A Thai Funeral – Part 2

| June 7, 2010 | 66 Comments | 46,364 views

Continued from A Thai Funeral – Part 1. Click on the pics for full sized versions.


In The Next Phase , an episode from Season 5 of Star Trek The Next Generation, Geordi and Ensign Ro are time phased.

They are alive but cannot be seen by the Enterprise crew who assumes they are dead.

They can see and hear everything going on, but no one can see them.

Before they are re-phased to normality, they get to watch as their friends and comrades, with Data in charge, plan their funeral.

Instead of a western style christian dirge and wake where everyone sits around crying and moaning their loss, Data plans a celebration of lives lived well. Data throws a party, where everyone gets  drunk, gets happy, gets down and where everyone shares how Geordi and Ensign Ro enriched their lives.

What becomes clear is how many people their lives had touched in a positive way and how deeply and profoundly those around them loved them.

Data’s funeral is an acceptance that everyone dies and what is important is not that a person’s life has ended but what he accomplished while he was alive. Was he a man of honor and compassion? Was he a good and true friend, a loving husband and father, and a compassionate person to those less fortunate? Did he take the gifts bestowed upon him and run with them–enjoying and exploiting them to generate a full, rewarding, and interesting life. In the end, did he give back more than he took? Or in Kipling’s immortal words did he “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run“.

If he was the less fortunate, did he deal with his handicaps, bad luck, and misfortune with grace, style, and determination—playing the cards he was dealt as skillfully as the rules of the game allowed—maximizing expectation from shitty starting values.

Or was he a shitheel, a user, and a hater in life. A person whose life work was taking advantage of the weak, the less fortunate, and the vulnerable. A person constantly on the lookout for the downtrodden,and desperate whom he could latch onto and live by sucking their blood.

Truth Stranger Than fiction— a better description of Thailand than The Land of Smiles.

The roadside celebration is part of a Thai funeral.

After stopping, my friend and I got out of the car and talked to some of the people. Like everywhere in rural Thailand, strangers are warmly welcomed and there was no sense that we were intruders or unwelcome.

Using our rudimentary Thai, we found out that the party was part of a funeral. I later confirmed that this is normal practice in Issan from a friend with a Thai girlfriend. When a guy dies, they have a party to celebrate his life.

The people in the picture are dirt poor — scrabbling out a basic existence on the fringe of Thai society. Look at the setup and you realize it must have cost money. That is a real stage, with real performers and a real sound system. There was homebrew liquor freely available to all. Whomever died, those close to him loved him enough to drop significant coin.

Personally, that speaks more emphatically and forthrightly than the eulogies delivered by the rent a priest, delivering 10 paragraphs of hackneyed generic material and 2 paragraphs of personal references at many western funerals.

These people might be poor and uneducated but maybe they understand some of the deeper and more profound truths about life than we do.


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