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Lions Roar : July 2014
But something was missing. And I felt that gap all the more keenly because there seemed no prospect of explaining to him what I’d experienced, as he assumed we’d more or less experi- enced the same thing. So I tried to imagine the Fourth of July on a screen, rather than in the sky. There was no touch—no feel of the grass on my bare feet, no evening breeze on the back of my neck. no faint smell of musty blankets and trodden grass, no waft of fried chicken from the family picnicking next to me. And while there was sound with the screen, it was only the booming of the fireworks and the professional wonder of the commentators, not the dimensional murmur of the hundreds of people around me, a murmur that revealed the contours of the hill in the summer dark and gave a kind of human shape to the wonder—a wonder that included everyone there, even if the little girl’s commentary on the blanket in front of me, “that’s my favorite, that’s my favorite,” wasn’t the same as mine. And yes, the screen had vision—it probably even afforded a closer look at the fireworks: vivid shots of the hot light catching the trailing white smoke, beautifully composed frames with the Boston skyline in the background, an American flag waving in the breeze. But on the screen, there was no way for me to turn and see the shifting colors reflected in the slightly greasy, utterly dazzled, upturned faces of the fried-chicken family, or to see the little girl nuzzling close to her father during the finale, or to look out over the entire crowd and toward the Boston skyline and feel at once my similarity and my difference from everyone, to appreciate, for better or for worse, that I was part of the group. I understand why my father stayed home, why he watched on his iPad. he has a bum ankle, and crowds are tricky for him. uneven hillsides present a real danger, especially with overstim- ulated kids racing around in the dark. And I understand, more generally, why people spend so many hours a day looking at their smartphones. Each one is a ticket to the World Festival, promising to keep us informed, included, a part of everything that’s going on. Yet I also understand why I stopped fantasizing about the World Festival years ago. Part of it was that other fantasies, usu- ally involving a girl and some privacy, became more pressing. But part of it was that it occurred to me that the space it would take to hold the World Festival was the space of the world itself. And the festival was already occurring—with hospitals, bathrooms, ice cream trucks, lost children, people dying, people being born. Granted, there was no opening speech, no clear reminder that a festival was in progress, no articulated spirit of why we were all here. But maybe that was for the best. Maybe answering that question for yourself—or not answering it, but simply wonder- ing about it every now and then, feeling it in what you heard and saw and smelled and tasted and touched—was the most impor- tant part of being here. ♦ howard axelrod has written for The new York Times Maga- zine, harvard Magazine, and The Boston Globe. He recently completed a memoir, The Point of Vanishing, about the two years he lived in solitude in northern Vermont. ~ Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2014 ~ scholarship. meditation. service 1119 SE Market Street | Portland, Oregon 97214 telephone: 503-235-2477 | email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.maitripa.org Graduate Studies at Maitripa College v Master of Arts in Buddhist Studies Degree (MA) v Master of Divinity Degree (MDiv) v Continuing Education His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Maitripa President Yangsi Rinpoche, faculty, alumni, & the graduating class of 2013 at Maitripa, Portland, Oregon ~ photo by Marc Sakamoto SHAMBHALA SUN JULy 2014 76