“She is very young. It is a good thing!” I was the very young, at twenty-four. My new lover was forty, and the leader of my trek in Nepal. The declarer of good things was Anil, the lead Sherpa of the trek, and a more intuitive and insightful man I would rarely again meet. Well, except his brother Arun.
My inamorato was a dealer in Asian antiquities as well as a mountain guide. So, after the trek, in between mornings and evenings ensconced in a tiny room at a hostel, I would accompany him to dusty shops of trinkets and treasures and talk with the relatives while he negotiated with the owners. Anil owned the best shop, off a twisting side street near the Boudhanath stupa. Arun kindly made me mint tea while the eyes of that stupa peered through the window, as curious as me. What questions I asked, I cannot remember, but I did somehow keep the treasure of one of his answers.
“Man has three steps on his path to religion. The first is Fear. Like a child who obeys his parents because he fears punishment because he is small because the world is large, he attempts to propitiate the world, so as to guard himself, but not to enlarge himself.
The second is Doubt, where such things do not seem as answers, where as humans we question, we draw away from what we fear, we do not we no longer submit to it.
The final step is Comprehension is Understanding is the Processional of Enlightenment, when we accept in ourselves our capacity for enlargement for acceptance of what we have always known always feared but now we no longer turn our face away but behold and in the letting go of fear we grasp the truth.”
Thank Buddha for that notebook and pen. Because, such a gift as this I found only years later, in a drawer stuffed with all sorts of things I was About To Get To. How great a definition of fear is that?
Back then, I was curious, and that is what sustained me, but I was also still so afraid. Not of anything. Just, afraid. During the trek, a fellow journeyer from New York had just told Anil that he was Jewish. Anil smiled happily for the man, as if what the man believed wasn’t so important as the fact that he believed in something. He then turned to me solicitously and chirped, “And you, you are Christian, yes?” I must have squirmed. Profoundly lacking a spiritual ground, fearful that I did not believe what I had been taught to believe, yet without any conception of what I did believe, I could only mumble a slow, “Nooo.”
Anil looked so sad for me. He knew better. He knew that it was more dangerous to adhere to no beliefs than to adhere to this one or that one. Such a sincere concern crossed his face. He saw that this very young woman was still a child, still afraid and therefore still small, as Arun had described. He knew this was not a good thing, for me or for anyone.
And, thanks to him and this one generous look of concern, I now knew it as well.