Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 13

John 21 v 1 – 14

Gone Fishing

I watched two programmes on BBC 4 television recently, both were documentaries about Thailand. One was about Thailand wildlife, and one was about a railway train journey.

I had to admit, previous to these two programmes I knew very little about Thailand. I thought more about their neighbours Vietnam and Cambodia, being of a generation that remembers the Vietnam War and the American intervention, so the picture painted by the filmmakers of the country and of the people was extremely enlightening.

I was aware that Thailand, a country in South East Asia, is predominantly Buddhist, and was formerly known as Siam. It appears that the change of name from Siam to Thailand was an attempt by a 20th century dictator, Luang Phibunsorgkhram , commonly known as Phibun,   (I wonder why?), to bring the country into line with Western Politics and culture. Pity really as Siam’s culture was unique and much of it could be envied by the West.

As Buddhists, their culture is passionately based on harmony between nature, the natural world and human society, so it’s not surprising that they have a great respect for all creation and believe that there is interdependency between all nature and the human race.

Sandwiched between Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar (formerly Burma), historically, Thailand has been threatened by colonialism from both French and British pressure, but it never happened, partly due to the clever negotiating skills of the Thai (Siamese) sovereignty and trading agreements with the super powers.

I admired one King who arranged for the construction of a grand British Consulate building on one side of the road, and an identical one for the French on the other side of the road. Diplomacy or what?

I was also familiar with the Rogers and Hammerstein musical and film of, ‘The king and I’, but I didn’t appreciate that it was based on a true story. The relationship between a Welsh widow, Anna Loenowens, and King Mongluf actually happened and the Loenowens family became wealthy residents. However, it appears that the King was not impressed with the film and banned it from being shown anywhere in the country, and the ban is still in place today.

I was most impressed by the landscapes filmed in the programmes,  and the way the Thai people were portrayed as gentle advocates of caring and respecting the harmonic relationship with wildlife, be it elephants or deadly poisonous snakes they go out of their way to maintain the natural balance between all living things. One example was an elephant which had lost a leg through a land mine explosion. A prosthetic leg had been manufactured specifically for the animal so that it could live a normal life, and it worked.

One story really did impress me.

At a particular time of the year the sea off the coast of Thailand, is the host for an incredible event. Shoals of small fish make their way from the breeding grounds to the open sea. These are Anchovy, and they pass the Thai coast in their millions.

At exactly the same time flocks of Tern arrive to feed on the fish just below the surface. Simultaneously, pods of Great Whales arrive also to feed on the Anchovy, the whales rising from deep water with open mouths to scoop up thousands of fish into their throats with every dive, and while all this feeding is going on the Thai fishermen are casting their nets in the shallows to bring boat loads of fish back to the shore for processing. The Anchovy are filleted and dried in the sun and will be food for the community for a year.

So the Anchovy arrive at the predicted time, they are met by flocks of Terns which feed on them. The whales also arrive to feed and the fishermen also arrive to catch fish for the community, and there are still enough Anchovy to return to the breeding grounds next year.

How many Anchovy can there possibly be?

As I watched the fishermen casting their nets into the shoals of fish I thought of John 21v1.  The disciples, depressed and vulnerable after the death of Jesus, decide to go fishing on the Sea of Galilee but despite fishing all night they caught nothing. Let’s not forget that these are experienced expert fishermen, but even they caught nothing. Perhaps even with all our expertise there are times when we can only succeed when we invite Jesus to be with us.

When they follow the instructions from Jesus their nets are full and are at breaking point, they struggle to drag the nets to the shore. The Bible tells us there were 153 fish caught in their nets, a very specific number. This possibly represents;

  1. The number of languages in the known world at that time.
  2. The number of races or tribes in the known world at that time
  3. The number of species of fish known to be in the Sea of Galilee.

Whichever the interpretation we choose i’s meaning is clear, all people in all races in all the world will be saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the preaching of the Gospel.

It’s good to know that the natural world, working in harmony with Thai people is sustainable, but it’s disappointing that throughout history the Western world has stripped Thailand of it forestation in its search for timber, particularly Teak.   

Thankfully this has now been prohibited.  

Derek T.