Earlier this week as we viewed the White Tara Mandala constructed by the monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery, my friend Ambassador Jorge Lozoya stood at the edge of the sand mandala in-process and exclaimed with warm enthusiasm,
“This is it! This is Everything. A man lives 70 or 90 years and then is it over. This is marvelous.”
A marvel indeed.
In Nepal one week ago a series of devastating earthquakes shattered centuries of architecture and sacred historical sites. It was a dismantling of a mandala of culture. Temples became sand and were returned back to the dust of a region’s beginnings.
Not far away on the tallest mountain in the world a group of explorers from The Google Adventure team were camped at one of Everest’s base camps. The earthquake sent an avalanche through the area and young man named Dan Fredinburg was caught in its path.
Dan, a Privacy Director for the Google’s Project X Team is responsible for some of the company’s move forward-thinking initiatives including Google glass and driverless cars. He formed the Google Adventure team and mapped the mountain using Google’s 360 tools: he was our lens, our explorer mapping the places we can’t easily get to.
These intrepid explorers are peering over the edge of the earth and I just wonder, what is a life like that like? The following passages are from the first 22 days of Dan’s Everest Adventure.
2015 Everest Expedition fully underway. Gear is ready. I am ready. Now spending some time thinking about how this year's climb can be as impactful as possible! #Everest
Kathmandu! No one here is focused on the destination bc the journey is complicated enough... #brickslikefreethrows #nepal
Quick Puja ceremony in Kathmandu to make sure all the energies are aligned. Our Nepalese crew is jacked and can't wait to get started. #Puja #Nepal
Day 4: Lukla. The most dangerous airport in the world (due to lack of sufficient runway). I'm 5-0 at this airport. Keep the streak going! #Lukla #airport
Day 4: The new Kathmandu domestic airport has strong reflection pool game. Some are clearly electrified... #Kathmandu
Day 5: It takes me 4 days to walk to the mountain town of Pangboche written on the box he's hauling there.This guy better hope the recipient doesn't return to sender. #porter #Everest
Day 5: Our flight in was delayed so we stick around Lukla for the views. #Everest
Day 6: Namche Bazaar is the last trading post on the route to Everest Basecamp. #Namche #everest #djiphantom
Day 6: The Hillary suspension bridge lets us cross high above the Khumbu valley floor. #Everest #Khumbu
Day 8: Road to Basecamp. Pasang Sherpa from Ward 4 is one of my favorite characters. He's been building a rock road from Namche to EBC for 53 years to help protect travelers. #Everest #Sherpa #hero
Day 9: Lama Geshe gave me a piece of string, a scarf, and a postcard for luck. Pem Chhiri, our climbing Sirdar, and I are studious. #everest2015 #lamageshe
Day 9: Push up into the valley. On our way to visit Lama Geshe to get blessed for our journey. #everest
Day 9: Back on the old yak farm to wrangle up some help to carry gear. #yak #everest2015 #yakcity
Day 11: “Tonight you have learned the final and greatest truth of the ninja: the ultimate mastering comes not from the body, but from the mind. Together, there is nothing our minds cannot accomplish. Help each other draw upon one another, and always remember the power that binds you.” - Master Splinter... and @gammanine #Everest2015 #ChungKhung
Day 12: The snow falls, each flake in its appropriate place. #Everest2015
Day 13: Sucra Sherpa, or as I call him, Sugar, getting really close for the photo, or warmth, whatever. #5530m
Day 13: Always a long line of yaks at the toilet under Ama Dablam. Yak city bitch, yak yak city... #amadablam #yakcity #Everest2015
Day 14: Stopped by the Italian Research Center today. Not surprised to see the yaks out front chowing on spaghetti. #yakcity #Everest2015 #Italian
Day 15: Temp in tent is -12C tonight. Temp in tent during day spiked to +46C! This is really confusing... #Everest2015
Day 16: Unseasonal snow storm in the night buries our tents. Dig out required in the morning. #Everest2015 #Snow
Day 16: Dear @urbangaucho, thanks for sending mental images of your triceps and calves. I shared your photos with my Sherpa. He laughed and told me to ask, "do you even lift yaks, bro?" #bodybyzabes #Everest2015
Day 18: Our camp, Jagged Globe, is positioned right next to the entrance to the icefall and with a view over Khumbu glacier and the valley below. #Everest2015 #JaggedGlobe
Day 19: The ceremony calls for rice and flour to be slapped on our faces to grant us the appearance and wisdom of age (is that right?) and Lama Dawa gives me a sweet black medallion. #Everest2015 #puja
Day 19: After snow delays, our Puja ceremony is finally underway. We piled up our gear on the alter to have it blessed. Lama Dawa Rita, a Sherpa from our Gurka team, asks the Goddess Everest for permission for our team to step through the ice fall soon. #Everest2015 #puja
Day 19: Jagged Globe Sherpa team. JG bought them all top of the line jackets to wear this year. Guys in green work Basecamp. Guys in blue climb with us. And Pem, in the black best, is the boss and does it all. #JaggedGlobe #Everest2015
Day 19: We're cleared for launch. Now we help the Sherpa celebrate this auspicious day and the next stages of our expedition. #Everest2015
Day 20: Saving ice on top of Kala Patthar. Everest Basecamp in the background is a climate change hotspot. #Savetheice
Day 22: Ice training with @micbattelli means frequent stops for morning cappuccino, regardless of danger. #Everest2015
After reading these entries I exclaimed to a friend, “I want to live like Dan.” I am learning through his memorial page, others do, too.
Wayne Price was with Dan last year on the trek to Everest Base Camp, and filmed Dan at the orphanage. From Wayne’s Facebook Page:
"What's on your mind, Facebook asks, as I struggle along with you to find the words to describe the love and loss I have been feeling the past 48 hours. Robert Frost said, "A poem...begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words."
Dan Fredinburg was, and will always be, a complete poem. In the short time our eyes played ping pong on this Earth, I bore witness to the rarest of rare, a human so aware that his life was a work in progress, that he actively sought every one and every experience possible in order to... find the words.
A little over a year ago, during a spontaneous dinner on a Tuesday night in San Francisco, I looked across the table at my friend who was hauling down his second plate of food, and asked him, "Aren't you going to Everest, like, in a few days?" He swallowed, took another bite, reached for my plate, took a bite and barely having swallowed this one, said, "Wanna come?"
This is for you, Dan. I wrote it while sitting on a plane, not fighting back tears, flying back home to be with our friends. If it sucks, I'm sure I'll hear you laughing at me. Just know while you laugh that I'm working on that last thing you asked of me before leaving, for the kids we met, for Nepal.
I met a magic man
Who with one glance
Convinced me to take a chance
with my own sanity.
An invitation to the next destination
Of my own humanity.
His name was Dan,
Which mixed up spells and...
I hopped a flight through the night
And landed back in time
Where a dime could get you fed
Or a bed.
Where earth and sky both were red.
Barely time to think
Decided on a blink
To tame a mountain.
What the hell am I doing here
at the end of the road?
At the end of the year it might make sense.
Now breathing is my best defense
As I ascend...
I look over to my friend
Who hides behind a bandana and yellow specs.
I can feel him smile
Like a child.
This is mountain,
We've been told.
This is mountain,
We've been sold.
The swirling rush of wind and river
Finding peace, despite a shiver
A promise, delivered
On day one.
Yet the man's duty isn't done
Until he peaks.
Until he finds what he seeks
Atop the mountain.
Where the only place to look is down
Upon the very ground we walk now
My feet complete their rounds
Each step, tiny sounds
From mighty hounds
Whisper "Stop! Turn around!"
The mountain compounds.
As we arrive,
No matter the weather,
Or distant the pain.
Not a hug or a drug
That can cure the insane.
The mountain still looms
As I bid adieu
For I've come and I've done
What I needed to do
But you, magic man
With the peak in your eyes.
As you chase the horizon
Making truth out of lies.
Crossing over a rainbow
Sliding into the gold
Living life like a story
That has to be told.
That hasn't an ending
But rather, two
You tame the mountain,
Or the mountain tames you"
Let the messages of Dan’s life also be his mandala, the sands of his life, the energy of his words and his work continues here with us in this room today. Take the lessons of this White Tara mandala with you and spend some time thinking how this life, this climb can be as impactful as possible.