Recently the online world has been filled with images of people in desperate conditions, images not from Pakistan or Syria but from the Greek islands closest to Turkey: Chios, Lesbos, Leros. One picture showed a migrant raft landing near sunbathing tourists on Kos, an island I once knew well. It was a way station on my yearly visits to the nearby island of Patmos, where St. John was once a refugee himself. I went there to visit another immigrant to Greece: a spiritual poet named Robert Lax, who was Thomas Merton’s best friend.
When I travel, I like to bring treasures home with me. I have four carved wooden masks I bought in Kenya, and one of the Buddha I found in Katmandu. I have an eyeglass case made out of frog skin from China, a prayer rug from Turkey, and two woven reed baskets from Ethiopia. I collected so much booty in Israel that I had to ship it home in three separate boxes.