Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Tuesday started with news at breakfast that our luggage had arrived. We all rushed back to our rooms to change. It seemed like such a good thing, after having put on the same clothing three days in a row. But when I returned that evening, I had a vaguely unsettled feedlng. I had my face creams, my outfits, my this and that. Yet I had had no trouble doing without. Did I really need to spend time worrying about what to wear? I was reminded of the book called "The Paradox of Choice." The book discusses the studies that show that excessive choice is stressful, because a person seeks to make the perfect choice, rather than just a good choice. And then we fret over our choices.

We ride our bus through neighborhoods where people likely have little choice in their lives. And whose few choices seem dismal to us. There is poverty everywhere. Are they less happy than we are with our stressful lives? We presume so, but yet we saw happy, playful children, people conversing everywhere. Perhaps we are the ones who seek to escape our lives through drugs and alcohol, not them.

We traveled to the Pyramids Tuesday, to view the way in which the pharoahs sought to escape this life and travel to the next one. Hard to describe the immensity, the scale, the concept. One could almost believe in aliens. We all went inside the Great pyramid of Cheops and had an indescribable experience. We were warned about the possible claustrophobia, and indeed it was hard to fight feeling paiched at times. You enter through a narrow passageway and are soon crouched over as the ceiling drops lower. The air gets warm and stale. A line of people are going in and a line coming out. At most points, you are squeezing by each other or taking turns, for the passage is narrow. you feel as if there is too little oxygen and you fight the urge to hyperventilate. The lighting is dim and you have no idea how long it will take to reach the burial chamber as you ascend up the steep ramp set with little wooden footholds. But then you are inside the granit chamber, a rectangle 8 meters high, 15 meters long, and 10 meters wide. you wonder about spending eternity in such a place. And then as the room fills, you realize it times to trek down. outside, you gasp for air, dizzy, but glad you made the journey inside the tomb, and back out among the living.

I will leave with a quote that frames this journey for me, from " Japanes Pilgramage" by Oliver Statler; To intellectuals, religion seems strange. But the point of a religious life is mental and spiritual training, and that cannot be achieved by oneself. We need help from some source.... The point of the pilgrimage is to improve onself by enduring and overcoming difficulties." I am sure that our difficulties are not monumental, but the challenge is still approach this adventure with an open heart.

-- Sharon Burnham

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