Mathew Ngau Jau – sape master

In the mid 1990s I traveled throughout the Malaysian state of Sarawak in northern Borneo recording traditional music for what became the CD Sawaku, on Pan Records.

I went to Long San, a Kenyah longhouse up the Baram River in eastern SarawaMathew Ngau Jauk to attend the first traditional naming ceremony to take place in many years. I was hoping I might hear and be able to record some traditional music there.

I had arrived a couple of days early as a guest of the Wan Ullok family and was left to my own devices as the family became very busy with preparations. I asked around the longhouse for anyone knowing about traditional music and someone mentioned that a good place to look was at the next longhouse up the river. I heard of a longboat going up river so I hitched a ride. Arriving at the longhouse I was told that there were no traditional musicians left, so I caught the boat back to Long San. That was when a young man with a traditional haircut asked me what I was doing, and when I explained my search he said that he played sape (the traditional boat lute) and would be happy to play for me once we got back to Long San. We had a great conversation on the way down the river, but arrived too late to visit him, so I went over the next day.

This was the first time I heard Mathew Ngau Jau play the sape and the first time I had ever heard anyone sing with it. I was quite familiar with the sape as I had recorded Tusau Padan the most well know sape player in Borneo many years earlier, and Mathew knew the traditional repertoire well. However his passion was in his arrangements of traditional songs with the sape, and new pieces he had written within traditional styles. These were quite innovative and yet seemed natural extensions to the tradition.

Over the next couple of days Mathew and I became friends and he was very helpful in arranging for one of the elder women of the longhouse to sing and play a bamboo zither for me to record. I found out that he actually lived close to Kuching the capitol city of Sarawak, where I was staying. He was a full time teacher, but was obviously very connected to his culture. Very few men retained the traditional hairstyle as Mathew did, and those that did were either working in the tourist industry or were elders in longhouses far upriver. At that time having a traditional hairstyle could be result in ridicule or even harassment, and yet Mathew wore it with pride.

After a few days with Mathew I was very impressed with his dedication to his culture and music. After arriving back in Kuching I met with him a few more times and became even more impressed. I asked him if he was interested in performing more and possibly going on a couple of tours, and he said yes. I then talked about him to the Sarawak Tourist Board as I knew that Uchau Bilong, who they had been sending overseas, and whom I took to Marseilles, was getting to an age where travel was no longer easy. I put in a very strong recommendation for Mathew at the Tourist Board. Mathew also put effort into this radical lifestyle change, and although the wheels of government work slowly, eventually they hired Mathew as their representative musician and started to take him around the world on tourist promotions. This enabled Mathew to leave his school teaching and become a fulltime artist.

Mathew began to flourish. He started to build and paint sapes regularly, then revived that art of making and decorated traditional bark clothing. After that he revived traditional rock sculpture. Now Mathew has become the grand master holding the culture as Tusau and Uchau did before him. He has made a substantial contribution to his culture as well as educating the modern world of its value. His likeness is the logo for the Rainforest World Music Festival.

If you go to Sarawak, he has a B&B at his house and you will be treated to great music, great hospitality, great stories, and to meet a living legend. Mathew named as National Heritage

Houston and the World

Leaving Houston after a gig, I get a taxi to the airport from my hotel. In the cab after stating my destination, the cabbie and I start a light conversation…where you from, where you going….the usual things. I note that he has an African accent and ask where the accent is from. He tells me that he was born in Ethiopia, and I immediately ask him if he ever listens to krar or beganna music, two of my favourite but radical different forms of harp music. He explodes in delight and we start an intense conversation of music, travels, family, and life. He lived in Eastern Europe for 6 years before coming to the US. He loves Houston. He goes back to Ethiopia every year to see his family there and to take them money. I talk about my life and career. Back and forth, we talk the whole trip. At the airport, after paying him and getting my bags we both express our joy in meeting each other, and we shake hands, and we both naturally do the handshake I learned from my west African friends that ends with a finger snap. His delight with me rapidly and smoothly doing this handshake with him turned into a giant and deeply affectionate hug. Although we just met, this old longhaired white musician is hugging a middle age Ethiopian cab driver at the airport with joy. This is the world I live in. This is what the world can be.

This video is of my old friend Alemu Aga playing the beganna.

Willow

Willow
for vocal or instrumental choir

This was one of numerous graphic scores that I had originally planned to dispose of, but saved after meeting John Cage.

At the time, I had created a series of what I referred to as “image” scores, which resembled sparse paintings; this was the only one to have survived. These scores were often created with very clear methods of performance. The strokes in the upper left of the score were inspired by shakuhachi and Tibetan dungchen notation. These strokes were created first, and once in place over a few days I added the other elements as a contrast. I saw three directions of gestures, an oblique movement in the upper left, a subtle horizontal movement on the bottom left, and a crowd of horizontals and rising verticals on the lower right. These directions were important to the score at the time. Any additional layers of meaning as a result of viewing the score as a painting are welcome yet parallel to the work.

I have an interest in vocal and instrumental choirs and the way instruments of a similar timbre interact with each other, especially when they are not bound by melody or harmony.

Below are additional comments on my notes to the score.

The Notes to the Score:

  1. Written for any number of performers, this score can be performed in any manner the performer wishes, including aurally, visually. kinesthetically, synesthetically, interactively, literally, symbolically, or philosophically. 

This is a statement I included in many of my scores and is one that is fundamental to my philosophy of performing them. I consider the reaction a person may have in approaching my scores as a type of performance. How they then express such a reaction, or any long-term results of this reaction are continuations of the performance.

As a performer myself I engage many aspects of my being in playing music. Those mentioned above are just a few, and they often tend to function simultaneously. I am often amazed that this is not more commonly discussed as I find an awareness of how all these manners of expressing music combine is important, as is the balance between them.

A performer may wish to express the score in any manner including all those listed above, exclusively or inclusively. However the performance may also be more intimate and introspective. Many musicians hear scores upon encountering them, and I consider this an aural performance, and as some elements of this performance may never make it to a stage, it is unique and special. An aural performance may also include hearing wind in a willow’s leaves, or grass, upon encountering the score. It could also include hearing a suspension of sound, or a sustained silence simultaneous to the sound upon encountering the score, or at any time when recalling the score.

A visual performance is any reaction generated from observing the score, and both kinaesthetic and synesthetic performances function in the same manner. Any visual image, such as imagining the colour green or a willow tree is part of a performance. As is any movement or physical reaction such as a tingling, an emptiness, a sense of confusion, or a blankness are all performances.

Any reaction to the score could be construed as an interaction. I see that as a person reacts to a score, the score starts to transform. The score initially observed is no longer the same once it has been reacted to. As the score changes, the reactions of the observer again change, creating an interactive feedback chain. Any discussions of objectivity or subjectivity are further performances.

For some a literal performance is interpreting the written gestures as pitch low to high and duration left to right, with dynamics from soft to full. For others a literal performance is a sonic recreation of the image. I will leave symbolically and philosophically for those that are inclined to interpret.

  1. It can also be read from right to left or left to right, and pitch may or may not be interpreted vertically.

This may be construed as a restatement of one form of a literal performance. However, the term “read” can be taken quite literally and the score can be put into words or thoughts in either direction, with or without pitch.

  1. A deep understanding of willows may be helpful. 

Willow trees hold symbolic meaning in many cultures, and an understanding of these might be useful. Understanding the tree itself is also useful.

  1. The performer may wish to sit close to or under a willow, or give a willow branch to a parting friend.

An extended time sitting with a willow tree may provide a rich palette of subtle experiences, emotions and associations with which to perform this work. In sitting under or with a willow tree, the score is being performed.

The score was inspired by a traditional, but no longer practiced, Chinese custom of giving a willow branch to a departing friend. The willow signified the bonds of friendship and unwillingness to part ways. It also represented new life as the willow could be replanted anywhere forming new roots. The willow also provided protection against ghosts. The symbol of the willow therefore conveyed a melancholic sadness for a departed friend and the longing to see them again.

  1. A deep awareness of the performer’s surroundings and the soundscape is suggested.

I feel this is essential to all performances. This is an awareness, a sensing, of everything in the surrounds, and accepting them without judging if they are good or bad, wanted or unwanted. To be aware of all sounds and everything else in the surrounds equally, with each object holding the same importance – to simultaneously remain consciously aware of everything throughout the performance.

  1. This score can be performed in all manners simultaneously.

Windows of opportunity may be created to experience individual forms of performance as well.

  1. This score is performed by being regarded, and does not need to be performed to be performed.

You have been performing this score all this time. This score does not need any further action from you other than you encounter it. In fact it does not need you at all.

r3willow

Randy Raine-Reusch
15/09/91

The Linfield Cello Ensemble, a group of seven cellists led by Diane Chaplin, performed Willow on April 24th, 2016. The score was printed on the cover of the program and the notes included within. Diane wrote: “It turns out that in the lobby of the music building resides a large vase of long curly willow branches. We placed that vase on a stool near the performers, and added a good amount of recently-live willow branches. We did…three interpretations of Willow. The first was one where we all played the same image at the same time; in the 2nd one we chose our own order of images (and in that one I was inspired to get a willow branch and gently run down the cello strings – very evocative). For the 3rd interpretation, we were contemplative and didn’t play, just admired the willow…”

Resonance

Resonance
for any instrument
for Gayle Young

Each score has quite specific instructions, and if they are truly explored, the performance of the score is fairly clear. I suggest approaching these scores as any other score, in that they should be studied thoroughly, as well as studying the composer and their philosophy.

Resonance is a text score. The words and phrasing I use are intentional, and I use these terms with the multitude of meanings that they can imply. This score uses Zen paradoxes. The seeming dichotomies of be / be not, breathe / breathe not, sound / sound not may lead anyone encountering this score to suspend their assumptions of life and observe their existence from another perspective, or not. Then repeat these actions/non actions until finished. For some this may lead to questioning their whole life, for others it may be a validation of their life experience.

The Notes to the Score:

1. Each gesture should be delicately placed, either purposely or at random.

  • The term “each” suggests: every single one; all; defining one from the other; creating a boundary between the gestures yet treated as related; informing the other yet distinct unto itself; etc.
  • A “gesture” is any movement in sound, silence, space, time, existence…
  • The term “should” suggests: conformity; doing what we are expected to do; doing what we think we are expected to do; societal, cultural, moral pressures. Though it is also suggests a choice, which if not taken can give rise to the guilt of not doing what we think we are expected to do, disobedience, resistance, or nonconformity …
  • The term “placed” suggests: with purpose, with intent, with forethought, so that we had reasons and reasoning for its placement. Therefore judgment, values, ideals, habits, enculturation come into play.
  • The use of “delicately” suggests: with care, softly, with precision, not to disturb, not to alter, not to change, not to transform, with respect, a kind of honouring, like treating a baby or a kitten, like it is precious, like it is fragile, ….
  • Either / or: is a choice of a subset; one or the other; not both yet related; ying / yang; a duality; opposites that are bound together; two sides of a coin; essential to each other in their opposition; defining the boundaries of the other, ….
  • The terms “purposely” and “random” are treated as those above.

2. A deep awareness of the performer’s surroundings and the soundscape is suggested.

  • A deep awareness of the soundscape suggests to have sat listening to every sound, those internal to a body, those external to a body, those imagined, those suggested, those internal voices that sit behind every thought, those thoughts themselves. All these sounds are be heard and treated equally without judgement of being good, bad, wanted, unwanted, noisy, or pleasant. All these sounds are listened to simultaneously with a broad equal attention.
  • A deep awareness of the surroundings suggests that the detail achieved in listening can be achieved with every other sense.

3. This score includes both the shadows of sound and the shadows of silence.

  • Whether or not sound or silence is used in this score, their shadows are essential. Sound shadows can be what are cast behind an object that is in the path of sound waves. Sound shadows can be remnants of sound left long after the sound source has ceased producing sound, they can last for millennia. Sound shadows can be what are left in our experience long after the sound has left.

4. The resonance of being, breathing and sounding should be regarded, disregarded, neither or both.

  • This alludes to a Zen state of deep awareness without discernment or judgement. An expanded awareness of being and what surrounds us leads to experiencing a quantum / satori state where boundaries /space / time can start to dissolve. Space becomes indefinable and opposites combine. Our sense of dimension dissolves into a grand all encompassing nothingness while simultaneously fracturing into a vast myriad of other dimensions all intersecting.

Once all these “notes” are explored, playing or not playing the piece is effortless.

Randy Raine-Reusch
05/19/2013

r3Resonance

Noh 1

Noh1
for ichigenkin, Noh actor
or any other performer

The ichigenkin is a one string Japanese zither, which I have studied for many years. Ichigenkin philosophy reflects both those of Zen and Shinto. Noh is a form of Japanese drama.

The Japanese concept ma is an underlying element of this score, and both the practice of ichigenkin and Noh make extensive use of ma. Ma is emptiness that is full. It is the white space around a Japanese painting. It is the empty space in a flower arrangement. Ma is an extended pause in Japanese music that is full of tension or anticipation. Ma is the small recessed section of a traditional Japanese room used for hanging a scroll, or placing a plant.

The Notes to the Score:

1. Express one sound, one step, of any duration in one second, minute, hour, day, week, month, or year.

  • The score displays the number one written in traditional script. One is the second theme of this score and forms a paradox with ma. Ma needs two opposing elements, a duality: something and nothing, sound and silence, form and formlessness. One is singular. In Taoism and Zen, dualities form a pair linked in their opposition, and together become one. Hence there are two participants indicated and one action. There are further dualities in the suggested participants: one who sits – one who steps, one that is silent – one that creates sound, etc.
  • Time is of no consequence in this score, although it is an integral element. The suspension of time carries the ma in movement and music. Yet the duration of the ma is not specified and can in essence be held indefinitely.

2. No essence of being or the absence of being should be left unexplored.

  • The score incorporates everything, and nothing, combined.

3. No aspect of sound and silence, nor the absence of sound and silence should be left unrealized. 

  • The duality of sound and silence create a pair, in mathematics a set. If we can define a set, then there is an absence of the set that defines it. That absence can be full of ma.

4. One is exclusive, inclusive, both, and neither.

  • One is exclusive: there is only one. One is inclusive: all is one. They can integrate, or negate each other, or both.

5. Existence should be neither regarded nor disregarded.

  • This might be self-evident. Whether or not the score, participants, this discussion or this world exists or not is inconsequential. However keep an eye on it nonetheless.

Randy Raine-Reusch
02/13/2013

R3NOH1

Premiered Aug. 10, 2014
by Redshift Music, Vancouver, Canada
Colin MacDonald – Baritone sax

 

 

Writing Graphic Scores

My eyes don’t function normally even with thick glasses, which was a problem when I encountered staff notation upon starting my musical training in school. The staff lines would move; shifting up, down, or rolling like waves. The only way I could make it stop was by having the notation less than a foot in front of me, the closer the better. The constantly shifting staff lines made it impossible for me to sight-read or even follow a score in class, so I memorized all my music for school. But that still made playing difficult if complex changes were made to the music in class. It was not until high school, that the band teacher discovered my lack of reading skills, which he solved by kicking me out of class and making me promise to never return.

Thus it is not surprising that even in school I had started to gravitate towards improvisation, as it provided me the ability to play with ease while feeling free of my perceived impediment. It took me many years to gain the courage to make music my professional career. Yet, even with that step, the inability to easily read music was an enormous burden that continued to grow larger. When I did turn professional very few people realized that I was primarily an improviser, and frankly I was ashamed to tell them.

As part of my professional music career, I had been studying the history of notation around the world and found that staff notation was not the only method of notating music. In my need for writing down musical ideas I started to use a combination of tablature and graphic notation. I adapted or invented forms of tablature for the many non-western instruments I was using, and to these I later added forms of cypher notation in either roman numerals or Asian script. I often felt that the notation was not complete, as it just indicated what notes to play and when to play them, yet did not provide any information of what the music should be like, so I started to add graphic symbols I adapted from Japanese and Tibetan Buddhist music. These symbols slowly expanded to more complex images, both realistic and abstract. Unfortunately, at that time I did not yet realize how functional this system was, as I was still surrounded by the world of staff notation, and for more than a decade I destroyed all my notes and scores.

That changed in 1992 after I spent a good portion of a day with John Cage in his loft. His acceptance of my musical journey and expressions liberated me. That day he became my musical father. He passed two days later. Cage gave me the courage and insight to be me, to play and write what I wanted with no apologies. I stopped destroying my scores and started to show them to others. And thus began this part of my musical journey. I have learned over the years since, that not everyone knows how to approach these scores, so I started to provide notes, and now after a couple of decades I realize that is time to add yet another level of explanation.

I tend to write my scores for the people that “get them” upon encountering them. I write for the people that hear, feel, experience the music from the scores. Some of my scores “are the music, rather than a score to play the music,” as the visual elements in the scores stimulate a memory or a deep inexplicable feeling for many people that approach them. Most of these scores allow for all the senses to be engaged, and even our extended senses.

Most of my musical training has been in Asian traditional music. Further to that I realized that I was a Taoist since the age of fifteen, not one that prays in temples, but one that moves within the paradoxes of life. As such Taoism and Zen are second nature to me. My scores are riddled with both philosophies and for some this may make them incomprehensible, which is as it should be.

I have encountered opposition to – or dismissal of – my scores from musicians who are trained in, and rely primarily on, staff notation. In my extensive studies of the music of the world, I have found that western art music is but a small sliver of the mosaic of musical expression in our world. From my perspective Western art music’s importance was inflated as a tool of 19th C. western imperialism to non-western cultures, which were regarded as “other”. Outside of the narrow perspective of western art music there are a number of musical cultures where music is recorded, performed, perceived, valued, and functions in many different ways from the western perspective, sometimes radically. All are equally valid musical expressions. Although my music still retains the biases of my upbringing it is also informed by those musical cultures from around the world I have studied and have been exposed to.

My scores often challenge the composer – performer – audience hierarchy, and sometimes decontextualize or recontextualize the concepts of score and performance. My position as a “composer,” if it exists at all, ends at the moment I release the score onto paper, as does any relationship I have with the performer or audience. I am not interested in musical tools such as motifs that function as cultural codes designed to elicit a response from a listener. The experience of the performer and audience is their own; I have no control over their experience, nor wish to have. Frankly, it is none of my business.

That said my scores and notes are very specific in their wording and design. There is nothing flippant or clever in them. I craft each element to express something meaningful in me, and it sometimes takes a year or more to fully realize a score. I have been a poet since I was young and I use words as I do images, so it is often very difficult to find the path to express the specific perception and experience of the world I am sharing. These scores simply document my experience of the world. They certainly can be used as windows of opportunity for someone else to approach how I perceive the world, or at least for them to experience something else of themselves.

I am often quite fascinated at how people approach and express their experience of my scores, whether in performance, conversation, or through correspondence. Sometimes they even seem to get close to how I experience the score. Sometimes that amuses me. Sometimes I feel not so alone.

India and the Dalai Lama

My first and only trip to India was in 1999 and as India does for many people, it taught me how deep our assumptions and cultural differences are.

I was the leader of a band invited to perform at a festival for the Dalai Lama in Bangalore. The band consisted mostly of my former band ASZA with Nancy Fisher (now Mortifee) as a vocalist. Nancy was the catalyst for the invitation as she was a founder and Director of the now defunct Vancouver Sacred Music Festival.

Our first stop was at a prestigious club in Bombay called Jazz by the Bay. As a favourite haunt of Bollywood stars, I was surprised upon arrival how small it was for the reputation it had. As concert time approached it quickly filled up to slightly more than capacity with an appreciative crowd and we had a great show. After our performance the promoter, with great pride, introduced us to a number of prominent stars, none of whom we recognized or had any knowledge of their fame. It was an odd feeling to know that we were being honoured in meeting these stars, but having no clue who they were! But we all smiled nicely and looked impressed.

The next day started with a tour of a state-of-the-art multimedia centre and recording studios. They were extremely amazing and quite far ahead of anything we had seen back home. Yet as we were leaving, just a few steps outside the door, I witnessed a homeless person crawl out from under some boards in a back alley to drink out of a mud puddle after a recent rain. The contrast was shocking, and I didn’t really know how to handle it emotionally.

The following day we travelled to Bangalore and were well taken care of by the festival. Our hotel was quite modest, clean and comfortable except for the 4-inch wide crack running floor to ceiling down the wall of my room. I had heard on the news that many hotels in the region had collapsed due to poorly mixed concrete and this crack was very concerning. Somehow, I was already getting used to India so I wasn’t that worried as my bed was on the door side of the crack so I felt fairly comfortable with the possibility of waking to an open-air room.

Our group was assigned a young Tibetan handler by the name of Pema, who took care of all our needs and accompanied us everywhere. As the leader of the group I often needed his help in organizing schedules and technical requirements. Pema certainly made India easier to handle and over the next few days I spent a lot of time with him, and I felt we became good friends.

Pema met us each day with a driver to shuttle us to the gigs. We were very thankful for this as navigating traffic in India is an “art.” One particular amazing driver was taking us to the venue at the peak of congestion in a large bulky passenger van. Not far into the drive, we approached a bridge with two lanes in each direction. The two lanes on our side were totally clogged with three rows of bumper-to-bumper traffic. The oncoming traffic was stopped at a light on the other side of the bridge. So our driver casually drove into the oncoming lanes to get around the stopped cars. As I was the only person brave enough to sit in the front seat, I saw the light change and three buses side-by-side barreling towards us at full speed in the two oncoming lanes. There was absolutely no room in our lanes to get in and no room between the oncoming buses, so I sat back in resignation to see how this potentially life threatening event would unfold. Our driver continued to drive straight at the oncoming buses and politely asked me to pull in the passenger mirror, which I did quickly. At the last second he pushed into our lanes and everyone compressed to allow for him, with the buses also compressing a bit to just allow for seven vehicles to span the four lanes. In amazement I watched as the bus sped past my window with only an inch between our vehicles. Indian drivers are world class!

The festival had a large self-serve cafeteria that provided food to all the performers, volunteers, and monks, which made it a prime location for cultural clashes. Every meal there would be a giant line with a hodgepodge of nationalities wearing T-shirts and cutoffs interspersed with red-robed monks. The monks were obviously very used to close physical contact and pushing in line. One of our band members felt very uncomfortable when a monk behind him was slowly but constantly pushing with full body contact. Obviously, the monk had a very different concept of personal space. I handled the situation by standing sideways in the line and the monks were confused enough by this to give me space.

The highlight of the trip was an invitation to meet with the Dalai Lama. Sitting in the waiting room, one of the Dalai Lama’s staff came and told us to get ready, but that Pema would not come in with us. We discussed this between ourselves and decided that if Pema was not allowed in then we would not go in either. This caused quite a stir and our meeting was delayed, but finally a decision was made to allow Pema into the meeting as well.

We were not prepared however for Pema immediately prostrating himself on the floor in front of the Dalai Lama upon entering the meeting room. The Dalai Lama was also a bit taken aback and embarrassed, quickly encouraging Pema to stand. We were asked to sit on chairs arranged in a circle. Pema put his chair well back outside of the circle, but I quickly pulled him in line with us and said to him “Pema, you are one of us.”

The Dalai Lama was quite personable and spoke to each of us individually for a few minutes. He was everything you have seen him to be, warm, compassionate, extremely intelligent and well informed. It was clear that he was seeking out help in supporting his people’s cause. However I noticed that as he went around the circle to chat with us foreigners individually, he did not talk to Pema. I was a bit confused by his skipping Pema, thinking maybe Pema would be talked to last. So when the Dalai Lama started speaking to us as a group, I interjected “Excuse me your Holiness, it appears that you may have forgotten our good friend Pema.”

I was a bit taken back as the Dalai Lama gave me a hard stare followed by a stern challenging response: “Is he really your good friend?” It seems that I had overstepped my bounds and that the Dalai Lama was not used to being questioned. However, throughout my life I have progressively learned to dislike hierarchy, and I was no stranger to being challenged. So I replied mirroring exactly his tone and stare: “Yes, he is our very good friend.” At which point the Dalia Lama nodded and then spoke directly to Pema in Tibetan.

I was surprised at this scenario. The Dalai Lama knows the West well and also is aware that many people in the West are firm believers in equality. I would have thought that the fact that we insisted Pema enter with us would be a clear sign that we had accepted him as an equal. We were all well aware of the hierarchy within Tibetan Buddhist orders. However, as the Dalai Lama was asking for our help in supporting his people, his inclusion of Pema in the conversation without being asked would have been a powerful demonstration of his humility and love for his subjects. I guess I should not have been surprised though, as the Dalia Lama is the head of a very large order of monks and as the pinnacle of a hierarchy he is an authority figure used to wielding power. We usually don’t see this side of the Dalai Lama, as his most powerful public image is that of a humble man. Our insistence at having Pema join us inadvertently gave us a glimpse behind that image, as it is quite difficult to appear humble with someone prostrating before you. Yet the Dali Lama was a gracious host, and very well spoken, and we all felt it a privilege to spend personal time with him.

Upon leaving out meeting Pema rushed down the hall well ahead of us. I caught up with him at the elevators and found him wiping his tears. It was at that point I realized how deeply the meeting with the Dalai Lama affected him. He had just met his God.

Almost everything in India was a culture shock, and often the shock was so deep that it shattered some of my deeply held cultural biases. I can’t say I enjoyed India, and I can’t say I hated it, but I do think that everyone should spend time there. India tends to throw reality in your face, forcing you to confront everything: your emotions, your cultural biases, even your own mortality. Add to all that the overwhelming crush of humanity, India is so overwhelming that it is understandable why there is a deeply held belief in reincarnation there, because for many it is almost certainly too much to handle in one lifetime.