A fantastic Wednesday! Neil gave us clarity on selflessness with a very accessible example - that of point-guards in basketball. The best teams are those which have the most selfless point-guards, who are responsible for passing the ball instead of making the points on their own. Those teams also have the most fun.
Paul blew my mind with his story. He was in charge of a journalist team covering the Iraq war, and one of his embeds was a mother of a 3-year old, a very good journalist, who had undergone hazard training, etc. Paul used to have a hard time sleeping well in the bay area while his colleagues were in dangerous situations. One day, the phone rang at 3 AM, and it was his journalist, who, in a shaking voice, said that she had a decision to make. Her embed unit was returning, but she could join another one, which had just decided to attack Baghdad. What should she do? She had barely seconds to make up her mind, and was calling on the satellite phone. What Paul said next is worthy of internalizing. Instead of telling her what to do (which he thinks is a bad response in any situation), he responded by, "I want you to know that I value your safety much more than anything else." She said, "Thanks, that really helps." She went on to Baghdad, and thankfully, returned safely.
There is something deep and spiritual about Paul's response - so many people ask us for advice, and going back to our deepest values, while recognizing the other's free agency is a very powerful and authentic response.
Joel shared about his great-uncle who had just passed away, and how he, in the last years of his life, lived like a 20-year old. I remembered what some older people have said - "Youth is wasted on the young." :)
This passage was brilliant, and reminded me of a conversation I had with my professor about the Buddha. My professor, who has studied the Buddha in a very deep way, and teaches decision analysis, pointed out that the Buddha was probably the first decision analyst. I asked, "How so?" He responded, "The Buddha used to be a tremendous debater before he got enlightened. He is known to have remarked, "An argument that I cannot win I do not understand." (I hope I'm not misquoting here) Can you imagine the Buddha saying something so arrogant? This was pre-enlightenment. Post-englightenment, the Buddha retained all of his sharpness, while overflowing with compassion. I haven't encountered another character in history who could change the frame of his discussants with utter simplicity the way the Buddha could. In that sense, was an embodiment of clarity and compassion. In a nutshell, his life message for me was, "Cool head, warm heart."
Great damage is done in our society by "cool heads," who also have "cold hearts," as someone pointed out in the circle with a quote from Gandhi. The converse, in my mind, is equally true. Great damage is done in our society by "warm hearts" who also have "hot heads." Krishnamurti, in his own life, embodied the combination of the two just like the Buddha, and this is a tremendous ideal to aspire to.
On the subject of skill, when we are faced with situations where our skill breaks down, we get great moments of self-reflection. I had one such moment this week. I was scheduled to teach a problem session on Visual Basic for Applications (programming in Excel) on Monday. I postponed the preparation till Sunday night, and to my horror, when I was ready to begin preparing, Excel crashed! I was using Office 2003, an older version of office, and it was quite hard to find a source CD. Spent several hours unsuccessfully on Sunday night. Then, on Monday morning, I managed to get a source CD, and spent several hours, again unsuccessfully. Nothing made sense. I asked a colleague to get his laptop with Office 2003, but when he did, it turned out he was mistaken and he had Officer 2007. I had only a few hours to prepare and give the talk. As my stress level started rising, I decided to try an experiment.
Said to myself, "I have all the time in the world! I have all the resources I need! All is well!" and gave up. Took a break, and came back to my desk. And a miracle happened. There, sitting on my desk, was a laptop with a working copy of Office 2003.
And guess what, it was my own laptop! I had a spare machine for such emergencies, sitting right next to my regular machine, and completely forgot about it in my stress! This time, with a calm mind, I prepared for the session and was done in 30 minutes. The session went well.
I was also worried about having to purchase an expensive copy of Office for my regular machine. Again, telling myself that all was well, decided to search online for Office 2010 - and there it was - the free beta version that would work till October, long enough for my purposes, and happy to be a guinea-pig for Microsoft.
I loved hearing about the couple who landed in San Jose, CA instead of San Jose, Costa Rica, and joined us last night. Neema shared four awesome breaths. Uncle sang a deep and wonderful Kabir song, which I've heard several times from professional singers like Kumar Gandharva and Kailash Kher, but never understood this clearly. Hopefully someone will post a translation for the benefit of those who don't follow Hindi - typical of Kabir's poetry, the song knocks listeners off their feet in an instant.