It's my personal soapbox, a place for me to express thoughts and feelings, musings and rants, reflections and recollections; to have fun with words -- about things spiritual, environmental, social, political, economic, and, from time to time, personal. And of course about peace. Soapboxes are in public places (as London's legendary Hyde Park) on purpose, and so I invite conversations with you, for it is through civil discourse that we can gain some perspective on the seeming chaos of these changing times and learn together how to shape a positive future for ourselves, our communities, and the generations to come.

About The Green Pen

Tuesday, February 13, 2001. I dreamt last night about the life of a revered Asian spiritual leader, something like a lama. I was present at his hilltop monastery throughout his whole reign, from installation as a youth to the end of his life and the search for his successor, his reincarnation. My role there was as a foreign observer in his entourage, a visitor and adviser rather than a member of the community.

Nearing the end of his life, the lama orchestrated the scene of his death. Now, with the moment at hand, he was seated on a platform mounted high on a wall in a hall normally used for assemblies and meditations. There was no access up or down the wall to the perch, so he must have been hoisted there. This is where he was to die.

With the lama’s death imminent, I was walking with one of his lieutenants outside among the buildings of the compound. As we walked, we talked about the successor, who would be the lama’s reincarnation. There were some issues troubling the lieutenant – about how they would know the true successor, keep the succession process orderly and proper, ensure that the successor would behave and do the right thing, avert or minimize the risk of political instability in the transition.

Then, the lieutenant gave me two pens. Both were large, one more so than the other. The smaller of the two had a slim, smooth barrel and was dark or almost black in color. The other had a fat, scalloped barrel and was pale green in color. The scallops, or grooves, ran the length of the body around its whole circumference.

Actually, he didn’t give me the pens so much as entrust me with them, admonishing me to use them at the proper time in the succession. He told me that with them I could ensure order and proper behavior. One pen, he said, the dark smooth one, was phony, a sort of decoy. The lighter, greenish, scalloped one was the one with the true power. Both were ultimately to be given to the successor, the true pen only if he proved worthy.

I was puzzled and asked how I was to use them. Like wands or pointing sticks to direct people, I wondered? I didn’t get a straight answer; it was like I should or would know when the time came. I felt fear, not knowing ahead of time what I was to do with them.

Then we knew that the lama inside on the wall had died. Nobody came to tell us; we just knew. We looked first to our right, toward the assembly hall, and then straight ahead and to the left, out across the valley. A few moments later, we heard the cry of a baby being born in the village below the holy compound . . . and I gripped the pens more tightly.