Face of Love
The expanse of the eastern sky opened up and from the top of the Himalayas a mighty rain fell. All day and all night, for two long days and three nights, with no bursts of sun or hint of cessation. Sometimes it came down so fast and furious that we all shifted our attention to witness this astonishing act of nature, fat rain drops pounding on and bouncing off the pavement. At times the drops were fewer, giving enough of a reprieve so that we can rush to our next destination.
But is this an act of nature or are we witnessing something else? The people who have lived in this place for many years say that this weather is very uncharacteristic, as were the snowfalls that blanketed them on three separate occasions a short while back. They shake their head in disbelief, as they sit and watch and wait and worry. Too much rain sends the tourists scrambling for warmer, drier, sunnier locales; business drops as does the spirits of the men with families to feed.
I have heard from travelers all around the world about the bizarre weather that their country has experienced this year. In my own home, the rain was scant, the dry deserts of California usurping it from us. There, mudslides and flooding claimed lives and homes. Forest fires are assured for Oregon, the rainfall way below average this year.
So, in the late winter rains of this place, what to do but drink hot beverages? Something that I would have found impossible to do in my home, here I have learned to sit in the open air tea shops with the locals, my Indian friends, drinking chai and chatting while the rain falls all around us. The warmth of the tea and the good company keeps the chill at bay; I don't notice how cold I am until seeking shelter indoors.
A glass of chai with one friend then a glass of ginger/lemon/honey tea with a group of others, followed by more chai with another friend, and on and on it goes, filling my days and my bladder.
My friend Rahul and I shared some ginger/lemon/honey tea yesterday while discussing the differences in our cultures. He was fascinated to learn about the way things are in my world, while I too was excited upon hearing about his life, which he explained to me with great attention to detail. While most of my friends here in Bhagsu are Indian, Rahul, who lives with his sister, mother and three aunts, is from Nepal. His father, a soldier, died in combat when Rahul was a baby.
A few nights earlier we went to one of Rahul's Uncles café "Unity", as it's called. A small open-air café nestled in the hills, the message in the menu was my favorite thing about this newly opened eatery that serves pizza. In it were the words, "One World One People" followed by hundreds of words to fix the meaning of this phrase in our minds: that of skin colors, body types, sexual orientations; the message that we are all the same people, the whole world over.
Certainly, this becomes ever more evident as I travel. I think that the only time I feel slightly misplaced in the human race is when I am hanging out with people and cannot understand their language. I think that we feel left out if we do not know what it being said. At the same time, I find it pleasurable to just sit and listen to the foreign words flying around in conversation, the language a mellifluous, melodious mystery to my ears.
It is true, as Simba, my Korean friend who is nearing the end of his six-year, 60 country world travels said to me when I asked what he has found most significant in his travels. He told me that people are basically the same all over the world, that we all have the same dreams, worry about the same things, spend our days working, and our lives wanting to be loved.
He summed up his travels in this few of words. I love that. I love the simplicity and the beauty of this wisdom. I don't think that traveling is required for us to understand this basic concept (that we are all 'one people') but I think that having some exposure to different cultures, peoples and accepting their way of life, is paramount if there is ever the hope of achieving global unity and world peace.
And it is never too late. The rains fall long and hard to cleanse the air of toxic residue wiping the slate clean for us to start anew. Each new day, each new moment, is an opportunity for us to cast aside whatever prejudices we carry like a poison in our heart, and to see that we are 'all one people'.
I have spent some time with a French family who is here in India working on a book project about spirituality and ecology. Alex, who is translating the authors text into English, asked for my help upon hearing that I write and am keen on environmental issues. He asked me to look over a list of questions that will be posed to the Dalai Lama if they are able to get an audience with him.
One of the questions, and the same that Alex asked me, is, "what is the answer?" How can we move beyond our destructive ways that are putting both the planet and the people in peril?
I think that the answer is simple, and one that can be summed up in one short word - LOVE. It's a short word, but one of the biggest in the language of humankind. We toss it around so freely, but do we really understand the gravity of it? Do we truly know how to love, free of prejudice, conditions and self-interest?
We can take this simple 'love' test. Each time that we look into the mirror we can ask ourselves the question, 'do I love the face looking back at me'? And, each time that we look into the face of another person, another being, we can ask ourselves the question, 'do I love the face looking back at me'?
Because, it's all the same face, unique and different in skin and eye color, features, shape, etc., but all the same face. A face of love.
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