Monthly Archives: December 2012

From 老外 to Chillip: Foreign Reflections on Tibet, China, and Bhutan (Part 3)



Even after just a few days in Bhutan, it was hard not to start drawing parallels between here and Tibet. After all, their cultures are strikingly similar, as they’re both nations dominated by Tantric Buddhist symbolism, which permeates the land on all possible levels, from the stupas in the valleys all the way up to the prayer flags strung across the mountain tops. And in many ways, it seems that the way things are in Bhutan is how things should be in Tibet.

The country has recently become a democratic constitutional monarchy, headed by a king that’s near universally loved. Modernizing projects are being pursued gradually and responsibly, always keeping an eye on finding a balance between improving the lives of the Bhutanese while simultaneously safeguarding their rich culture. Much like Shigatse in Tibet, Thimpu is riddled with construction, but these development projects are being handled in very different ways. In Tibet, China, an outside power with an interest in transforming culture and society, is spearheading development. In Bhutan, the king and National Assembly are in charge of leading the nation into the modern era. In keeping with tradition, there is a strict building code that ensures that all new buildings will fit into the old framework of the city.


Outside of Bhutan’s few urban centers, much of the countryside still functions as a feudal society. Yet this is benevolent feudalism, an idea that might sound oxymoronic to most that are familiar with the systems of serfdom that existed in Europe. Local monasteries and dzongs (monastery-fortresses) act as castles, with the farmers and artisans scattered in the surrounding area serving as the serfs. The monasteries fulfill both administrative and spiritual needs, while the villagers provide for the sustenance of the monks through donations of food, money, and often a child to join the monastic order. This whole system is governed by a strong sense of caring, built into the very foundations of society through the strong system of Buddhist ethics that’s so apparent to outsiders but surprisingly invisible to those that live within it.

While still a 3rd world country, people appear happy and relaxed, and I have yet to see a single beggar or homeless person. Although this was something I’d regularly read about and heard when talking with people about my upcoming trip, it wasn’t truly affirmed until a visit at the home of a woman living in the Phobjikha Valley. After a short hike through the valley to look for the endangered black neck crane, my group came to a small village. We asked for the caretaker of the local temple so that we could take a look inside, and after letting us in, she invited us over for butter tea and arra, her homebrewed moonshine. Although initially extremely reserved, she gradually opened up the longer we sat in her kitchen/bedroom. Our guide asked her what she would consider to be the most important change in her life in the past decade and she responded that it was electricity, though increased nearby education opportunities and new roads were also up there. He then asked her whether or not there were any other things that would improve her laugh, to which she laughed and replied that she couldn’t think of anything at all, seeming surprised that that question was even worth asking.

We then asked her what her perceptions of foreigners were and she said that she thinks that they are all very wealthy. But this wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Although she commented that having more money would be nice since it would make daily life easier, our new friend confidently said that she was very content with her life, a thing that I don’t think many people I know back home could say. The idea of living contentedly and in accordance with the Middle Way seems to be deeply ingrained into village life, with many people not even necessarily knowing what Buddhism is. It isn’t their religion or philosophical system, it’s just life. In response to how she deals with the difficulties in her daily life, the woman simply replied, “What to do. This is my karma.”


For all the troubles that might plague Bhutanese villagers, many of the numbers don’t quite line up with Bhutan’s labeling as a 3rd world country. In regards to education, 94% of kids attend school and the literacy rate is above 60%. As far as basic utilities go that people in most developed nations can take for granted, 98% of Bhutanese have access to either boiled or clean drinking water, and, although not 100% reliable, electricity now reaches out to most rural areas. Furthermore, the government subsidizes it so villagers only pay roughly $1 a month for enough energy to run electric lights, stoves, and rice cookers. However, the statistic that seems to sum up people’s happiness with Bhutan best is that 98% of students that study abroad elect to return home afterwards, which stands in stark contrast to the mere 5% of students that return to China after going abroad. As much as the rest of the world touts Bhutan’s measure of Gross National Happiness as the ideal of a tiny mountain kingdom, it’s a very real thing. Built on the four pillars of good governance, economic growth, cultural preservation, and education, GNH truly does reflect a nation of people that are happy with their lives despite not having access to as wide a range of material possessions and luxuries as we do in the West.

Additionally, Bhutan receives more foreign aid per capita than any other nation in the world, largely because corruption is kept to a minimum and investments are easily accountable for so results are easily observable. Yet despite this, Bhutan actually turns away more foreign aid than it receives. Rather than simply sucking in all the money possible to fund development projects, the Bhutanese government is very particular about only receiving money that comes as a gift with no strings attached, rather than as a foreign nation’s investment to get a foothold into Bhutan. Bhutan adamantly insists on heading its on development and rejects aid that appears to merely be an attempt to buy influence, rather than a genuinely humanitarian act. All in all, Bhutan seems to be headed in as positive a direction as a nation so recently engaged with the global community could be.


But is this how things “should be”? That question inherently carries value judgments about what’s best for a nation and I definitely don’t know enough about the situation to try and say anything conclusively. I think it’s pretty clear based on what I’ve been saying where I fall on the issue, but I don’t really think the question of “is this how things should be” is even worth asking. It’s just how it is. It appears that Tibet’s push towards modernization will outpace that of Bhutan’s at the cost of culture and tradition, but I have very little by means of the empirical to back that up and am going purely off of my brief stints in each country. As far as I can tell, Bhutan actually seems to be pursuing progress in the most reasonable way of any nation in the modern era, paying as much attention to the nation’s citizens themselves as the things that they have and the hard numbers of literacy, GDP growth, infant mortality, etc. It reflects a conception of ‘progress’ that’s far more fleshed out, sustainable, and healthy than simply looking at economic growth and superficial markers of success such as the number of newly erected skyscrapers and subway stations. However, it’s easy to make value judgments when just passing through as a traveler without full knowledge of the situation. From where I’m standing, all I can really do is watch things unfold as China’s power continues to grow, Tibet’s continues to wane, and Bhutan furthers its steps into modernization.



From 老外 to Chillip: Foreign Reflections on Tibet, China, and Bhutan (Part 2)

I'm 人人 Famous!!

I’m 人人 Famous!!

The tone that I (mostly) unintentionally adopt when discussing this issue makes it seem as if China is some sort of evil empire out to subjugate the rest of the world for it’s own selfish means. But it isn’t so black and white. For millennia, China viewed itself as the Middle Kingdom between Heaven and Mankind, occupying a central and inescapable role in the maintenance of Harmony on Earth. Easy as it is to overstate the Middle Kingdom Complex, it’s impossible to deny that it continues to influence the modern government’s policy decisions.

To celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the ‘peaceful liberation’ of Tibet, China constructed a massive phallic-looking monument across the street from the Potala Palace in Lhasa. At first glance, I thought this was really just a grand show of overcompensation, which I still feel that it is, but I’ve also come to realize that this monument to the people’s liberation is also extraordinarily genuine. In many ways, China actually does view its actions as a true liberation of Tibet from a feudal system. Standards of living have improved and so, as far as China is concerned, Tibet is better off.

In celebration of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.

In celebration of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.

As usual with things on here, this all comes back around to the Religion of Inevitable Progress. What tradeoffs are worth making in pursuit of material advancement? I feel that China is in a particularly precarious situation in regard to analyzing these tradeoffs given the Century of Humiliation that it endured in the not so distant past. After being raped by the West for decades and watching itself be carved up almost to the point of non-existence, China views itself as having a lot to prove to the rest of the world and a lot of lost time to make up for. As much as China is currently pushing for its place as a world economic and political superpower, it is also always fighting for its reputation. And what better way to maintain face and prove its superiority than beating the West at it’s own game? Rapid economic development, material advancement, and skyrocketing standards of living (at least in the cities) all lend credence to the idea that China can play the Western game, possibly even better than the nations that invented it. Given that China has been doing so well, why would it ever risk letting up for the sake of questioning the value of progress and the ways in which it is being achieved? The possibility for a massive loss of face is simply too high. And with the vast majority of people living better than they ever had, why would the government want to slow its march into the future? People will put up with a remarkable amount of censorship, pollution, undrinkable tap water, and a number of apparently arbitrary daily inconveniences if they can afford to move into the city and buy nicer cars and iPhones.

财神, the Chinese god of prosperity

财神, the Chinese god of prosperity

Still, there a number of issues bubbling below the surface that are overlooked by the Western media and that I never would have guessed could have existed without some time on the ground in China. As a college student, one of the issues that I find to be most intriguing is that of the education system. Throughout high school, parents frequently drive Chinese college students to the very limits of overwork. As the population grows and places in university become ever more competitive, the problem is only exacerbated. Chinese high school students spend an entire year of school preparing for the Gaokao, which might be considered roughly equivalent to the SAT except that it the scope of knowledge if requires makes the content of the SAT look like a pop quiz. It lasts either 2 or 3 days, and requires students to display their knowledge in Chinese, math, a foreign language, physics, chemistry, biology, history, biology, and political education. It’s essentially the only requirement for admissions to tertiary education in China so it is taken incredibly seriously. As such, for any students remotely serious about their academics, life outside of school is more or less non-existent.

Furthermore, once students have actually completed the process it and made it to university, things are often not that much better. The university system in China is strictly regimented, leaving little room for creativity and innovation, as well as extremely overbearing; it isn’t uncommon for students to spend 12+ a day in class. Given the methods of education, students are best equipped to study the hard sciences, engineering, or mathematics. Those looking to explore the humanities generally aspire to attend Western universities, often in America. Even those pursuing the subjects that the Chinese education system specializes in often would rather attend Western universities if financially feasible.

A beautiful little shrine next to one dedicated to Buddha Shakyamuni

A beautiful little shrine next to one dedicated to Buddha Shakyamuni

Such a harsh education system frequently breaks the students that have worked so hard to get there. My Chinese roommate often remarked to me that he thought that the American students at IES (the study abroad program I was enrolled in) worked far harder than any of his friends at Beijing Foreign Studies University (Beiwai.) When he first said this, I could hardly believe him, but he continued that many of them spend all day in their rooms playing computer games and skipping out on class. So long as they walk out of college with a degree, their grades are more or less irrelevant. And without their parents constantly breathing down their necks to succeed in school, many students are simply unable to find the motivation within themselves to do anything at all.

As if life for Chinese youth isn’t hard enough, 计划生育政策 (the One Child Policy) further increases pressures placed on children in China. Adopted by the government in 1979 as a method of curbing booming population growth for the sake of lessening pressure on natural resources and limiting the supply of surplus labor, the One Child Policy only permits families to have one child. While there are a handful of exceptions, such as when divorced parents that already have kids remarry and want to have a kid of their own or in the case of twins, adherence to the policy is strong enough, at least in urban areas, to have had a significant impact on Chinese society. Aside from the basic violations of human rights that the One Child Policy promotes and problems that arise from the increasing disparity between the numbers of men and women in China, it has also created acute problems for many Chinese youths. Combined with the one-pointed focus on school that is so strongly encouraged, forcing the current generation of Chinese kids to grow up as only children fosters a sense of isolation and loneliness that can’t be overstated. To compensate for this, parents frequently will spoil their children to the point that kids constantly expect to be pampered and treated like precious gifts to the world (a problem that also exists among many American children.) However, this is a terribly unrealistic expectation about what should be considered reasonable treatment by others and it often leads to deep consequences. The week that I left, a friend was telling me about a middle schooler that had recently jumped off of the roof of their school. The reason? They had had their Nintendo DS taken away because they were playing with it in class and didn’t know how else to deal with this massive injustice. And these types of stories aren’t even considered uncommon.



So while China views itself as being entirely capable of leading Tibet out of feudalism into the shining modern era, there are enough issues brewing at home that call into question whether or not the price of modernization might be too high.

(Note: I realize a lot of this comes across as a pretty scathing analysis of China today but, as I think has been pretty clear in a lot of my previous posts, my criticism is hardly restricted solely to China and I don’t mean to single it out as the most despicable nation in the world or anything like that at all. There’s much to love about the country, the culture, and the people, but in the context of this series it seemed more appropriate to point out some particular shortcomings, especially in regard to government and policy decisions, that are unique to China.)

From 老外 to Chillip: Foreign Reflections on Tibet, China, and Bhutan (Part 1)


The world honors daring, exalts ostentation, and emphasizes progress. What the sage treasures is patience, frugality, and humility, all of which the world considers useless.
–Su Che’


Tibet will never again be a sovereign nation belonging to the Tibetans. I can fully understand that many people might take serious offense to that statement since it’s so bold and bleak but after even just two weeks traveling around the country (…province) it’s the rude truth to which I’ve been forced to open my eyes.

To begin with, there are the diplomatic, economic, and geopolitical issues. China can’t afford to let go of Tibet. Tibet alone comprises 1/6 of China’s total landmass. Once Tibet goes, other contested areas of China such as Xinjiang and Taiwan are no longer as securely Chinese as the government continually assures people. So there goes another 1/3 of the country.

Furthermore, China’s Western provinces (Tibet included) are absurdly rich in natural resources. In addition to being one of China’s largest forested areas, Tibet also has enormous deposits in copper, iron, lead, and zinc. As much as China wants to claim that extending the railroad system out to Tibet was for the sake of tourism, it’s very clearly to facilitate bringing these resources back east to the more populous areas of the country. And as valuable as Tibet might be, China’s possession of Xinjiang is debatably even more imperative as it holds some of the world’s largest remaining reserves of both coal and oil, as well as huge stores of natural gas, rare metals used in manufacturing microelectronics, and precious metals, particularly gold. Additionally, in regards to geopolitics, Tibet provides a crucial buffer zone between the rest of China and India should there ever be any serious conflict between two of the world’s fastest rising countries.

However, these are all reasons that I’d heard before visiting Tibet. And, as convincing as they are, part of me was always convinced that diplomacy could win out. Maybe the Dalai Lama’s campaigning and the rising number of Tibetan self-immolations could rouse the world from its apathy in regard to the issue and dispel its fear of interfering with China over an issue that has been decided to be relatively trivial. It just wasn’t possible to completely give up on Tibetans getting Tibet back because, well, how could I just dismiss the ‘Free Tibet’ movement as having already failed?


In the end, it was the practical reality of life in Tibet today that convinced me that ‘Free Tibet’ is a lost cause. I still have some shreds of hope that diplomacy could accomplish something but at this point that just doesn’t matter. Whether formally a part of China or not, Tibet has become and is poised to remain de facto Chinese. Ever since wrecking the country to shit and massacring Tibetans, both monks and laypeople alike, during its ‘peaceful liberation’ of the country, China has poured money into developing Tibet and building the region back up again. Historically, both Tibet and Xinjiang have been money sinks for the Qing Empire and the PRC. A tremendous amount of resources have gone into controlling territories that give relatively little back in terms of revenue. But China has been exporting droves of Han settlers out to the new province, leaving consolidation in the hands of the people rather than using military means. Force simply isn’t necessary anymore; the Tibetans have nothing back to fight with anyways. The main square in Lhasa is littered with military checkpoints and soldiers but their purpose is less to suppress a rebellion than to prevent a loss of face by stopping any more self-immolations at the epicenter of the conflict. The checkpoints search Tibetans for lighters and fluid, while the soldiers are all armed with long sticks and fire extinguishers. Foreigners are completely ignored and untouched; as far as the soldiers are concerned, the Tibetans are the only true threat.

An inconspicuous military checkpoint is tucked away in the bottom left corner of this picture

An inconspicuous military checkpoint is tucked away in the bottom left corner of this picture

The central government has invested heavily in expanding Tibet’s infrastructure, cutting up the mountainous landscape with electrical towers and extending roads to previously disconnected areas to encourage further Han settlement. Additionally, much to the chagrin of those that would like to see any sort of serious investment in healthcare or education in Tibet (which have been virtually non-existant to date), China’s expenditures on Tibet’s infrastructure has far exceeded all else in the hopes of making the region’s vast resources more easily accessible and easily transported to the rest of the country.Massive urban development projects have been undertaken, resulting in brand new Chinese-friendly districts in Lhasa and nearly the entire city of Shigatse is being given a makeover, with new skyscrapers under construction on every block. Yet while razing the old buildings to make room for the new ones, small efforts are still made to retain some façade of the culture that’s being desecrated, such as painting the 8 auspicious symbols on recently finished construction projects and allowing Tibetan script to remain on signs (though shrunken down and placed below the Chinese characters.)

The battle for Tibetan freedom isn’t being fought on economic and political fronts. The true fight to secure Tibet is cultural, and China is winning. It has preserved Tibetan culture to the extent that it is easily commoditized and converted into tourist attractions. Besides that, the modernizing projects will go on and wipe out whatever stands in the way.



Mayan, Millenarian, and Messianic Musings



Note: Not a huge fan of the word ‘musings’ but alliteration is too awesome to pass up.

In honor of the upcoming end of the world this Friday on December 21st, I figure it would be worth making a (non-exhaustive) list of the possibilities that we should all be expecting as potential ways in which we might be heading off this mortal coil. It really just gave me a good excuse to look up what various cultures have said throughout history about how all this comes to a finish since I think end of the world scenarios are pretty fascinating (though not quite as fascinating as how much this single date and event has been blown up in pop culture. I guess it makes for good movies and provides an opportunity to build some badass apocalypse balls.) Maybe if we come out alive on the other side of this one I’ll put together a similar list of creation myths in celebration of the fact that we didn’t all die a fiery death.

-Siva the Destroyer stops dancing and the eternal fires that he has been keeping at bay throughout the ages finally close in and bring the cosmos to a fiery end.

-A massive gravitational shift caused by the combined forces of the sun and Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, wrecks havoc on Earth.

-The future Buddha Maitreya arrives and brings all of the elect to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet, which will transform it’s two towers into wings and fly off to a new world to start anew.

-Nibiru, also known as Planet X, collides with Earth. Short, sweet, and to the point.

-A solar flare occurs, sending out a massive electromagnetic wave that shuts down all electronic equipment across the world.

-The Age of Pisces comes to an end as we move into the Age of Aquarius, pouring the fish of humanity out onto the land to fend for itself in a new environment.

-This current Kali Yuga comes to an end and Kalki, a manifestation of Lord Visnu, rides in on his white steed and brings this universe to a swift end to begin the period of cosmic latency known as Pralaya.

-The Antichrist and the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse arrive on Earth to punish the wicked, while the Messiah Jesus Christ raptures all of the truly devout up to Heaven.

-The world will come to a glorious end at the hand of Bolon Yokte, a Mayan deity, in a display of his tremendous power.

-We reach a singularity of infinite complexity in which anything and everything imaginable occurs simultaneously. (This idea comes from Terence McKenna during a the period in his life when he was most frequently using psilocybin and dimethyltriptamine. So he’s probably right.)

My money is personally on the future foretold by the Ecuadorian myth of the eagle and the condor. Back in ancient times, human society split and took two different paths: that of the eagle and that of the condor. The eagle represents the intellect, the rational, and the material, whereas the condor stands for emotion, intuition, and the mystical. Nearly half a millennia ago, the eagle began to rise to power and was said to almost push the condor to the brink of extinction. Yet it was foretold that 500 years in the future a new epoch would begin in which the two birds have the opportunity to unite in the sky, moving mankind forwards together, held aloft by a condor’s wing and an eagle’s.

I’m far from believing that on the 21st some magical change will happen in which a global shift in consciousness will instantly occur. But I do belief it’s some kind of marker, indicating that we’re at a special time in history in which humanity is being pushed to the extreme in a number of ways and we face some sort of grow or die scenario. Not grow in a physical sense, but a psychological expansion. Unless we correct our course in one way or another, it’s likely that we will ultimately drive ourselves to extinction, or at least drastically alter the way in which we live. This is a period of change, one in which great things can happen. We just need all of the individual paradigm shifts to make that one massive leap in consciousness possible. Treat the 21st as you would treat New Years, but on a whole different level. Make a resolution and make some leaps upward.


Beyond the Great Wall



Finally made it beyond the Great Firewall and into the Kingdom of Bhutan. Already within two days I feel cleansed of all of Beijing’s pollution and back on solid grounding. Despite only having TV and Internet for 13 years, Bhutan has made things far easier for me to get online than China, largely because all Internet access in China is channeled through only 8 network servers, which is bound to slow things down a bit. Plus, there’s no limits on web browsing here (except on porn, so I think I’ll survive that, at least for the next 2 weeks) so I’m finally able to get back on here. In all honesty, I could have accessed the blog while I was in China if I’d used my VPN but I just never had the inclination.

Before I went to China I was told that I would need to be careful about what I write online, but the government takes very little interest in things written in English, especially if they aren’t explicitly attempting to raise a revolution since it’s unable to reach a large enough segment of the population to pose a true threat. It’s the Internet propaganda in Chinese that’s the real problem, and my Chinese never quite got to the level of being able to write subversive manifestos in anything other than my native tongue. Besides, my time in China was filled less with individual stories worth sharing on the Internet and was more of an accumulation of experiences and emotions that will inform my impressions of the world as I move forward. I’ll likely make reference to many elements from my time in China, but writing a little blog post for each noteworthy experience I had doesn’t seem necessary to write or remotely enjoyable to read. In lieu of carrying on this blog as a traditional travel blog (which it barely ever really was anyways), I’ll be using my experiences from the past semester as jumping off points for getting into deeper issues and concerns of mine. Nevertheless, I figure its worth making a bulleted list of some of the particularly cool/weird things that I’ve been up to over the past 4 months, really more as a record for my own sake than any sort of grand showcase.


-Participating in the Buddhist Yoghurt festival in Tibet, marching with thousands of Tibetans to witness the massive, multi-story appliqué thanka.

-Spinning poi under the stars on the Tibetan Plateau while listening to California Love with some locals.


-Participating in an Anti-Japanese rally (that soon turned anti-foreigner) in Xi’an to protest the Japanese claims to the Diaoyu Islands.

-Going to see the terracotta warriors (don’t do it, huge bust.)

-Being guided down the Silk Road by Benjamin Franklin himself


-Scattering my broken prayer beads at the top of the Flaming mountains.

-Learning some badass new dance moves from old Chinese ladies dancing in the park.

-Hiking across a snow covered ridge in the western provinces and mounting a massive snowball attack on the rest of the group.

-Just barely losing an epic beard growing competition.


-Chugging 白酒 (Chinese moonshine) on street corners ‘cause it’s only 50 cents a bottle.

-Sitting with Maitreya in a monastery complex during a light snowfall on the top of a mountain in Wutai Shan, one of China’s 4 sacred Buddhist mountains

-Getting my hair dreaded by some Nigerians while watching Are We There Yet twice in a row.

-Visiting E’mei Shan and Putuo Shan, two more of China’s 4 sacred Buddhist mountains.

-Taking a boat to see the world’s largest Buddha at Leshan while sporting a super fly life vest.


-Learning how to Chi from the master

-Sipping beers with over 50 Santa’s while listening to live French jazz.

-Going ham to dubstep and macking in my panda hat.

-MINIATURE TANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!


-Befriending a Tibetan monk in Gansu province and being told that he initially didn’t trust us because we’re white people studying Chinese but that we won him over because Tibetans and Americans are natural friends.

-Eating rabbit head, dog, just about every kind of pig innards you can imagine, and the dankest pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had (this one wasn’t Chinese, just really damn good.)

-Spending 3 hours trying to describe my thery of the soul to my Chinese teacher exclusively in Chinese, all the while being stared out like I am legitimately crazy.


-Shotgunning beers at the highest point of the Great Wall.

-Wildin’ out at all you can eat and all you can drink 烧烤 (Korean BBQ) for $9.

-Starring in the greatest episode of Chinese South Park ever produced as Kenny, before dying in the second scene from la duzi to the sounds of a hardcore Waka Flocka trap remix.

-Sitting through 4 hours of Chinese class a day, 4 days a week (This isn’t really cool or weird. It just feels necessary to be mentioned.)

-Singing the well known Chinese song 朋友 to a room full of some of the country’s most highly regarded young musicians, while actually just meowing the whole time.


-Drinking a 30 rack while shoved to the back of the train on the 3-day ride from Lhasa to Beijing because the train workers were mad racist (like most Chinese people).

-Meeting a Russian pimp at the airport and being offered a job teaching his two female friends that “work for his cleaning company and are definitely over 18.”

-Walking in the fresh snow along a frozen canal during the middle of the night, enjoying the only complete silence I’ve ever encountered in Beijing as I said goodbye to the city.

shocks up

-Gangam styling and shock-bombing photos across the country

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things on here. I spent the past semester so busy with relatively un-engaging schoolwork and with my mind wrapped up in the remarkably narrow universe that living in dorms on a study abroad program promotes that I lost sight of a lot of the things that I think are important in the world. At the end of the summer I felt as if I were reaching a threshold on a lot of my thought processes, getting inklings of a potential paradigm shift. I had to put a lot of my mental Gordian knots aside and leave the puzzles of the Religion of Inevitable Progress and the Monotheism of Consciousness alone for a while. Ideas on them would emerge every now and then, but the mental effort was never really there to truly grasp on and grapple with them in any meaningful way. Now that I’m in Bhutan, surrounded by fresh air, nature, and a culture permeating with religious iconography, I’m feeling much more back to myself and ready to reengage with the things that I find most interesting. I’m hoping to expand upon my series on the Religion of Inevitable Progress, as well as begin a new one on the Monotheism of Consciousness. Ideally, these ideas will form the basis for my undergraduate thesis, which I’ll be writing next year, but it’s hard to say in which direction things might go. If the quest to the mindnut followed a set path then we’d all already be there.