Round this neck of the woods, if someone’s giving us the silent treatment we say they’ve “got the monk on”. In fact, we say they’ve “got monk on” – because we don’t acknowledge the existence of the word “the” in our Yorkshire diction, we replace it with a barely perceptible glottal stop, a slightly Zulu-esque tongue click that can also be used to open automated garage doors.
Actually, that’s quite an antiquated expression now, it’s more likely that we’d just describe said person as a “mardy bastard”. Let me put that in a randomly generated sentence to help you out: “Amber is a mardy bastard.” But thematically that wouldn’t be a very good fit for this email, so let’s now return to the matter of today’s presentation: Monks.
Perhaps one day your travels will take you to Tibet. You should try to go before the Chinese eat it, swallow it up like they did the Panchen Lama, because it’s a very special place. I’m just some Northern monkey from a pokey little pit town, I can hardly credit some of the places I’ve managed to make it to. Before I went, I never even thought of Tibet as a real place. It sounds like some mythical kingdom.
Anyway, if you do make it there you should check out Sera Monastery, home of the debating monks. I know that doesn’t sound too exciting, but trust me on this one, Amber, it’s really is quite the show. Picture a beautiful, sun-dappled courtyard full of Tibetan monks in their deep red robes. After a bit of preliminary chanting they split off into twos. In these pairings, one monk sits cross-legged on the floor while the other one stands over him, giving him a load of slaver about whatever the topic may be. Obviously, I didn’t know what they were debating – Coke versus Pepsi maybe, the price of yak’s butter – but you wouldn’t imagine that a chance encounter of Buddhists (to give them their proper collective noun) could get so rowdy. They start wagging their fingers at each other and swinging their prayer beads around like 50’s B-movie hoodlums with bike chains. Then when they’ve made a particularly salient point they do this little hand clap thing right under the other monk’s nose:
-In your face, Brother Gyatso! Use a prayer flag as a napkin – you got served!
Actually, even now that I’ve described it, it still doesn’t sound that good – but again, trust me, you really have to be there. And this is Buddhism we’re speaking of, so even if you’re not there you’re probably where you’re meant to be, it’s all alright. It was one of the best things I’ve ever seen, like a Drama Club full of sentient beings re-enacting an episode of Jerry Springer.
I say it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen, because after that I read a book about Tibet. Turns out that because so many monks have become disenfranchised with Chinese involvement in Tibet a lot of them have disrobed in disgust. Or played Follow the Leader and gone off to join the Dalai Lama Version 14.0 in Dharamasala. His new place up in the hills of McLeod Ganj isn’t a patch on Potala Palace but, as ever, it’s really all about location, location, location. Hence, many of these monks at Sera Monastery are in fact actors, Disneyworld parade Mickeys and Goofys, stooges employed by the Chinese to offer up some bowdlerized version of Tibetan culture to gullible, snap-happy tourists like me.
Regarding Sera Monastery, I perhaps should have been tipped off when I spotted one of the felonious monks text-messaging during incantations. Naively, I assumed he was Googling some theological issue on his Blackberry. The overall experience left me feeling foolish and cheated, and now I’m experiencing similar feelings about you.
You were so adamant about how you wanted me to come over to Sydney as soon as you were back at home; you said that was all you wanted. Once more I’ve been duped. You’re a flim-flam man, a snakeoil vendor, a flippertygibbet, and you change your tune quicker than an Ipod shuffle. In fact, you’re not even playing any tune – it’s just unacceptable levels of graphic silence with you. Maybe you are a Buddhist; that would at least go some way to explaining your level of inaction.
You promise tiramisu and then don’t even serve toast.