When enough is enough
Everyone is talking about a philosophical gem shared by The Voice Thailand judge Singto Numchok. This first-time judge, who is recognised by his fedora and ukulele, remarked to two contestants in the battle round, knowing that one of them would be sent home that day. "Someone asked me: 'If I hadn't been successful in music, what would I have done with my life?' I asked them back: 'What is your definition of success in music? Is it fame? Is it a hit song? Is that success, and is that the only way to achieve happiness?'
"To me, having the chance to get up and sing on that stage, to pick up a guitar and sing in a restaurant, that already is considered success. If you go home, and someone asks you whether you were successful, say: 'Yes, ever since you dared to step on to this stage to compete.' So there is absolutely no reason why you should stop singing, just because I didn't choose you to continue into the next round."
The remarks were met with a huge round of applause. It was probably the most insightful and inspiring comment to have ever been made in the show, and I think it applies to everyone.
Thailand is caught up in a vicious cycle of corruption that has sadly been part of the business culture for so long, but it is now being brought to the public eye, with each step of the process being analysed and publicised. People are astonished at how systematic it all is and how much is made with each deal. Heads are beginning to roll and you wonder when and where it is going to stop. What it all boils down to is the Thai definition of success. The majority of people still measure success in financial terms, by how much money you have in the bank, how many cars you have, the neighbourhood you live in, what brand of clothes/bags/shoes/jewellery you wear, where you go for your holiday.
If you drive a supercar, you will have car park attendants bowing low and waving you to a special, prominent parking spot right in front of the door. You could be the meanest person in town, but that wouldn't matter. Your wheels give you acceptance, just as your jewellery does.
Thais are very superficial that way.
It's no wonder that people will keep trying to better themselves and reach that stratosphere, by hook or by crook. The term "face value" strikes a bigger note here than anywhere else. You lose face if your friends make more money than you do, carry a Birkin bag, or holiday on a cruise ship in the Aegean and Adriatic seas, while you are still driving off to Pattaya for the New Year holidays.
Inspirational writer/editor/composer Wisoot Sangarunlert reminded us that in Singto's perfect world, the journey is just as important, if not more, than the destination. If you enjoy making music, then success is being able to do what your heart desires. The present is the defining moment, when you are doing: singing, making music, dancing, cooking dinner, or feeding your baby. These are the moments that define us.
You have no idea how your chocolate soufflé is going to turn out, or whether your kid is going to grow up to be a high-school dropout or a PhD candidate, but you continue to cook and nurture -- or dance, sing, play music -- with your heart, and derive joy from the process.
You might not get rich as a result, but I'm sure you will feel enriched.
The problem lies with people who are looking at it from the opposite perspective, aiming for unrealistic end results, and doing whatever they can to attain it. They don't understand the meaning of "enough", and they don't know where to stop.
There's always a saturation point, where you can stop and ask yourself how many cars do you need, or watches, or diamond rings.
Except for shoes.
You can never have enough shoes.
Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the features editor of the Bangkok Post.
M.R. Usnisa Sukhsvasti is Bangkok Post’s features editor, a teacher at Chulalongkorn University and a social worker.