On Inspiration

valleyA friend and reader recently mentioned they were hoping for inspiration from these blogs… we trust this will suffice….
Sonam and Bayermaa, lived in the great mountains, near Paryang in the heart of western Tibet; a place where the four great rivers of South Asia originate, from slow, crushing, time-wearing glaciers as old as the planet itself; the air is always full of gnawing, biting vitality, and life is as bright and real as the contrast between snow on the far flung slopes and the yawning gulfs between the valleys.

Sonam and Bayermaa are happy, and modestly proud with reason. Sonams only son is strong and vital, and a walking painting of father; the three daughters Bayermaa bore are all sharp of wit, keen of frame and visage, and will be well-contested when they come of age in the small village. The family work hard and willingly, either in the long hours of summer or a little more frenetically when the clouds settle in for winter. The fields are well tilled, and there is always tsampa and chang, butter tea and time available for guests or elders who are passing the family home. And so lifes melody has skipped along, with intermittent ups and downs, childrens bruises and tantrums and all the texture one might expect in a good life.

Yet Sonam was beginning to be troubled. The source of this abrasion he could identify, and so slowly it gained power, he became restless, and eventually the chang he put so much of his time into could not suppress this itch. He began to stir constantly at night, until Bayermaa could not help but be woken; yet Sonam could not tell her what bothered him, merely say “it’s nothing, it’s nothing”, and force himself to lie still. But by dawn, when he had been staring at the slate above him, Sonam could stand it no more.

When the family had all gotten about their work for the day, Sonam slipped away to seek out Anil. Anil was the oldest male in the village, frail, blinded by cataracts, yet alert and always willing to expound upon any matter in the village, although his thoughts might take quite some time and tea to be finally rolled out, like the bright little pebbles one would play with in his youth. Sonam explained this uncalled for and bothersome thorn had developed in his soul; he was aggrieved, he said to Anil “I have worked hard in my short years, I have good land and good people around me, my hands are skilled and I always contribute well when the men sit to ponder the seasons and workings of the valley together, I have by all gods, been most fortunate — why may I not be content — yet I feel, I feel, its not enough.. this is an unworthy feeling”

Anil considered his response a long time, and finally, said to Sonam, “many nights I have watched you, since you were a small boy. Now your family is grown, they do not need your chivvying and strong arms to lift them, Bayermaa is dutiful and a good mirror to you, yet your wits are undimmed and indeed, you are almost, idle” raising his hand to forestall the protest this word would bring. “I have seen you begin to reflect on yourself in the chang, yet there is no answer there, indeed I had hoped you would see this yourself. But it is now clear to me, you are now drowning in your own unused vitality. Why are you not using your strengths and mind to grow as a man and be beyond yourself?”

“Anil”, said Sonam, “I am an empty well, long I have thought, and yet I have no answer”. “Then you must seek inspiration, Sonam. May I suggest that you will not find it here, in the four walls of this valley you know so well. You need to climb Sonam, climb above and look beyond what you know.” “How then, should I do this, Anil?” Anil looked Sonam straight in the eye, and said — “it is a simple thing. You need many days tsampa, a strong hoe, and a good waterskin. You must climb (mount) Kailash and seek your answer from her at her peak. You should go now, before the winter truly arrives. I will explain this to Bayermaa. If you do not, this poison in your soul will grow, and then it will begin to infect us all — this is nature”

Sonam left that very evening. Many days he climbed, for Mount Kailash was 7 days walk to her feet, and then slowly, slowly he began the ascent. As he climbed past the first notes of the glacier, into the moraines and moss-struck boulders, he wondered, the first of many times, “ai, this madness, will it be my end?” The days passed and Sonam was now a stick figure on the bright slopes, able to be seen by hawks and bright adolescents maybe, but he was now truly ascending unheard of and terrifying heights. His boots were failing, blisters were formed and bleeding and he began to chafe and these constant pains and knocks to his spirit were indeed mounting against his resolve. Yet still he climbed. On the 14th day he nearly broke.

climbThe wind had begun in earnest, each step was a torture to his thighs, the snows were beginning to form above Kailashs brow, yet still he climbed, stumbling, slipping, now sliding back foot after foot, now gaining, his lungs stabbed at each breath with “the little knives” of winter. Yet still he climbed. He could not stop.

For Sonam knew how, he would go on or perish, for walking down now was as bad an option as going up — he did not have the werewithal to make the bottom before he failed utterly in his strength. And so he faced his fate, turned his face to the slopes again, and lifted us foot up, again, again again… The following morning, at about that time of day when the first red rays court the clouds, the mists and echoes began to disperse, a cleanliness and sombre sparseness began to surround Sonam. 30 steps, 25 steps, 20 steps to go, 10, now a stumble, a sob, another step, 2 more, now 6 to go, and finally, when his heart truly was leaping out of his chest, he placed his hand on the summit if Kailash.

Many long minutes he kneeled there, eventually gaining back his breath, and knowing that he had achieved a tremendous victory over himself, and calm, clear and proud as he was, he still had no understanding of why he had needed to do it. It was then that Anils voice came to him. “Sonam, Sonam” the voice whispered. “Anil? Is that you”, Sonam replied peering all around him, wondering if he had gone mad. For there was nothing to be seen, save the hundreds of kilometres of mountain peaks, snow rock and ice and a blue sky so sharp it was blinding. There was no place here for a trifling human. “Sonam, Sonam, why are you here?” cried the voice. Sonam stood, and puzzled as he was, could not answer, until it came to him, Anil had said all those long days ago, “you must seek inspiration, Sonam” Swaying now, tottering in the breeze like an old man, Sonam finally replied ” I am here to seek inspiration”

The answer came back from the void —
“and here you are, Sonam, having become what you sought – here you are”

See you at the Masters, Sunday May 23rd

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