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There's kind of an interesting story
the mummified monk shown in the first
pictures of today's post.
Apparently he was a revered monk at a small
temple on Koh Samui, Thailand. He was famous
for the amount of time that he spent meditating.
In fact, he meditated so much that one day
he died while meditating. This was sometime
back in the 1970's, I believe.
For some reason, his funeral was delayed
for a time, but mysteriously his body didn't
begin to decompose. It never stank. So his
friends and family just left him as he was
and he slowly became mummified.
Now his remains are kept in a glass case
in a small shrine outside the main temple.
They are sacred to local Buddhists and a
curiosity to visiting tourists.
I'm not sure what's up with the sun glasses,
but his shriveled eyes were probably a bit
Stumbling across things like this is
of the many reasons that I love Thailand.
UPDATE: Thursday, April 22, 2004
Karen, my wife, read this post this morning
and told me that the story is wrong. According
to her, the mummified monk asked to be mummified
after he died because he wanted to set a
good example, about meditation I suppose,
I think my version's more interesting though...
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I was cleaning out my email inbox the other
day and came across this message that I got
a long time ago but never replied to. I don't
know the person who sent it to me, it just
sort of arrived one day.
What do you make of it?
From: session shrestha
|Dear Mr Mike clarke,
it was indeed very interesting visiting your
site and was pleased to know that you had
visited nepal,hope you have good memories
of the himalayan kingdom.as you are an archeologist
pls help me.i have in my possession a skull
of a five headed snake,which is very big
and very heavy.in the hindu mythology this
kind of snakes exsisted and was known as
the seshnaag.even today idols,pictures are
worshipped.pls help me,if you and your family
ever visit nepal pls do inform me and be
my guest.awaiting a quick reply ,thanks and
In other news, my mother has come for another
visit. Both my parents were just here at
Christmas, but I guess my mother really missed
Jack, so she came back again. How sweet,
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The picture of the dead dog in the previous
post piqued everyone's interest, as I knew
it would. It drew in a lot of comments on
the ethical, cultural, and psychological
issues surrounding the eating of certain
types of animals. It also brought up the
issue of the vulgarity of images of death.
We in the West are rarely confronted with
death, and when we are it makes us upset
and sometimes angry. Pictures of slaughtered
animals and dead people seem somehow vulgar
or obscene, which is strange considering
that dying is such a natural and everyday
When I sit back and contemplate the picture
of the dog with it's throat slit, I don't
think of food, or pets, or even cultural
relativism. What I think about is death.
That's what that picture is about for me.
And when you think about it, all of the moral
issues surrounding the killing of animals
boil down to the one big question surrounding
life and death: Does life, including my own,
have an intrinsic value and meaning? Is it
wrong to kill some things but not others?
Is it wrong to kill anything? Or are right
and wrong, good and evil, meaningless categories
from an outmoded period of human thought.
So, in a way, the controversy surrounding
the picture of the dead dog touches on one
of the most fundamental human emotional states:
An intense fear of death coupled with the
foresight to know that it is inevitable.
This is the bedrock underneath what is known
as the 'human condition.' The understanding
that no matter what I do, no matter what
I say, who I talk to, or where I go, one
day, and it could be soon, I will breathe
my last breath, my body will go cold, and
I will be no more -- just like a dog in a
People spend 90% of their time keeping busy
so that they don't have to think about their
imminent death. I think that's why we perceive
pictures of blood and death as obscene and
offensive. What they are offending is the
unspoken rule that we aren't to be reminded
When you run it through your head, I think
the train of thought goes something like
this: "I'm so afraid of dying, but I
know that I will some day, if I think about
it long enough and deep enough, try to really
imagine what it will feel like when the moment
comes, I start to panic, so I put it out
of my mind. The only way that I can find
the motivation to keep on going in life,
knowing that existence is so transitory,
is in the belief that my life, my sense of
self, is somehow special (sacred) to somebody
(God) and will carry on after death, though
in my heart of hearts I know that this is
only a comforting fantasy."
So that's why I think a picture of a dog
with its throat slit is so unnerving. But
maybe that's just me. Am I a weirdo? Maybe
what it all really comes down to is that
it's just gross to eat dog meat. Who knows.
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Okay, so I kind of went overboard with the
Hill Tribe pictures today, but that's the
last of them, I promise.
Starting next post I'll be moving on to pictures
of other parts of Thailand; after that it'll
be back to Japan photos again.
In case you're wondering, I never got to eat
that dog in the pictures. It turned out that,
upon opening the belly, they discovered that
it was pregnant and therefore, according
to custom, couldn't eat it. I have eaten
dog in the village many times before though,
and it's not too bad, a bit tough at times
because it's so lean, but it's got a real