Feb 032014


Exploring some of my Buddhist connections this evening, I delighted upon the Facebook page for the king of Bhutan, His Royal Highness Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk. And I immediately found out that one of the dzongs (‘fortress monasteries’) in Bhutan burned almost to the ground in 2012. I had no idea, even though I visited this place ten years ago. What a shock.


This photo from 2004 shows me blissfully unaware that the site will be gone in eight years. I’m as connected to the internet as anyone, an avid reader of news and tracker of things financial and spiritual and political. I read The Economist, I read other news sources from Europe. And I missed this. If you don’t already know, Bhutan was historically rather feudal, with the country broken into (I think) seven regions each ruled by a dzong until peacefully united under the Wangchuks some 110 years ago. This is one of the most important and largest buildings in the country, and it’s mostly wiped out. A World Trade Center loss for Bhutan. How did I not hear of it?

Here is an image of a prayer ceremony carried out a few days ago, on the site. Just look at the ruins. (And admire how these delightful people bring ritual to heal a wound, and create the possibility of reconstruction!)


It seems like third-world news is hard to find in our modern news streams. I certainly know this, it’s hard to find out details about massacres in Sudan, or Syria, or the latest clashes in Anwar Pradesh or the hinterlands of Pakistan. How many fields of poppies are planted in Afghanistan, how are the raw morphine sales funding the Taliban? What is really going on out there? What sources of news actually tell me things I want to know?

(And how much do I really want to know? We are culturally and historically evolved to live in villages, and until 150 years ago, mostly only knew of local events. I’m not sure it’s healthy to be aware of all the disastrous things happening every day all over the world. I really want to be selective, and receive a balance of positive and negative information.)

The Economist is a pretty good place to start. The writing is thoughtful, and topics are discussed with some depth and understanding and insight. It’s based in the UK, so the journalism is anything but sensational, and they tackle tough questions. Apparently CNN International is a good source too, on the strength of this single article about the fire. I’m going to start reading it more.

It’s ironic and telling that Facebook is actually quite a good news source, if you are selective in the pages you follow. King Wangchuk’s page is a wonderful find for me, as I love the country of Bhutan and want to keep current with events there. I get some information by following HH The Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and Kalu Rinpoché on Facebook – but the news is generally much more specific about their activities, not so much about world events. Blogs by some of my acquaintances are very good; I read insightful commentary by Jane Brunette, Steve Stern and others. Then there is fun stuff like local blogger Alex Castle, Laura Silverman (who I mentioned a few weeks ago), Jessie Wood (Lama Palden’s daughter)…

I digress. Perhaps I’m saying that I like to find curated news sources, and they often slide into more personal commentary – which I enjoy – but does not inform in the way I seek. The Huffington Post had promise, but is now so bloated with opinionated and sensationalistic junk that it’s hard to find the gems.

Have you got recommendations? Please add a comment or shoot me a note if you have a source for national and/or international news with thoughtful, balanced commentary!

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