Asia Institute’s senior associate Daniel Garrett has produced these three remarkable books recently which reflect his attempts to integrate spiritual topics into his approach to international relations and diplomacy. In an age in which diplomacy has been reduced to consumption and brutality, his unique fight for world peace gives new hope for us as we face our greatest challenge yet.
Chronicles of a New Tibet: Book 1: Entanglement
Climate change has brought a number of surprises including the rise of Green China, a Tibetan Renaissance, and the dissolution of the United States. Set against this backdrop conflict between the different powers has shifted to the Astral Realms of quantum interconnectedness which the new Bardo Tech allows people to enter at will. Will love survive this new battlefield? Or will the forces that have been unleashed prove too strong for the mere humans that dabble in them…
“The wind is full of prayers, and the rocks, too, are carved full of prayers, and the carving of prayers into rocks goes on, and the praying of the wind goes on. There are some places where the great wave of disenchantment of the world never quite reached. It climbed to the top of the Tibetan passes and was re-enchanted. It sobbed in recognition of all that it had forgotten, a world that lived: Gods and Goddesses and demigods and demons and spirits everywhere, and each and every sentient being embodied or not, a friend, a mother, in an endless telling of a story that only stopped when one awoke, and even then did not really stop so much as go on joyously, with all the connections between doing and being, clear, and freedom come as natural as mountain air.
The streams were full of prayers, and the rivers and the great grasslands; the caves were full of meditators and the bones of meditators, still sitting in meditation position, and of paintings on the cave walls, not of bison and the hunt, but of dakhinis and dharma protectors, and of mandalas, the visualization of which created a door for stepping out of this world and into the world from which it had emerged. And there were monasteries, as large as little cities themselves, where monks and nuns chanted and laughed and practiced the art and science of having the mind understand itself. And the skies, the endless skies, above the nomads and the yak were peopled by clouds that were the clouds in the mind of the people who walked below them. Clouds that taught and told and preached and sang poems and prayers. Everything was connected to everything else, as intimately as family, as closely as lover to lover, and inner was outer and outer was inner, no one being able, or wanting, to close the doors on the immensities on either side of that equation. The earth had raised high a cradle to teach all that lived upon her and with her, of their inheritance and their belonging. No cathedral of man could rival these mountains and valleys in sanctity and uplift. And when the world, finally, in great tragedy and sadness, broke into the fastness of the mountains, the secrets that had been there preserved and nurtured, flowed out into the world, and the world was changed.”
Pieces of the Moon
Telltale bits of the simulacrum of being, shards really, discovered by a young poet spouting strange words. Mating calls perhaps. Prayers no doubt. Reveries, raving, writhing, tithings to a god a goddess and mountains climbed and unclimbed. Several cups of nothingness and than some.
“this wizardry of sleep, leaves costumes of flesh
prone upon their beds, breathings as heavy and slow
as a rusting ocean of idling machines.
and the shoebox towns, and the cardboard cities
give up their feeble ghosts, to gangs of shadow
and return to the model of themselves
which some corporate architect saw
before the broken families came forth and filled them in
and all that was holy drives drunkenly home
past the closed-down drive-in at the edge of town
its longest running show now become, just ‘night’”
The Sustenance of Words: Selected Essays 2009-2016
I was in a position of minor power and saw the writing on the wall of abrupt climate change, and what can most charitably be described as “vampire economics” and in that modest perch from which I thought some small good could be done, I raised a warning as best I could. Some heard, most did not, or if they heard felt there was nothing they could do, that it was not their job description.
These are the words of that protest, starting with a Dissent Cable written for the U.S. Department of State in 2009, followed by subsequent essays upon my professional demise from that august institution. Sadly it appears we have acted too late. Happily it appears we are a clever shambling beast with a few more tricks up our sleeves. Sadly the situation is more dire than it was then. Tragically a virulent form of insanity is in the cockpit and we have not yet learned to fly on our own, or more importantly, fly collectively for the good of all. Hopefully out of this debacle some desperate beauty will arise, out of the earth, out of our common human hearts, and out of the animating spirits of all of our precious children.
“I would say, and in fact do say, that the sustenance of words is meager, thin, unsustaining, poor, inartful, verging on the useless, and yes, that it is both cruel and the awfulest gruel you can imagine. And yet. Sometimes, it is the only gear that translates inaction into action. And when that -aforementioned- rare occurrence occurs it can also too easily be the gear that translates inchoate feeling into misdirected mistakes. So we must give some respect, if not credence, to what we say, and to the beliefs, formulated, formulaic or not, from which those beliefs emerge, though often of course it is the other way around. Justification cobbled together for what in fact is a stance taken in the darkest recesses of our mind if not our body.
Nor is the essay, my favored art form. The idea of speaking reasonably to drunks with a well-crafted line of argumentation is folly in the extreme. In fact, most essayists are in service in the halls of power to power. They are the handmaidens to unreasonableness, crafting their bland inanities to cover over the truth of so-called leadership’s lust for power, and/or money; cobbling together fig leaves to cover the sickening bulges of vanity, careerism, narcissism, and sociopathy. And yet here I am with a modest book of the same. And I blame the government. Of course! My years as a Foreign Service Officer writing heavily edited cables (so that most of the sense and feeling were wrung out of them by the grey uneminences of the hierarchically higher-ups) created the bad habit, formed the unhealthy notion, that people could be persuaded out of their dangerous misconceptions if enough facts and phrases were martialed. It of course doesn’t work that way. We read, if we read, the arguments that perpetuate our illusions, certainly not the ones that set out to dash our complacencies.”