Sunday, February 2, 2014

The "Deli Lama": Food for Thought

The Dalai Lama enjoys a meal

I will likely humiliate my son for the rest of his life with this post, but... oh well. 

Several years ago, while William was still in elementary school, his class project was to create a drawing and description to answer the age-old question :  What do you want to be when you grow up? 

"So, William," I said, "What do you want to be?"

"I'm not sure," he said thoughtfully.  "It's a toss up."

"Between what?"

"Either I want to be President of the United States or else a member of the Mountain Lakes Country Club."  (Apparently he was deeply disturbed by the fact that we, unlike his little classmates' families, had decided not to join the local country club).

"Yeah, that is a tough choice," I agreed sympathetically.

To my great relief, he opted for the job of President of the United States.  He even took it upon himself to write and memorize several Inaugural Speeches for his inevitable victory (which he practiced by delivering them to me in the kitchen).  The theme was always environmental.  Basically, they went like this:  As President I will order you to use less paper, so we can save the trees, so that we can continue to breathe oxygen on the planet."  I always gave him a standing ovation.

This morning, roughly a decade later, he came to have a serious discussion with me about his future aspirations.  The circumstances have changed radically.  He is now 14-year-old boy struggling with insecurities, uncertainties, college worries, pimples, girls, and teenage hormones.  This time he announced with some confidence that he was beginning to narrow his future fields of interest.

"Okay, so what are you interested in doing?" I asked.

"Well, it boils down to three areas," he said earnestly.  "It would either be mathematics or science, because I'm really good at that and I know a lot about science already.  So that would be really easy.  Or, maybe music, because I just got into the Regionals with French Horn and I really like music.  But I'm also thinking maybe politics or the law."

"Well you certainly know how to argue really well," I said, reflecting upon his recent temper tantrums and insatiable desire to be right. "That's good for being a lawyer or a politician."  (I should know!).

"Yeah..." he nodded in agreement.  "So maybe I can take economics over the summer.  What is economics, anyway?"

That launched us into a discussion about local politics, finance, fiscal budgets, allocations, competing political interests, national tariffs, trade regulations, gross national product, national debt, taxes and several other related topics, including the fact that economics was the only course I nearly failed in college!

"Oh!  I almost forgot the fourth thing I might want to do when I grow up."

"What's that?"

"I would like to be the next Deli Lama!"

I started to laugh uncontrollably - which only confused him.

"What?  What's so funny, Mom?"

I decided not even to raise the issue that the "Deli" Lama has nothing to do with cold cuts or urban delicatessens.  Instead, I carefully explained the problem.

"Well, you have to be born into the position of Dalai Lama, you can't just apply for the position!  And you would have to have been a monk." 

Actually, I thought William's interest "out of the blue" in Tibet and the Dalai Lama was kind of interesting.  As a very young child, without knowing why, I always said my two favorite countries in the world were Tibet and Peru.  The Dalai Lama is the 14th Dalai Lama, and he has been quoted as saying that when he turns 90, he will consult with the religious elders of Tibet and discuss the possibility that he should be the last Dalai Lama in history. 

William looked briefly perturbed as he thought through this obstacle.

"I think I am going to be the first Deli Lama who isn't born into the position.  I'm going to move to Tibet, live there for a while, and become a yogi.  I always liked the Buddhist and Hindu faiths.  I'd be good at meditating.  I speak some Chinese.  You know, you get to live in a nice place (not like here), and not have to worry about survival or food or water.  Plus, I would do Kung Fu.  Then they would want me for their Deli Lama."

Tough to respond to this line of reasoning. 

"There's a little problem with that also," I said cautiously.  "The reason the Dalai Lama doesn't live in Tibet any more is because the Chinese invaded Tibet and reclaimed it as part of China, even though the Tibetans fought for their independence from China.  So, you couldn't go to Tibet and live there as a Dalai Lama because you would get killed.  That's why the Dalai Lama escaped, fled from Tibet and now lives in India as the leader of his exiled government."

"But I will learn Kung Fu."

Where does the Dalai Lama live now?  India?  Maybe he's really the New Delhi Lama.