For most of us, if we think of it all, Shangri-la is but a mythical place hovering deftly within the elusive mists of time space. Writers wax poetic of its existence and movies enthrall us with its possibilities, but nowhere do we usually relate it to being other than in the Land of Myth. Myth, for many, means the realm of story, and story implies that it is not real.
So Shangri-la – a marvelous dream of possibility, even of a promised land, but not here, not now, not in the World of Reality. And even if by some freak chance it was here, then it definitely must be between those crazy mists, which anyone with any smarts knows are impossible to grasp (if you’ve ever lived in Ireland and trekked a good mist walk or two, you’ll know exactly what I mean). Either way, we the average Jean & Joe not known for being particularly adept at mist grasping won’t get to experience it in the here and now even if we wanted to, thank you very much. Or so we think.
But what is that image of Shangri-la?
Usually, especially when cast through book or film, it is an enchanted land, dusted with sunlight, soft breezes, lush green rolling hills, and a harmonious abundant life where everyone actually gets along. It often involves an arduous journey to find it. Think snowy passes midst high and impenetrable mountains, throw in a few Yetis, an avalanche or two, and you have the idea. And like any good story, it has more than one guardian at its gates, hence the Yeti, and of course, an arch villain. What would life be without one?
It speaks of a world in sync, a land that dances to a mutual inner rhythm, knows no boundaries to the heart, and effortlessly breathes an air of tranquil light. Because it ebbs and tides with ease, its creative abilities are unbounded, and so it is also a Land of Plenty.
Sounds good to me.
Curiously, the idea of Shangri-la has been wafting through the fabric of our world for quite some time, albeit under different names. Think the Garden of Eden, Shamballa, Heaven on Earth, even Paradise. Most are cast in the land of the unattainable, unless of course you grasp those gems between the lines. Many are cloaked within a spiritual quest and the prerequisite of divorcing oneself from the mundane, which by definition automatically implies that the world as we know it is at the very least, boring.
Another thread of that same theme is that you can’t get there from where you are, a koan if ever there was one. So change becomes a must, transformation a necessity, and enlightenment the ultimate goal, wherever you end up being when it happens. I’m picturing big fluffy white clouds midst a starry sky with a filigreed gate. No, not really.
All seem to be mysteriously etched in gold fire along the journey we call, life, which is another way of saying that perhaps they’re messengers, or maybe even keys. Why else would we secretly covet that dream of an idea in the depth of our hearts if we or someone somewhere wasn’t trying to tell us something? Like a honing device, or a heartbeat. If you think I’m kidding about the coveting part, ponder the number of hotels there are in the world called Shangri-la or the amount of ads circulating that encourage us to walk the beaches of Paradise, the restaurants named Peaceful Garden, or those retreat spas entitled A Touch of Heaven, and then there’s that wonderful town in Australia named, wait for it, Eden. Clearly on some level we like the idea.
But do we believe in it enough, do we want it enough, to make it real? And if we did, what would it look like?
More on this in the next segment… Aliana