Among the towers of the Bayon, a temple complex in northwest
Cambodia, are 200 smiling, complacent faces of the Buddha. Most of them are two or three yards wide, massive carved blocks of sandstone fitted together almost seamlessly, a proud legacy of sculptor artisans in the service of a long-ago Khmer empire.
Many of those serene faces, when I first saw them five decades ago, were still enwreathed in the thick, fleshy roots of the tropical forest that had grown over them, from which they had only recently been -- partially -- freed. Still ensnared and so diminished by the remnant tuberous arteries and veins of giant trees, they seemed nonetheless tranquil, halcyon.
Serene, but omnipresent -- like the benign surveillance I experienced there.