I woke up today to find I was dreaming of going to get a tattoo which said “LET GO” on my wrist. “But you haven’t gotten a new tattoo in almost three years,” I told myself, “so obviously you won’t follow through with it.” I soon forgot about my dream and after rolling around in bed for a while, answering a number of unnecessary work-related phone calls, and then replying to some emails, I finally decided I’d have to accept that my hang over and lack of sleep would accompany me through the day, and I got up, and went out in to the world.
“It’s my day off today, and I’m in Chiang Mai,” I thought. So I chatted with my friend Bow and asked if she’d like to take a trip with me to one of Thailand’s most famous temples, the stunning Doi Suthep, which sits 1,700 metres above sea level, about 15 kms out of Chiang Mai city. Bow was interested in coming along, though as she is the one who owns the motorbike, I suppose it was more me that was going along with her. And so off we went.
Along the way we stopped at several viewpoints to take photos and admire views, and when we reached Doi Suthep, we climbed the 150 or so steps to the top of the temple and went inside. While we were inside, deciding it would be nice to have a photo taken together to remember our day at the temple, I walked up to a tall orange-bearded man wearing a pink shirt and sporting a red turban on his head. “Ah-ha,” I said. “You look like the perfect person to take a photo.” He said: “Well at least you’re sort of asking, most people just walk up and start taking photos when they see me.” I said: “Oh,” having not really noticed his unique physical appearance, “I guess you do stand out a bit, I can see why people might be curious. But no, I was wondering if you could take a photo of my friend and I?” He replied: “Of course I can.” And I handed him my photo-taking-device and he snapped a few pictures and when he handed it back, I said “thank you,” and introduced myself. Upon doing so I became aware immediately that our conversation was not set to end just yet.
Kofi went on to tell me that when we was much younger, 30 years ago, he met an Australian woman in London. They fell in love, as you’d probably guessed, and live together in Kurandra near Cairns in far north Queensland, Australia. He told me if I ever go there that “most of the black fellas” know him, so I could ask around and we could catch up for a meal and some conversation. Feeling inspired after meeting this interesting character, I bid him farewell and continued exploring the temple.
Ten minutes later, Bow and I were sitting down quite a distance away from where I initially spoke with Kofi. He spotted us and walked up to offer some tasty dough balls with a sweet garlic filling - a strange snack, yes I know. After I took one and Bow refused he said “goodbye” again and walked away. But something urged me to follow him and go and spark up another conversation.
I saw a woman who I quickly identified as his wife sitting right near where he was standing. I introduced myself and her name escapes me right now, but it was clear Kofi had already told her he’d met me. As we got in to conversation, I learned that Kofi and his wife were in Thailand for seven weeks. The reason for their visit, was that six months ago, unexpectedly, their 38-year-old son died of heart failure. Their son was a homosexual-cross-dresser who lived in Melbourne and LOVED Bangkok. Kofi said: “He had a fascination with Bangkok and would spend his days sitting with his dressmaker in a small street out of the main tourist area. At night time he’d go and parade his new threads by partying with the ladyboys and other flamboyant-types in the city. We’ve come to Thailand to scatter his ashes from out of the window of a building that overlooks his former dressmaker’s shop, as we’re sure that’s what he would have wanted. We’ll head back to Bangkok in a few days and some of his friends from Melbourne will meet us there, and they’ll also introduce us to some of his Thai friends we’d have no way of meeting otherwise.”
“Wow!” I thought, or possibly, I said. “This sure is a crazy story!” And as I started thinking about the bizarre tale I’d just been told, I realised neither Kofi nor his wife had any feelings of sadness within them. I said, thinking it appropriate: “I’m sorry for your loss.” But Kofi quickly said: “No, it’s ok. His time was up. He didn’t suffer. This is the way it was meant to be.”
Surprised that this man seemed to see the world through the eyes of acceptance that I try to, I fell deeper still in to conversation. Kofi and I, with a little bit of his wife’s input went on to discuss all sorts of things; from our wild dreams about Australia opening itself up to allow everyone from everywhere to live there, to finally, landing on the topic of Indian fortune tellers in Bangkok.
A few years ago I had my fortune told to me in Bangkok and many of the things I was told did indeed come true. But Kofi and I, both acknowledging that these men probably do have some sort of special powers, agreed that more than anything, being lucky in life is all to do with how you perceive your own situation. Kofi of course, and his wife, impressed upon me how lucky they felt they were to have a son who had died after living such a happy life. Aside from this, Kofi told me that over the past 30 years of living in Kurandra, he’d spent a lot of time thanking the Universe for landing him there. I also do this regularly.
I told Kofi that funnily enough, the day after a recent incident in Bangkok in which I lost a number of my valued belongings, an Indian man approached me telling me I was lucky. I told him about my loss of possessions and he said: “Sorry sir. Good luck to you,” and quickly walked away.
Kofi and I both laughed as I told him I was really quite fine about my loss, but I was just testing the fortune teller to see how he’d respond when I pretended I was feeling miserable. We both saw the futility in the fortune teller’s approach, believing that the circumstances surrounding one’s life at the present moment needed to be responsible for their happiness.
“If I can give you one piece of advice,” Kofi started, probably feeling that as a young and curious man I was ready and open to take on some of his wisdom, “I will tell you this.”
“Let go, and be kind to others; this is all you must do in life.”
Shivers ran the length of my spine, and Bang! Back in to my head popped the thoughts I’d woken up with and I told Kofi about my dream. I then said: “When I get back to Chiang Mai, I’m going right to my friend’s tattoo shop and getting ‘LET GO’ tattooed on my wrist.”
Kofi and I parted ways after thanking each other for the conversation we’d shared and bidding each other farewell. I told him and his wife I hoped that the memorial in Bangkok for their son was the special moment they had envisaged and they wished me well in ways I feel privileged to have had wished upon me.
LET GO, I believe, is the most profound and useful wisdom we can carry with us through life, which can help us at any moment we are holding on to past dissatisfactions or grasping at future fantasies. These two words prompt us to discard the thoughts within our mind which are not assisting us on our quest for meeting with happiness in the minute we are living through.
And from this day forward, for every day that I walk this earth, if I catch myself feeling disapproval towards life as it is, I will be able to gaze down at the etching on the inside of my left wrist and be reminded to: LET GO.
Heed these words.