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Heavens, Hells and the Bodhidharma
[shrine to the Bodhidharma at Long Vân Vietnamese temple in Pakse, Laos on 9/19/23]
For two weeks, I had gone to Jenda Cafe, because it’s a large, airy space with no music, so ideal for writing. Yesterday, though, I had to sit through some muzak. Perhaps it’s just a one-day aberration, I hoped, but this morning, I was greeted with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” so I didn’t even bother to walk in. Again, unoccasioned music cheapens it and deadens our minds.
You can gauge how stupid a man is by how much canned music he needs. The braindead can’t be wrested from their thumping earphones. Driven from the tactile, fragrant, windblown and heat blasted, cursed generations withdraw into the virtual.
There are those who have never known silence, another voice heard clearly or even their interior monologue. Now, they’re even afforded speech without consequences, so hit-and-run idiocy or snarkiness has become nearly universal. Nameless and without history, they stink up the universe.
From Jenda, I walked to Dee Coffee, a mile away. I passed where I had seen a monkey on a power line, then a dead snake ran over. Needing to be petted, a red dog followed me, but when I smilingly talked to him, he hesitated. Nervous, he hid behind a car.
At Long Vân Vietnamese temple, there’s another dog who can’t decide if he wants to befriend me. Old and slow moving, he has this world wearied face. You don’t know what I’ve seen, his eyes tell me, and why should I trust you?
Speaking of eyes, there’s a shrine to the Bodhidharma at Long Vân. Tired of the world’s bullshit, he stared at a cave wall for nine years. To keep his eyelids from closing, he sliced them off. Like Jesus, the Bodhidharma rose from the dead.
Uncertain about returning to this shitty realm, he did wait three years. Back in this heaven or hell, the Bodhidharma decided to walk home. He got at least as far as Pamir Mountain, 3,400 miles away.
To achieve Buddhahood is to be free from the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Why, then, did the Bodhidharma choose to, again, be among us assholes? Perhaps this earthly normality, with all its flaws and horrors, beats any hypothetical or real alternative, so no samsara, heaven, utopia or Great Reset for the Bodhidharma, thank you!
At Dee Coffee, a man approaches my table to shake my hand. In his mid 50’s, he comes to Dee each day. The first time he saw me, he asked, “Japan?”
"Chào ông!" he greeted me. Then he showed me photos of his trip to Da Nang and his two daughters graduating from a Vietnamese university. One daughter was working at the radio station in Pakse. He had a brother who had also studied in Vietnam.
Seeing my open laptop and Canon 80D, he asked if I was a journalist. No, a writer, I answered. As if to dispel his doubts, I pulled up the cover of my Postcards book, then an image of Chris Hedges interviewing me.
“I spent many years in the US,” I explained. “This was on Russian TV.” Since his English was very limited, I had to articulate each word slowly and distinctly. Still, I had no idea if he understood. “This was in New York,” I continued.
“Ah, New York!”
I might have said I had gone to the moon! Not even London, Paris, Tokyo or Shanghai can cast a similar spell. Even after it has been conquered then abandoned by apes, there will still linger residual magic. Buried to her tits, the Statue of Liberty reaches for the sky.
In Pakse, the Vietnamese tend to patronize their own coffee houses, but Dee Coffee is a Lao one. That is telling. People naturally prefer to converse in a language they’re most comfortable with. No one is equally at home in two languages.
Even in a tiny country like Laos, there are dozens of indigenous languages, so national cohesion must be encouraged, if not enforced. What Laos doesn’t need is the importation of radically alien populations, so sensibly, it keeps them out.
Unlike Western countries, Oriental ones are remarkably homogeneous, and this, I will insist, is to their advantage. Diverse populations often clash, with even the most minor accommodations fought over.
Jews and Muslims won’t touch pork. Hindus shun beef. Orientals, though, tend to welcome any source of protein. If all their kids go to the same school, no one will be happy, for chicken, real or fake, will be the only option.
Consider the beginning of the Thai national anthem, “Thailand unites the flesh and blood of Thais. / The land of Thailand belongs to the Thais.” On their flag, red, blue and white represent nation, king and religion. During morning assembly at Thai schools, kids salute the flag then pray to the Buddha. Of course, many Thai citizens are not ethnically Thai, and there’s also a large Muslim minority, plus some Christians. Nationalism, though, is Thailand’s strongest bond, as it is for every other nation.
With its idealism, the United States provided a striking alternative, but since the US Constitution’s most important provision, free speech, is dead, the US is a bloated corpse. Singly or collectively, Americans are mute. Instead of spreading freedom and democracy, Uncle Sam pushes war, censorship, shameless lying, naked corruption, cross dressing freaks and child mutilation.
A few days ago, I did an interview with Kevin Barrett. Having just escaped the imploding madhouse, Kevin is already much happier in Morocco.
You can judge the health of any society by how its children behave, I said. In Laos, the kids are often playing outside, unattended. At Jenda, a four-year-old boy decided to share my table, because why not? At 3839 Cafe, I carried the owner’s one-year-old son out the door, to take him for a walk. The baby was happy, and so was his dad. Laos is still a trusting society.
To Kevin, I mentioned a recent incident in Las Vegas. In a stolen car, two teenagers intentionally struck two elderly bicyclists, killing one. Not only that, they filmed the murder to upload online. With outrageous incidents occurring daily, Kevin had no idea what I was talking about. Since this couldn’t be used to advance any of its pet agendas, the US media ignored it.
Those without a meaningful existence can only feel alive virtually. In Japan, a very ugly American who calls himself Johnny Somali has finally been arrested. For months, Somali roamed Japanese streets to antagonize and insult locals.
Since each society has its preferences, standards and taste, each must lock up or keep out barbarians, if it wants to survive. Several, though, are determined to commit suicide.
Dishing up banalities, I will keep sketching your paradise lost. On this darkening earth, there are still oases of sunshine, laughter, smiles and frolicking kids, no matter how skinny. Once, even your world was normal.
Immortal, the Bodhidharma still wanders. Unfazed, he might even be found in Philadelphia, Chicago, St Louis, New Orleans, Oakland or Seattle. Every so often, if only for a few seconds, he can’t help but mumble to himself, “Shit man, I wish I had sewn my eyes shut!”
[Siem Reap, Cambodia on 11/17/22]
[Siem Reap, Cambodia on 2/1/23]
[Pakse, Laos on 9/13/23]
[Don Det, Laos on 4/1/23]
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