Thursday, March 27, 2008

When the Dalai Lama Came to Visit

You may think I've gotten too serious in the last month and have lost my sense of humor. That couldn't be farther from the truth; actually, it's always in the background, not far away at all. Take this picture for example. Jim "dolled" it up a bit and isn't that great at spelling, but the photo showed the Dalai Lama when he came a-visiting Mossback Lake a few years back.

Susanne looked truly happy and relaxed; I looked a bit nervous, trying to hide it with a smile not reflected in my eyes. The Dalai Lama just looked serene, as usual. He dropped in on his way through to assure us that when Tibet went up in flames in or around 2008, we were to take notice. And not to worry, everything would turn out OK--even if it didn't appear so on the surface.

Over hot green tea, His Holiness kept us in stitches about other things that could happen that same year. He found wry humor in the fact that while Rome was burning, entrepreneurial man would continue creating as if nothing was going on. It surprised us that the Dalai spoke little about faith and a lot about science.
Although there were several discoveries and events he foretold, I remembered two very well.

One prophecy of a scientific bent had to do with "space" travel for wealthy folk who would pony up $100,000 or more to get a thrill ride in the outer atmosphere that would be completed in half an hour. The Dalai said, shoot, he went farther than that every day in meditation, and he did it for free. Such a deal. He jokingly said maybe he should market the technique and raise money for the poor.

The other vision had to do with fishing with sound. Because I've got fishermen in my family, this one caught my attention. He said scientists would figure out a way to train fish to catch themselves by swimming into a net when they heard a particular sound at feeding time. We laughed out loud at that one as we pictured north woods fishermen having to leave the bars and really, well, fish. There'd be no more excuses for not bringing anything home or lies about how the big one got away.

Not being from the area, His Holiness didn't quite understand our mirth. So, we took him out fishing on our little lake to show him how it was done, and how few fish are caught in the usual process. You should have seen him trying to get into the shaky boat
and our faces when a turbulent wind gust blew his crimson, flowing robes over his head. Our embarrassment was quelled when we discovered that he did indeed wear something underneath. Not that we could describe what the undergarment was, but thanks heavens for small favors!

We all had a good laugh over that episode while talking late into the night. He left the next morning with as little fanfare as he arrived without even as much as a good-bye. All in all, we found the exiled leader to be a regular, practical guy--not at all stuffy or formal. That was good because things have never been formal in our neck of the woods.

Now that it's 2008, these vivid memories have come streaming back, and all the Dalai Lama's predictions have come to fruition. Tibet is burning, inside and out, the starship is in production to take rich tourists for a ride, and fish farming by sound is the next aquaculture frontier. Susanne is about to graduate from law school, Jim is writing a book and I'm just writing.

And the Dalai Lama? Wonder how he's doing during these turbulent times? As one of the most talked about men of our time, one doesn't have far to go for the answer. According to a co-traveler, Pico Iyer, the Dalai Lama is doing just fine, thank you. He might ache inside, but on the outside his message never varies. Iyer reveals in the March 31st TIME magazine:
"The Dalai Lama delivers complex, analytical talks and wrestles with doctrinal issues within a philosophy that can be just as divided as anything in Christianity or Islam, but he has decided that when he finds himself out in the wider world talking to large audiences of people with no interest in Buddhism, the most practical course is just to offer, as a doctor would, everyday principles, regardless of religion. Since material wealth cannot help us if we're heartbroken, he often says, it makes more sense to concentrate on our inner, not our outer resources."
Many ache for him from afar as this powerful drama plays out, even knowing that His Holiness has the matter under control--at least in his own mind. In that illumed place, he may know that this incendiary situation tests two basic universal principles--the freedom of speech and thought and the concept of nonviolence--and the consequences for Tibet are uncertain in this round. He may find reassuring that the test is having a different outcome in
two other Himalayan states, Bhutan and Nepal.

I do recall that he told us during his unexpected visit not to worry; that everything would turn out fine, even if it looked like chaos from the outside. One thing's for sure: the Dalai Lama approaches all life with a knowing smile, a compassionate heart and a prophetic eye. He recognizes that some year humanity will awaken from its long slumber and move forward into a dramatically changed, enlightened future. But until then, I think we'll invite him back for more fishing. This time, though, we'll give him a pair of shorts; those robes just didn't work in a small boat.

Of Note: This picture was taken in 2003, the year Susanne graduated from Northland College. She would soon be on her way out to Idaho and the rest of her life. The spaceship story came from yesterday's WSJ, while the fishing by sound story broke in the Associated Press yesterday as well.

Today's Weather Report: Back to spring again today. Sunny and gorgeous, though not short-sleeved weather yet. Back and forth, forth and back. It must be spring in northern Wisconsin.

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