Well, relative success! A very important day and a day projecting much in the way of forward momentum. I should perhaps learn better to trust, to have faith. I have firmly aligned myself with forces larger than myself and so I need to operate psychologically on a larger playing field. It is a very important lesson to learn–to stop confusing personal limitations with universal parameters. Besides, I have no real choice. I cannot abandon my purpose. And I cannot abandon myself. My personal limitations reveal immediate realities beyond my personal boundaries. My personal issues are common. To know them well is the first step toward being of service to the larger community.
The meeting today with Dr. Shagdargen Bira and his powerful daughter Dr. Yanjmaa Bira was incredibly productive. The Roerich-Bira Foundation is the ideal platform from which to develop this new basis for international environmental law. Drawing on the legacy of Nicholas Roerich as a legal innovator and his visionary Roerich Pact as a model, the concept of consolidating international law around the concepts articulated by the global indigenous movement has both psychic energy and viability. Mongolian Tenggerism, which has been Dr. Shagdargen Bira’s passion and dominant subject of study, provides a clear and resonant elaboration of the themes pronounced by indigenous peoples everywhere. The Earth, the Sky and Humankind existing in cooperative and harmonic balance is the spiritual, theoretical and practical basis for the further development of international environmental law. And the universalist visionary Roerich remains steadfast! Culture is essential to life! It enshrines and keeps open for lively discussion the living essence of human experience. It is as essential for collective psychological navigation as is a compass for the individual exploring remote areas of the Gobi. “Khamkhuul,” “tumbleweed”. The image conjures both toughness and fragility. It conjures a floating sphere, it echoes both existential loneliness and welcome recognition. It embodies transience and endurance, the singularity of life and the vastness of space. It can represent each of us or all of us. We smile at it. Or it reminds us of harsh reality. We both identify and feel remoteness. So, it is life.
Mongolia implies adaptability. In today’s meeting we wisely chose to postpone the seminar originally intended for October. Having become sufficiently acclimated to Mongolian culture, I can attest to the wisdom of flexibility. There is need to improvise, to devise alternatives, to wait and see. So my inborn western instinct to feel impatience at postponement has now been tempered by the capacity to welcome adjustment. Postponing our seminar until May will allow for a fuller flowering of ideas and and a greater organizational potential: the Roerich “diaspora” will be involved, UNESCO can be cultivated as a partner, more luminaries of international law will be able to attend and contribute, our aims and aspirations will have more time to clarify, and the few contacts I have made in local media here in Ulaanbaatar will have time to help build a real event. And so, the dismay of postponement is converted to excitement. Much work lies ahead. But May will be here in a hearbeat. So diligence and adaptability are required!
I will also have time to establish good communication with indigenous rights organizations, with tribal leaders and indigenous media. Without this, our project will not have wings or wind. Dr. Shagdargen Bira’s presence exudes both the profound, universalist dimensions of indigenous wisdom with the erudition and scientific curiosity I felt in Moscow last year at Roerich Conference. In his passionate speech and compassionate presence, one feels a kind of cosmic surety that invokes a kind a of cultural reconciliation: the ancient meets the modern, the West meets the East, Spirit meets Science. But also, the great reverence one must feel for such a man is offset by his warm and practical demeanor. His eyes seem to have seen great distances, both inner and outer. And so, one feels great trust. His daughter is the perfect complement: dynamic, driven, warm and funny. Her training as a medical doctor commands respect. And her guardianship of her father’s legacy is beyond any reproach and holds out much promise for the further study of Mongolian nomadic environmentalism and its global potential. We are indeed relieved to join purposes with such a duo. And I am confident in the magnetic potential of our collaboration. My dream of uniting law and culture in the service of our current challenges has now a clear form and a plan of action. My colleagues in Moscow, Vienna, and Washington will be energized by our news. And my mentor, Prof. Yutaka Tajima, will–I hope–nod approvingly.
That this formative meeting should occur in the last hours of my visit here in Ulaanbaatar is also typical of what I understand as my Mongolian experience. Breakthroughs here are often last minute. And often in defiance of the odds. But the sense of chaos that this might convey is softened by the social consonant that is its backdrop. Perhaps that is what I have learned most from Mongolia: the overriding value of social cohesion and mutual understanding at the individual level. It is this communal vision that facilitates action and teaches the virtues of patience and respect. I know I will take this back with me to a New York. I have no illusions about transforming those I will rejoin there. I expect no magical conversions of friends or family. I expect a continuation of bewilderment, self-absorption and even rejection. But it will sting less. And my sense is that if I follow my hunches, hold onto my faith in my purpose and develop my guiding concepts, I will succeed. And I will return to Ulaanbaatar in November to work and stoke local interest.
When last I saw my Shaman, he agreed to help me clear away obstacles. And, in truth, I have psychologically relied greatly on his pledge in the past several weeks. The sense of the insurmountable has been eased by the contribution of his psychic energies in this process. And, indeed, his help has allowed me to “hang in there.” This alone has enabled the wonderful results that today has brought.
When last I saw my Shaman, we played a traditional game involving the rolling of sheep’s anklebones like dice. He told me that he would help me if I won. Unfortunately, I lost. But he said he would help me anyway because he said I had a “white spirit”. He had asked me why I wanted to help Mongolia. I told him that my aim was not to help Mongolia. I told him that I was in Mongolia because I thought the answers to the world’s problems were in Mongolia, that Mongolia possesses the keys that will unlock a new era. I spoke this with great certainty. This certainty has only grown in me. He accepted my response.
I am no do-gooder. On Twitter yesterday I was accused of being an ‘odious Russian chauvinist’. I am afraid that I am probably odious in many respects. If I am a chauvinist, this is indeed a grave fault. But, my faults quite aside, I know I have experienced truth here in Mongolia. In the Gobi, in Ulaanbaatar. And I am eager to share this experience with others from around the globe. Friends and family may be the last to come along. But my vision has widened and my capacity for faith has deepened. And I wish to share this.