(Shan is on a treacherous journey to return a sacred relic to its spiritual home, stalked by soldiers and murderers. They are passing through a barren, high-altitude landscape where all temples, shrines, and monks have long ago been annihilated by Beijing. Shan is losing hope but then he joins a group of Tibetan herders who bring him to a hiding place by a remote mountain meadow, where he observes a miracle)
Sometimes, Shan’s father had told him, people can live eighty or ninety years and only briefly, once or twice at most, glimpse the true things of life, the things that are the essence of the planet and of mankind. Sometimes people died without ever seeing a single true thing. But, he had assured Shan, you can always find true things if you just know where to look.
It was one of those rare true things they were glimpsing now. An ageless medicine lama gathering his herbs, a medicine lama who shouldn’t exist, in a field that had been forgotten for half a century, rising up like a ghost to confirm that once there had been wise, joyful old men who gathered plants so they could translate the magic of the earth to its people.
It is an intriguing challenge to consider what are such true things in this post-modern world, where truth itself seems to have become so ambiguous. I fear many of us have become blind to such perceptions, for to experience them requires a level of self-awareness and contemplation that our society seems to abhor. The challenge is worth taking up, however, because it can not simply enrich our lives but also tell us much about ourselves and the way we experience the world. The “true things” can vary greatly based on our personal context, but I find a surprising commonality when probing these breath-stealing experiences of others. Is it perhaps because they resonate in some deep pool of our DNA, like mileposts in our human journey? I suspect that the true things experienced by our ancestors five hundred, or five thousand, years ago would raise similar reactions in us—they have little to do with technology or material wealth.
Don’t look for a dictionary definition of such “true things.” Others may call them epiphanies or transformative moments, or just plain miracles. The test is whether you viscerally feel the miracle, or just admire it because others say you should. These moments don’t simply excite you, they reach deeper. They raise gooseflesh in your soul. They strike what I might dare to describe as a primeval chord.
Where are the true things left to us? As Shan has sadly learned, many have been destroyed by ravenous political and economic forces, although we are hounded every day by “false positives,” the daily declaration of the news you can’t live without, so-called unprecedented weather events or history-making words from some celebrity. If you haven’t already, you must learn to ignore such hollow pronouncements and search deeper for your particular true things. They are rare in a modern city, and they are nowhere to be found on social media. There is no text to guide us to them, no catalog or checklist of such wonders. Experiencing them requires an open mind and open heart, and often patient observation. They are intensely personal, yet they are spine-tingling because they link us to something greater than ourselves. In my travels around the world I have been blessed to experience a few. One would be the ocean in a raging storm. Can you name one of your true things?