What can the Dalai Lama Teach New Orleans about Resilience?

The other night, biking down to the French Quarter I noticed dozens of brightly colored Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags flapping in the spring jasmine-scented air.  They were strung over the front porches of houses and boutiques throughout the upscale uptown neighborhoods between Audubon Park and downtown.  I know there aren't that many practicing Tibetan Buddhists living in New Orleans, so I wondered what was up.  That was when I learned that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet would be here this week for a conference on resilience.  

New Orleans knows a little something about resilience, having endured more than our share of hardship over the years.  I am a newcomer to the city but already have seen the city manifest stoicism in the face of inevitable suffering.  New Orleans has endured storms, floods, ineffectual and corrupt bureaucracies, poverty and gun violence.  A local columnist wrote this week that maybe our resilience is our problem.  New Orleanians are so used to suffering that we take things in stride, rather than rising up and fighting back.

I plan to go to the Dalai Lama's public lecture and browse the Tibetan marketplace on Friday.  I'm curious to hear what he has to say about resilience, and particularly resilience and stoicism versus revolution and resistance.  I wonder if he will address any specific issues and challenges, either local ones or the problem of persecution faced by his followers in his homeland.  

I like the idea the I read in our assignment of writing each story three times, developing three different takes for different outlets for each story.  An online religion magazine, that has published a piece of mine before, said that they would be interested in the story if I come up with a strong news hook.  The faith and spirituality blogger for the local paper's website has offered to let me write an occasional guest post, so I'd like to pitch a short "local interest"-type piece for that, and I would also like to come up with a political angle for an online publication on religion and politics.

I have taught college classes for many years on religion in America and also have a background in constitutional law and democratic political theory.  I would like to come up with story ideas having to do with religion and culture, religious diversity and attitudes towards social justice, and the connection between religious freedom and politics. 

[Pictures to come!]

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