Affluent kids at a wealthy suburban high school, after viewing a slideshow about Basa village, asked me, "Why do the Basa kids seem so much happier than we are. We have so much and they have so little. Yet, they are happy and we are stressed and anxious."
In Light in the Mountains I compare and contrast the culture of those American adolescents with the children of Basa. In doing so I reveal what I have learned about the communal bonds of Basa village and why it is such a happy place.
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What is real community? In Light in the Mountains Jeff Rasley relates what he discovered in the unique and ancient communal practices of the Rai people in remote Basa Village in the Nepal Himalayas. Rasley was welcomed into the community, not as stranger or even guest, but as "Dhai"-- brother. The villagers taught the explorer-adventurer the true meaning of communal hospitality. Rasley has returned each year to Basa and has helped to build an elementary school, a hydroelectric system and smokeless stoves. But Rasley affirms that he has received more from Basa than he has given.
Reviewers have praised Bringing Progress to Paradise, the prequel to Light in the Mountains, as a more honest Three Cups of Tea. It is "Part memoir, part travelogue, part documentary, this true adventure captures your interest in the opening pages and leaves you yearning for your own personal pilgrimage through the remote villages of Nepal." Cherri Megasko
"It really is an inspiring story, beautifully written, and beautifully illustrated." Andrew Olivo Parodi
"This book reminds me of Three Cups of Tea in that Rasley went to Nepal, saw the needs of the tiny village in the Himalayas, which had no running water and no electricity and badly needed teachers and a school, returned home and made it happen." Bonnie Neely
"Well written and full of colorful descriptions and insights about the mystical Nepalese, this book made me want to get in high-altitude shape and go trekking under the shadows of the Himalayas to meet these wonderful people." Glen Craney
Light in the Mountains; a Hoosier Quaker Finds Communal Enlightenment in Nepal is a call to those living in urban North America and Europe to regain the connectedness of community. The wisdom offered to "us" by Basa Village is to work hard but sing, dance, cultivate flowers and enjoy life in community.
Readers of Bringing Progress to Paradise demanded the rest of the story:
"But the central issue ... demanding a sequel, is the question of whether the "Progress" he is bringing, while admittedly of material value to the villagers, might lead to some degree of corruption of their way of life, a consumerist, Western-oriented degradation of a spiritual depth and sensitivity to their surroundings... I can hardly wait for the necessary follow-up in the next book of the series." John McLaughlin, PhD
"The reader is taken on a fascinating journey to explore, compare and contrast, as well as debate how the meeting of the East and West has altered the landscape and lives of people in this remote part of the globe." Erika Borsos
"If I could picture a time pre-written word and be sitting around a campfire with the people of my community listening to the old story teller sharing stories of the quests of our people, I could picture Mr. Rasley being that story teller." DJ Sauer
If you liked Seven Years in Tibet, read Light in the Mountains to find out whether "progress" has damaged the village called a beautiful little flower in the mountains.
Home is a Resting Place
The first time I came home from Nepal I knew where my home was. It was in Indianapolis, Indiana where I lived with my wife Alicia and our two boys. I had not been sure of that before I left.
We were going through a rough patch in our marriage. I felt trapped with a wife, kids, mortgage, and law office to run. The American dream had come to feel like an Edgar Allen Poe nightmare. Financial pressures and family responsibilities felt like walls closing in on me.
Work and responsibilities beat and fashion the adult American into a tool of production and consumption. At the systemic level our society and economy value the acquisition of material wealth over all other values. In succumbing to this cultural imperative we are conditioned to believe that our meaning and purpose is determined by job and profession rather than by love, family and enjoyment of life. For example, after being introduced to a new acquaintance, the first question is, “What do you do?” Materialism reduces our identity and humanity to a name and a job. And our consumer culture determines our value by what we consume.
My high school history teacher in Goshen, Indiana, Mr. Slavens, liked to say, “The average American male, dead at thirty, buried at sixty.” I don’t remember who he was quoting, but it haunted me. At forty I was definitely feeling lost, if not dead. I did not want to lose my humanity, but I felt life being sucked out of me as I measured out my days in six minute billing units at the office.
Alicia wisely and firmly told me to go traveling, to do what I loved. Not just a weekend or week-long road trip; she told me I should go to the other side of the planet. I should go trekking in the Nepal Himalayas.