Let it Be, Let it Be...

BY CHADARAT SINGHARUKSA
Jan 26, 2010

This is the third week of January and we have all heard what this year has in store for us from many fortune-tellers of various different guises.

 

Many people must have brought tiger amulets, statues, jade tiger bangles for luck. Must be careful as not only is this year the year of the tiger, it’s the year of a night tiger, hunting for prey. Nothing like being told what lies ahead especially bad news. Perhaps this explains one of Thais’ national traits, that of being nonchalant. Nothing can get at us. We just let things be and get on with our lives because we already know the outcome. And if we don’t know, well we can consult the professional fortune-tellers of course. Failing that just sing this well known mantra:

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be...

 

Being in Thailand of course this gets changed slightly,

Mai Pen Rai, Mai Pen Rai. Mai Pen Rai, Mai Pen Rai …

(Before someone accused me of mistranslating, most Thais will translate this phrase as “Never Mind!”)

Let me give you an example. 2010 Mayan prediction says the world will end this year. All over the world

, there is collective shock and horror, even mass prayers. The Thais say: “Oh is that so, mai pen rai. Shall we party to celebrate?”

Many first-time visitors to Thailand will be charmed by this "Mai Pen Rai" attitude as it opposes the western conditionings of “Pen Rai” as in everything matters and matters to the extreme. We Thais are so calm, relaxed, just look at us forever smiling. How sweet we are! What a quaint race!

No matter how hard you try to get to know us or try to find out what we think and feel about important subjects, we just smile and hide our faces.

That is until they decide to live in this country; this state will really grate on their nerves driving some to intellectual frenzy, turning them into fulltime bloggers. Why do they react that way? Because we Thais are so good at not getting to the point or let alone make one. That will make most non-Thais weary and tired of trying to guess what we are hinting at. No matter how hard you try to get to know us or try to find out what we think and feel about important subjects, we just smile and hide our faces. It’s like peeling onions to find that there is nothing in the middle and the arduous task of peeling only made you cry!

Some of you might say that isn’t true anymore because the last two years have seen the colours debates. But try this, go and ask the little people why they swear allegiance to one colour and not the other; then see if you get a rational answer. Or better still try to listen to the bigwigs and decipher what they say. It all sounds good all right, but mostly devoid of meaning.

Many suggest that the Mai Pen Rai attitude is born out of the Buddhist philosophical attitude of not grasping or holding, but I think that makes it too simplistic. The Buddha never taught irresponsibility, but the opposite. Letting go is something that happens as a realisation of our inner freedom. To Buddhist practitioners, letting go is not avoidance but confrontation. To let go is to let go of clinging to desire. Needless to say that Buddhist wisdom is like a double-edged sword. Some might say that it all has to do with that well-known pop group, The Beatles and that infamous song of theirs which somehow mass-hypnotised the Thai state of consciousness! This seemed to be our theme song for years, with the lyrics reverently recited as a personal mantra in public.

Jesting aside, perhaps we should take the persona of the Chinese tiger and start to growl instead of smile when things really hit us hard. Perhaps we should show our true feelings instead of suppressing them or saving this for a private audience. Mai Pen Rai then can be a state that we arrive at instead of something we utter out of politeness’s sake and good breeding. This year, things must start with Pen Rai and we should start to make efforts to show that they really do matter. My New Year resolution for our beloved country and for all who lives here is this: Let’s adopt the tiger trait by being sensitive and vigilant!

 

Chadarat Singharuksa also blogs at QuoteThai