I discovered that Thailand was one of those countries, like Sri Lanka and India, where memory of past lives used to be commonplace. Go back a few generations, and you find people talking about earlier lives with total certainty.
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In Southeast Asia the world is understood to be a vast, complex network of interdependent relationships. So when global capitalism makes it impossible for small-time rice farmers to feed their families and make a living, it is a natural thing for anyone in the family who can find an alternative source of income to do so.
I think it is immensely difficult to get the U.S. interested in non-U.S. topics. I don't think this is because the average American reader is disinterested, but more because of publishers playing it safe: if a thriller based in L.A. is a sure winner, why spend money plugging one based in Paris - or Bangkok?
In essence, the Thai people are not materialistic at all. They're not in the least driven by the kind of ambition that drives us. The more I got to know them, and the more time I spent with them, the more I understood that this was a totally legitimate attitude to life, and why not?
Just studying Buddhism, then meditating and going to Buddhist monasteries, talking to Buddhist monks, combined with the Thai people themselves, changed the way I look at the world.
I'm fascinated by Buddhism. I adore Buddhism, and I read about it all the time, but I haven't formally become a Buddhist, although I don't really know why I haven't. I guess I feel I don't need to.
'Shun security,' I advise aspiring novelists when they complain to me that they are stuck. 'Get disoriented. Maybe your agonizing writing block isn't agonizing enough. Your enemy is comfort.'
Expecting to be wrong about most things most of the time brings, finally, the kind of humility that leads to peace. I think.
There are plenty of brilliant people who are too stressed out to read challenging literary novels.
To a Buddhist, contradictions only exist in a mind that has been forced to cultivate them.
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