pure crap in comparison.

~*~

Every now and then, the folks at Thai-Blogs.com probably like it when I write something about Thailand. :) I'm hoping that providing some of my background will provide context for the reasons I've made the choices I have, what draws me and what makes Thailand such an important part of my future.

I got into a discussion recently with someone on the Khorat-Farang forum about the differences between here and there ~ and the reasons why the customs I've adopted from there make living here more bearable. It's kind of unfortunate that the discussion went to private email because I still think it would have been a useful forum topic.

As a true child of the 60s, my primary goal in life was to expose and break down all the customs and rituals that seemed phoney and meaningless (which to a person filled with existential angst and lack of direction was just about everything). I was too young and immature to understand that ritual provides us with consistency and meaning. It provides context to a joined experience. Customs and ritual reinforce dominant culture. That's why we are encouraged in every public venue to adopt them. I was too adolescent and silly to understand that customs and ritual are critical to socialization. (I don't mean to go all pedantic here and won't.. but my educational background is in sociology. If I'd been rich and idle, I would have gone for a PhD in Cultural Anthropology.)

Anyway, I was spunky and angry which isn't a useful combination. The icons I 'clasted' weren't replaced with anything so I was a person who just didn't do a damn thing, didn't attach to anything. (That is the obvious genesis of "the desert".) The reckless part is that I knew better. It seemed "rebellious" and, oh so, avante garde. I wanted to be edgy. It was just stupid, ignorant and arrogant. It was honest-to-god private anomie. Instead of "My Private Idaho", it was "My Private Anomie".

It is within that contextual background that I adopted Thai customs. The fact is that they are beginning to have meaning. At first, it was like a training exercise. I did it because it was expected and because that's what I'd chosen. I paid close attention to each one, doing it diligently. If the rule book says I don't eat finger food with my left hand, I won't eat finger food with my left hand. This matters. They didn't have any real meaning in the beginning. "Fake it 'til you make it". I was trying them on, to see how or what they would make me feel. I became my own social experiment.

They do make me feel something.. deeply. They do speak to me. There is something about tapping into that depth of history that causes roots to form and grow, going further and further into my own core. On the surface, some of the customs appear ridiculous. (I'll detail some of them along the way ~ carefully ~ because I don't want to offend any of my Thai friends.) Yet even those have tentacles, weaving from one thing to another until it finally connects to the commonality between all of us. Isn't that all most of us are looking for?


Peace to all~


Chani
~*~*

10 comments:

daufiero said...

Consciously selecting and adopting customs and rituals is an excellent "training program." Through it, you become a disciplined person, which I admire and seek for myself.

Previously -
I accept your challenge from yesterday. I'm just going to "let it happen."
My best advice only reiterates the other comments about tattoos - think long and hard about something meaningful and put it where it can easily be hidden. Located on my third chakra, I have circular knotwork representing eternal growth/journey, with the symbol for Virgo in the center.

Ginnie said...

We each have a different path and I think that once we've settled on the journey we want to take we need to adhere to our instincts, relying on "blind faith" when it feels right and letting it be the thing that leads us. (Not easy!)

Anvilcloud said...

I went there and read that and came back here to tell you that you are both amazing people.

meno said...

"Fake it until you make it" can really apply to many situations. Sometimes even happiness.
Although sometimes faking it just won't work.

That you for the link to Sevenwinds. I wish more people would support their own convictions like that.

jen said...

I loved the Sevenwinds post. Thank you.

You make me want to bow to you, and eat sweet rambutams while riding a tuk tuk in the sun.

Stephen Newton said...

I'm glad you enjoyed my musing about the KUm & Go. OKlahoma is a real trip. Still curious about your thoughts regarding the recent turmoil in Thailand.

KC said...

I would love to see Thailand through your eyes. Can we set up a future tour?

Stephen Newton said...

Do you know that Coke is looking into being able to pipe its products directly into homes? If you stop drinking it, you'll definitely lose weight. Plus the caffein makes it highly addictive. Of course you know all of that. You probably remember those wonderful drug store fountain cokes in the paper cone cups? Ah, what a taste. My grandmother would take me to the five and dime counter and order a Coke and a hotdog. Sublime. But times have changed and those 8 oz bottles are now mega liter bottles in plastic instead of glass.

Thailand Gal said...

De, I hadn't even thought about that but you're right. It is disciplining me in some respects. It certainly keeps me mindful. :)

Your tattoo sounds beautiful! Wish you could show it on your blog!

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Ginnie, luckily, I picked up the faith part from AA. They used to tell me to "fake it til you make it" and it must have taken root at some level. In some ways, I feel an obligation to honor Thailand with these actions, too.

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Anvil, I couldn't stop thinking about Sevenwinds all day. He is a very special guy.

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Meno, I've never been able to fake happiness. I seem to lack that ability. Of course, with a chemical imbalance such as mine, that's pretty much going to be impossible. :)

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Jen, likewise! :)

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Stephen, that was one of the funniest stories I've read for quite a while. What a notion! Get some food, get a shower and get laid... in that order though. :)

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KC, when I get to Khon Kaen, you, your husband and daughter have a standing and open invitation. :)

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Stephen, nothing surprises me when it comes to the behavior of corporations. I really could stand to lose a few pounds so I'll go back to my green tea and leave the coke alone. The slimeballs who run those places are just fraying my last nerve.


Thanks, everyone :)

Peace,

~Chani

Pam said...

I read the Sevenwinds blog and it has been my experience that the people who's jobs it is to serve have always been invisible to those who consider themselves superior. Deplorable.

I believe in customs and rituals if they truely come from the heart. With you, that is a given.