Editorial: January 2016
I joined my family in Bangkok a few days ago to celebrate my grandfather’s 100th birthday; a bloody good innings, even if he has been bedbound for the past few years.
Sitting on the southern-bound plane next to my 81 year old father, who himself first flew into Thailand from England in 1964, I stared out into the pale blue ether and day dreamed about my ancestry. I thought of my grandfather, a retired Air Chief Marshall, who as a young boy, dreamed of flying and ended his career commanding Thailand’s skies. According to family lore, my grandfather’s uncle was one of the first Thais to fly, as well as being one of the first to die as he crashed into the lawn in front of the Grand Palace in 1903. Apparently after hearing of this family tragedy, my young grandfather knew before he had even seen an airplane, that he too wanted to navigate the skies.
What pioneers! What dreams my ancestors must have had as they forged invisible paths through the clouds so long ago: great-uncle swooping over a city, whose occupants must have looked up in awe, followed by horror as he crashed; young grandfather fighting in WWII under frightening conditions, ambivalent about his patriotism as he was eventually forced to fly for Japan; and my adventurous father, excitedly heading to the Far East for the first time, little knowing that it would soon become his home.
What must they think of the modern realisations of their avian dreams I wondered, as we sat, sardined, in one of the low-cost airlines which shuttle in and out of Chiang Mai every few minutes: masses of people shuffling around in grid-locked airports, as in life, maniacally rushing from destination to destination in pursuit of some form of self-gratification, that rarely, genuinely fulfils.
Before heading off to the airport, you see, I had just been in the office reading a massive pile of holiday greeting cards, most of which depressed the hell out of me. The messages I was receiving seemed to be all focused on one wish – that I gain great wealth in 2016. It felt so wrong somehow, I thought, as I headed to pay my respects to a man whose life has spanned a century and for whom I only wished health, love and peace.
My grandfather had once told me that he became a pilot because it was his destiny. Sitting on that plane, having just received dozens of wishes from friends and acquaintances for financial luck and gains, I began to ponder my own destiny and dreams. Sure, there are things I want in life, things that need money to materialise, but these are simply desires, not necessities. Health, peace, love, family, accomplishment and happiness, surely these are necessities and what one must always wish upon others.
As I leaned down to give my grandfather a kiss on the cheek an hour or so later, surrounded by family, all of whom have managed to carve a couple of hours in their busy schedules to come and pay respect to our beloved remaining grandparent, I wondered how many of us have realised our own passions and dreams. And how many of us have probably forgotten what they were in the first place as we have become consumed in this world of desires.
I bet grandfather never sent a card wishing someone great wealth in his long long life.
So, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you, our wonderful readers, a happy, healthy, loving, fulfilling and joyful 2016. Let’s remember our priorities and live our passions, not our desires.
Citylife this month:
The end of the year was a bit nostalgic for us, hence the reappearance of late of editors and writers past. This month our recently departed (for America) Dustin Covert returns to our pages with a story on a glass artist living here in Chiang Mai. Gary Ilnes, one of our first columnists from the 1990s also returns with a very interesting and practical take on English language education in Thailand.
Aydan Stuart writes about Rasmee, an incredible morlum fusion singer who is making great waves in Chiang Mai and beyond. And I make a mockery of my editorial by spending a couple of nights at the ridiculously expensive (and desirable) Amanpuri in Phuket! It’s a tough job.