Headlines and soundbytes from world leaders is sometimes the only impressions we get of a country, but how often does a politician or president accurately reflect your voice? Commentator Darlene Mazzone shares a page from her diary, about a trip to Nepal, where she discovered that the key to understanding foreign people and places it to seek the poetry in the details of their cultures.
It’s late May 2011 and in two days I’ll be taking a plane from Kathmandu back to the states.
As I write, I’m sitting on the side of a mountain gazing at the snow-capped peaks of the majestic Himalayas.
I have just spent the past 25 days trekking across northern India and Nepal with my two sons.
I have brought much away from this experience not the least of which is that we believe we’re all so different, but after staying with a Muslim family in Kashmir and spending time with a Hindu family at Hasera, an organic farm in Nepal, I’m convinced that we’re actually not so different at all.
We cover ourselves in customs and costumes. However, we all spend our lives dealing with the same aspirations for ourselves and our children. We meet with struggle and victory, sacrifice and loss. And we soon forget who we really are. After days of exploring and examining a culture vastly different from my own I am struck with the notion of making sure that I never lose sight of the truth of my own existence.
The French philosopher and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” To make that experience as purposeful and poetic as we possibly can should be every heart’s greatest desire.
When I returned home from Nepal a friend called to welcome me back and concluded our conversation with the observation, “You’ll never be the same.” But we don’t have to go half way around the world to understand the world. We simply have to be educated and informed ABOUT the world. And WE have to do the homework.
We can’t sit idly by and allow biases, misinformation, and tainted talk to form our perceptions of the billions of fascinating and compassionate people who inhabit places very different from our own.
The poet Mark Nepo, whose Book of Awakening is a year’s worth of daily lessons for living a more intentional life, says it this way, “To walk quietly till the miracle in everything speaks is poetry. After years of looking, I can only say that searching for small things worn by the deep is the art of poetry. For me, poetry is the unexpected utterance of the soul. It is less about words and more about awakening the sense of aliveness we carry within us from birth.”
I have never felt more alive nor experienced more beauty and everyday poetry than as I wound my way through ancient Indian alleyways, entered shrines that have existed for thousands of years, dug potatoes with a farmer in a mountainside village, attended a Suffi singing in a Delhi mosque, or climbed to the top of a mountain to sit with young Buddhist monks performing their daily rituals.
The poetry of life is often expressed not only in our words and our traditions, but in our daily existence. And therein we more fully realize the UNIVERSAL rhythms of life no matter WHERE we exist.
Darlene Mazzone is president of Mazzone Communications in Paducah.