You’ve still got that fantasy!
I do. And making a film was part of the fantasy. I only realised later that I actually put that down in a school journal.
Yeah, back as an AFS (a non-profit, independent organisation committed to intercultural understanding and peace) exchange student, when I lived in Kyoto, I got really interested in Buddhism because it seemed to offer …
… As a 16 year-old?
Yeah, I was very curious about why people suffered and why we create our own suffering.
That’s extraordinary, for a 16 year-old.
Well, I don’t know. Is it?
Unless, and I haven’t picked up anything yet … but was there an element of suffering in your own upbringing?
Yeah. Though I generally had a great childhood. I noticed a certain level of pain and difficulty around, just normal growing-up things … and family issues. You know, going left when we should go right. It created a lot of disharmony. I saw that in adults generally. Kids are naturally quite joyful, unless there’s something fundamentally upsetting them, so when we start to learn behaviour that seems to be coming from a place of suffering, it is really just the mechanisms of our own identity, or need for identity. So I was interested in why that was. I never really got the answers from the Bible. I respect it as a book and I was interested in spirituality, but it just didn’t seem to have the language, the code, which unlocked answers for me. Then, when I went and lived in Japan, I was asked to stand up in social studies class and talk about my religion. I shocked everyone by saying I didn’t have a religion. I said I came from a Christian family, fundamentally. We were Christian – not Christian fundamentalists (laughs)! The next day, this really cool sociology teacher; he used to slope around in an army jacket and had a goatee and slightly long hair, the bohemian artist type – this was at a very straight High School in Japan; he gave me this little book. It was a black book with gold writing on it. It was in English and issued by the Buddhist Society of Japan. It contained the teachings of the Buddha and it was very plain, very simple. I read it and it totally blew me away. I was like, wow! Then I got really interested in Alan Watts, D.T. Suzuki and Shunryu Suzuki as well, particularly his book – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. It just seemed to create an emptiness around all these thoughts that were tumbling around, as a 16 year-old anyway. From that came a love for India, because that’s where the roots of Buddhism are …
So that’s what drew you there?
Yeah. I had put together this little school mag in Japan. for the 60-odd exchange students from around the world, and one of the questions for each person was, “Where do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years’ time?” Of course, I had forgotten all about it, but I found it a little while ago and I’d written, “I want to go to the Himalayas and make a film.” So I don’t know, you kind of have these moments where you make decisions about your life and what you want to do, and it’s part of your game plan.
Whether it’s conscious or not.
My whole thing, when I came back from Japan, was to go to Art School and learn about film, but I didn’t. I ended up working for a photographer, learning multimedia, videography and that sort of stuff.
You learned that while you were on the job, rather than in an institution?
That’s right, for better or worse. Sometimes it’s nice to have the space to be educated and curated around ideas, but some really established artists say