Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Filling Empty Spaces

My mind should be on more significant things, I know, but I prefer to think up ridiculous seafood marketing strategies and reminisce on the old Asia days. I got home from market and, after trying to smooth out my usual assortment of daily social faux pas, settled into an evening of reading Gurdjieff. So entranced was I that I didn’t hear the phone ring, and missed a call from my friend L*, who is about to go off to China. I called back, then she called back, then – well, it’s the phone tag thing. So I decided to obsess on the three Frenchmen in the dorm, and the need to fill empty spaces.

It was longer ago than I care to remember, and I was in Thailand. I had just been kicked out of Uttamo’s swamp monastery down in Sungai Golok and decided to go up to Buddhadasa’a temple for about a month before heading up to Chiang Rai. Buddhadasa’a place had a lot of Western people doing the spiritual tourist thing. He started conducting retreats after a while, and that led to even more Western people showing up. A misguided sense of altruism made me volunteer to help for a while.
There were three or four old building used as dormitories back then. Westerners started showing up a few days before the retreat and were shown to the dormitories. Two Frenchmen ended up in one dorm. Then, another Frenchman showed up. I put him in the same dorm as the other two Frenchmen. I don’t know why. It just seemed like a hilariously funny thing to do at the time.
Anyway, the district sheriff showed up the next day looking for one of the Frenchmen. He was brought all the way down to the provincial capitol and we just hoped he wasn’t in too much trouble. He came back a few days later. Here’s what happened:

He had forgotten to fill out one of the lines on his tourist visa application. That got through a few clerks, somehow, but finally got redlined. Some clerk somewhere was looking at the empty line and he didn’t like it. A manhunt was launched. They tracked down the poor little Frenchman and dragged him in. Empty spaces must be filled.
The next day the meditation retreat started. A roomful of smelly western tourists sat in front of a few monks and tried to not think. The monks lit incense and rang gongs and the tourists tried to clear their minds. Their knees locked up and their backs ached. They had traveled halfway around the world to try to find what immigration clerks most abhor.


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