Often we are blessed at our home by the visit of a remarkable musician named Ryan Green. One of his current projects is called The Great Collision through which he is releasing his songs periodically. The one below is a hauntingly beautiful piece -- and the surprise to me was to see that all of the footage was shot from my home office and backyard during one of his recent visits. So If you're curious learn about a talented musician, listen to a great song, and get a glimpse of my little hide-away, enjoy the video below:
I recently discovered this infographic on income inequality in America. While I don't care much for the ominous music in the background, it is helpful to visualize the scale of what the 1% actually means.
I had the opportunity to discuss this with a group of leaders from Central America in Guatemala recently, and this video, combined with Joseph Stiglitz' piece in Vanity Fair on the 1% made for a very interesting and rich discussion.
One interesting implication of the increasing income stratification is that as the wealthy opt out of the public systems of education, health care and security the contribute to a cycle that reinforces underinvestment, lack of accountability, and further withdrawal. And it does not appear this is a cycle that is capable of self-correcting. Food for thought.
I had the opportunity to spend last week in Jordan with a remarkable group of leaders from the Middle East. This photo was taken one afternoon as the group took a long hike in a national park high above the Dead Sea, which you can see just off the horizon.
I love this picture, because for me it symbolizes so many important things. The park is dry and arid, the heat and sun were intense. We were all alone on the mountain. Amidst the isolation, heat, and stark beauty of this park, however, we journeyed together. Sometimes walking alone caught up in our own reflections. Sometimes walking alongside one other, deep in conversation, and sometimes in a group, telling stories and laughing. Building invisible bonds of trust, friendship and hope that can transcend the politics and prejudices that so easily divide us.
This picture captures a bit of a deeply felt belief I have: that what we hold in common as humans is far more powerful than what we allow to divide us. But we must pause long enough to reflect, to listen, and to laugh and cry together, to allow our differences to melt away.
When that happens, what remains is what the South Africans refer to as "ubuntu". Desmond Tutu says that Ubuntu:
is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.” It is not, “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.
As I returned to my hotel room, reflecting on our hike, and the spirit of Ubuntu I had experienced, I was struck by one further thought I'd like to share with you. The photo above was taken from my hotel. The hotel itself is not for from Mt. Nebo, where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land, but told he could never enter. The Dead Sea is just under the blue sky on the horizon, and the elusive promised land just beyond.
The Middle East today has potential that can feel equally elusive. The region continues to face huge challenges: political difficulties in Egypt, unrest in Tunisia and Libya, civil war in Syria, an Iraq trying to rebuild, sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, ongoing tension between Palestinians and Israelis, Lebanon caught in the middle, and Jordan amidst dramatic political reforms. There is a lot happening. And if I simply read the press at home, it is easy to become discouraged. But I leave my visit to Jordan encouraged. This was a remarkable day; and the beginning of a remarkable journey for this group of courageous and inspiring leaders from the Middle East. They showed me ubuntu, and in so doing, gave me hope.
Align what you do with who you are and you’ll become what you need to be.
I read this morning a letter John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail in 1778 after arriving in France. I thought it worth sharing a couple of exerpts:
My dearest friend,
I am so sensible of the Difficulty of conveying Letters safe, to you, [th]at I am afraid to write, any Thing more than to tell you that after the Fatigues and Dangers of my Voyage, and Journey, I am here in Health…
...All the Luxury I desire in this World is the Company of my dearest Friend, and my Children, and such Friends as they delight in.
How understaded he was! Adams' journey to France in 1778 was, in fact, harrowing. It was long (average length of a trip in the 1700s was 6-8 weeks) and it was dangerous. Not only from disease and weather, but in 1778, from war as well. This is the voyage where their ship Boston, captured the British ship, Martha, during a battle at sea.
"Fatigues and Dangers" indeed.
The second excerpt is marvelous in a number of ways. First that he was fortunate to consider his wife "My Dearest Friend," a phrase he uses throughout his correspondence. Theirs was a remarkable relationship, one well chronicled in David McCollough's book. She was a tremendous source of support, strength and inspiration to him.
I also love the phrase "all the luxury I desire in the world is the company...". I can visualize him amidst the high society of the French aristocracy with all of its trappings. He is doing critical work - helping build a new nation. And in the midst of this historic work and amongst these important people, he finds himself longing for the luxury of time spent with his family and their friends.
The last phrase perfectly captures one of our favorite parts of parenting "and such friends as they delight in". It captures so well the gift of time spent in the company of friends and loved ones. Any given Saturday at our house, you will find the warm smells of pancakes, freshly brewed coffee and a half dozen or dozen teenagers sitting around our table eating pancakes, telling stories and jokes, laughing, and enjoying one another's company. These are the friends our children delight in, and their delight becomes our delight. It is magical, and Adams captures it so well. These are priceless moments well worth cherishing.
Having spent my fair share of time away from my family for work, these few short lines really struck a chord with me. Not just for the marvel of how safe and easy it is to cross the globe these days. But also as a reminder that no matter how urgent or important the task at hand may seem, there may always be a sense of longing for the luxury of the company of loved ones and those they delight in. I imagine this helps keep us grounded, provides us strength, and enables us to do the work we feel called to do.
I suspect this is as true for us today as it was for Adams in 1778.