Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Following in his father's footsteps

Something that really struck me was Tenzing Norgay's refusal to let Jamling climb Everest.  He said to Jamling, "I climbed Everest so that you wouldn't have to."  Although Tenzing's position makes sense since he knows exactly how dangerous climbing Everest is, I would expect Tenzing to be more sympathetic towards the "need" to climb, which so many others have expressed in the other texts.  I found myself wondering if there is something to Tenzing's claim, or if it simply provided a convenient excuse to keep his son safe.  On the one hand, Jamling describes Tenzing's attraction to the mountain since his youth and his intense desire to summit Everest, but, on the other hand, he may have felt compelled to climb for economic reasons.  We questioned in one of the first classes whether the motivation to climb and always achieve the most extreme feats might be largely a western phenomenon.  It seems like climbing might be a luxury for those who are privileged enough to not have to worry about day to day survival.  Sherpas, who already live at a very high elevation and most of whom live relatively modest lives, probably view climbing as crazy and irresponsible.  However, Everest has become a huge source of income for Sherpas, and, for many, the increase in income might outweigh the risks.  Jamling writes that "By the 1990s Khumbu Sherpas had, by and large, gained enough economic independence to be able to retire from high-altitude mountaineering work" (48).  The fact that Sherpas tend to "retire" from climbing once they gain more financial stability shows that they climb out of necessity rather than desire.  In this context, it seems likely that Tenzing's claim is sincere.  He viewed climbing as a means through which to create a comfortable and safe life for his children.  His father's intentions complicate Jamling's justifications for climbing since much of Jamling's inspiration and connection to Everest is derived from his father's climbing career.

Whatever comes natural

We as Americans are so used to hearing and reading what we have become familiar with that everything else seems and feels awkward at first glance.  What I am referring to is Norgay's Hunduism and how he subtly incorporates it into his writing.  He makes many references to his faith, but none resound more than his discussion of reincarnation, which he discusses as a given fact of life.  If I too were Hindu, this would not have sat nearly the same way as it did.  I am not religious, but I am so used to Christian faith being subtly incorporated into the vast majority of what I read that I don't even recognize it anymore, for the most part.  I now realize that whenever I hear "God" I always think about it in the singular and I always associate other figures, like Jesus, with that word.  Norgay most likely does not make this same association with the word.  I am sure that he thinks of Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva and even more so he thinks of the word "God" more in the plural sense.  Having read this book, with the subtle religious differences that it contains, definitely sheds some perspective on the books that we have read and will read.

pure and simple

Touching My Father's Soul isn't complex in message or style. Rather, Norgay is straightforward and unpretentious in his storytelling and his philosophy, exhibiting a comfortable ownership of a narrative he has inherited both culturally and genealogically. His experience with Everest is refreshing because it is portrayed in a way radically different from Krakauer's account, or from any of the other climbing accounts we have read. He didn't stumble upon a picture of the mountain and dream of personal or national glory, not did he view it as a cumulative test for his skills. Instead, he shared cultural and familial ties to the mountain, a "special bond our family had with the mountain, something even more profound than my father's passion to climb it" (Norgay 106). The concept of destiny is presented in this book in a mystical sense, allowing Norgay to transcend the easy labels of ego we have showered on the other climbers. He defends his climb of Everest in a way the other climbers have not - he was going to meet his father. Summiting Everest is an achievement, regardless of a person's climbing experience or determination. Summiting Everest as part of a spiritual journey to understand one's family and heritage, however, cannot be reduced to an achievement. It is something more, something like a revelation but longer lasting, that does not require elaborate prose or mind-boggling devices.

An Epiphany of Purpose

In my life of pleasure reading (which sadly only really exists over summers now because I don’t have time at school) my main genre preferences have been music biography and adventure/expedition narratives, so I assumed that I’d have a solid handle on the books for this course. Having read Into Thin Air, a few of Krakauer’s other books and dozens of others essentially similar to them, I thought I had the pattern figured out. I also thought that about the books for this class, until Jamling gave me an epiphany. Early in the semester I assumed that the common thread linking these expedition stories was their common purpose- to excite readers with tales of extreme environments and human triumph. After reading Jamling, though, I realize that the syllabus has been designed with an altogether different intention. While all of the books do contain the aforementioned elements, the authors all have a fundamentally different purpose, and that’s what makes these books interesting to compare. Touching My Father’s Soul isn’t intended to captivate readers with its epic descriptions of climbing—it spends far more time explaining the historical and cultural context of climbing Everest and Jamling’s personal experience specifically. If not for some of the central common events it would even be hard to identify this climb as the same described by Krakauer, as Jamling spends a significant number of pages describing the unpromising Buddhist rituals that preceded the climb, the lifestyles of the Sherpa and the cultural context of Everest climbing, while Krakauer barely mentions these things. I feel like this book could have existed in a relatively similar form had Jamling climbed Everest a different year and avoided the 1996 disaster, because recounting the disaster isn’t his purpose. Realizing this difference, I thought back to our previous books, and sure enough I discovered a significant range of purposes, from Blum’s argument for women’s equality to Herzog’s mainly exploratory pursuit. Having identified this aspect of the course I’m interested to see what the future authors select as the purpose for writing their own stories.


Compared to the other texts we’ve read, this one displays a stark difference in its treatment of the summit. The final third of his book revolves around the fact that he actually summited, while some of the other stories devote merely a paragraph to the top of the mountain. This can be explained by Norgay’s personal reasons for climbing. His are markedly distinct from other climbers who seek personal gain. Norgay criticizes those who try to dominate the mountain or approach “the peak with aggression, like a "soldier doing battle" (257). He believes that "express[ing] gratitude” (257) is the only way to experience a successful climb. This perspective on truly respecting Everest is starkly different from the imperialistic mentality that many people assume – climbers whose primary aim is to be the “first” to do something. In comparison, Norgay justifies his climb with the hope to bring himself closer to his father and to understand his father’s life. His father didn’t spend much time with him during his childhood, and although having bitter feelings towards him, Norgay deeply respected and admired him: “his absence was what I had resented when I was a boy – a boy who wanted to join him and be with him, and grow up to be like him” (124). Norgay’s father and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first men to summit Everest, and because of this, Norgay’s motivations for actually summiting Everest made reaching the physical summit itself more important than it was for other climbers. If Norgay hadn’t actually reached the summit of Everest, arguably he would not have found the “first step, [the] beginning…of a new and different life” that he equates with reaching the summit, and he would not have been “freed from following [his] father” (290).

By actually summiting Everest, Norgay could transfer his anxieties about his relationship with his father and his struggles with his father’s death into finally reaching the summit. “My own attachment to my father lingered…until I climbed Everest. I feel that I released him on the summit. The respect and the love and the memories remain today – but not as the attachment, the push and pull of father and son, the compulsion to please and impress him, or the stinging desire to have him back” (301). If Norgay hadn’t physically reached the summit, he would not have had the accomplishment of achieving what his father first did, and he would not have completed his a journey that paralleled his father’s. Norgay says, “Both of our dreams have come true” (255); summiting Everest was both Norgay’s own personal wish and his father’s desire for his son. By accomplishing his summit attempt, Norgay not only carried on his family’s name and continued the Norgay connection to Everest, he also achieved the consuming dream that both he and his father had focused on.

By summiting, Norgay proved that he was his father’s son. His photographed pose atop the summit resembled his father’s: “My pose, I saw later, was not identical to my father’s, but its mirror image. My climb was similarly a reflection of my father’s, reflecting his life and his values, yet distinctly my own” (257). Without reaching the summit, Norgay would not have been able to complete this parallel journey that was so important to him. More importantly, he wouldn’t have been able to make it his own and separate himself from his father. Even though the 1996 Everest expeditions were riddled with tragedies, on a personal level, without actually reaching the summit, his experience would have been clouded by the failure of not reaching the top.

Caught In Two Cultures

One thing about Jamling Tenzing that continued to impress me throughout the book was the way he handled being stuck in between Sherpa culture and American culture.  I had assumed that it would in some way become problematic, particularly that perhaps the other sherpas on the climb would become jealous of his more glamorous and high profile position on being on the IMAX team, even though he himself was not in it for the glory, and was more than willing to do his fair share of carrying the heavy loads.

As is so often the case, however, trying to assimilate to two distinct cultures often leaves one alienated from either.  Describing his time in America, Tenzing says he was "caught in two cultures, as if [his] head was on a different continent than [his] body." He discusses his classmates at this American college having no social restraint, an incredible amount of material possessions, and a total lack of gratitude.

However, to truly gain the education he wanted, he needed to leave his community.  This is a common theme for Sherpa's, as Tenzing discusses the fact that most Sherpa's are financially comfortable but ask climbers to help send their children to schools in Kathmandu or overseas.  Inevitably, therefore, when Tenzing returns to his home community, he now feels an outsider.  Early in the book, Tenzing goes to visit the family lama: "I could see he had his bed, his attendant, his texts, and nothing else. I envied him in his simplicity, for in it he had clearly found peace...I immediately felt burdened and confused, by contrast, and ashamed for these feelings."

Tenzing is so grateful for his education and exposure to the world outside of the community, and yet paradoxically it has taken him away from this simpler, peaceful life.

A New Reason to Climb

Thus far we’ve read books written by Westerners about adventures in extreme places. Thus far we have questioned these peoples’ motives for climbing - psychoneurosis, “because it’s there,” relative economic security, the desire to push oneself / self-discovery, to change one’s life, or simply because one is very good at climbing, enjoys it, and has found a way to make some money by it (ex. Fischer and Hall). But thus far, we have not seen the truly more rational perspective to climbing in dangerous, high places: economic security. The Sherpas who climb are considered a form of celebrity in their communities, and those who climb higher, faster, with less help, gain more fame. But for them, this is important not for their egos but for their families’ well being. Climbing pays well, and making a name in the climbing world allows a Sherpa to get even better pay, more business. Money can’t buy everything, but it can buy a significantly better life in those countries.

The thing I found most interesting about this narrative, though, is not that Sherpas climb for money and still think it’s very dangerous and kind of crazy. Jambling climbed because he liked it, because it was the family business, but primarily, I think, because it was a way to know his father intimately. Jambling wasn’t just searching for celebrity and a paycheck - he was seeking knowledge first. I think this is the noblest of motives we’ve seen yet. I’m also struck by Jambling’s humility in his telling of the story - he rarely speaks more than in passing of the tasks he had to accomplish in terms of coordinating Sherpas and porters, cooking for and taking care of the sahibs, and carrying many heavy loads back and forth. Although he mentions these hardships, he never complains about bearing them, understanding climbing as a job and not a vacation. I look forward to finishing the book and finding out what Jambling discovered about himself, his father, and the world.

Tensions on the Money Making Mountain

Touching My Father's Soul highlighted the tensions that arise from the competing interests of economic need, commercialization, and spirituality on Everest. Many Sherpas rely on the commercialized mountaineering industry to support their families. However, the commercialization of Everest has led to the development of attitudes which imply expectations of a successful summit bid. These attitudes, often held by clients on guided expeditions, often conflict with Sherpa spiritual beliefs, which say that the goddess inhabiting the mountain will determine successes and failures. Sherpas will not climb without performing a puja, a ceremony that asks the gods for permission to climb and safe passage on the mountain. Because of economic necessity, Sherpa who work on Everest seem to be stuck in a bind between upholding their spiritual beliefs and contributing to the commercialization of the mountain.

Here's the link to the Outside Magazine article about commercialization on Everest. It's worth looking at if only to see the first picture.

Monday, February 25, 2013


One of the most interesting things that I have found about this book is the intersection of religion and climbing experiences in the story. Most obviously, I am thinking of the ominous forecast of the climbing season. In this book, Jamling describes the advice he got from various lamas about the bad climbing that was to come as well as the rituals he must perform in order to ensure safety on the mountain.

For example, when Jamling and his wife go to see Geshe Rimpoche, the family lama, to get a divination about his climb, the lama tells him:
"There are obstacles... the mountain will see some difficulties this year. The season looks bad...but not entirely unfavorable." (pg 23)
Jamling also describes that the expedition fell during a "black year" (pg 42), which is the most dangerous year in a nine year cycle.

I found that this prediction of danger on the mountain mirrored some aspects of Krakauer's book, Into Thin Air. For example, the guide Rob Hall describes his unease with the amount of people on the mountain and states that he is sure that with so many people on the mountain, something will inevitably go wrong sooner rather than later.

What I like most about the parallels between these two predictions is that they come from such different sources but they amount to more or less the same thing. Obviously these books have been written in the aftermath of the terrible events and there could have been some skewing of information to fit the outcome of the adventures, but both an experienced climber and a religious non-climber both predicted a similar fateful outcome of trips on Mount Everest. Maybe it is living near the mountain and spending time on the peak itself that gives people insight into the type of season that will ensue, but more than one person felt uneasy about the 1996 season.

Touching My Father's Soul: A Balanced Account of Everest

I absolutely loved Jamling Tenzing Norgay's Touching My Father's Soul.  It deviated wonderfully from the accounts that we have read so far about mountain climbing and arctic expeditions.  While each author had personal reasons for pursuing his/her climb or expedition, Norgay's account was the only truly personal one we have read.  Herzog, Blum, and even Bancroft focuses primarily on the facts of their expeditions - how they successfully climbed the mountains or crossed Antarctica - Norgay focuses upon what Everest meant to him personally.

Norgay admits that his interest in Everest and his desire to reach the summit comes, at least in part, from personal and familial pride:

Ever since I was a boy I had heard stories of my father's historic climb of Everest with Edmund Hilary in 1953.  I had always wanted to join my father on the summit.  When I became an adult, and after my father's death, my desire to climb Everest only intensified.  I wanted to preserve the family name, which was being eclipsed by a new era of climbing.  My father and Hilary's first ascent was approaching the limits of living people's memories (6).

Norgay, then, wants to climb Everest in 1996 to protect his father's reputation.  In short, he wants to ensure his father retains his place in history, which seems strange considering the fact that the 1953 expedition is still clearly celebrated 50 years later.  Norgay reports, "Even a half century after their climb, when I pass through immigration in Nepal or India - a generally demeaning experience - if I simply mention my name or speak about my father, some officers practically salute me.  Gravely serious bureaucrats get a twinkle in their eye and respond with curiosity and wonder" (285-286).  Clearly, Tenzing's reputation remains strong and does not need any help or protection by his son.  This reinforces the strength and importance of his personal motivation for climbing Everest: to learn more about his father and to establish a connection with him that he felt he lacked during his father's lifetime. "I was driven primarily," Norgay writes, "by a need for understanding.  I felt that only by following my father up the mountain, by standing where he had stood, by climbing where he had climbed, could I truly learn about him" (21).

Norgay's desire to climb Everest becomes a personal quest to understand himself by learning more about his father.  His account continually stresses this motivation, that the climb is a learning experience: "I had to learn what it was that had driven my father and what he had found on the mountain" (6).  He wants to discover the verity and truth behind his father's words: "'You can't see the entire world from the top of Everest, Jamling.  the view from there only reminds you how big the world is and how much more there is to see and learn'" (8).  Norgay clearly takes these words to heart, as Everest literally and figuratively expands his horizons.  It allows him to explore the Buddhist faith of his  parents and to reestablish a connection to it, especially to his father's personal deity: Miyolangsangma.  Finally, and most importantly, he learns to understand his father and establishes the relationship with him that he did not have during his father's lifetime.  Everest becomes the spiritual and physical link to his father: "Standing there on the summit, I felt I was touching his soul, his mind, his destiny, and his dreams.  And I had received his blessings and approval" (256).

The intensely personal nature of Norgay's expedition, and the more balanced view of the mountain that it gives him, gained my respect and made his book an enjoyable read.  Thanks to his desire to connect with his father, Everest "changed from a lifeless, uncaring, and dangerous mound of rock - a rock that had with indifference taken the lives of so many - into a warm, friendly, and life-sustaining being" (256).  Thus, Norgay can appreciate reaching the summit of Everest on a deeper level than other climbers - he spends two hours on the summit in sharp contrast to Herzog, the members of Blum's expedition, and Krakauer - and knows that he must be grateful for his accomplishment (257).  If I were going to climb Everest, I would want to do so with Norgay.  

A New Perspective on a Familiar Mountain

The most common thought I had while reading Touching My Father's Soul was "FINALLY!"  Jamling Tenzing Norgay repeatedly articulated my reservations about mountain climbing(though he seems enlightened, instead of cranky).  He writes in the first chapter, "Because of our precious human rebirth, Buddhists consider it irresponsible to voluntarily place oneself in harm's way unless the act is motivated by need or compassion.  For the Sherpas who grew up in Everest's shadow, carrying loads up the mountain is a job, a justifiable necessity.  For most foreigners  it is a form of recreation" (Norgay 21).  Despite his reservations, Norgay considers Everest to be a necessary risk, and because of the time he spends examining his religious background, his familial obligations, and his passion for climbing, I agree.  I didn't find myself thinking "Stupid!" once.  Despite being on the mountain for personal reasons, like many of the Western climbers, he possesses a self-awareness and respect for the mountain that they lack, which makes him more sympathetic to someone deeply skeptical of mountaineering.

A New Worth

In this course we have constantly been asking the question “is it worth it?” Touching my Father’s Soul brought about a whole new aspect of the worthiness of climbing a mountain. Norgay talks about how tourism has positively affected the Sherpa communities, but then goes on to talk about the “social upheaval and divisiveness that accompany them” (Norgay, 47) For them, the question is whether the economic prosperity is worth the cultural tension and disruption of relationships it brings. This quote, firstly, made me sad. The fact that many Sherpa’s realities is picking between money or education for their children and pleasing loved ones, is a choice no one should have to make. Help from foreigners is a hard thing to pass up, and Norgay does realize that they do not come with malicious intent. But here is where we, as Westerners, have to think about the domino affect of what we are doing. If we randomly pick certain families to help, then the Sherpa community can never create a self-sustaining lifestyle, so that the money can be produced from within. For Norgay, climbing the mountain serves an economic purpose, but also a religious and familial one. Because his father climbed Everest, he searches for his father’s “soul” in the mountain. However for many Sherpas, climbing separates them from their community, especially on life-threatening climbs. Norgay talks about how both him and his father search for “challenges, excitement, and income” (49) and this mindset is so completely inverse from the Western perspective. People have the “luxury” of paying for a guided adventure.  Don’t get me wrong: climbing a mountain for adventure sake is very admirable to me, I who wish I were more adventurous. But there is something so pure and heartwarming about climbing away from society to get closer to your father. Reading this book I find myself so desperately wanting Norgay to find fulfillment, whether religious, social, or cultural that he seeks.

The Other Side

I found it interesting that Jamling was a man placed between two cultures. He had more education than his fellow Sherpas, being of a higher class than them and seemingly growing up quiet affluent. However, even though he is a Sherpa, he is a full climbing member of the expedition. He is expected to act as liaison between Sherpas and climbers. Jamling has lived in America, so he is a hybrid of unique experiences both Eastern and Western. He says, "While living in America, I had adopted the genial and humorous mannerisms common in the West, yet they sometimes felt forced and calculated," (Norgay 28). While he has been exposed to and can engage in aspects of Western culture, he feels more at home in Eastern culture. I thought this was an interesting contrast in viewpoint, obviously because he isn't a Westerner. However, he doesn't only see one side of the puzzle, as our prior narrators have. He can see both sides with some clarity.
I also thought that Jamling's goal or motivation for climbing was much more selfless than all the ones we have encountered so far. He feels as though he cannot really understand his father unless he stands atop Mt. Everest like his father once did. Others are motivated by a good story or some self-actualization, or even commercialization. Jamling climbs to carry his father's legacy. I think for that, more than for anyone else except maybe Blum (who was climbing for all women), I wanted Jamling to succeed. It really reminded me of the statement that there are other Annapurnas in the lives of men and women. His metaphorical Annapurna was reconciling the relationship with his father, which many readers can relate to easily.
"...an adventure may lead anywhere... The quest is always towards something, although that something often becomes clear only with the seeking of it. Second, the adventure may be undertaken for any number of reasons...The quest, however, is always a spiritual or religious undertaking. The quest hero is appointed or ordained to his mission, and its end has spiritual significance. Third, the adventure may be merely a whimsical frolic. In contrast, the quest is always a grave, serious undertaking. It is often life-thretening, marked by a sense of struggle, of imminent or immediate danger in which the character must call upon all of his will and power to push on" (Timmerman, 91).

I came across this quote in one of my readings for another comp lit class, and I wanted to see what you guys thought of it and its relations to our adventure narratives. Do you agree with Timmerman's distinctions between quests and adventures? Are we right to call the events we've read about so far adventures, or are they quests?

I personally agree with Timmerman's definition up to his third point. I believe both quests and adventures can be dangerous. In my opinion the two are distinct in that the dangerous adventures can be avoided, whereas quests are by nature dangerous and this danger cannot be avoided. That's how I fit Timmerman's third point more satisfactorily in with his previous two points, anyway. In any case, by Timmerman's definition, I believe we may be reading more quests than adventures in this course. In Touching my Father's Soul, for example, Norgay is climbing towards the ultimate goal of learning more about his father. I haven't finished the text yet, so I'm not sure what he ends up finding, but is working towards something. Furthermore, despite his constant insistence that he is not a devout Buddhist Norgay ties many elements of the Buddhist religion into his account, like lighting the butter candles as a sort of sacrifice to ensure a safe journey. He also embarks on the quest with the intent of representing his fellow Sherpa and their role on climbing trips, which would involve their religion. Finally, his wife's hesitance to allow him to go, in addition to historical knowledge of the dangers of climbing Everest, clearly show this to be life-threatening quest. Thus, Touching my Father's Soul is by Timmerman's definition a quest because it is directed towards an ultimate goal, it has a religious purpose, and it puts the quest-er in imminent danger.

Timmerman, John H. "The Quest." Other Worlds: The Fantasy Genre. Bowling Gree, OH: Bowling Green University Popular, 1983. 91-102. Print.

Ice Man/Arlene

The ice man video that Janelle posted in pretty unbelievable. Considering I am the guy who can barely step outside Bundy when it's below 10 degrees, I can't imagine swimming in sub-freezing water and sitting on blocks of ice in sub-zero temperatures. I truly do believe that this ice man is borderline crazy, yet brave. He bucks the norm of being cold and simply shows it is all mental. Beyond the mental side of things, wouldn't your body just shut down if it is significantly cooled? It makes me think about the books and short stories we have read and wonder how much of a climbers physical struggle is mental, and when is it physically impossible to continue. In Annapurna when Herzog and other members of his team are snow blinded and losing toes and fingers due to hypothermia, how does this ice man then go to the arctic and accomplish something like this almost effortlessly?

"Shifting what reality is, all of history would be different". Of the notes I took down while Arlene Blum was speaking in class this past Thursday, this is the one quote I have. To me, this was very relevant to what our class discusses almost every class. This parallels the question of what is reality? It was interesting to me that it only takes one person to not remember a fact or a conversation and it changes history. Thank god for diaries/recorders! But then I began to think, maybe some part of an expedition or an adventure are left to remain untold. Not intentionally, but as part of the story, as part of the beauty of adventure.

A Spiritual Lens

Tenzing Norgay’s account of the 1996 Everest disaster provided an astoundingly thought-provoking narrative, especially in comparison to the relatively straightforward, objective texts we have read thus far. I was initially struck by Norgay’s incorporation of his spirituality—Tibetan Buddhism—throughout the text. Although he claimed to have only developed this spirituality as a result of the climb, its influence permeated virtually every page of his narrative and left me questioning both my own personal beliefs and those of dominant Western culture. The knowledge and enjoyment I gained from reading Touching My Father’s Soul far exceeded that of a traditional adventure narrative, and I hope to revisit the text again in the future.

Generally speaking, I felt an immense connection to the majority of beliefs and ideas Norgay expressed, for instance, his connection between spirituality and the environment. He discusses the internal transformation one experiences when climbing mountains, writing, “In the mountains, worldly attachments are left behind, and in the absence of material distractions, we are opened up to spiritual thought…And when we stop attaching labels to what we see, a sense of quietness flows in to fill the gap, bringing us a step closer to the understanding of emptiness” (218). Norgay’s rather profound statement perhaps explains why a great number of people seek outdoor activity and adventure, a motivation often difficult to articulate. In my first blog post I attempted to express why I personally enjoy climbing and the general outdoors, but I was ultimately at a loss for the words to properly articulate my feelings. Norgay’s insight provided me with the peace of mind that someone, if not myself, found the words to communicative my feelings. He writes, “When climbing, the presence of mind that one needs in dangerous situations makes one naturally undistracted, and that undistractedness is what generates awareness and a feeling of being completely alive” (218).

I was likewise captivated by Norgay’s emphasis on divinations, rituals, and prophetic dreams. When discussing these themes with friends, virtually everyone expressed skepticism, even criticism. Reacting to Norgay’s encounter with his father on the summit, for example, my friends assumed he was certainly hallucinating, simply a victim of high altitude and exhaustion. These conversations left me wondering—Why are these (primarily Buddhist) beliefs and practices so unaccepted in the Western world? I fully believe a potent stigma exists surrounding spirituality that deviates from either objective science or Western religion. A white, American Buddhist, for example, would certainly receive judgment and criticism to some degree, let alone an American claiming to experience prophetic dreams or visions. What contributes to these fundamental cultural differences?