patient understanding

IMG_0291POSTCARD #37: Chiang Mai/Hat Yai journey: The Chiang Mai flight to Hat Yai was discontinued just before our departure date, so the journey had to be made in two parts; the first flight to Bangkok the second to Hat Yai – a bit frustrating, yes, but that’s how my Western thinking can be fixated on the way things ‘should’ be, and not how they are. This is Thailand and no upset, just the sense that people were a tiny bit miffed about it. Then we discover the baggage can’t be checked through either, it means we have to collect everything from the luggage belt at Arrivals when we get to Bangkok then to Departures and check in again for the next flight. There were a lot of bags, and we had little M with us who is 9 years old and she’d have to be guided through the crowds safely. I felt I was beginning to lose it at that point but still no reaction from the others, just a kind of ‘no comment’ attitude and the sense of something being ‘held’.

I go along with the way everyone else is doing it; chai yen yen (keep a cool heart) chai ron mai dai (being angry is no good). Patient understanding, putting up with it quietly; othon, in Thai, it’s about accepting things as they are and not fuelling the fires. There’s a cultural tradition of this kind of inhibition of anger in public. It’s a big no-no. Why? Because when people really lose their cool they can go crazy. The word in Thai is baa, a kind of madness; political demonstrations with crowds running into a hail of bullets and not stopping until the cease-fire. So, we don’t want to go there. Thais have acquired the skill of abiding in the suppressed anger state so that the feeling can be allowed to pass and there’s sufficient clarity of mind to see what action can be taken.

We arrive at Bangkok, wait for the luggage at the belt, I get it all on to two trolleys, with little M sitting up on top of the bags and we make our way through the crowds to the elevator. Up to the second floor and enter through security and the baggage X-ray machines to the check-in desk again. There’s not much room and a large congestion of luggage trolleys. Tense pale faces, no anger, only the difficulty that people are having suppressing it. Sweat forming on the forehead, no expression, a tight smile when required, a mutual understanding and a calm appearance. Tread carefully, the fear of becoming angry makes the whole thing kinda fragile.

Recent political demonstrations highlighting the underhanded manipulative strategies that take advantage of this cultural quietness are an example of there being suddenly a legitimate reason for everything to go totally irrational. In this case, organised public protest against a Prime Minister who was put in place by a group of behind-the-scenes bad guys; a situation not unlike the period of George Dubya, the 43rd U.S. president. Both leaders were puppet-like, inarticulate, and the public fell into a kind of embarrassed silence; how can our leader appear to be so hopeless like this? This odd acceptance allowed the controlling group to manipulate events behind the facade. It was tolerated for a while due to the cultural ‘holding’ behaviour, then it exploded. These public protests pull things back into balance because Thais value peace. Anarchy and lawlessness are a scary alternative – almost like insanity. There will be stability, but only for a short time, it seems. Sadly, it’s likely to break out again. An impossible cycle…


We get on the next flight, take-off and up into the clear blue sky again; out there, where there are no problems, the beautiful great curvature of the Earth. One hour and fifteen minutes later we descend into Hat Yai. The outer arrivals section full of Thai muslims in colourful head scarves and matching costumes, children running around. Into the car and out on the great North/South highway that connects Thailand to Malaysia and all the way South to Singapore.

 “In essence, the process of division is a way of thinking about things that is convenient and useful mainly in the domain of practical, technical and functional activities (e.g., to divide up an area of land into different fields where various crops are to be grown). However, when this mode of thought is applied more broadly to man’s notion of himself and the whole world in which he lives (i.e. to his self-world view), then man ceases to regard the resulting divisions as merely useful or convenient and begins to see and experience himself and his world as actually constituted of separately existent fragments.” [David Bohm]

The David Bohm quote above comes from The Ptero Card Post: I Fall to Pieces
–   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   –
Upper photo: Don Muan airport Bangkok
Lower photo: part of the whistle-blowing anti-government demonstration passing through the Siam Paragon shopping area in Bangkok 

10 thoughts on “patient understanding

  1. A friend visits. Time is divided. We continue from last time, as if there is nothing in between. A friend leaves. Mind goes back to the order of the day. Dividing time. All the time. Being aware of it, we see mind at work. Perhaps fragments come together. One larger whole becomes now.

  2. I loved this line: “Tense pale faces, no anger, only the difficulty that people are having suppressing it.” A computer in such a state would throw up it’s hands and require a reboot. This causes me to reflect: there is something within us that navigates the incomputable, that eats irony for breakfast, that stacks paradoxes in the shed for moments that threaten to proceed according to plan.


    • Thanks Michael for a really encouraging comment! I shall rest a little more content in knowing there is something within us that navigates it all – just the thought of it is enough. Thank you again and best wishes for 2014

  3. Well done on keeping your cool. It does sound very inconvenient, and not what you would call “a service you have paid for”. Very enduring!

    I would be sweating at the X-ray machines too. I just feel nervous, as if they WANT to find something, so much that they’ll plant it. But that’s just me…

    • ‘Enduring’ is the word! The term othon is actually translated as ‘patient endurance’ but I changed it to ‘patient understanding’ because, for me, it works better that way. And when I get caught in these security examinations, I feel the same as you and everybody else, intimidated… but if I can understand that, it’s easier to let go of the fear of it, or the emotionality of it

  4. Thank you for the pingback! My cousin, Kathleen, is in Thailand, working for the Peace Corps.

    When I feel pressured, that someone is waiting on me, I’m not that patient, but most of the time I enjoy being attentive to others and being aware of the energy of the people and the place. This gets more tense the less familiar I am with the place I find myself in.

    Happy travels!

    • Yes, it’s exactly this familiarity that holds it together, probably your cousin will have spoken about the distinctive Thai way of doing things – knowing how it works makes all the difference. Thanks for dropping in Debra and also for the David Bohm source.

      • You’re most welcome…likewise!

        My cousin has been there for about a year now and seems madly in love with the Thai people. At first though, she had a rough time getting used to the culture. I think she’s very brave for doing what she’s doing.

        Bohm is/was most insightful. I love reading scientists who also have experienced something metaphysical and are not afraid to speak of it. Of course in his case, he really had a compelling vision and insight into the importance of understanding our limited view while acknowledging that there is something more.

      • I know exactly how your cousin must feel, the Thais are like that – although it can be hard to understand the culture at first. And David Bohm is wonderful, so reassuring somehow when a scientist is able to stretch things to include a ‘non-scientific’ point of view, and done with the same kind of intelligence and logic.

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