I love my neighbourhood. I really do. The bible says love thy neighbour, but I prefer to love my neighbourhood. It is not the best neighbourhood in Bangkok. Far from it. It is not even the most "authentic" one, if you want to opt for the romanticised path of old Bangkok as opposed to the convenience of pseudo Western facilities. No, it is just a neighbourhood. A normal one. Well, as normal as a neighbourhood in Bangkok can be.
What I love about it is that you can see life. You can smell it. Life flows down my soi like a thick soup. Or maybe I should use the word stew, as it is often chunky and full of unidentified goodness. And like a good stew it is highly nutritional, especially for the soul. I am revitalised every time I walk down the narrow shaded street, saying hello to the food stall merchants and sending a big smile to a passing soi dog.
I love seeing life. Feeling it.
For some reason I never understood why the oh-so-modern world is always busy hiding life, covering it, blocking it from view, from us. Like a dirty family secret no one talks about, like a prude puritan choking herself in undergarments and bows, covering every good piece of humanity. For me, the modern attitude to life is not far from the burka. I don't really see the difference between a long black veil and a long white lie.
Modern society is always trying to make us perfect. What they consider perfect. We never sweat, we don't have zits or god forbid wrinkles or spots, and as far as I have been told, throughout history no one who wore a suit has ever passed gas.
I suspect it is our feeble attempts to reinvent ourselves, to create our own image based on our ego that is responsible. We will not let life dictate anything to us. We are evolved and sophisticated and we call the shots. That will show life who's the boss. But, as always, this might be just a rationalisation I make in order to avoid my everlasting suspicion that we are all just so very stupid.
Modern society likes to hide things. To put four walls around us so we will not see, so we will not feel, marking our territory with cement and glass and steel like a dog urinating in the corners of the room, and we love it. It is cosy. It is comfortable. We don't really need to see, we don't really need to know. As I am by definition the most important thing in the world, what do I care what happens around me?
As I walk back home in the evening I make sure to go slow and breathe in the life oozing from the houses I pass, enjoying the fresh scent of the trees and bushes mixing with the fragrant smells of cooking. By the time I get to our house, I know exactly what each and every of my neighbours is having for dinner. And boy, does my mouth water by the time I get to our front door.
This doesn't happen when you take the lift up to your 25th-floor luxury condo. No, a metal box takes you from the car directly to your private, slightly-less-small box that is waiting for you. And this is also why I insist on being a pedestrian and walk the streets, because even in my own soi, even with all that life jumping at you with all its force, if I drive home in a car, again a metal box, the closed windows and the air conditioning block all of that rich lovely experience that I love so much.
I don't like metal boxes, nor cement ones. I don't like being inside a cell for a sin I never did, for the crime of being alive, and although a lot of people who know me think I should be in a padded one, I still manage to avoid cells by completely and voluntarily giving up to life's beauty.
And even to the parts which are less beautiful, because this is life.
Don't hide life. Don't hide from life. It is useless. In the end, it will get you.