A Shambolic Shambala

February 20, 2024

Remember the ad for Calgon Bath Oil with the tagline: “Calgon, take me away”? Alas, my bath products rarely respond when I address them, and even if my body wash could speak, I doubt it would lead me to a fabulous island escape.   

Yet an escape is just what I’m after in these very trying times. I envy folks who have picked up stakes and decamped to the south of France or sunny Spain. Oh, sure, they have to contend with language barriers, finding affordable dwelling places, jobs, etc. But I’d endure those challenges and much more, as long as I am far from the dysfunction and lunacy of modern society!! There is dysfunction and lunacy everywhere, you say? Perhaps. But then again… 
There must be an unspoiled corner of the world, somewhere, right? A charmed locale, perhaps on a high mountain, where kindness and goodness reign supreme, and where groceries have actually gone down in price. Tibetan Buddhists call such a magical, mystical place “Shambala” (which author James Hilton wrote as “Shangri-la” in his book, Lost Horizon). There, the sun always shines, there’s a decent healthcare system, and everyone is happyhappyhappy. Shambala is a veritable Heaven on earth. Too bad it doesn’t actually exist.   
Further perusing Ye Olde Dictionary, I came across the word “shambolic,” which sounds awfully darned close to that Buddhist word for paradise, doesn’t it? However, shambolic means “chaotic, messy, and disorganized,” a far cry from the Calgonesque serenity I pictured. It occurs to me that, even if there was a Shambala, and even if I could book a one-way ticket, I would undoubtedly lug along my shambolic ways. Like the European settlers who arrived on our shores bearing the thoughtful gifts of liquor and smallpox for the native peoples who had no tolerance for either, I fear that my arrival would be nothing but bad news for the Shambalans.   
Alas, I carry my burdensome flaws and mistakes with me through life, much as I try to shed them. A change of address would most likely not change ME much. As they say, “wherever you go, there you are.”   
So where is this better world? And how do we keep from screwing it up?  
I just learned about something called ADP (adaptable high beams). These are car headlights designed to precisely illuminate the road ahead at night, without causing the glare that blinds oncoming drivers. Not yet available for most vehicles, at some future point they will be the standard. In other words, our autos’ beams will light up only what we ourselves need to see to drive safely. No one else will be bothered or endangered by our too-bright “brights.” They’ll have their own.  
What if we stopped forcing our “light” on our fellow travelers? What if we trusted our brothers and sisters with their light, their unique journeys? What if the way forward is bright, because of our differences, not in spite of them?   
Welcome to our Shambolic Shambala. Messy. Chaotic. Beautiful. Right here.

    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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