insights

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    It Takes Guts Paid Member

    As I walked the long driveway to the Alpert family estate, I didn’t know what to expect. A friend had heard Ram Dass lecture at Columbia University and suggested that I go to New Hampshire to meet him. At the time I knew very little about Ram Dass except that he had recently returned from India, and that when he was known as Richard Alpert, he was a counter-culture figure who knew a lot about LSD. I also knew nothing about meditation, yoga, or Buddhism and was not the least bit interested in learning. More »
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    Insights & Outtakes Fall 2005 Paid Member

    I'LL DRINK TO THATBeer connoisseurs may be familiar with Singha, one the most popular beers in Thailand. Less well known is that the singha is a venerable Thai Buddhist symbol: a sort of combination lion and snake frequently seen guarding the entrances to Thai temples. And even more obscure is the way in which Singha beer acts as a sort of guardian for Thai Buddhism: Singha's parents company, Boon Rawd, is a major donor for the restoration of important cultural treasures at Wat Po, one of Thailand's most important royal temples. TEMPLE TARTS More »
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    Surfing the Brain Paid Member

    THAT NIGHT MARKED the beginning of a blizzard of coincidence. There were a few at first and then by the dozen. I would get the notion in my head to call Joe, and the phone would ring and it would be Joe. And then Michael, Micah, Adam, Andrea, Shannon, Sheerly, Terena, Tess, Howard, Kevin, Chad, Jori, and everyone else and over and over. I got very good at thinking of a song and turning on the radio to find it playing; I got better at thinking of someone and running into that person an hour later. These coincidences were the first of a long string of down-the-rabbit-hole experiences too numerous to recount. More »
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    Sight Seers Paid Member

    “CHRISTIANITY IS THE CHIEF purveyor of tourism, and one travels only to visit churches,” writes Roland Barthes in Mythologies (1957), mocking the narrow-mindedness of the French tourist who sees only the achievements of his own Catholic Church everywhere he goes. Yet if we trace the tourist’s genealogical tree back far enough, we do indeed find the pilgrim. Though few would associate this asceticism with a Club Med holiday, it is in these sacred journeys, old as human culture, that we find anything approaching the scale of contemporary mass tourism. For centuries, some of the greatest regular assemblies of human beings have been those of pilgrims—for Holy Week in Rome, Passover in Jerusalem, Dhu al-Hijjah in Mecca, or the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad. More »
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    Cloudspotting Paid Member

    ALTHOUGH CLOUDSPOTTING is an activity best undertaken with time on your hands, it is something that everyone can enjoy. Clouds are the most egalitarian of nature’s displays, since each one of us has a good view of them, so it really doesn’t matter where you are. A little elevation never goes amiss, of course, but this could as easily be provided by a high-rise as by a mountain range of outstanding natural beauty. More important is the frame of mind you are in while cloudspotting. You are not a trainspotter, so standing on a hill with a notebook and pen poised to tick off the different types will end in disappointment. So will any attempt to write down their serial numbers. More »