Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 23

Last night, I dreamed that I somehow ended up in a North Korean prison camp -an experience that I have read about in several books. (I'd recommend this one.) I don't remember all the details or reasons behind the sentencing, but I do remember standing in a big crowd  just below the 37th parallel with my wife and mother being forced to say goodbye to them. I didn't know how long I was going to be in th North or if I would ever see them again. I didn't even know how long our goodbyes would last. And then all at once, I was led away; pulled from the arms of my wife and away from the tears of my mother. Yet, considering the gravity of such an event, the mood changed drastically after only a few moments. We were all surprisingly reposed. 

I was marched across the demarcation line and soon realized the breadth of my situation. I was going to a Korean prison camp. My fears mounted as several armed soldiers approached me; their guns slung across their trim, unnourished bodies. We must have walked for no more than a couple minutes before my loved ones were well out of sight. The South disappeared behind the tombstones of Soviet-era buildings and with it went all that I had known. 

In the camp, I remember there was mostly running going on. It felt like a middle school cross-country practice. I was not particularly excited about this either. I hated cross-country. Aside from the awful and seemingly endless running, the general atmosphere felt more like a bustling summer camp than a prison camp. I think it was at this point that it started to get a little dreamy (you know, with snakes, random cameos and misplaced cultural icons), but soon that faded away and a terrifying feeling of helplessness swept over me. The US government couldn't get me out; my wife and family had no way of contacting me; and I was alone and incommunicado for what I could only assume was going to be forever. 

After lamenting the circumstances for several dream-time hours, I started to think more positively about my predicament. I started to see it as a chance to grow and take my life in a different direction. I was almost gleeful about the book I was sure to write after the whole experience was a thing of the past. Everyone would want to read about my story. I was going to be rich and it was all thanks to North Korea. 

Then the alarm went off and I woke up. 

(A variation of this dream actually happened to an English Teacher.)


I don't like wasting time analyzing the imagery of dreams. There's no consistency in it and I honestly don't think that losing teeth equates to powerlessness. I want to talk about something a little different here. I'm more curious as to why my feelings of beleaguerment and trepidation suddenly changed to prospective rosiness. As I said before, I dig hope, but this turnaround came without warning or warrant. 

What I want to focus on is positivity. I want to figure out if the positivity that I'm experiencing now (in reality) is grounded in my Buddhist studies or our blindly positive culture. Remember, at the end of this project, I might be making a decision as to what religion best suits me and my life. Or maybe not. I'm just lucky enough to be able to explore the religions of the world, so I've got to analyze these things.

In short, I want to know if the promise of Buddhism is more realistic and lasting than the pop-culture cults following philosophies like the "law of attraction" and other theories pushed by best-sellers such as "The Secret". 

How am I supposed to gauge the sincerity of my positivity? 

Well, it's easier than one might think. Whereas "The Secret" pushed the ideas of "dream boards" and asking a god for things, Buddhism shows you a path.  You might be thinking that those are the same. If we put a new boat on a dream board, then that is essentially pointing us in the direction we need to go. The difference is this: the law of attraction's promised positivity hinges on the manifestation of the objects or lifestyle desired. Meaning, if we don't obtain that new boat or dream job, our efforts were in vain and people are likely to let the positivity wane along with the other yearly fads.

Buddhism doesn't paint a picture of what a positive and happy person is supposed to look like.  There is no end result and obtaining tangible rewards for being happy seems almost counterproductive. In fact, Buddha even goes so far as to caution those seeking Enlightenment.
As long as people desire Enlightenment and grasp at it, it means that delusion is still with them; therefore, those who are following the way to Enlightenment  must not grasp at it, and if they reach Enlightenment they must not linger in it.
Ultimately, true happiness and positivity should not look like something. Just like with donations and offerings, there should never be a reward for doing what you know is right. The people who buy books like "The Secret" and "Your Best Life Now" have simply forgotten that fact and gotten swept up by best-sellers and instant gratification. Weber sure would have loved to have been alive to witness this economization of happiness. 

I'm feeling good these days because I've gotten my thoughts in order. I've simplified my life and don't waste time on worrying about the things I can't control. I'm aware of how my behavior can change the conditions of others. It's been twenty-three days since starting this project and I feel genuinely happy. I don't want anything that I don't already have and that feels good.


  1. Becoming a Catholic in another week will be a cold water shower. Should be an interesting transition.

  2. Yes, I agree with John, your next month's journey should be a twist in your path. Remember, Catholics believe you earn your way into the kingdom with those good works. That is your reward.