23 July 2008

Before you report a yeti

From August through November of 2005 an expedition took place, it was called Mission Himalayas. The Mission Himalayas research team was comprised of members from Walt Disney Imagineering, Conservation International, and Discovery Communications, including Imagineers, documentary filmmakers, botanists, and biologists, and was not only a journey of scientific discovery, but also a mission of cultural comprehension. For more information on the scientific specifics of the venture, I suggest checking up on Conservation International’s Fact Sheet. It was with the mantra that all life deserves respect, compassion, and a place in the world that the Missions Himalayas team was able to look with eyes wide open to the world around them and find not only the connections between the yeti and the people of the Himalayas, but also the connection people have to one another.

When it came to human life and the human experience, no one was left untouched, including Joe Rohde, who stated that, "touching the prayer wheels, hearing the tonal spectrum of animal bells, experiencing a 360-degree view from the mountaintop monastery and seeing how the local people applied color to their homes left a deep impression on us."

The deeper entrenched the members of the Mission Himalayas team became in the world around them, the more they learned. The much sought after stories and legends of the yeti began to provide the creature with a very human attribute, he is a defender. As a protector of the sacred the yeti shares much in common with those on the Mission Himalayas team, specifically the participants from Conservation International. Unbeknownst to the yeti, Conservation International searches for way to recognize and shelter ancient areas through a program called Sacred Lands.

Further into the journey Joe Rohde was also able to meet and talk with Rinpoche, a sacred man who is also known as "the living Buddha." During the course of their discussion asked the living Buddha what he thought the yeti was. Rinpoche responded with that they yeti was, “two things at once. A real animal and an immortal, a deity.”

This exchange reminded me of a similar exchange between Reinhold Messner and the Dalai Lama (found in Reinhold Messner's My Quest for the Yeti), in which the Dalai Lama asked, “Is this chemong such a strange animal?”
“Yes. A bear, and yet more than a bear,” responded Messner.
“Isn’t he like a grizzly bear?”
“That’s what he looks like.”
“And he abducts women?”
“That’s what they say.”
“That corresponds to the yeti legend,” mused the Dalai Lama.
“Do you think that the migiƶ, chemong, and yeti might well be one and the same thing?”

In the end, we have to answer the question of what the yeti is to ourselves. For my part, I believe the team from Mission Himalayas (which returned with a handful of new animal species, sightings of endangered species, and a more enlightened view of the world) found an answer for all of us. The yeti is a part of each of us, for in each of us we find a mystery the outside world cannot explain, a guardian of all that we hold sacred, and, on the rare occasion, the beast that stands up for what we believe in.

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