Unassailable Dignity

From The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen:

On the school veranda, Jang-bu and Phu-Tsering build a fire to dry sleeping bags, which are turned each little while by Dawa and Gyaltsen. Like all sherpa work, this is offered and accomplished cheerfully, and usually Tukten lends a hand, although such help is not expected of the porters and he is not paid for it. The sherpas are alert for ways in which to be of use, yet are never insistent, far less servile; since they are paid to perform a service, why not do it as well as possible? “Here, sir! I will wash the mud!” “I carry that, sir!” As GS says, “When the going gets rough, they take care of you first.” Yet their dignity is unassailable, for the service is rendered for its own sake — it is the task, not the employer, that is served. As Buddhists, they know that the doing matters more than the attainment or reward, that to serve in this selfless way is to be free.

“It is the task, not the employer, that is served.” I love that. I know I will read wonderful books in the future, but I don’t know that I will ever read a better book than this one.

Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

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