In October, 2005, when I came back from my first visit to the Pacific northwest, I wrote up a short piece on a day at Crater Lake and emailed it in various directions. I wrote another, and another, and before long I found that I had written more than a dozen little pieces on one or another aspect of the trip. So I decided I might as well pull them all together, fill any remaining gaps, and annoy my friends with yet one email more. And this is that set of essays.
At the present time, if you haven’t noticed, many things in all our lives are breaking up. I myself was ready to shed my job and my old life. For 16 years I had been publishing other people’s books, and I felt that it was time – if ever there was going to be a time -to concentrate on writing my own books. And if I was going to leave my job, I could also leave my surroundings. I had been in Virginia for more than 20 years, and on TMI’s New Land for seven. These tree-covered foothills I live among are still lovely, and my proximity to the stream of visitors attending The Monroe Institute is as satisfying as ever. But after a trip west earlier this year, Virginia had started to feel a bit confining, and I had started to ask myself whether I would want to spend the rest of my life here. As I do every so often, I toyed with the idea of moving on, starting fresh.
So when my friend Keli called to chat, one day in the summer of 2005, and told me that she and her husband and their two kids had moved from Texas to an intentional community in western Oregon, which they loved, I found myself considering the idea. Perhaps the Lost Valley Educational Community might provide me with the right combination of solitude and society? Worth checking out. So I made my flight reservations and waited for mid-September to come around.
Since I’d never been to that part of the country, I figured that besides spending a few days at the community, I’d spend a few days wandering around. The bear went over the mountain, you know, to see what he could see. He saw another mountain, he saw another mountain….
2. The Dalai Lama and Victor Chan
Thursday Sept. 15, 2005. I’m not much of a consumer, and if the Gross National Product depended on me, it would be a great deal smaller, except that, like Mr. Jefferson, I have no sales resistance to books. So when Northwest Airlines landed me in Detroit, an airport I’d never seen before, naturally I have to check out the bookstore, even though I only had a short time between flights. And naturally I come out of there with a book.
In this case it is The Wisdom of Forgiveness by the 14th Dalai Lama and Victor Chan. By the time we land in Portland, I have read a good deal of it – and have had a very interesting and satisfying conversation with the woman seated next to me, who looked at the title and said she hadn’t known the Dalai Lama had a new book out. When I ask if she is a practicing Buddhist, she hesitates and gives pretty nearly the perfect answer, saying that she doesn’t practice any religion, but is interested in Buddhism and finds much in it that resonates.
Well, me too. I have long said that spiritual experience unites, and religious opinions divide. The Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying, “my religion is kindness.” Me too.
When Victor Chan was a very young man, he was introduced to the Dalai Lama. Overwhelmed by the moment, he found his mind a blank. All he could think of to say was, “do you hate the Chinese?” The Dalai Lama often speaks through an interpreter, but his response this time was instant: an emphatic “No!” And that’s as it ought to be.
The rest of the book is more or less a long reiteration of this one statement. Not a great book, but a friendly companion for the airplane ride and a book to give to friends.