In Buddhist philosophy, teachers sometimes pose this question to their students: “If the only certainty in life is death, and the time of death is uncertain, what then?” I’m a depressive with a big fantasy life, so this question makes sense to me. Death is imminent, and the future is uncertain. What then indeed, I wonder.

In February of 2001, for Tibetan New Year and as part of a class I was taking on Buddhism, I moved into a home-stay in Dharamsala, the hill station at the foot of the Indian Himalayas where the Dalai Lama lives in exile. As soon as I arrived at my home-stay, the very incarnation of life and uncertainty started climbing into bed with me in the mornings. She was four and her name was Danjing, but everyone called her “Danjing Dejun” when she was naughty, which was most of the time.

My first morning,… More…