Home > The Good Luck of Right Now(9)

The Good Luck of Right Now(9)
Matthew Quick

At the library, I found an article on the Huffington Post that said you “received blessings from the Dalai Lama at Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.” It was dated March 18, 2010. There were pictures of you bowing to the Dalai Lama and him reaching down, touching your forehead with his hands in prayer position. There was also a photo of you praying with your eyes open while wearing expensive-looking Bose headphones. I wondered what you were listening to. On your left wrist were wooden beads, and on your right an old leather watchband. Judging by your eyes, you were enraptured.

Do you remember that day?

Have you seen this photo?

Being blessed by the Dalai Lama must have been a great honor, and I want to congratulate you right away, even though this event happened almost two years ago. I guess this is your equivalent of meeting the pope. I’d be very excited if I met the pope—even this new pope who is German. Mom never liked Germans, because her father was killed in World War II. (I have nothing against Germans.)

Then I found an article from the Syracuse Buddhism Examiner. It read “A TIME magazine survey on a wide-ranging list of the highs and lows of the past 12 months has listed the ‘Self-Immolation of Tibetan Monks’ as the number one ‘underreported story’ for the year 2011.” There was a picture of a monk on fire. He looked like a pillar of flaming lava. It was hard to believe that the photo was an actual man burning alive because the reddish orange color almost looked beautiful and the man was perfectly still.

(Also, I thought about how it is okay to look at a man on fire on the Free Library’s Internet, but not two naked women licking each other. Who makes the rules? Death is okay. Sex is bad. Mothers must die. Cancer comes when you least expect it.)

I looked at the man on fire for a long time, but couldn’t make my mind believe it was a person. Not that I doubted or mistrusted the caption. It was just very hard to believe that such things actually happen. That people on the other side of the world care enough about anything to set themselves aflame.

From what I understood, these monks performed the self-immolation in order to attract attention to your mutual cause—returning the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

The article went on later to say “TIME magazine has conceded that it generally takes a U.S. President aggravating Beijing by meeting with the Dalai Lama, or a high-profile celebrity Richard Gere fundraiser to get Tibet into the news these days.”

When I read that statement, it hit me—you, my friend, Richard Gere, are more powerful than a U.S. president, because the president wasn’t even named, and yet you were.

How does it feel to be more famous and powerful and iconic than Barack Obama?

I also understood that you can do more for the Dalai Lama by hosting a dinner party than Buddhist monks willing to burn themselves to death. Their sacrifice hardly makes the news—they go unnamed—but your being blessed by the Dalai Lama was in the Huffington Post.

You are a powerful man, Richard Gere.

I’m glad that I chose you to confide in during this difficult period in my life. The more I learn about you, the more I realize that Mom was right to keep your letter in her underwear drawer—that maybe she knew I would need your counsel after she was gone, and left your letter behind for me to find as a clue. It’s almost like she’s still helping me by making sure you and I are corresponding.

On a website called Tibet Sun, I read (and copied into my Interesting Things I Have Heard notebook) this: “A former Buddhist monk, who burnt himself last week in protest against the Chinese rule in Tibet, has reportedly died from burns. He was the twelfth Tibetan to have burned themselves in Tibet since March this year in protest against Beijing’s rule in Tibet. Seven of them are reported to have died.”

Twelve monks have lit themselves on fire trying to accomplish what you are trying to accomplish.

This, of course, reminded me of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, including Bartholomew (sometimes referred to as Nathaniel), who is my namesake.

I wondered if you, Richard Gere, were not the modern-day Jesus Christ of Buddhism.

It made me wonder if you ever thought about lighting yourself on fire, since you are also a Buddhist. Imagine how much news coverage that would demand. Everyone around the world would be transfixed if famous Hollywood actor and humanitarian Richard Gere performed a self-immolation.

Imagine it—the power!

Your greatest role!

I sincerely hope you will not light yourself on fire, because I have only just begun writing you. I would like to continue this conversation, so please do not go the way of these Tibetan monks. I believe you can accomplish much more alive than dead, and it doesn’t seem like their sacrifices are doing much to weaken China. Also, there is the clue—what I found in Mom’s underwear drawer—and perhaps you are meant to help not only the Dalai Lama but also me, Bartholomew Neil. Your self-immolation would not help me at all at this juncture, or at least I cannot see how.

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