Monday, September 19, 2011
I’ve been around a while. I sprouted from nature’s scattered seeds and found myself rooted on a hill that overlooks the Thimphu valley. I’m not the most majestic of pine trees, neither is the hill on which I grew. I’ve seen a valley of rice fields and apple orchards, shepherded by simple men of faith, gradually transform into a city of cables and cars.
I don’t judge what I witness; I simply recount what I see. Development and progress are just words, whether it represents good or bad is relative.
Farmers who knew and worked the land with respect died. Their sons became educated. The knowledge their sons acquired brought about roads, electricity, factories and industry.
My kind were cut and burnt. Slashed and hacked. The valley saw more educated sons return back from lands near and afar, with yet more sophisticated ways and means on manipulating the environment around them. We missed the woodcutter seeking solace in our shades as modern machineries chain sawed us into submission.
Suddenly, the valley was flooded with people and goods. It could not accommodate them all, yet it kept over flowing. The paddy fields started disappearing along with the farmers. New crops began to sprout and spread. These didn’t grow in the lands, they grew in factories. The race to consume had begun. Self-sustenance and frugality had given way to dependence and obesity. Contentment was scant. The division of the haves and have-nots had widened. The less wanted more and the more wanted yet more. The valley was becoming a city of greed, power, corruption and apathy.
The limited land had become so precious that families fought, friends quarreled and neighbors jostled, all mutually suspicious and skeptical. My neighboring hills began to lose their trees. The air was poisoned and grand bungalows silhouetted the hills in the setting sun. There were fewer and fewer trees as the years rolled by. Down in the valley, the survival of the craftiest nudged away decency and goodness.
In time, the valley became dense with discontentment, anger, jealousy and hatred. The river became the recipient of all its filthy refuses. The mountains became the domain of the jealous gods. The lowlands became the realm of the hungry ghosts.
But there was a tribe still; honorable, courageous and free. A tribe of strong faith, they believed the shortcomings could be alleviated. They were too few and far between, yet they toiled hard. They did it because they believed the organic life could be sustained without the pitfalls the valley had been victim to.
So they toured as many hills, mountains, plains and valleys as they could. They discovered the pastoral life gave them rest and peace. They discovered that though farmers co-inhabited the land in harmony with its flora and fauna, they were happier than the valley of sweets, lights, televisions and vehicles- that though the farmers were poor, their way of life was rich.
Thus they came back to the heaving valley with renewed hope. They decided to resurrect the old ways and means and preserve them for all generations. The tempting sensual distractions of the valley’s many hues did not distract them. They realized that in the long run, the citizenry would lose all sense of courtesy and eat their own kind. To avoid this looming tragedy, they crafted a new way of looking at development and progress. They called it Gross National Happiness. This method was to be used keeping in mind the cultural and traditional values of all the mountains, valleys, hills, gorges, rivers, glaciers and everything they contained and represented.
This was applauded by lands near and afar. The hungry ghosts and the jealous gods also began to partake in its nobility. To ascertain that it would not just dissolve into deceptive clouds, the faithful preached and practiced it wherever they went. It was, for instance, declared that no matter what, all the forests in all the valleys high and low would be conserved and protected- that it would not be sacrificed in the name of development, progress and prosperity.
There is three of my kind left on this hillock. Only little children notice us. In passing cars, we hear them say to their parents, “look up! There’s a turtle climbing up that hill.”
It’s a moving illusion. But if you can keep the turtle and the tree, their stories and sights will always set you free.
***Turtle Tree Creations - Where Alchemy Happens... Naturally
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Love is in the air! Love is in the atmosphere! Love is in the stratosphere! Love is simply everywhere!
Though it was made known day before yesterday, love is the all consuming flavor of the moment. Just as hundreds and thousands of Bhutanese from all around the kingdom, I watched the opening seventh session of parliament, with the agenda in hand that would be discussed during this session of parliament.
What I had no clue about, and as has been my want throughout numerous occasions, was a small fact everyone seemed to be on except me, and perhaps others like me, ignorant and blissful.
Hence when His Majesty opened the session, as usual, the attention went to each and every word he uttered. But there was something about His Majesty that day – an undeniable glow about his visage. Then came the bombshell. The moment His Majesty announced to his people the decision he had reached to marry, and the manner in which he delivered that particular line, was and is, what makes His Majesty so special.
He is the People’s King, for he is not afraid to let us have a glimpse of what is a very natural and special feeling. The more so when it is shared. The part where His Majesty revealed the name of his future Queen probably touched and sent hearts fluttering everywhere – and did so in such an earthy and grounded manner, yet with all the elements that makes the human heart what it is, a place where we find what is best in ourselves.
The day will remain forever etched in the hearts and minds of his subjects and people everywhere, because in this announcement, which was more like another human being sharing what is obviously very special and important. And who amongst us is so stoic as not to be moved and swayed by this revelation and inclusion? If His Majesty is the People’s King, he is also the King that loves, and that love is so immense there is nothing it cannot accommodate and transform into something far more greater than meets the eye.
His Majesty is fearless. And in that fearlessness, we have a King that will always share everything that is dear to him with the rest of us – his proud and humble subjects. A man told me he did not know what it was but that he could not help but feel “very happy” about himself. I think he spoke for all of us. The reason why we could not quite pinpoint what that balm was is very simple: it was partaking in a historic moment wherein His Majesty, in opening his heart to us in the manner that he did, touched all of us in a spot that is so primal and intimate that communication is just a means to an end. And that end is something we all witnessed that blessed day. That love not only triumphs in the end but is a force so powerful that it mends, heals, and repairs anything and everything that is contradictory.
In a time and a place where cynicism thrives and negativity empowers all and sundry, it was a peerless reminder from His Majesty the King that there is so much good in this world, least of which is love, a feeling often revoked but seldom practiced.
And His Majesty has proved that he is love personified. The Dalai Lama always speaks of kindness as his religion whenever he is asked and prodded about religion.
We could say without any hesitation that in a way, the path that His Majesty walks on is simply, in a word, love. And love does make the world go around.
We pray for the continuing love and guidance of His Majesty the King, and our beautiful Queen to be, Jetsun Pema.
With all our prayers and love, Your Majesty, Tashi Delek!
*Turtle Tree Creations - Where Alchemy Happens... Naturally