The Happiness of Sorrow
My energetic, enterprising Tibetan heart daughter Tashi has been working for several years to fulfill the Dalai Lama's aspiration to save the story of Tibet, not just for its generations condemned to exile, but for all of us who can learn from history. Through Voices of Tibet, she's been instrumental in recording by video and audio the truly heroic tales of those who, when the malignant Chinese so viciously overran it, fled their homeland for strange new worlds.
Tonight, she's having a small fundraiser in Manhattan to move the recording forward. The great escape took place in 1959 so the survivors are quite aged now, which means time is critical. Also the survivors are widely dispersed from the top to the bottom of India, all over Nepal and Bhutan, Europe and the United States. And she needs to find all those who have a vital message for tomorrow.
Since this evening's agenda includes a preview of the filming in progress, Tashi asked me for a title, something she might introduce it with, something that might explain the real meaning behind "Voices of Tibet." What I came up with is: "The Happiness of Sorrow." It seems to express that particular and perhaps peculiar perspective thousands Tibetans forced to burst their high altitude cocoon carried as they spilled down to Earth.
I know I've talked about this before, but it can't be said enough. The relentlessly monstrous genocide in Tibet has been an ongoing unspeakable horror we can't much speak about because... well... um... the Chinese perpetrators have money and you know how grovelly we Americans get around people who can pay. But let's speak up because the Tibetans have a valuable message for us. The wanton extermination of their country, their culture and three million of their people has been a gargantuan, endless sorrow for them, yet the rest of us are the happy beneficiaries of their tragedy. While they have lost everything, we have gained Dharma and momos and the wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on TV and Twitter. For us, Tibet's Chinese cataclysm ended happily ever after.
And they're okay with that. What defines Tibetans more than even their odd language and unique clothing, as all those early 20th Century travelers quickly noticed, is their great good and imperturbable humor, which shines even in darkest hours. They are true believers who believe a happening happens to be part of a never-ending story that like a river flows, tumbles and bends, shallows and gushes from one phase to another, bad turning good, good going bad. All there is is the flip side, endless change. It isn't over. Ever.
So terror becomes joy, joy devolves into the pain of losing it, and not getting what you want turns out to be the happily ever after. We never know. All we know is that if we wait a minute, everything is bound to change because now is no longer. It's gone before you know it. The guy who left, the job you lost, the deal that fell through all set you up for something probably more appropriate, i.e. better.
Most Tibetans now in exile are not unhappy. They're hard workers and good sports who've mostly acquired material comforts, medical care and financial security unimaginable in their homeland. With access to heat and hot water they've cleaned up from the legendary filth of their high altitude Himalayan aeries, and reveal themselves to be the handsomest people. And the heartiest in every way. With help, they've even managed to transplant their precious religious institutions to safer places in the world, to save their handsome, heartfelt truths not just for themselves but for us. They can see by the way we don't laugh at life that we need what they know.
So tonight some of the elders will show up on video tape talking about their lives in Tibet as best as they can remember more than 50 years ago, and their lives in diaspora now. While the transition has never been particularly easy, the smiles on their creased and weathered faces say louder than they do that a sunny ray of happiness shines through even the most overwhelming sorrow.
www.voicesoftibet.org if you are interested. I am on its Board of Directors.
~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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