Seattle’s Own ‘Peace Pilgrim’

While on a walk in downtown Seattle, I saw a cart that said, in bright red decal letters, “equal and unconditional love for all our fellow creatures” and “I am walking across the world.  I do not have any money and do not want any.  I just need food and water.”  I wondered whose it was and wished they were with their cart so I could ask them about it.  We kept on walking.

Eventually, we saw the owner of the cart ahead of us, pulling the heavy-looking green monstrosity behind him.  We asked him if he needed any food.  He said, “actually I am not hungry right now, but I can talk.”  He said he was walking across the world to encourage people to love each other and find peace, and that this was the only way to “get out.”  (He never actually said explicitly what we are getting out of, but I’m sure there are many things we can all agree we as a society need to escape.)

Despite my immense respect for the original Peace Pilgrim (actually also part of Appalachian Trail lore as well), I had cynically wondered if this guy would just be an incoherent crazy person, or someone making up a story to get attention. In fact, he was a clean, cheerful former aerospace engineer with a Canadian citizenship and Chinese accent who was very passionate and cogent about what he was doing, but who admittedly made it hard to get a word in edgewise.  His name was Bing Bing Lee.

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“Sometimes, I play music.  Sometimes I sing.  I’m not very good at playing music, but I have these maracas.  Everyone can play maracas.”

He had actually just started two weeks before, maybe 200 miles away in Washington.  He said he had originally wanted to start in China because it was his home, but he was afraid of “disappearing” if he disagreed with the status quo in China.  He said “America is the best country in the world, despite so many problems” and that he thought it would be easiest to spread his message here first and go to China last and live there.

His big plan was for 35 years, but he had planned only the first 5 years in detail, going down the west coast, then up the middle, then down the east coast.  “I won’t go to Maine,” he allowed. “I need to spread my message to as many people as possible and there just aren’t many people in Maine.” After he finished with the Americas, he was hoping he would have enough exposure that someone would lend him a sailboat.  It couldn’t be another kind of boat because he wouldn’t want to create any pollution.

The beautiful thing about his message is that, even if he only gives his spiel about how much better humankind was without money or how a silicon valley career isn’t the path to happiness to a few people in every city, his actions really do perfectly describe his message without many words.  He is giving up everything material, except his clothes and tent and maracas, to give himself to the world and live off of the kindness of others, with no expectation.  Of course he isn’t the first one to set out to do this, but this does not lessen the degree of commitment required.

It’s impossible to say whether Bing will actually make it around the world, but I hope I can find out what does happen to him.  As far as I can tell, he is fully committed to his journey and really doesn’t have a backup plan.  “If I die because I have no money, I guess that is just what will happen.”  I hope that the world continues to feed and house him as it seems to have been doing so far, and that he has a chance to share his story.

 (This guy did give me permission to share his photo and story.)

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