Across the ice we walk on knives,
Guided by stars and ancient stone steps,
Up rickety paths that skate between chasms,
Through tiny corridors out of the sun.
Over immense broken plains, towering mountains,
With huge coloured banners stretched upon rock.
Light bouncing off snow peaks gleaming morning,
Like the golden roof of the retreat at Sera,
With its garden of jewels.
From one form to the next, we remember the sun through cold, clean air.
The Dalai Lama holds spiritual and temporal power in Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th Dalai Lama (born 6 July, 1935) was compelled to flee that imprisoned country in 1959, but miraculously, some would say, this degradation has ultimately only enhanced his moral authority.
My nephew’s ‘investiture’ was overseen by the Dalai Lama. He gave me a screed, “The Paradox of our Age,” written by the Dalai Lama that I read, at first, with sneering scepticism (The Dalai Lama is, after all, on record as a self-described Marxist) yet in the final analysis, its sense managed even to penetrate my thick skull:
“We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour.
We built more companies to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality;
These are times of fast foods
but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.”
There is much here to reflect on, and not necessarily in a partisan manner: these statements could almost be made by a High Tory. In fact, ‘more knowledge, but less judgment’ is pretty much what Roger Scruton talks about in An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture, with its references to what Aristotle called orthos logos (right judgment) and ‘knowledge what’ – the need to know what to do as well as mere facts (‘knowledge that’) and skill (‘knowledge how’).