One would think that with all the books out there in the world waiting to be read that I couldn’t possibly find time to re-read books. But of course I do. Don’t you? I can’t help myself. There are just times when perusing the bookstore shelves or a library catalog, I feel drawn to a book that I read before. In fact I might have read it numerous times before, but I just know that I want to read it again. Today its “The Hungarian Who Walked to Heaven: Alexander Csoma de Koros 1784-1842.” I can’t remember the first time I read this book. Was it during a trip to Budapest? Or did I just happen upon it by chance in some bookstore – biographies? travel? The book only has 96 pages and measures 7″ x 4.5″ so a surprise that anyone would find it on a shelf. Yes it is a small book. But it contains so much that every time I sit down with it, I am carried along dusty roads in the Middle East, through mountain passes into India, onto rocky precipices with monks and into languages. And more languages. They say Csoma de Koros mastered seventeen languages but in the end he was best known for his work translating Tibetan scriptures into English.
This man whose life moved at a rather slow pace because he walked everywhere – all the way from central Europe to central Asia, across the Carpathians and into the Himalayas – accomplished an amazing amount in his fifty-eight years. He was focused. He spent years in a small cold room in northern India learning Tibetan. He didn’t simply learn the language. He worked with a lama to understand how the language was used in Buddhist literature. I try to imagine Csoma de Koros today. Would he be using Google translate? Couch surfing his way across countries? Could he be as focused carrying a smart phone in his pack? Would he take time to answer pesky emails from the Asiatic Society of Bengali? Coming back to this small book from time to time is a touchstone for me. It reminds me of options, of different ways to pace oneself, of staying focused. Try it.