Meditation, Public School, Marketing, Gratitude
By Ben Bartee - February 14, 2024

Originally published via Armageddon Prose:

I once dismissed, out of hand, with prejudice, anyone who espoused the healing practice of gratitude as a New Age loony toon, probably into Ouija boards and healing crystals or whatever.

Cynicism, at some point, without any conscious effort, became a well-cultivated feature of my projected identity — the more jaded and indifferent I could demonstrate myself to be, the less of a sucker I showed myself to be to a cold world full of predators.

Perhaps this was in part an adaptation to the hostile, prison-like environment of certain Atlanta public schools I attended, total jungles where expressing gratitude — or any “gay” emotion — was a license granted to the mob to be mocked and bullied. I exerted conscious effort to suppress such bitchlike emotions as gratitude on the public school prison yard out of fear and conformity.

Or perhaps, in other part, the cynicism came naturally as the result of an advertising-laden culture, in which skepticism to the point of extremism is a self-defense tool against getting taken for a long ride.

RelatedNihilism: A Hell of a DrugOn the Death of God and the Current Mental Health Crisis

Nowadays — after having survived Atlanta public school and not having voluntarily consumed any advertising for years — I’ve reconsidered the merits of gratitude, and the expression thereof.

In various forms of meditation I’ve been doing (or, more accurately, attempting), a common request by the guru is to conjure up an image of something to feel grateful for.


“It can be a person, place, or event,” goes the guidance.

Inevitably, for lack of any worthier object, my mind wanders to my wife.

Her name is Liubov Tepliuk — Liuba for short. No one, aside from the government, calls her Liubov. She has many other nicknames that I have given her, some of which she likes more than others, and which will remain unrevealed here.

I found her in the mountains of Lao Cai, Vietnam — not widely regarded as a reservoir of charming Slavic women. For this reason, I chalk our rendezvous up to fate, if you quarter a belief in fate, or serendipity if you don’t.

Our first correspondence, strangely, was by email. My future boss, a totalitarian named Hang, supplied her name and address as a reference when I was considering a job at GEL language school.

(A word to the wise for prospective English teachers abroad: whenever possible, especially in East Asian countries where things are often not what they seem, as detailed in my memoir, Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile. Scammers will smile sunshine and rainbows at you with seemingly infinite goodwill while they plot their conjob. For a truer picture, it’s best to get inside information from current or former teachers from a school you are considering working at.)

In reply to my inquiry, Liuba, not wanting to anger her employer, reported GEL to be a stellar school and Hang a magnanimous boss. These were blatant lies, as I soon came to learn, but I’m glad — grateful — for the lies because I took the job on that basis and moved from Thailand to Vietnam.

She is the best person I have met on this Earth. That’s a biased and subjective assessment, but, as the kids say, it is what it is. What else could I think about the woman I married?

Happy Valentine’s Day.


Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

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