What Do Ernest Hemingway and the Dalai Lama Have in Common?

It sounds like the beginning of a joke on a Laughy Taffy wrapper, right? Well it’s not. Ernest Hemingway and His Holiness the Dalai Lama really do have something in common. They have both been to the remote Wood River Valley, a small yet wealthy area in central Idaho.

What these two men did there, however, contrasts sharply. Hemingway had a house in Ketchum, a small town in the valley, which is where he put a shotgun to his head in 1961. The Dalai Lama, in 2005, visited Sun Valley, another small town, to “bring his message of compassion to Sun Valley during the anniversary of 9/11” (Idaho Mountain Express). (more…)

Going Undercover, Saving Sex Slaves

The auditorium of the old Rexburg Tabernacle is packed. Everyone here has come to hear Tim Ballard speak, the man who founded Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit devoted to liberating child sex slaves. O.U.R. jump teams travel to countries like Colombia and Haiti, pose as buyers for sex slaves, and organize big deals with local sex traffickers. At the right moment, local police burst in with weapons drawn, arresting traffickers and O.U.R. team members. The traffickers are taken to jail, the teams are released, and the rescued children are placed in reputable care. It’s as intense as any sting Hollywood could contrive, but this is completely real, dangerous, and far more rewarding. (more…)

The Uncomfortable Solution to World Poverty

For several months, my wife has been trying to get me to read an essay called “The Solution to World Poverty,” which appeared in The New York Times Magazine in 1999. The author, Peter Singer, presents the idea that if we don’t give all our surplus money to help people in need, we are not living an ethical lifestyle.

I put off reading the essay because I knew it would make me uncomfortable. I was nervous to assume responsibility for whatever knowledge it might contain. Finally, I read it at work during a recent lunch break, and I was right. It challenged me in ways that I’m still working through. (more…)

A Major “Aha” Moment

I love to think as I walk, especially when the sun peeks out on an unusually warm winter day. As I strolled through town, I realized that my external experience with my daily surroundings is actually very internal. When I looked at a building across the street, I was not really seeing the building; I was experiencing the image of the building, create by light entering my eyes, in my brain, in my mind. The entire experience happened inside my head. (more…)

Lessons from the Homeless

September 2011–As I walked through the Gateway Mall on a busy Saturday afternoon, I noticed to two small Asian girls playing violins ahead of me on opposite street corners. Their violin cases lay open to receive tips. These girls, despite their young age, were polished musicians. “Where are their parents?” I asked myself. (more…)

10 Days in Honduras: Snakes, Witchcraft, and “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”

Day 5:

Classes today were really fun. Up to this point, I’ve taught the alphabet, numbers, months, and days. The students are quick and keep me scratching the bottom of the barrel for more things to teach. Of course they still have the whole language to learn. But it is difficult to find things that are both simple enough for them to understand and simple enough for me to teach. (more…)