A Tribute to the King

Monday, January 4, 2010 12:54 PM By Stephen J Christophers

The Thais actually revere their King as a living Buddha, now that is something! Nowhere does this become more obvious than when going to watch a movie here in the cinema. I was initially startled by the event during the few minutes of advertising in the lead-up to the feature - my last encounter was prior to the epic Advatar. At the start of some dated footage everyone rises for a moments reflection on some old video archive of the King and his life as he rather cumbersomely tends to a field of rice, with the farmers, common folk, takes some photographs and addresses a large crowd from his palace. All lovingly edited with sound track some time back in the 1980’s. Your initial feeling is of WTF, then a little embarrassment as you stumble in the dark to find your seat and popcorn, again. Nevertheless, on reflection you begin to warm to the spirit of the moment, love and unity this man brings to Thai society – it just fits somehow.

The British similarly display such episodes; like the Queens Christmas speech. Although viewed and berated by most, in secret she is our national treasure. And in countries such as Australia, where bouts of media feed nationalism, like the rise and of Cathy Freeman as a sporting icon, help to take our attention from Pauline Hanson's One Nation fiasco, a pitiful attempt at right wing politics. All just feel at best terribly contrived and horribly disturbing. Not to mention the saga that will become Obamaism. Here however, in the wonderful world of Siam, I can not help but notice how unifying their love towards the King really is, it‘s infectious, crossing over all social demographics and touching everyone. My current home is one such place of worship. And although my girlfriend tends to be half assed in the ritual of replacing old and rotting food stuff, that which adorns our altar on top of the wardrobe. Food which sustains a constant line of ants passing via the toilet door, up the wall and feast on the rich picking aloft – it only warms my heart further to know that nature is also a happy participant.

Yesterday on the way to dinner, my girlfriend and I stopped to view an exhibition of portraiture which presently lines the entrance to Festival Mall Shopping Centre Pattaya - an exhibition devoted to his life, in a gorgeous display of oil and acrylic on canvas. Having previously stopped to look at the collection of works - some epic pieces - I was also interested in taking a second look and more pictures. Ang almost religiously set about taking photographs with her mobile phone - going about it in a very purposeful manor. Reminiscent of Muslims rounding the pillars at Hajj, she, I might add, patiently captured each and every painting in a non violent manor – no stones were thrown. Mission in full swing, I retired impatient and hungry to mill around the foot cleaning fish spa. On her eager return to show me the new set of additions to her mobile phone screen saver album, I was a little shocked to see pictures of her pole dancing and these iconic images of the King in all his glory popping up at random. Nevertheless, after a moment’s reflection, it seemed to fit without question or complaint the idiosyncratic nature of Thailand, and further reinforced the attachment Buddhism has in the personal lives of its followers, it doesn’t preach, legislate, persecute or dam them, it fits into their lives in a very personal and harmonious way which feels non intrusive but paradoxically ever-present.