One of the Cities of Gold is in Asia

A river winds through it, wide, slow waters churned by constant traffic.

The water is downhill and someone shook the city so that all the gilt glass blocks of the buildings tumbled to its edge.

And originally I was thinking that about London, but from 28 floors up and not remotely the tallest building in the nearby, it’s all about Bangkok.

In Barstow and Phoenix and Denver, it’s all about the sun. The sky’s fierce eye seems to fix you in its stare like an ant under a magnifying glass.

In Sacramento, and Bangkok, it’s the air. It’s a throbbing, living thing made of the river and the pollution and it has taken on the very soul of the sun. It blasts into you, works ineluctably through your flesh toward the marrow, squeezing out sweat and oils and anything in you that doesn’t belong. The Japanese word is misogi, a kind of ritual purification that you can get in rarified places like saunas and hot springs, and also walking down the street at a 10pm that is just as hot even though the sun has been gone for 4 hours.

Just like Pema Chodron’s great book, the lesson is no escape. Like standing in a waterfall or sitting in 110 degree water, or having a tank of a training partner attack you on the Aikido mat, the only way to the other side is surrender. Become part of the heat, shimmer along with the haze over the sidewalk. Let your shoulders drop and glide through like the Thai do somehow without sweating: elegant tropical fish sashaying through the inferno of the world.

This is the Buddha of peace, standing behind the great golden buddha in Bangkok (the future standing behind the past, the way it always does), one hand out, saying “stop” to armies with so much clarity that the only way through is surrender.


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