Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Buddha's Got Back
These are some things I saw today: a few elephants, a 45-meter tall sitting Buddha, fireworks, and a big cockroach on the bathroom wall that I washed down the drain with a bidet sprayer. Basically it's been the best day of my life.
In other news, 45-meter tall sitting Buddhas are quite a sight. We drove up a mountain to see it, although you can easily see it from the city streets below. Mark took us up there to pray, because he believes it is a spiritual stronghold over Phuket. One way to put it would be that it's like Big Buddha is the Mothership for all those other little Buddha shrines that fill the streets of Thailand. Except Big Buddha doesn't receive as many offerings of red Fantas as the rest.
Before I continue, let me just say that this trip has really challenged my beliefs on a lot of things. Some of my beliefs have been expanded as a result, others have become more solidified, and others have created more questions. Kind of been a spiritual rollercoaster. But it's okay - it's good to be challenged every now and then.
Okay, so going on:
Thinking about the "spiritual" world can get kind of messy for me sometimes. Some people have fears of objects being haunted or controlled by spiritual forces. I've always been of the opinion that as much as people may think such things, their thoughts or words toward an object have no effect of the properties of said object. That being said, I realized today that Big Buddha has a spiritual grip on Phuket not because it's a big piece of stone that spirits have hijacked, or because it represents something more sinister, or anything like that, but simply because people choose to give it such authority. People put their trust in this thing, as if what it represents can actually give them what they long for deep within their spirits. They are searching for enlightenment, for a way out of the cycle of the suffered life, and hoping that what this stone statue stands for will provide. In short: The people of Phuket are not being oppressed by a gigantic Buddha. They're oppressing themselves. And in more than spiritual ways, too - where does all the money for the construction of Big Buddha (not to mention Slightly-Less-Big-Golden Buddha and all his concrete cronies) come from? From the generous donations of the Thai population. The same Thai population that builds grandiose temples across the street from the tin roof and cinder block houses. People worship this object and many others like it not just when they visit it to perform rituals and light incense, but also when they pour their hard-earned money into it with that hope that it will bring them good returns in the next life. That is to say, their next go-around on Earth as somebody or something else. It's just depressing. Also depressing was the number of red lights in bars/restaurants/hotels/massage parlors that I saw on our drive from the beach last night. As was the sight of a less-than-5-year-old white girl being placed up by the dancing pole at the bar while her family encouraged her to keep dancing for their cameras.
(Do I sound like I miss home at all?)
If there's one thing I've learned from this trip about being a good husband/father, it's that you don't take your family on vacation to Patong Beach. And you shouldn't take your wife, unless it's for a mission trip. And you shouldn't go alone unless it's for the same reason. Pretty much that's the only reason I can think of that anyone should ever go to Patong. Besides, the other beaches in Phuket are much better.
Anyway, the rest of today was pretty good. We had a BBQ tonight with the girls from SHE, and we planned a bunch of after-dinner entertainment that never happened because they left before we had a chance to get started. Hey, it's their loss that they didn't get to see Ben and me perform our recently conceived "Igor & Igor" sketch. Was gonna be a hit. But I got to hang out with Mark & Sharon's adorable children, and that may have been just what I needed. Sophie told me I'm the funniest guy on the whole team! Smart kid. And later on Ben and some other people tricked me into eating a dessert they made out to be disgusting, but was just filled with marshmallow cream and chocolate. Not the best re-telling of that story, but it'll have to do for now because I'm exhausted. But what else is new?
So, um, prayer requests...for the people of Thailand to know God's prevailing truth and cast aside their idols, for our team's last night of bar ministry tomorrow night, and particularly for the men of this team (and even more particularly, the two newlywed husbands). We've all been through a lot. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: something about this mission trip is completely backwards.
...God's doing great things.
I forgot my razor at home, so I haven't shaved on this trip, and I have more hair on my face than ever before. I look like a preteen werewolf.
This is Nate.