Genghis Khan

On my first visit to Mongolia, the National Legal Institute gave me a small leather scroll, a painted icon of Genghis Khan. I take it with me when I travel–initially because a Russian friend told me that if I traveled with an icon, I would be spared misfortune. So, the gift from the National Legal Institute of Mongolia (a sober and secular institution) has afforded me spiritual protection. When not travelling, I hang the icon on the wall at eye level in the room where I practice singing. Genghis Khan’s image keeps me focused, always striving to improve.

This icon has become rather important to me. There is a gold disc on his chest which I focus on while doing certain breathing exercises during which my mind might have a tendency to wander. I imagine that this gold disc connects Genghis Khan to powerful universal forces.  I remember Genghis Khan’s famous revelation that he had achieved his empire through no power of his own. When I first read this, I was astounded and shaken. The world’s greatest leader never lost touch with his essential vulnerability.  He was never deluded and knew very well his exact place between heaven and earth. His greatest achievement was a product of facing brutal odds with ingenuity, emotional honesty, devotion to his fellow beings and concern for the Earth. His understanding of universal principles assured that he would never try to assert his own will over and above these principles. Indeed, he had been successful in meeting his obligations by adhering to these principles and by appealing to the cosmic capacity to create outcomes according to those principles.

He was not one to abandon principle. Cosmic law had given him strength. He never considered himself more than ordinary. And this insight into his character, when it occurred, gave me tremendous relief. I recall that I even began to physically breathe easier. This small revelation of Genghis Khan’s ordinariness seemed to free my mind and expand my horizons. But it activated also a deep sense of vulnerability,  which I can only call realism. Genghis Khan had no “greatness” to protect him. He had only his ability to take responsibility. This ability was bestowed by the Sky and Earth. And the forces that acted through him came through his devotion and self-sacrifice. In the end, he was simply a human being, a cosmic traveller, a brother. He only ever did his best and even acknowledged his failings.

Learning about Genghis Khan has connected me to something profoundly mortal: there is This and only This. When we act balancing our passions with higher principles, when we organize rationally with one another and in harmony with our environment,  we can construct for ourselves an effacious moment in time, one in which cosmic hopes are born out and life can be celebrated, cherished.  If attended to thoughtfully, and if providence is not unkind, we can extend this efficacious moment forward in time, perhaps seven generations. Equally, we can extend ourselves psychically backward in time to acknowledge the sacrifices and insights of our ancestors.

We draw strength from both directions. We draw from inner reserves and shared resources.  We share of ourselves and we receive gratefully from others. It is really that simple. Genghis Khan embodies this. Embodying this, he has no use for “greatness”.  It is as though for him, “greatness” was mere folly.  He never needed false assurances. When in a crisis, there is only the seeking of solutions. When necessary, one goes to Burkhan Khaldun to find psychic access to ideas and solutions that perhaps lie presently just beyond one’s reach. As Einstein famously noted, we cannot solve problems at the same level they were created. Sometimes we must go the mountain.  It is all we can do. There are many paintings of Nicholas Roerich that depict spiritual personages engaging in exertions of a spiritual nature, seeking and connecting in a catalytic manner with the infinite, the cosmic cooperative.  He depicts them usually in natural environments, where their duties have drawn them to connect to higher principles. They are seen in postures of invocation, enveloped in light or magnetism, and always guided by a purpose, a purpose greater than themselves. 

One knows of Genghis Khan’s important visits to Burkhan Khaldun. One senses in the “environmental revelations” that Genghis Khan encoded in law a fastidious and deeply observant student of nature. The total symbiotic potential of his relationship with Burkhan Khaldun is probably incalculable. But it can’t be doubted that the great Khan understood his role as a steward of the Earth and that this role was the very basis of his leadership.  He had no power of his own.  It wasn’t that he saw the virtue of being ordinary. It was that he saw clearly the dangers in being anything else.  Superfluities become liabilities. Titles and conceits wither in an instant. What is necessary is adherence to universal principles which are inherent in all nature. We must attune to them. We must study and invite them into our thoughts. We must embody them. Where, then, is there any room for “greatness”? Genghis Khan was a servant of his people–through no power of his own! 

There is some debate concerning how much of traditional Mongolian environmental law was the direct creation of Genghis Khan.  It is undoubtedly true that Genghis Khan was informed by knowledge that had existed for many millenia. In the creation of his sacred state, it was necessary to codify and formally enshrine these ancient principles. But these principles derive from the living science of Mongolian nomadism.

Nomadism IS environmentalism.  It is the applied science of best environmental practices. And in the example of Genghis Khan we glimpse something we can call perhaps “principled development”–not merely sustainable, but development that is concerned with the human being and with the recognition of universal law that undergirds all life and which, when observed, brings evolutionary results. Principled development cuts no corners, allows neither starvation nor ignorance. While it follows principles born out in best practices, it is itself living and changing. It is not a dead formula played out for convenience. It requires the constant and adept attentions of all. As musicians must tune to one another, this vigilance brings melodic freedom. We can soar when we feel ourselves in alignment with harmonic principles. It is the same with nomadism, with environmentalism.  In an era when “sustainability” has been coopted to cover for practices that remain inadvisable, we should urge the human project toward principled development–a development that leaves no one behind, that wastes nothing and engages the human spirit.

We know with certainty that obscene profits conceal terrible crimes. We know that justice delayed is justice denied. We understand intuitively that our human rights emerge from deeper levels of order inherent in all life. On a good day, we know what it is to feel One with everything. We know what it is to want to share that sense of oneness. In that state of oneness, growth for the sake of growth seems insane.  Genghis Khan was a genius at organizing the human project in harmony with the energies of Father Sky and Mother Earth. His adherence to principles grounded his considerable genius for improvisation and innovation.  It is my great hope that in my capacity as Secretary-General of the Roerich-Bira Foundation,  I can begin to bring the principles of Mongolian nomadic environmentalism to general consciousness, that they might refuel and invigorate the development of international environmental law.  In my view, the Indigenous perspective gives the human family access to the awareness of the principles that have given us life. There is no more viable global voice than the Indigenous voice. We may have to quiet ourselves somewhat in order to listen carefully to its message. But the soft and gentle power of its admonitions will provide us with the fearless and indomitable spirit we will require to set the human project back on the right path. The great and gentle spirits that Genghis Khan sought at Burkhan Khaldun are still there. In his exertions, he aligned his purposes with sacred harmonies.


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.

As I Am, As We Are

As my latest “mission in Mongolia” winds down, I am as one facing an enormous conundrum: despite the airtight logic of my aims, despite the outstanding pedigrees of those who have offered intellectual assistance, despite my willingness to travel great distances, despite my cultural adaptability and unique grasp of geopolitical issues, despite my considerable connections carefully cultivated,  despite the enthusiastic assurances of those who have seemed to offer support, despite an altruistic vision developed out of deeply rational hopes and fears, despite much well-wishing and glad-handing, and despite my own tremendous optimism and hard work, no substantive support has been forthcoming.

My emails go unanswered. My follow-ups have come to naught. My friends (with few exceptions) and family have backed away from me as if any contact with me might bring on some unnamed existential disease. Perhaps I have failed to detect that the early pledges of support were merely polite. Perhaps I have underestimated the enormous gulf that inevitably yawns between pledges of support and cooperative action. Perhaps I have been naive. Perhaps it is true that a prophet feels the sting of scorn most keenly in his own country or among his own circle. Perhaps there are jealousies that my activities have activated.   I do not know. But as I struggle to retain and even augment my proactive spirit, I am beset and bemused by this sudden drying up of goodwill. Does this eerie phenomenon proceed from an aspect of my nature connected with my autism? Certainly, autistics are often perceived as almost monomaniacal, even disturbing in their pursuit of purist goals and “abstract” ambitions.  Many fear their almost otherworldly drivenness, seeing it as bizarre, eccentric. There are those who view us with a perfunctory suspicion and are eager to demonstrate a kind of dismissiveness toward our persons or our ideas, as they would “will us away” if they could. Indeed, a close friend has warned me that “people are going to be afraid of your project because of its size,” admonishing me to give it up and pursue smaller game. In the neurotypical world, “Don’t disturb people” is rule number one!  But for an autistic person, this priority seems illogical and counterproductive. Vision and clarity demand action. It would be unthinkable to put some unscientific murky nonsense ahead of an agenda I see as a clear imperative. I cannot change course any more than I can change my nature.
This clear imperative is irresistible.  International Law must be grounded in indigenous wisdom and achieve universal implementation. Human rights, international environmental law and the array of concerns associated with the concept of human security must be elevated to the status of a world religion or code of ethics.  My vision sees Mongolia as the logical and spiritual home for such a project. And to that end, I have presented legal seminars, traveled,  written, researched, consulted top legal experts and prayed (considerably). I pray to no Christian god, no Buddhist or Hindu deity, no enshrined spirit, no abstract dogma nor even to Mahatma Lenin.  I pray to what I feel animating the universe around me. It needed be named to become real. It is, to me, a self-evident being. This being has hardly delivered me fantastic results. But it has leavened my frustration and converts me to untried possibilities. Certainly, my experience with my Mongolian shaman has influenced me in continuing to believe, to struggle, to be patient,  to reach deeper. His strength has given me the extra set of wings perhaps to wait and learn. But, to me, Shamanism is not and religion.  It is a powerful form of attention that can retrieve success from failure and repair the broken heart. I believe in my Shaman and accept my fate.

Certainly,  I will continue my work. As I said, I cannot help myself. Whatever the reasons behind this lonely absence of fellow workers and the quixotic isolation I feel, I keep in mind and am grateful for the talents I have attracted and the ideas that I have developed well enough to guide my daily actions. I love my research.  I love the process I call the development of law. I love justice more than I love my own mind. Somehow, I know I must find a way to actualize this project. It is impossible to dislodge the notion that its realization is the answer to the world’s ills. I am strong enough to utterly disregard the mediocre tendency to make my aims more modest. I refuse to affect the cowardly shyness that might give me a common acceptibility. I cannot be other than I am. I decided to “come out of the closet” as an autistic because I actually believe that in so doing I am exchanging propriety for something much better: a burnished and uncommon metal that defies the corrosive effects of general practice. To be safe, to be tame, these have never served me. They have only prolonged the insufferable and diluted urgent necessity.  But urgent necessity mounts, as it will do, irrespective of our willingness to acknowledge an urgent reality.  The spread of fascism is real. The only antidote is general participation in upholding the rule of law. This law has evolved from time-tested sources and is elaborated in the UN Charter of 1948, the International Covenants of Human Rights, in the treaties and conventions of international environmental law and is attested to by the blood sacrifices and passionate toil of those laborers in the human rights movement who continue to give of their sacred life energy. The fulfillment of law will be real–as palpable as the heat of the sun and the tug of the moon on the tides. Shambhala will be accomplished. And the gratitude of our children will be our joyous reward. There is no higher purpose. There are no higher ideals.  And so my will is unshakeable. My readers will act. The means will materialize. The dawn will come. The mental disease of fascism will be eradicated and the rule of law will prevail. And then we will unlock the great treasures. . . .


I was advising a good friend here in Ulaanbaatar who has finished a number of screenplays but has had difficulty getting them produced. He is one of those rare individuals whose lives are brimming over with amazing stories,  some of them spectacular.  My advice was simple. Perhaps he ought to write his memoirs in book form. It would read rather like a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”/James Bond/Carlos Castaneda with an interesting touch of Samuel Beckett thrown in for good measure. I told him that perhaps if he first created a buzz around himself, interest in his screenplays might be stoked. He seemed genuinely appreciative and ready to begin excavating his remarkable life.

I then began to consider how I might take my own advice. Perhaps my life falls short in the area of daredevilry. Nonetheless, there are points of interest which I often choose to hide, fearing that certain details might impugn my “credibility”. But, looking around now at the obstacles that seem to surround me, I am forced to wonder that perhaps I have nothing to lose. As my 12 or so readers know, I am obsessed with developing international law here in Mongolia.  I have my reasons–very good ones, if I may say so. My colleagues seem to agree. And the few, small seminars I have produced have been successful,  informative, and supportive of my aims. While they haven’t been financially successful for me personally, they have nonetheless invigorated the warrior spirit in quite a few Mongolian lawyers who seek to fight for equity and progress in behalf of their truly great nation. These events have stirred hopes and exposed potential. I will continue to produce them. The next will consummate my dream of a law/culture fusion in the service of international environmental law in a way that will be quite unique. And my sense is that international attention will be both deserved and forthcoming. A law/culture fusion is essential to my overall vision: a) the global indigenous movement is already articulating its wisdom and passionate with a unified voice b) culture is a matter of existential importance to this global constituency c) the world cries out for coherence on matters of environmental concern d) a new legal culture is, in my view, important in order to engage the energies and imagination of the global population. Law and culture need one another. They spring from one another. And the environment is their common ground, their common concern and their greatest responsibility.  Mongolia is, at its core, an indigenous nation–one whose values emanate from a nomadic culture finely attuned to Mother Earth and Father Sky. There is no lighter footprint that that of the nomad! And the principles of social equity that pervade and inform the nomadic worldview are strikingly relevant to today’s global citizen. Inclusivity, cosmopolitanism, distributive equity, engagement, profound respect for the environment, for human security and the earth’s resources: these are what distinguish the Mongolian perspective. These are why I love the Mongolian nation and nourish hopes that this great country will soon lead the world–indigenous and non-indigenous alike–toward the evolutionary goals of progress and compassion. As the Central Asian Century dawns, Mongolia stands against the sunrise, proud and ready to lead. It is a nation born to lead and its cultural features are the living answers to the questions posed by a tortured world.

Yet,  despite my affiliation with the International Centre of the Roerichs, Karl von Habsburg, UNESCO,  the office of the Minister of Culture here in Mongolia,  Santa Clara University, Kookmin University in Seoul and the Japanese government,  I have been unable to form a ready bond with an appreciable number of like-minded individuals who might be able to propel this mission into high gear. Perhaps, I thought this morning, I have not shared enough of myself. Perhaps I have taken my own advice and made myself a memorable entity. Perhaps I have not played the public relations game well enough. Or at all.

I have to come clean here. I am autistic.  I was “diagnosed” with high-functioning autism in 2000. My fears in disclosing this are perhaps understandable but perhaps mere cowardice. In disclosing my “diagnosis” I fear losing credibility.  So often one sees references in the social media to autism that are intended as insulting, as impugning the source, as discrediting. As unfair and ignorant as these casual missives are, they still have managed to keep me fearful. Why? Remove my autism and what have you?  A once-upon-a-time theatre actor, a credible classical singer with a talent for German Lieder and member of the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York.  True, I come from a legal background. My father teaches law at Santa Clara University.  I grew up with the law.  And my closest colleagues in terms of developing my Mongolian project–Dr. Jiri Toman, Prof. Dinah Shelton and my mentor Prof. Yutaka Tajima–are part of my immediate family circle, as it were. But I myself hardly qualify as a legal luminary. My vision is my own. And my autism has granted me the ability to see patterns, to feel the future and to organize accordingly.

In late 2000, the call to law began to scratch at my subliminal backdoor. I began to feel restless, fearful. Certain things struck me as ominous: why was Gen. Colin Powell appearing out of uniform? I began to tell my friends and family that I felt a terror attack in the works, directed at the US. Those close to me looked at me askance, as though the stresses of being autistic and raising a son in Manhattan were perhaps too much for me. They acknowledged my fears politely, but seemed embarrassed for me. By mid-August, I was sleeping on the couch in my apartment in Brooklyn, with the news on 24 hours a day. I would waken clutching the couch as though it was a life raft. By late August,  I called my neurologist. I told her that I thought I needed to be on medication, that I was obsessed with world events, that I slept with the news on and that I feared a terrorist attack on the US. I to, d her that I thought I needed to be on medication.  She said, “Well the next appointment I have is on September 11th. Can you come in?” I told her that I could.

It is impossible to convey the shock I felt that morning as I prepared to leave for my appointment.  I was watching NY1, the local news source. As the second plane struck,  the announcer said, “This is almost unbeli– . . . ” then trailed off. The terrorist cause was now unmistakable.  I went to my appointment,  being careful to take the F train instead of my customary R train, which now ran directly under the towers. I made my appointment on time. When I went in to her office, I told my her, “Well, I guess I’m not crazy and I guess I don’t need any medication.” “That’s up to you,” she answered.  But now I did not want any medication. What ever it was in me that sensed this attack, I needed and wanted to be in touch with it. I didn’t want any medication to interfere.  I didn’t know exactly how I would use this freshly exposed dimension of my nature. But I decided to let Nature take her course.

Not long after that, my father began inviting me to join him on his trips overseas.  “Why don’t you come along and help me with the Tokyo program this summer?” he asked. I decided to go and help. I was curious as to where it would take me, this new interest in international relations and in international law specifically. I helped Dad administratively and then with research and writing. My first area of interest was Japanese-US relations.  Not long after that, I wrote a piece for a Fests Christ for my Godfather, Prof. Kim Moon Hwan, who was steeping down as president of Kookmin University.  I wrote about international  law, the need for it, the unrealized dream of it, and the global desire for it. I called my article “The Justice Vaccuum”, referring to the global lack of rule of law. This article,  which I wil, send to anyone interested,  laid the foundation for my work here in Ulaanbaatar.  The article is extremely amateurish and embarrassing,  otherwise I would reprint it here. But it nonetheless served its purpose and gained my father’s confidence to commenced our present course. I have never looked back.

If this story sounds outrageous, I can only say that some day my neurologist’s records will be made public. And given my very small readership, I suspect that I am most likely to be be believed. I encourage those of you who feel at a gut level the veracity of my story to look at my Twitter feed and follow my thoughts.  If I may be characteristically arrogant in the way many high-functioning autistic are, I venture to say that I am very seldom wrong and that, most importantly,  I need your support to develop international law here in Ulaanbaatar.  International Law needs a new capital. International Law is the answer to all human ills. Please join with me and help me consolidate a new era, an era of fruition. Shambhala! 

The Holy Land

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.