Sunday, December 20, 2009

A FB Recherche with Housemates of 30+ Years Time Past

Below is a lengthy FB thread that caught me unaware when house-mates from 1978 found me on FB and wanted to hear what had happened in the 30+ years in between.  Enjoy reading as the last days of 2009 wane while the new moon rises over the Kathmandu Valley below (and Joni Mitchell enlivens the iMac...). 

Keith, your story sounds like the most unusual "bio" of anyone's. Would love to hear lots of details -- please spare no length.

Keith D. Leslie
Hmm... vas 2 say? Doctor, lawyer, Indian Chief... I took a side trip to Aja ('when all your dime dancing is through, I'll come to you...' Steely Dan), fell into the amplitude of time (and space, I suppose...), got caught up by the world around us (although less visible within the USA...), crossed the Himalaya (a bit lost at times...), disappeared... into Mother India (a gift and a surprise...), found work on the Cambodian border when the energy finally waned (courtesy Save the Children...), offered a job in Nepal for six weeks (that turned into 26 years and counting...), fell in love (bound my feet and heart, as they say...), had two sons and a daughter ('who call me pa... that's must be what it's all about..." Bob Dylan). I guess, like the rest of you, I just found my own elephant to ride. Simple, really. You open one door, then another, then another and pretty soon you're checking your hairline, reflecting on adored photo albums and rediscovering lost roommates on FB. Glife, as my son, Ezi, says...

Neil Stoloff
Excellent bio, Keith! Are follow-up questions permitted? (If not, don't answer...)
'If not, don't answer'; if yes, what am I supposed to do?
Neil Stoloff
Do what you did -- answer a question with a question... But answer me these: Before Cambodia, you had the energy not to work? What about India was a gift and what was a surprise?  What do you do in Nepal? What about the world around us is less visible in the USA than elsewhere?  (Isn't it all one world and do we not all have eyes? Is it possible your world is less visible from here, and our world is less visible from there?)  Careful: I often find that each answer raises two new questions....
Larry Kraftowitz
Keith, your tale is a gripping a masterpiece of compression (and Zen-Speak, whatever that means). We all (and Leo Tolstoy, too) could take lessons from you in conciseness. 

Keith D. Leslie
Work: meaning paid employment in an orifice at 9 am. I guess not. Call it a 3 year Masters course in Meandering Thoughtfulness by the (very) Open University. Reading, writing, meeting and moving take a lot of energy. Fortunately I was w/ my friend, Scott, so our bond sustained us through much of the rigor and demands of travel. 

Ahh, Mother India... the unknown, the ancient monuments, the simple poverty, the luxurious colors, the vast religious landscape, the cruel poverty, the magnificent Himalaya, simple vegetarian meals, the masses, the seekers, Ganesh and Hanuman, Bodh Gaya and Ajanta.

For 20+ years I was the Nepal, then Asia, then Himalayan director for Save the Children. Then for 1.5 years the Sr. Advisor in the National Human Rights Commission. Now team leader for the Civil Society component of the UNDP Constitution building project.

What is visible and what is not seen? Good question! I departed the States b/c I couldn't believe what Walter Cronkite told me was out there. Not that he meant ill, he just could only perceive from Manhattan and news clips. I vanted ze whole enchilada. I vanted to get outside the world I knew, our Judeo-Xian universe (as Jung did...) and sit in silence across centuries, if not millennia. A wise person can do it sitting lotus legged in their apartment. I wasn't that wise. I needed space and time to create that possibility. 

Maybe the best we can do w/o travel (which is the mind...) is to watch Al Jazeera news. If we're stuck to CNN or Fox, then DEFINITELY we see through a very limited American worldview. Often, depending on what you read, it's a wonderful and wordly worldview, but it is often narrow and limited and solipsistic.

Yes, the rest of the world can be the same. That's the point. It's good to have eyes on both sides of one's head to look both ways in this world. Otherwise you can be blindsided...

Of course in the "whole sight or all else is desolation" department ('Daniel Martin' by John Fowles), the Vorld Iz Von! But back here on the conventional, human, slightly misaligned but often adorable plane (Bob Thurman, dharma hero and father of Uma: 'don't deprecate the conventional!'), the world is complex, disjointed, multi-facetd, fascinating and not exactly Oneness personified. 

That state of mind is for the mystics among us.

Actually, mystics, misfits and missionaries -- that's who they say live for long periods away from their natal culture... 

Or some combination of the three, I suppose... ;-)
Jill Storey
Keith, I remember you as having a unique mind and heart, both of which have clearly blossomed in remarkable ways over the last 30 years. I have other ex-pat friends who talk about the different worldview it gives them, but none as eloquently as you. I am very happy for you that you found -- made, actually -- such a fulfilling life.
Keith, your writing has a lyrical, even whimsical quality to it -- almost a musicality, if you will -- that is very easy on the ears. The words are meaningful yet dance lightly across the page. They really are poetry. Please keep writing.
Neil Stoloff
Beautiful thread. Keith, I admire your desire to "get outside the world you knew," and your courage in acting on it.
Keith, I just got around to reading your stuff. Would love to hear more about Nepal and what you do there. I've followed the politics there a bit through the Economist but as good as they sometimes can be know that is only part of the story. (I also have a poster/calendar for the mid-70's a friend brought back in 1980 from a hashish shop in Kathmandu but that is a different story.)
Keith D. Leslie
Brian, I missed a few threads, but noticed your interest in my work. Since I'm there now, I won't take long, but just suffice to say that I'm leading the UNDP Civil Society team for their constitution building project. Nepal is trying to draft a new constitution that will bridge the Maoist demand for state restructuring and social inclusion while not upsetting the status quo ante apple cart of the mainstream political parties. Given the fascinating diversity of Nepali society w/ over 100 ethnic groups including nearly 40% of the country, there's alot of civil (and uncivil...) society to bring in the tent. This builds on the work I've done over the years with marginalized communities in Nepal, both ethnic and Dalit (ex-untouchables in the caste system). The process is a bit shakey right now given the growing rifts b/n the Maoists and parlimentary parties. Major issues that are not yet resolved. Always fascinating if not a bit frustrating. My life shifted from the halls of Capitol Hill to the hills of the Himalaya...

No comments: