The following bit of news was written by Jamie Johnson and published in Vanity Fair magazine July 19, 2011


“It was big news last weekend when President Obama refused to let journalists into his private meeting with the Dalai Lama. The maneuver reflects increasing concerns in the U.S. that emphatic public support for the Tibetan leader will alienate Chinese officials, and in turn jeopardize our strategic interests in the world’s fastest growing economy… a rising number of international billionaires have begun to worry that backing the Dalai Lama could pose a risk to their personal wealth by potentially limiting access to lucrative markets in China… now that the seat of financial power has started shifting eastward, patronage of the Dalai Lama can come at a considerable cost. Sadly, China’s increasing sway over our economy compromises the Dalai Lama’s ability to attract wealthy American patrons…

The opportunity to make money is something billionaires simply can’t resist—even if giving in to that persistent urge means shunning an enlightened spiritual guru.”


Thus we have the way of the modern world. Not that I’m a spiritual follower of the Dalai Lama’s Buddhist beliefs–not the issue here–but I do care that an intelligent and enlightened man (a lot more than most) is seen as losing traction to spiritless commercial forces of low-tech wage-earning and hi-tech investment profiteering. China is a factory producing infinite ‘stuff’ and the West is a hungry consumer of those goods, insatiably starved for more things, countless baubles, Wal-Mart discounts, stock deals… spending and getting.

Where is all this taking us? What human desire is being met by plastic bottles, credit cards, shiny cars, sugared food, clever-tech toys, FaceBook popularity, political positioning…?

What is the need we are trying to assuage? Some have suggested existential ennui, listless boredom, hollow spiritual life, loneliness… that we buy more and more stuff for our emotionally impoverished hovels and grand mansions. No matter the level of financial status, most of us in this ‘advanced’ country are addicted to a richly materialistic/monied throw-away lifestyle surrounded by noise (iPods, radios, TV, computers) that we no longer can see outside the cage.

At my local dump/transfer/recycle station in a rural town in western Massachusetts (population 1800) purchased goods become discarded goods: coffee-makers, children’s books, dinnerware, air conditioners, stereo sets, microwave ovens, portable BBQs, baby strollers, sofas, pill bottles… off loaded to the recycle shed to be picked over with the leftover tossed over the edge into the dumpsters. (Some plastic, metal, glass, paper is recycled in a separate dumpster.)

But the volume of discards increases monthly, yearly. What is this? What is being thrown away besides stuff? I think at least part of our cultural soul goes out with the trash. We have become mis-users of the land, the planet. We have lost our feeling for our earth home.

After a recent festive party to celebrate a two-year-old’s birthday, I watched as dozens of plastic cups, spoons and forks, plastic plates, paper napkins, extra cake, pretty gift wrapping and ribbons were tossed into plastic bag-lined trash cans then tied up and tossed in the back of a pickup truck on its way to the dump the next day.

What is the gift here? (Most of the plastic gift toys to the to birthday toddler will end up as toss-outs within a year.) What is really being thrown away?

I think the message of the Dalai Lama is being lost: compassion kindness and mindfulness beyond our immediate pleasure and families, compassion kindness and mindfulness toward the green planet, toward the needy world of other tribes suffering poverty and hunger, and toward our own ‘being’. We have become saturated homo sapiens drowning in our own foreign-made abundance.

Is this the purpose of our being here? To make stuff and make profits? At what cost? What does China offer us beyond it’s factories? What is the future the Chinese are leading us to?

I think it is not compassionate, kind or mindful.


By Richard Ammon