My son wants to know why flies are even a thing; he wants to know why bugs are even a thing. They bother him. I get it. I, too, have his sensitivities. On the other side of the world, where our real lives reside, Chicago winters coerce living things to slumber or die—not so here, in Thailand, where life announces itself in its full verdancy and fecundity, unending, its tight and insistent tendrils ever unfurling.
Tomorrow, I will receive the sacred blessing of a Sak Yant, a talismanic, ancient, protective, and mystical stick-and-poke tattoo from one of the most revered spiritual masters in Thailand. This, however, was not a decision I made for myself: my mother said she had a premonition; it was overwhelming. She told me I needed this tattoo for protection. Such tattoos are simply part of Thai culture, especially as it is lived by the peasant class, a class that, without power or money or resources, depends on luck and superstition to bank their hopes and dreams and visions of someday. Superstition or no, my mother says I need the protection. And soon.
So here I find myself, in the country of my birth, on the eve of an eternal marking.
It is more than a mere mark; like baptism or confirmation, getting a Sak Yant is ceremony, a pronouncement that one has made a significant life choice. With this mark, I am making the choice to be mindful of the spiritual dimension. In other words, I will have to believe that there is something to believe in. Read More