France 2010 047

My dispatches typically are sent from somewhere.

This one is sent from my sixtieth birthday


Nepal.Everest.flight.view - 1

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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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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Nepal Sept 2016 Dispatch.2

Buddhist Parable

   In a mountain monastery there was a young novice monk, faithful and ernest, yet undeveloped and prone to mishap. One day, despite his reputation for clumsiness, he was given the honor of cleaning the cell of the master. He took to his task with resolve and determination. He was happy to be allowed to tend to the master’s quarters where there was stored some of the few precious items that the monastery possessed, including an exquisite vase handed down to the master from generations of his predecessors. It’s origin was lost to everyone’s memory, but it was something cherished by the monks as sacred and dear. 

    The novice waited until he had finished with the other areas of the room before he turned his attention to the shelf with the vase. Up until that point all had gone well so it must have been that the novice’s guard was down as he began to dust. Unfortunately, but predictably, the vase was knocked to the floor and shattered into a thousand pieces. 

   The novice was stricken with feelings of grief and shame, soon followed by dread at the thought of telling the master what he had done.

   The young monk, expecting the worst, summoned his courage and went to the monastery’s garden to find the master and confess. He followed a narrow stone path along a stream and approached the master as he sat quietly beneath the willow trees on the bank. The boy bowed deeply, his voice quivering as he managed to tell the elder his story.   

   After receiving the news of what had happened to his precious vase, the Buddhist master remained serene. His countenance betrayed not anger nor disappointment, only calm and equanimity. He looked down at the youth, who thought that his days of being a monk would soon be over. 

   The master told the novice to stand up as he spoke to him tenderly, saying, “To me, that vase was already broken.” 



    If you want to have a lesson in the Buddhist concept of impermanence then you should go to a country that is so old that many of the buildings are made of clay bricks held together by mud; a country that is visited, as if on a regular schedule, by earthquakes.


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