France 2010 047

My dispatches typically are sent from somewhere.

This one is sent from my sixtieth birthday


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Edmund Hillary, along with his Sherpa partner Tenzing Norgay, was the first to summit Mr Everest. Afterward, he was asked what contributed to his determination to get to the top of the mountain. He replied that when he was young his father had been very strict and believed in harsh discipline. There were many trips to the woodshed and it was always important to his father that Edmund admit that he had been at fault. But he never did. Hillary was proud of the fact that he never admitted wrong-doing, even when it had occurred. He thought that that kind of stubbornness was important in his push to the summit of the world’s highest mountain.


Machapuchare, Himalayan holy mountain

It was a great achievement, enough for most people, but Hillary did not become satisfied or complacent about what to do with the rest of his life. He could have been content with being the first up Mt Everest, but instead he moved on from that and had many other accomplishments. He was always looking ahead, not backward, and devoted much of his time to helping the Sherpa people.

   Hillary recalled that while he stood on the summit of Everest he took a moment to look off towards Makalu, another unclimbed peak at that time and the fifth highest in the world. From that unique vantage he could study the mountain and pick out a route that might be used to climb it someday.  He said, “Everest, for me, was more a beginning than an end.”


    I guess that’s Hillary’s way of stating the maxim that the journey is often more important than the destination, the striving for a goal more fulfilling than the achieving of it.      




     The journey I’ve been thinking about lately is the one that brought me to my 60th birthday. My “life-as-a-journey ” journey.

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From Thich Nhat Hanh:

Contemplate a piece of paper.

Look carefully and you can see a cloud in a piece of paper. Without a cloud there will be no rain; without rain the trees cannot grow; without trees we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. There are other essential things for the paper to exist; the sun, the logger who cut down the tree, the wheat that feeds the logger, and on and on.

The essence of the teaching is that if you start with any one thing in the world and think of the things without which it would cease to be, and then branch off from those things and so on, you will eventually get to everything else that exists.

Every object is linked with every other object in the universe. It all inter-exists. If we look deeply we see that the existence of every single thing is possible only because of the existence of everything else.

Maybe one needs to look deeply to see the interdependence of everything in the universe, but sometimes the interconnections can stand out starkly and unexpectedly.

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Buddhist Parable

Some children were playing on a beach beside a river. They made castles in the sand and when finished each child defended his castle and said, “This is mine!”.  They kept their castles separate but, as can happen, one child kicked over another’s castle and the owner flew into a rage. He struck the child with a stick and convinced the others to help him inflict the punishment that he thought the child deserved for having destroyed his castle. The others complied, beating the child with their sticks and stomping on him as he lay on the ground. Then they went back to their own castles, to play and enjoy, saying, “This is mine; no one else may have it; keep away.”

Evening came and it was getting dark and they all thought it was timed to go home. No one cared what became of his castle. One child pushed his over with both hands, another stomped on his and knocked it down. Then they turned and walked back, each to his own home.

What does it mean to “own” something. What do we think it means and how do we know when, or if, we do.

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