Back in Pai

Dear friends:

Here I am back in Pei, near the Burmese border, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

I had gone to Lao so as to get a three month visa, and got sick, so stayed in my sort of headquarters at the good old Tapae Inn in Chiang Mai, with a bed, a hot shower and private bath, for 180 a night, that’s Thai Baht, not dollars. so it works out to under 5 bucks.

I am now checked in at Mr. Jan’s Bungalows, simple wooden cottages and an herbal sauna thrown in for 150 baht. I could get lazy here real fast.

On the way up, I had a nice 3 hour ride in a minivan, rather than the bus, which takes 4 hours, much of which over a windy mountain road. So here I am sitting next to a 50 plus year old guy like me, and ask, “where you from”.

(His name is Mike)

M: I’m a traveler.

E: Where from?


E: Gee, me, too.

M: But I left in 2000 after Bush became President, and have been traveling since.

E: Gee, I have been here since before the election, figuring it would be bullshit, and not willing to waste any more energy on the political process

M: I was an activist for 30 years, got arrested three times, worked first on the national level on peace and environment, but got sick of that so I figured I would work on the local level. But after a while I hated my city and its government.

E: What city was that?

M: Santa Rosa, California

A thunderbolt of recognition.

Turns out we know many of the same people and he even designed the logo for my old organization, the Environmental Business Council

He was also a hospice volunteer, as I have been. ( He served the patients).

He observed medical wastes from the morgue poring down the drain into the Russian River, and confronted the Santa Rosa city council about it mortifying everyone in the Council Chambers.

But his feeling, echoed by many Americans I meet here, is that the country is not a free country and in Mike’s (and my) view even worse than at the worst of the Vietnam War.

So he left 4 years ago. His sister is worried about him afraid that the terrorists might get him in the wilds of Asia. So he told me how, he was staying near his sister in Pleasanton (got that–pleasant town?). His truck had a sign that said, “smarter than the President”, and his window got smashed. So he decided on something a little more ecumenical, “Thou shalt not kill”.

Another window got smashed in, with a note accusing him of helping the terrorists.

Sure is safe here in the land of the free, where you can speak without fear.

We went on to trade stories of life in the USA, some of the recent history, such as the 19 hijackers who failed in flight school but managed to out wit our 30-40 billion dollar intelligence and make complicated aerial maneuvers to fly planes into buildings. Or the fact that the head of Pakistani intelligence had, according to the FBI, funneled $100,000 to the purported lead hijacker, but on September 11th, 2001, was meeting in Washington DC with Porter Goss, who now heads the CIA. Gee, I feel safer just thinking about it.

So here we are on our way to the tiny hamlet of Pai. Who knows what dangers could befall me?

Well, I get to Pei, and decide to take a stroll down to the Pai River (really, just a nice smooth flowing creek) and had a fruit shake of mango, banana, and other mixed fruits of the season

as I watch, on December 20th, the butterflies floating among the leafy trees and flowers.

After a bit, I decide to walk back towards town, and –no no no, it can’t be, no it’s impossible

the strains of the Prajna Paramitta –the Indian Sanskrit chant of “the Perfection of Wisdom”

come wafting towards me from another restaurant. You might remember in a previous email, that I saw this tape in a shop in Chiang Mai and have enjoyed its lovely, soothing sound since then.

So here in Pai, with its butterflies and peaceful chants encouraging the practise of wisdom sit I at an internet cafe telling you about this.

I have thought quite a bit about what can work as we enter the New Dark age.

Here are several suggestions:

First, if you still own a TV, open a window. Next, give a big hug to your TV, pick it up and walk towards the window. When you reach the window, extend your arms, and then release your affectionate hug of your TV. Watch the TV fall to the ground, hopefully from at least 20 feet up, smashing itself with the power of gravity–one of the ultimate irrefutable truths of the universe–into an infinite number of pieces. (Even Bush and the media can’t deny the law of gravity)

Then at the top of your lungs (you should have rented the Movie, Network by now as I told you to) shout. “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.” Do that for several minutes. Hopefully, others will join you.

Second, call your friends up and have a sing out:

Remember things like

If I had a Hammer (It’s the Hammer of Justice, It’s the bell of freedom, it’s the song about love between my brothers and my sisters…)–Peter Paul and Mary

Love is but a song we sing from today until we die–(come on people. smile on your brother, everybody get together try to love one another right now)–Jesse Colin Young

Somebody to Love (When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies–don’t you want somebody to love??– Jefferson Airplane

Get up stand up, stand up for your rights–Bob Marley

How many times will a man turn his head to see that too many people have died,

the answer my friend is blowin in the wind–Bob Dylan

Let us help you sing, the song of freedom..all I ever heard…redemption song —

There are loads and loads of songs that to lift one’s spirit, and singing was one of the ways that the Chilean forces of Democracy kept their spirits up during the murderous Pinochet regime. And wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, Pinochet is now to stand trial for his crimes.

Third, get the hell out of the USA, at least for a couple of weeks. It’s a whole other world and most of the world still likes people, even Americans, if not their government which they mysteriously continue to believe is a democracy and which they unfathomably continue to support with their taxes, their work, their purchases and their acquiescence.

Fourth, take 10% of your money and buy gold. As Chalmers Johnson, a former Reagan supporter has pointed out, the American Empire which has been constructed under the American people’s nose, the Military Industrial Complex, which the Comptroller General says is totally unaccountable, and from which literally trillions of dollars have disappeared (your dollars) most likely into offshore bank accounts, will go bankrupt. That objective has been openly stated by Chief ideologue, Grover Norquist, and is behind Bush’s latest scheme to balance the falling dollar and defect with funds form the Social Security system.

They are stealing your retirement, people! Gold will hold more value than a bankrupt dollar.

These are some ideas on how to sustain yourselves in an environment which a friend says gets worse every day.

The most important thing is to start thinking the positive unthinkable.

One thought that has occurred to me is a phrase right out of the Prajna Paramitta literature.

Neither Bound nor Freed. As I continue my walkabout/pilgrimage and prepare to start a new retreat, I reflect on my own life momentum. Always single never married, like my new friend Mike, an unrecoverable heterosexual, whose constant friend and companion is the feeling of my own loneliness. My married male friends envy my freedom. And Wow, I am free, but I also appreciate the kindness their good wives give them. So who is free and who is bound?

I see the truth of what is going on, and the truth sets me free of the bullshit, yet it is also a burden which I put down in meditation. So what is bound and who is freed?

Remember, as Mike related from his readings from Krishnmurti, to spend a few minutes each day to smell the roses (or in winter, the pine trees).

Kind regards,


This post appeared at  in 2004


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