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What Happens When Flying Fried Eggs, the Dalai Lama and Drew Barrymore Overlap

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:12am

I'm a sucker for a good quest story. I'm guessing that somewhere in our DNA, there is this burning need for a journey, both figuratively and actually. I think many coming-of-age rituals, and the preparation that leads up to them, are manifestations of this basic human need, as are these random, odd journeys many people embrace as they age.

Eat, Pray, Love? A quest.

The God of Driving: How I Overcame Fear and Put Myself in the Driver’s Seat--with the Help of a Good and Mysterious Man? A quest.

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis?

The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession?

Walking to Vermont: From Times Square into the Green Mountains, A Homeward Adventure?

On the Road?

And, my personal favorite, ‘Round Ireland with a Fridge?

All quests.

And so, it is with great joy that I share with you, as my Around the World post today (since this will take you from India to China to Tibet to New York to California), three quests I discovered this week alone, all of which have my mind racing (or maybe that's just the raw food I keep eating). And, unlike the aforementioned books, all three of these are DVDs.

Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama: Writer and director Rick Ray travels across India on a three-month journey into the history of Tibet and the Dalai Lama in preparation for his meeting with the Dalai Lama. He has been told by monks via email that he has just 45 minutes and can ask just ten questions. Ah, a mental quest to discover the best questions to ask.

I thought to myself throughout the movie, "What questions could he possibly ask that would truly be thought-provoking, and fresh? What hasn't been asked? What would not sound trite?" Well, well, well. Let me just say that I found every single one of Rick Ray's questions--and the way he posed them--eyebrow raising. I would sell them short to list them here, out of context, so I encourage you to watch this movie.

And, as an aside, the scene that keeps playing itself over in my head is the one where the monks have spent months making an intricate, colorful sand mandala, just to pour it into the river in order to demonstrate how we as humans should not get attached to things. I was thinking about this while crossing a nearby footbridge that I call "the billy goat bridge" (I always imagine a troll living under it) when I ran into one of the moms of one of the kids who built that amazing fort in the woods. The fort has been knocked down. Destroyed. By whom, they don't know. And I told her about the mandala. And we stood there, silently, still trying to wrap our arms around finding peace in cruelty.

When Fried Eggs Fly: Take a very cool music teacher at a public school in New York City, give him 165 8-year-olds and the challenge to have them, their teachers and their parents create and perform an original song about saving the environment, and then stand back. Ah, a quest to achieve the higher level of "what's possible."

I was blown away by how high Bruce Mack, the amazing teacher, raised the bar for this group, literally having them start at square one with actually creating their own chords. A grueling rehearsal schedule, extensive community involvement and a truly original song that will have you toe-tapping--and wondering what else our world's children could achieve if we just let their spirits soar.

I was not able to get Bruce Mack out of my head. Does that ever happen to you, like you know someone has been put in your path for a reason? I had a nagging question I wanted to ask him, since I'm working more and more with youth groups in gardening environments and, in all honesty, the kids overwhelm me a bit when the collective energy gets out of hand. And so I contacted him and he openheartedly welcomed me to call him, right after he shooed a group of sixth-graders out of his music room between classes.

Okay, this may not be one of the Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama, but it was the one whose answer I needed to know in order to survive Open Garden Day:

"Bruce," I asked, "What are the secrets of teaching children?"

And here is what this quick-to-laugh, warm-hearted, talented man told me:

"This is the most important thing I've learned about teaching children. Be willing to accept their ideas over yours. Be more of a facilitator and a coach and let them bring the content."

Oh, and he added one more little secret. A cow bell. Bruce uses a cow bell to maintain "controlled chaos." I need a cow bell.

And finally,

My Date with Drew: This is the cutest little movie I have seen in a long time. An extremely likable guy named Brian Herzlinger has had a crush on Drew Barrymore since the 2nd grade when he saw her in the movie E.T. Now in his twenties, Brian wins $1,100 on a game show. The winning answer? Drew Barrymore! He takes this as a sign and commits to using the prize money to make a documentary about trying to get a date with Drew Barrymore in 30 days. His mom thinks he's crazy. His friends rally around him. Ah, a quest of the heart!

My entire family stayed up past midnight to watch this movie. And for me, at least, that is saying a lot about how engrossing it is (I barely make it to midnight on New Year's Eve). Sweet, sweet, sweet. But much more than that. Movies like this remind me how powerful it is in the very soul of our beings to set out on a journey and believe in its possibility, no matter what.

I won't tell you what ends up happening. But let's just say that it was the next morning that I woke up and proclaimed to myself, "A victory garden drive! 2 million new organic gardens! Why not?" And so, off I go, on my little quest, starting with my local community and, with hope and chutzpah and perhaps a bit of luck, ending with the world. Thanks, Rick and Brian, and especially Bruce.

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