A Year Without Borders: Visions of Tibet

This is the first year in thirty-five or forty that I haven’t crossed a border. Oh, woe is me. What am I gonna do? I call feel the existential angst setting in, passport getting moldy, and moss growing where wild hairs used to be. I guess I could go sixty miles down to the Mexican border just to satisfy that ethnic Third World urge to merge, but—naah. Maybe it’s time to grow up, get a life, get a career, make some babies, make some grandchildren and—naah. I’ve got a better idea: as soon as this current hostel project is finished two months from now (and counting down)…

I think I’ll take a trip, somewhere different, somewhere challenging, something exotic, something fragile, something like: Tibet. Yeah, I think that’s the ticket: Tibet, while there still IS a Tibet, occupied by majority Tibetans, not Han Chinese transmigrated in to control the elections, the natural selections and the flow of information, Han Chinese to turn what was once sacred and beautifully scarred into what will soon be self-satisfied and smug, driftwood polished by time tossed into the fire for kindling and kitchen work…

Back in the early 1990’s I had a van with a broken speedometer, so I never really knew how fast I was going, but I always knew that I’d get there. And for five years running I got one speeding ticket per year, fortunately all in different states, but all the same speed—78mph/126kph. The last time I was cruising up I-17 from Phoenix to my home in Flagstaff. The cop was Native American, Pima I think. He saw my ‘Save Tibet’ bumper sticker and asked if I was Tibetan—seriously. I thought about it a minute, then finally said no. He let me go with a warning. I never got another speeding ticket.

019 (2)Sacred sights and sacred sites are getting harder and harder to find, much less sacred nations, but Tibet I think still qualifies as one, as the original home of the Dalai Lama and all that is sacred in Tibetan Buddhism, the Potala and other monuments to human ingenuity, spiritual home at one time to the third of the Tibetan populace that were priests and the other half that were adepts, that small sliver of mercenaries and traders now elevated into the masters of war and bastards of peace…

China is a mother. You can quote me on that. And like so many others, while Chinese people might be wonderful individually, put them all together, and you’ve got great potential for ugliness—Politics 101. It stoops to conquer, absorbing borderlands, rather than outright aggression. Check out the South China Sea if you don’t believe me. Check out the reef beneath if you want to be disgusted. Pristine coral has been destroyed beyond belief. Welcome to apocalypse–now. Welcome to China.

p.s. Now I find out that Tibet is still not open to independent travel, tours and guides and all that rap, decades after most of the rest of the country opened up–bummer… I mean Burma… I mean Myanmar… yeah that’s exactly what I mean… any place with temples… get thee to a nunnery… get thee to a monastery–fast…  go East, young man…

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