Life is easy. Why do we make it hard? Ask Jon Jandai (Transcript)
Jon is a farmer from northeastern Thailand. He founded the Pun Pun Center for Self-reliance, an organic farm outside Chiang Mai, with his wife Peggy Reents in 2003. Pun Pun doubles as a center for sustainable living and seed production, aiming to bring indigenous and rare seeds back into use. It regularly hosts training on simple techniques to live more sustainably. Outside of Pun Pun, Jon is a leader in bringing the natural building movement to Thailand, appearing as a spokesperson on dozens of publications and TV programs for the past 10 years. He continually strives to find easier ways for people to fulfill their basic needs.
There is one word that I have always wanted to say to everybody in my life. That word is “Life is easy.” It’s so easy and fun. Before that, I never think like that.
When I was in Bangkok, I felt like life is very hard, very complicated.
I was born in a poor village on the Northeastern of Thailand. And when I was a kid, everything was fun and easy, but when the TV came, many people came to the village, they said, “You are poor, you need to follow success for your life. You need to go to Bangkok to pursue success in your life.”
So I felt bad, I felt poor. So I needed to go to Bangkok.
When I went to Bangkok, it was not very fun. You need to learn, study a lot and work very hard, and then you can get success.
I worked very hard, eight hours per day at least, but what I can eat is just a bowl of noodles per meal, or some Tama dish of fried rice or something like that.
And where I stayed was very bad, a small room with a lot of people slept. It’s very hot.
I started to question a lot. When I work hard, why is my life so hard? It must be something wrong, because I produce a lot of things, but I cannot get enough. And I tried to learn, I tried to study. I tried to study in the university.
It’s very hard to learn in university, because it’s very boring.
And when I looked at subjects in the university, in every faculty, most of them had destructive knowledge. There’s no productive knowledge in university for me. When I look at something like if you learn to be an architect or engineer, that means you ruin more. The more these people work, the mountain will be destroyed more. And a good land in Chao Praya Basin will be covered with concrete more and more. We destroy more.
If we learn agriculture faculty or something like that, that means you learn how to poison, to toxicate the land, the water, and learn to destroy everything. I feel like everything we do is so complicated, so hard. And everything we just make it hard.
Life is so hard and I felt disappointed.
I started to think about, why I have to be here in Bangkok? I thought about when I was a kid, nobody worked eight hours per day, everybody worked two hours, two months a year, planting rice one month and harvesting the rice another month. The rest is free time, ten months of free time. That’s why people have so many festivals in Thailand, every month they have festival. Because they have so much free time.
And then in the daytime, everybody even takes a nap. Even now in Laos, if anybody go to Laos if you can, people take a nap after lunch. And after they wake up, they just gossip, how’s your son-in-law, how’s your wife, daughter-in-law. People have a lot of time, but because they have a lot of time, they have time to be with themselves.
And when they have time to be with themselves, they have time to understand themselves. When they understand themselves, they can see what they want in their life. So, many people see that they want happiness, they want love, they want to enjoy their life.
So, people see a lot of beauty in their life, so they express that beauty in many ways. Some people by carving the handle of their knife, very beautiful, the baskets they are weaving very nicely. But, now, nobody does that. Nobody can do something like that. People use plastic everywhere.
So, I feel like it’s something wrong in there, I cannot live in this way of living. So, I decided to quit University, and went back home.
When I went back home, I started to live like I remember, like when I was a kid. I started to work two months a year. I got four tons of rice. And the whole family, six people, we eat less than half a ton per year. So we can sell some rice.
And then I dug two ponds, two fish ponds. We have fish to eat all year round. And I started a small garden. Less than half an acre. And I spend 15 minutes per day to take care of the garden. I have more than 30 varieties of vegetables in the garden. So, six people cannot eat all of it. We have a surplus to sell in the market. We can make some income in there, too.
So, I feel like, it’s easy, why I have to be in Bangkok for seven years, working hard and then not have enough to eat, but here, only two months a year and 15 minutes per day I can feed six people. That’s easy.
And before I think that stupid people like me who never get a good grade in the school, cannot have a house. Because people who are cleverer than me, who get number one in the class every year, they get a good job, but they need to work more than 30 years to have a house. But for me who cannot finish university, how can I have a house? Hopeless for people who have low education, like me.
But, then I started to do earthly building, it’s so easy. I spend two hours per day, from 5 o’clock in the morning, to 7 o’clock in the morning, two hours per day. And in three months, I got a house.
And another friend who’s the most clever in the class, he spent three months to build his house, too. But, he had to be in debt. He had to pay for his debt for 30 years. So, compared to him, I have 29 years and 10 months of free time. So, I feel that life is so easy.
I never think I can build a house easy like that. And I keep building a house every year, at least one house a very year. Now, I have no money, but I have many houses.
My problem is tonight which house I will go to sleep tonight.
So, a house is not a problem, anybody can build a house. The kids, 13 years old, at the school, they make bricks together, they make a house. After one month, they have a library. The kids can make a house, a very old nun can build a hut for herself. Many people can build a house. So, it’s easy.
If you don’t believe me, try it. If somebody wants to have a house.
And then, the next thing is clothing.
I feel like I’m poor, I feel like I’m not handsome. I tried to dress like somebody else, like a movie star. To make myself look good, look better.
I spent one month to save money to buy a pair of jeans. When I wear it, I turn left, and turn right, look at the mirror. Every time I look, I am the same person. The most expensive pant cannot change my life. I feel like I’m so crazy, why I have to buy it? Spend one month to have a pair of pants. It doesn’t change me.
I started to think more about that. Why we need to follow fashion? Because, when we follow fashion, we never catch up with it, because we follow it. So, don’t follow it, just stay here. Use what you have.
So, after that, until now, 20 years, I never buy any clothes. All the clothes I have is leftovers from people. When people come to visit me, and when they left, they left a lot of clothes there. So, I have tons of clothes now.
And when people see me wear very old clothes, they give me more clothes. So, my problem is, I need to give clothes to people very often now.
So, it’s so easy.
And when I stopped buying clothes, I feel like, it’s not only clothes, it’s about something else in my life, What I learned is that when I buy something, and I think about, I buy it because I like it, or I buy it because I need it.
So, if I buy it because I like it, that means I’m wrong. So, I feel more free when I think like this.
And the last thing is, when I get sick, what will I do?
I really worried in the beginning, because when I have no money, what I will do. But, I started to contemplate more. Normally, sickness is a normal thing, it’s not a bad thing. Sickness is something to remind us that we did something wrong in my life, that’s why we get sick.
So, when I get sick, I need to stop and come back to myself. And think about it, what I did was wrong.
So, I learned how to use water to heal myself, how to use earth to heal myself, I learned how to use basic knowledge to heal myself.
So, now that I rely on myself in these four things, I feel like life is very easy, I feel something like freedom, I feel free. I feel like I don’t worry about anything much, I have less fear, I can do whatever I want in my life.
Before, I had a lot of fear, I cannot do anything. But, now I feel very free, I feel like I’m a unique person on this Earth, nobody like me, I don’t need to make myself like anybody else. I’m the number one.
So, things like this make it easy, very light. And, after that, I started to think about that when I was in Bangkok, I felt very dark in my life. I started to think that many people maybe thought like me at the time.
So, we started a place called “Pun Pun” in Chiang Mai. The main aim is just saving seed. To collect seed, because seed is food, food is life. If there is no seed, no life. No seed, no freedom. No seed, no happiness. Because your life depends on somebody else. Because you have no food.
So, it’s very important to save seed. That’s why we focus on saving seed. That’s the main thing in Pun Pun.
And the second thing is it is the learning center.
We want to have a center for ourselves to learn, learn how to make life easy. Because we were taught to make life complicated and hard all the time. How can we make it easy? It’s easy, but we don’t know how to make it easy anymore. Because we always make it complicated and now, we start to learn, and learn to be together.
Because, we were taught to disconnect ourselves from everything else, to be independent, so we can rely on the money only. We don’t need to rely on each other. But now, to be happy, we need to come back, to connect to ourselves again, to connect to other people, to connect our mind and body together again.
So, we can be happy. Life is easy. And from beginning until now, what I learned is the four basic needs: food, house, clothes and medicine must be cheap and easy for everybody, that’s the civilization.
But, if you make these four things hard and very hard for many people to get, that’s uncivilized.
So, now when we look at everywhere around us, everything is so hard to get. So I feel like now is the most uncivilized era of humans on this Earth.
We have so many people who finish from university, have so many universities on the Earth, have so many clever people on this Earth. But, life is harder and harder. We make it hard for whom? We work hard for whom right now?
I feel like it’s wrong, it’s not normal. So, I just want to come back to normal. To be a normal person, to be equal to animals. The birds make a nest in one or two days. The rats dig a hole in one night. But, the clever humans like us spend 30 years to have a house, and many people can’t believe that they can have a house in this life. So, that’s wrong.
Why we destroy our spirit, why do we destroy our ability that much? So, I feel like it’s enough for me, to live in the normal way, in the abnormal way. So, now I try to be normal. But, people look at me as the abnormal one. A crazy person. But, I don’t care, because it’s not my fault. It’s their fault, because they think like that.
So, my life is easy and light now. That’s enough for me.
People can think whatever they want. I cannot manage anything outside myself. What I can do is change my mind, manage my mind. Now, my mind is light and easy, that’s enough.
If anybody wants to have a choice, you can have a choice. The choice to be easy or to be hard, it depends on you.