"A number of years ago I read a book by Peter Matthiessen called The Snow Leopard. It is an eloquent, personally revealing, first-person account of his hitting a very rough patch in his life, his sense of inner desperation, and his soul's summons to risk a 'silly' passion to at least know that he was still alive. He decides that he will journey to the Himalaya Mountains of Tibet in search of a snow leopard, that rare, rich, beautiful beast that roams those altitudes and has a certain mystical cachet as a result. He went, as Sir Edmund Hillary said of climbing Everest, 'because it was there.' A wonderful, foolish, and risky passion.

"After a long and perilous journey requiring great discipline, suffering, and hardship, hearing reports of sightings here and there, tracking the elusive creature, missing him by hours, he finally returns. When asked by others, 'Did you see the snow leopard?' he replies, 'No — isn't that wonderful?'

"Only a person who has truly been on the road can say of such a 'failure,' 'No, isn't that wonderful?' By then, he had learned that the task is not to find the object but to live the journey, with passion, and risk, and commitment, and danger. It has nothing to do, per se, with the seductions of exotic soil, or success, or arrival. For some of us, the risk of loving another in the face of our forbidding history provides our journey. For others, risking a talent, an enthusiasm, an imaginative summons, is our journey. What if Matthiessen had seen the snow leopard? Whatever that exhilaration, it would be but a moment, and then the task of quotidian life would return. Rather, the shimmering image of the elusive gave him his journey, and gave him almost unbearable richness as well."