The first night in the Gobi, we stepped outside the ger and looked up. The heavens were overloaded with stars, innumerable worlds. The edge of the Milky Way was staggering to behold. I, a city dweller, was dumbfounded. How can I live each day and not be able to behold the most significant visual marker that existence has provided me? Perhaps this might account for this chronic existential disorientation. At any rate, part of me remains there, almost as if a former incarnation has broken free of linear time and still stands outside that ger, gazing up in timeless admiration. How I long to see such magnificence daily and to live on the edge of the Gobi in a peaceful ger with my lively, curious and passionate fellow travelers! We went to trace the steps of Nicholas Roerich to some small degree, to investigate his points of interest. But we ultimately succumbed to the same reverie of energized clarity that had drawn him there. Our factual understanding of Roerich’s mission was eclipsed by the spiritual feast that nourishes all who visit the Gobi or else thrive there, moving with the seasons, year after year. So I can attest to the power of the place.
The next morning was bright, clear an warm. We five had breakfast facing the happy sun and shared our visions for the future. The discussion was by turns political, spiritual, congenial. I expressed a wish to make the Gobi the Holy Land of the new era, the hub of Shambhala. The line from John Lennon’s “Imagine” persisted like a mantra in my head: “. . . and no religion, too.” Here we might shed ethnicities, creeds and ideologies, even beliefs! For here was truly, in that morning, “nothing to kill or die for.” The new Holy Land. A holy land uninfected by ancient hatreds. A land that freely lends to the open mind a kind of rarefied vitality, a holy clarity uncluttered by the trinkets of dogma. We expressed the wish that on our next pilgrimage, we will bring others with us, many others! The dialogue, interactions and expressions of sharing would invoke universal blessings and bring all closer to life as it was meant to be. A vast consortium of active dreamers, committed to liberty and the uplifting of one another! It was impossible not to think these things.
But I suppose it was impossible not dream in such dimensions because of the reason that had brought us together: the consolidation of environmental law in accordance with indigenous wisdom after the model of the Roerich Pact. We came to Gobi seeking the necessary clarity to move this project forward. We came to consult the stars, to reach into our inner selves and to share our findings with one another. Nailya, Saruul, Sherap, Mogi and myself: five points of a little star, a little star of communion, shining within and without. Little wonder that, at Nailya’s behest, we adopted “We Shall Overcome” as our road anthem. This spiritual seemed to perfectly reconcile the elevated mood of our expedition with the darkness we intended to fight. The struggle remained, fiercely broiling beyond the seemingly infinite bounds of the Gobi. We were aware that the Gobi is not unlimited, that the challenges were not on hold. Nevertheless we drew upon the desert’s lustre for the brilliance we would all soon need to return to our cities, nations and colleagues and resume the good fight. The pilgrimage fortified our intentions and illuminated our aims. And the evolutionaries in each of us would burn more brightly and create more heat. Returning variously to New York, Moscow, Kazan, Ulaanbaatar and reaching out to our wider circles of colleagues and friends in Vienna, Berkeley, St. Petersburg, Addis Ababa, Tokyo, Seoul, Geneva and elsewhere, we would persist in affirming the power of culture and the universal values of harmony.
A new Holy Land: a holy land for all. Even for those who feel no present need. There is room for all, both in the physical Gobi and in our expanded hearts.