Bangkok, Thailand

May 15, 2016

Bees

Most days here in Bangkok, I give myself one treat: I walk down to the corner at Rama 4, and buy an iced coffee from Dem, my very favorite iced coffee vendor.

Most days, her cart is busy - locals stopping by on foot or motorcycle and taking away coffee, smoothies, and juices. But some days, it has another visitor: bees. Lots of bees.

It makes sense. The cart is packed full of fruit and ice - it's a natural haven for them in the concrete heat of Bangkok.

But here's the thing - even with bees buzzing around her, she's never bothered by them. No swatting, shushing, or any trace of tension in her body. The bees are just a part of life.

One day, I asked if she ever gets stung.

Chai, yes, she said, but mai bhen rai - it's no problem.

Because she's totally ok with the bees, everyone else is too, including me. I'm not normally a calm, relaxed person with thirty bees buzzing nearby. But I am at her cart.

Dem's reaction - and the calm faces of everyone else who stops by may seem outlandish to bee-fearing folks, but they make perfect sense here. There's a Thai logic to it, from deep down, woven in the fabric of the culture.

Thailand has been Buddhist for almost a thousand years, a line unbroken, and those values are present in every aspect of everyday life.

Dogmatically, Buddhism is interesting. It places living things into a hierarchy - we're above bees - but it also links them through reincarnation. Make some terrible decisions, and you might be those bees, the next time ‘round.

That structure creates a world where every living thing is kin - a fundamentally different set of values from the “humans and animals” narrative in much of the world.

And walking around in the world where you're related to everything - I gotta tell you - is a really lovely place to be.

That bird? Friend of mine. The hawk chasing it? Friend of mine, too. Caterpillar? Long-lost pal, about to have a bad-ass mid-life crisis.

I think maybe it feels so good because it lines up with an objective reality that becomes so clear, living all around the world.

We have only one tiny world, hanging in the vastness of space. And every one of us living things - we share it.

Have a wonderful week, your feet wandering on the same small ball as mine. :)

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I read this week was this fantastic interview with a photographer working on a gender-equality project in Iceland. So much amazing food for thought in it - the deep down, very best kind.

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