Yesterday Joe and I attended the funeral of an elder in Teslin. He was the brother of the woman who adopted Joe. He had a good send off and was buried in a beautiful spot – looking out over the Morley River with a backdrop of mountains. Certainly a worthy resting place for such a well-respected man.
However this post is more about the ride there and back than it is about the funeral itself. Two friends (more friends of Joe’s than mine but certainly I know both of them) travelled with us. Since the man sat in the back with me, I had a chance to find out more about him. Believe me, that man has lived a life as full as that of three people!
He comes from Navajo country in the U.S. He served in a special forces unit in Vietnam (covert operations), and went on to become a mercenary in Indonesia, selling arms to revolutionaries, until the government blew up the boat he used to transport the arms and he was nearly blown up in the process. He spent several months in a Buddist monastery near Bangkok, six months in a Greek Orthodox monastery, studied to be a priest (that didn’t last very long as his teachers didn’t like his Buddist views and they caught him smoking in his bedroom!), worked in the construction industry…..on and on until he ended up in the Yukon as an early childhood education teacher and a member of the Ba’hai faith.
I asked him more about his time in Bangkok, because he seems to wear Buddism very naturally. He said all was going well, or at least he thought it was, until one day when he was begging for money, as he did every day, outside of a palace. The palace had large concrete pools full of big goldfish. He took a closer look into one of the pools and saw a fish floating upside down, dead. He found that odd since typically Asians treasure their fish and take great care of them. He looked some more, and saw another fish that was clearly in the process of dying.
On further investigation he found a small crack in the wall of the pool, and into that crack sewage discharge was seeping. It was then that he had his epiphany. He realized that no matter how perfect those two individual fish were, if they were in a poisonous environment, their perfectness didn’t do anything to help the species as a whole. He realized that to save the lives of all the fish in the pond, they would each have to come together, agree on what was happening and what must be done, and take turns blocking the crack with their bodies to keep the sewage effluent at bay. And by each taking their turn at keeping out this poison, they would each have to accept the fact that they would individually suffer some damage.
He realized that he was like those goldfish. The inner work that he was doing might all be fine and good, but it wasn’t helping human kind as a whole. So the very next day he left the monastery and flew back to the U.S.
I suggested he should write a book about all his experiences, but he said no. He feels it’s far better for people to look ahead, instead of looking back on what an old man did over the last several decades.
Yes, it was a very interesting drive.