by Nicholas P. Snoek


Chapter Seven


June, 1949

Another outing to Paro. Brother Boniface and Jack on the motorcycle, and four monks on horseback.

The trip goes well except for a dead oak across the trail. The three monks clear it away handily, cutting the trunk into carry size chunks so they can come get them later, for firewood.

We're just about there, this is close to town! Brother Boniface looks a bit grim. I wonder what the people in town think of him. Does he complain at them too? In German? He seems to switch to German when he does that. But he probably doesn't complain at them. I bet he talks polite in Dzongkha. I'm going to have two days to hang around.

I wonder what the four monks have to do at, what, some kind of school? Maybe they're teaching. Anyway, I'm going to have some time to be with Jim. If I can find him.

Haven't had much time with him. He seems older than me, probably ten or eleven. The little time we had was mostly just getting our names straight, and where we live and stuff like that.

I'm lucky to find a boy who speaks English.

Brother Boniface parks the bike, tells Jack to meet him in the square at suppertime, and goes into the store.

Jim, Jim. Where are you. I'll just walk around till I see him. He told me where he lives, up that way, but I doubt if I can find it. What a lot of shops around here. And only one clerk in each one. With no customers a lot of the time. Wonder why they don't get together and make one big store? I guess they'd have a hard time figuring out who would run things. When to open and close, and who would look after what part.

Ah! There he is.

"Jim! Hello! Over here! Wait, I'm coming!"

"Hi. Jack, wasn't it? How are you?"

"Well, I've had some trouble with my tonsils, so we may have to get them out. My ears seem to get plugged up and..."

"Whoa! Come on, Jack. When someone says `How are you' they don't want a medical report. It's just another part of `Hello'. What you say is something like: Not too bad, thank you, and how are you? And then the other person says `Oh, fine.' And then you go on talking. See?"

"Hmm, that seems like a lot of hello. But if that's the way it's done, I'll try to do it."

"Good. But I'm surprised your holy teachers haven't taught you stuff like that. Don't they want you to talk to people?"

"They do. Yes they do, but you know, they're a bit different. Living in a monastery is not like living in a town. I suppose they have a lot of customs that are strange to you. And you most likely do a lot of things that would seem kind of weird to them. I guess."

"I suppose so. Hey, see that girl over there? The one with long hair? She speaks English."

"Yes, she talked to me once. She asked me what religion I was! I said Roman Catholic, and she just walked away. Not a word, just walked away. Do you know her?"

"No, not really. But her family is Dutch-Canadian, from Toronto. They're business people. Her name is Ietje, Ietje Schuurman. Somebody said she goes into the bushes with the boys and pulls her pants down. What do you think of that?"

"I don't know. Let's go to the square and look at all the shops."


The boys spend several hours wandering around the business area. Jack doesn't know the language at all and Jim very little, so they don't speak to anyone.

Jack takes an orange, and puts it in his pocket.

"Jack, what the hell are you doing?"

"What do you mean?"

"You just took that orange!"

"Yes, that's right. What's wrong with that? Don't you like oranges?"

"Yes, I like oranges. But I don't just take one any old time. That's stealing!"

"Stealing! I just took one orange! Look at the big pile of oranges. You can't even tell one is gone. What's wrong with that? When I want some food at the monastery, I just take it. Brother Rudolph never says anything about it."

"No, Jack. You don't understand. At the monastery you're at home, part of a large family. As a family member, or maybe as a boarder, you can take food that way and not pay for it. But this here is different. Those oranges belong to the man in the shop. He makes his living by trading fruit and vegetables. He gets in a big lot of them for a low value and trades smaller lots for a higher value. It would be easier to explain if they used money over here. But anyway, you're taking something that he needs, to make a living. That's stealing. You're stealing."

"Wow. I guess I did a wrong thing. But isn't he doing something wrong too? If he bought them for a certain value, then that's what they're worth. By trading them for a higher amount, isn't he cheating? He didn't make them worth more, did he?"

"No, he didn't make them worth more. But look, no matter how you slice it or try to put some blame somewhere else, you took something that wasn't yours. And that's stealing. If you go around doing that, you'll get caught and someone will punish you. So it doesn't matter if you think the shopkeeper is doing something wrong; if you steal you will get into trouble, not him. But look, if you want an orange why don't you just buy one?"

"How can I buy one? I don't have anything to offer."

"You don't? Nothing at all? What did you spend it on? Don't tell me they let you come to Paro with nothing to trade."

"I've never needed anything. Look, I'm sorry, Jim. I didn't mean to upset you. Should I put the orange back?"

"No, never mind now. You might get caught putting it back. How could we explain that? It would be just as bad as getting caught taking it. Just don't do it again, okay?"

The day is spoiled. And the next morning Jim is nowhere to be found. Jack walks around all day, and sees no one.

What is an orange worth. Where does value come from? What makes something valuable, and how does money work? Jim said it's easier when people use money, but to me it seems more complicated. A sheep skin is worth ten pounds of chilies, and a brick of Tibetan tea is worth a bushel of good barley seed. So how can you do that with money?

Money is special pieces of paper, and sometimes round bits of metal, like medals. The name that each different piece of paper or metal has, and what is printed on it, makes it more or less valuable than another one. And everything else has value by how much of these pieces you have to give someone for it.

But what gives value to the money? It seems like the value of money doesn't come from what it's made of, but from what it says on it. And what it says, that is its name. The name gives money its value. Just the name. How can a name have value?

Whew! If that isn't confusing, what is?

Does that work for people too? A person's name has something to do with his character? His personality?

What about spiritual beings. We call His holy name. The Jews were not allowed to say God's name directly, so they used indirect names, like Jehovah, or `I Am Who Am.' Jesus is a powerful name. And Satan is a name you have to be careful with. Is that a kind of value?

I have to choose a name for my Confirmation. A name that will be my ideal banner standard, to remind me of my soldier mission in the army of Christ on earth. Christian soldiers.

What can I do with this. That Brother Cyprios did not?


My Name

My name is legion. That's what the Devil said.

And mine is Jack. But the Devil didn't mean

What he said that same way, and for God to

Say `I am who am,' that is another

Type of name. The Devil means he has

A lot of twisted channels; but the writer of

I Am Who Am, is saying something deeper;

Sort of, He sums up all Real Being and is

The only true reality.

So what is in a name?

It seems a name is quite important; a name

Is signpost of the whatness of a person.

And what is Jack? A Jackanapes, a simp,

A foolish common person. A Jack is nothing,

A nothing name for a simple nothing boy.

A dumb old jack-in-the-box come popping up

From nowhere.

So what was Brother Cyprios

Doing when he chose mine? Is the name he picked

A signal of his plan for me? Does he

Want nothing for me, nothing from me? Nichts?

Ca ne vaut rien, ce nom de Jacques, rien du tout?

James was brother of our Lord; Andrew

Was a leader; Joseph, husband of

The Queen the Virgin Mary. There was no Jack.

Jack has no precedent. A Jack is nothing.

You're nothing but a nothing, Jack, you're not

A thing at all, you're not a thing at all.

You're just an empty shell, a hollow ball.

Well, can a person make his own decision

About the name effect? Can I, by choosing

A solid name I can be proud of, for my

Confirmation, just undo this Jack?

Cephas, Simon bar Jonas, Petros, Pete.

Upon this rock I will build my church, He said.

Yes, I want to be confirmed as Peter,

Jack Peter. Will that do me some good?

Dear Lord, will that help me to follow You?

Will that help me to be a son to You?


Chapter Eight