Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wat the heck

Thai Temples are called 'wats,' you see? Oh, you knew. Fine

I don't like indulging and endorsing superstitious woo, but after recent events strengthened my friend Oliver's belief more fervently and irrationally than ever before that he is literally a walking diaster area (sometimes he doesn't even have to walk), I figured paying 50 baht to get him a 'blessing' would be worth it if it gives him any small measure of placebo-style comfort.

That's the kind of guy I am: cheap. Unfortunately, it all went tits up.

Fence sitters annoy me

Blaise Pascal thought he was clever by suggesting that people should live under the assumption that God exists, as they would have less to lose if this improbably turned out to be the case in an uncertain universe. Pascal's wager has a pretty obvious flaw in its Christian-centricity though, as most of the major religions condemn belief in other fictional gods (the wrong fictional gods) much more severely than they do non-belief. And what are the chances that the god you happen to believe in - just because of the place, time and family you were born into - will necessarily be the right one?

So if you are on the way out, scared and in the market for a safety measure, it's clearly your best bet to throw in your lot with atheism - that way, if one of those ridiculous, insecure deities does turn out to have been the true one all along, he/she/it won't be so pissed off that you wasted your life worshipping false idols. Plus, there's the added benefit that you'd probably be correct, and can look forward to the cold release of death without having to worry about being reunited for eternity with those annoying family members you only recently shook off.

Buddhism isn't a perfect religion, but as far as tolerance and values go, it's a lot easier to admire than most (and more than me). Plus, their temples are nice places to visit. That's why I took the opportunity to get a blessing for my friend Oliver when I toured the old wats of Chiang Mai, the day after the latest earthquake that he improbably believes himself responsible for.

Mixed blessings

It was easy to find Oliver's birthday online, as he is an important person after all, and this was all the info I needed to make sure I bought the right bundle of Theravada merchandise. The lady seemed momentarily confused when I asked if you could buy a blessing for another person, but said yes when she realised it made no difference to her sale (though she tried to get my birth date out of me too).

She looked in her book to find out that Oliver was born on a Wednesday - give me a minute to do the arithmetic and that list of month codes I once tried to memorise, and I could have told you that! If I'd drawn up one of my magic squares in the Biblical Times, people would be worshipping me (correctly).

Look at his condescending, disapproving face

Armed with my bundle, I went to the disconcertingly empty altar in front of Wat Chedi Luang and tried to light the candles and incense. After 10 minutes of frustrated, painful lighter flicking, only one incense stick was safely smouldering away, while the rest were charred and useless. I don't know what I was supposed to do with the scrolls or flowers either, maybe I should have read up on this before striding it and expecting to be able to throw my money at the non-existent problem. It's the thought that counts.

Sad incense

Although I'm a sceptic (I hide it well), I can't help wondering if there was a reason why I wasn't able to bless Oliver and lift his curse today. Beyond me being crap with a lighter, I mean. Maybe the person making the blessing has to truly believe in it themselves? Though this seems a bit spiteful of the gods to refuse to render assistance to another, just because I haven't blindly signed up to their unlikely doctrine based on the no evidence they've given me.

Maybe Oliver's only hope is to come here himself, and see the old monk on nearby Doi Suthep mountain who can give him a magical white bracelet to lift the curse once and for all. A piece of string hanging off your arm - that definitely sounds like it'll work. Incense and flowers, Wat The Heck was I thinking?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for trying, Dave, but this curse is clearly a strong one that needs me to lift it alone. I think once I get to my chosen place of blessing (I'll have to read up on the bracelet, maybe you're on to something there) I might have to do battle with an evil foe before I can actually lift the curse. He'll be really strong and it'll look like he's going to win but he'll have what seems like a totally obvious weakness when I work out what it is - something that will have been explained or hinted to me during my cursed times - and then I'll swiftly turn the tables and be a free man once more.