And on the other hand...

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Went to See the Lama...

...and the Lama said nothing really, that my Druidish-mother-in-law never said. "Be kind, be fearless (within reason), there's always more than one side to an issue, be realistic." Of course my mother-in-law never had 18,000 people pay $30 to $90 for a ticket to hear her speak, even though her English was much better and she had equally interesting tales to tell of her abdominal surgeries and growing up in turbulent times.

Still, one doesn't want to miss an opportunity to hear and see a celebrity and icon that been around in the news and my imagination for as long as I can remember. I think I became fascinated with Tibet when, at 10, I read Edmund Hillary's tale of climbing Everest...well, that was Nepal, but the mountain doesn't make a distinction. At the stadium, there were crowds of people, snaking in lines into the university sports stadium, like people circumambulating that mountain you're not allowed to climb, or wandering around the Potala Palace. A preponderance of old hippie types with grey ponytails, females wearing drapey Indian-style clothes, new surfer types with tattoos, and ordinary local people flocked to the event like ants to honey. With the exception of a John the Baptist-type hanging around proclaiming that Jesus is the ONLY way, it was a choir prepared to be preached a message they already knew.

We finally found our $30 seats in the stadium way up, but not bad---there were plenty of huge video monitors which gave the same view as if we had just stayed home and watched the program live streaming on line. I ate a container of saimin noodles while the no-longer prematurely grey (like myself) Michael McDonald (of the Doobie Brothers) was singing, or possibly suffering. He was joined by Henry Kapono, one of our more well known local entertainers, to sing "What the world needs now, is love"...or was it "All you need is love" was a veritable spiritual Woodstock ...after some greeting of dignitaries, HH made his appearance, then watched a video presentation of Jake Shimabukuro, our ambassador of peace via ukelele -- and he is indeed charming, a highlight of the day, even if it was just like watching a big TV. Here it is:

HH then gave his talk, occasionally taking on a role more like an emcee making other people comfortable, in slightly tortured English with a vague Indian accent. (Why did this surprise me; he's been in India for half a century.) Part of a program that has been established by Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay and lover of Hawaii, HH's appearance was to kick off an initiative to show how Aloha can be a model for peace. (I expect this to be as successful as a different Hillary using Hawaii's Prepaid Health Care Act as a model for her failed health care initiative way back when she was First Lady.)

Still, lest you think I'm being cynical (which I am) the ordinary Buddhist monk's message was simple; not complicated Buddhist technicalities or tantra (he saves that stuff, which would probably scare away 90 percent of his general audience, for more private talks), he said we are all connected, man has a special place in the universe because of his cognitive skills, and that we should smile at everyone. Except mad dogs; it is okay, wise even,  to fear mad dogs. That's just being realistic. I think the contingent who posed a touchy question about how indigenous populations (presumably Tibetan, but I suspect in this venue, Native Hawaiian) should respond to their oppressors were not happy with his answer: be realistic and change. Keep your language and culture, but move forward. He should know. Even HH is not saying "Free Tibet" any longer. I don't think it's that he's given up. I think he is a proponent of realpolitik.

The show ended well enough and efficiently so I could have a nice dinner with my companion before catching a flight to Kona on the Big Island, destined for Waikoloa, one of Hawaii's more elaborate and prestigious resorts, and site of a Western Region Conference of a professional organization I belong to. As I went through airport security, just behind me was a Tibetan monk who was on his way home to Maui. He wasn't quite as smiley faced as HH, so I simply said "Aloha" and bid him well.

My traveling colleague, not my companion at the HH event, not only had his bag lost by TSA, whose screening device was down, but was initially disappointed at his room. I registered early and got a nice fifth floor suite with a balcony that overlooks pools and palms and an ocean inlet, the very constructed vision of Hawaii perpetrated like the romantic vision of Tibet. (I woke to find that the roar I heard all night and thought was an airconditioner was actually a small constructed waterfall.) My companion's room, a kamaaina (local resident) special was on a first floor, tucked away behind the laundry rooms. But here's the funny part: it actually does have a feel of real Hawaii. The patio doors of the room, exactly like mine, open directly to the ocean, across a grassy area with a huge Buddha staring into the sea. (There are an unusual number of Buddhas all over the place, not very Hawaiian, but more peaceful than warrior tikis.) His kamaaina room essentially has its back turned to the elaborate resort complex. I wish I'd thought to request kamaaina rate. Compared to the kamaaina room, I feel imprisoned on the fifth floor, balcony rails holding me back.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Obsessed with Happy Birds

Ignoring the obsession everyone else seems to have with Angry Birds, I find much more pleasure and peace in Happy Birds, specifically the kolea, Pacific Golden Plovers, who are looking increasingly pleased with themselves every day.  It's been so rainy this season, I haven't been observing them as regularly as I might, paying a little more attention to the road conditions while on my daily commute. But this morning, a "shiny" day, as my beloved Chinese guide would call it, I saw several along the road.  Plump and fit, all spiffy in their dating clothes, they will lift off for Alaska before the end of the month. 
Kolea in Breeding Plumage

More than anything else, these birds and their regular migration have been symbols of Tao for me, in their relentless cyclic travel across the ocean (that low and most vast of watery places), to and from Hawaii and Alaska, to breed and then come home.  To what strange purpose these birds live, except as manifestations of Tao. 
The Compleat Kolea
The Wizard, in the passenger seat (his pussycat car is in the shop so he has to endure the noisy, un-air-conditioned, cramped TAO 61)  said, "I worry about them with all the feral cats around here." 

"They have incredible wingspans for their size," I pointed out, "they lift off strong and quick. They would do well on aircraft carriers.  And any creature that spends its days picking tiny edible bugs out of the grass probably is ultra-sensitive to an approaching feline."  I've seen plenty of pigeons and mynahs, sorry victims of cats and cars, but never a kolea shredded or squashed on the road.  The Wizard returned attention to his phone on which he was playing solitaire (not Angry Birds, not his style) before making the regular morning call to his dad on the mainland, 92 and alert and ready to discuss the day's news, his computer problems, and medications.  As I listened to the one-sided conversation, I realized he never mentioned the Happy Birds.  I guess it's just my obsession. Put aside the Angry Birds: do some kolea watching of your own; these birds are charming.  They'll make you happy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Have a Nice Moment!"

A Facebook friend recently said that when she posted a photo of a beautiful flower on her wall.  I have decided to start repeating it instead of the usual "Have a nice day," or even just "Have a day."

But moments are so fleeting.  Today I see I missed an eagerly anticipated one, as I observed TAO 61's odometer at 38 miles beyond total twoness.  I must remember to try to capture the 61st mile in my obsessive monitoring of my vintage roadster's cruise toward automotive immortality. 

Beyond Total Twoness

But  I did notice this morning a kolea with a vivid white stripe down its neck, the first sign of getting ready to fly to Alaska by the end of this month. Is it possible any of these birds have logged more than 222,222 frequent flyer miles in their annual migrations between Hawaii and Alaska; some have been documented to live for 20 years.  I wonder if they think of moments during their 50-hour trans-Pacific flights.  No, I'm sure they just fly with the flow.