Today, a senior manager of SAP, one of our sponsors, welcomed us in their headquarters in Palo Alto. We talked to him and some of his staff about An Saol and the work we are doing to change the way survivors of severe Acquired Brain Injury are being looked after. We talked about the cycle and that we were doing it to raise awareness and funding for An Saol.
Then he told us a story that he said had inspired and moved him tremendously.
Its about two Buddhist (American-born) monks, Heng Sure and Heng Chau, who made an 800 miles pilgrimage moving by three steps one bow, from South Pasadena to Ukiah, California, a journey that took them two years and six months. They, at the tail end of the Beat Generation, undertook this incredible pilgrimage from 1977 to 1979 to achieve world peace. Only about 20 years later did they publish a book documenting this incredibly journey, together with excerpts from newspapers, some photos and, above all, the letters they had written during this journey to their teacher.
When they set out on their journey, they did not want to talk about it. They, themselves, did not seek out any publicity (though they got loads of it).
For them, there were two stories about the journey. The one that was visible to the world, to the eye, the one that people could see every day, over two years and six months, on the streets. Then there was the ‘inner’ story, the inner journey, the experience they made and had not shared with anyone else, except with their teacher in letters they wrote to him every day.
In a much lesser way, my experience during this cycle has been similar. There are two stories, the visible and the inner one. An in a way that is perhaps how everybody’s life works: there is the outside, the social life, and there is the inner experience, what I often think is the deep, deep loneliness inside that can be shared on only very rare occasions in the most intimate moments of total exposure of vulnerability (or strength), but is mostly my own.
The only ‘salvation’, in a way, from this loneliness is that I have experienced, especially over the last three years, that ‘no man is an island’ and ‘every man is a piece of the continent’ – that no matter “for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. It’s the experience that humanity is shared.
So life, as long distant ‘pilgrimage’ or a never-ending cycle (in any sense of the word), is something we’re in together which is why we help each other out, especially if one of us is in trouble.
At the and of our meeting the executive we had met with played us a youtube clip with a song sung by Heng Sure, She carries me. And he said that he is planning to make an Oscar-winning movie out of the story of these two Buddhist monks, their long inner and outer journey for world peace.
Updates on the cycle are on fb.me/AnSaolFoundation – not for world peace but for a much smaller and, hopefully, easier to reach target.