Saturday, December 3, 2011

Not Dead, Yet

I've gotten emails lately, several of them, actually, asking me if I'm dead.
How I'm supposed to answer them if I am dead is a mystery.
But since I'm not dead yet, I answered them all.
The logic behind them was simple: My friends knew that at the end of September I'd taken myself off the grid to go with my family to trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.
They figured that I would die on the trek, a notion that I myself partially subscribed to, even encouraged half-heartedly. It made a certain kind of sense. Trekking wasn't something I was partial to; the trip had been my wife's creation, going back to do again a journey she'd made 11 years earlier. So death was a distinct possibility.
But it was not to be.
Instead it was a fantastic trek, filled with great adventure, once I got past the distinct smells of the squattie-potties and the sight of goats being slaughtered in the street to celebrate a Hindu festival.
Great adventure, wonderful terrain, amazing villages, smiling people, and a shot at some new measure of self-knowledge.
And I came back with a new-found insight into the U.S. criminal justice system: Any Wall Street banker found guilty of insider trading or stock manipulation, Ponzi schemes or other financial self-serving, rather than being sentenced to prison, should be sentenced to hike the Annapurna Circuit.
He (or she) would come back at least 15-20 pounds lighter; seriously humbled by the mountain and its rigors; newly awakened to the limits of money and a fresh appreciation of what "enough" means; and an insight into the often inverse correlation between money and happiness.
If nothing else, he would return to America convinced that there is no real reason to wear pin-striped suits and power ties, red suspenders and french-cuffed shirts. There is a lot to life that involves backpacks and sleeping bags, vegetables and fried rice, and 8-hours of trekking in the most beautiful places on God's earth.
It's actually a pretty damned good shot at redemption for anyone looking for a new start.
Even a Wall Street criminal.

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