Parts of our lives exist only in pictures and symbols.
Thailand is a place on the globe in my home, or perhaps the inspiration for a flavor of curry some weekend. Filipino is a reference in a Black Eyed Peas song. Malaysia is a word on the label of my new t-shirt or on a sticker plastered onto the matching salt and pepper shakers I got my parents for Christmas. Really, though, these places are so much more!
Based on my own experience, I believe people need to engage their senses in order for something to become real to them. As I’ve been on the trip, the proximity and focus of living and learning forces oneself to acknowledge the reality of the people and places. It’s right in your face; it’s in sharp relief. I’ve been there, and some of you have been too, and know what I’m talking about. Others won’t be able to understand, because they have only read books and seen pictures of these places, but I have reached this conclusion: It’s tangible. Trust me.
Buddhism is real, the jungles are real, Thailand is real, Southeast Asia is real.
I have walked a small section of the streets, I have hiked a small portion of the landscape. I have experienced a meeting of minds with a breakdancing monk who articulated his religion for me in a way that was knowledgeable and concrete. I have engaged my being for a short while in what Asia means; What were only symbols have become tangible to me.
I expect that some things will fade away, in fact it’s inevitable. Familiar routine will seduce the weary traveler with a persuasive subtlety, events and facts will be less and less clear in memory. Despite this, I am determined to keep the integral parts intact and extract the precious from the insignificant.
I can only hope that every day back home I will be able to remember what resonated with me, and inspired me, and perplexed me, and changed the way I think the world works. I hope to continually forge anew the reality of Asia, not just as a foreign culture but for the lessons in living that apply to the whole of my life. Lessons like the inherent worth and dignity of every human, the beautiful variation of the global spectrum of art and opinion, the fact that a lot of ‘history’ depends on the person writing it and reading it, and the power of living peacefully.
If we meet face to face, ask me, and I will share a thought or two; I will paint a picture of my time here or I will explain a symbolic event. Until then, farewell.