| Israeli-Palestinian Youth Camps
A Report by Mac Lawrence
Thirteen years ago, Len and Libby Traubman of San Mateo, California, started a dialogue group in their living room with 18 brave Palestinians and Jews. It was difficult at first. Some participants left, but others took their places.
Now, after more than 150 meetings, members of the group have become close friends while working on dozens of projects together. There are now scores of such sustained dialogue groups meeting around the U.S. and in a number of other countries.
One of the projects the group helped initiate was the first Palestinian-Jewish Family Peacemakers Camp, where 45 adults and 24 youth spent a weekend together near Yosemite Park learning to hear one another’s narratives and transforming “enemies” into friends and partnerships to be sustained back home.
A dozen or more summer camps—designed for Israeli and Palestinian youth to meet together in a safe place—are also held in North America, with names like Peace Camp Canada, Building Bridges for Peace, Kids4Peace, Peace It Together, Seeds of Peace, Creativity for Peace, and Middle East Peace Camp for Children.
Realizing that most of these camps did not know about one another, the Traubmans had the idea for them all to meet together. Last January in Kalamazoo, Michigan, under the sponsorship of the Fetzer Institute, the meeting took place, attended by 24 facilitators from the summer camps. They shared what worked, talked about the future, set common goals, and created a communication network. A 71-page Summary Report of the meeting is available on the Traubman website http://traubman.igc.org/campconf.htm
“It is becoming clear,” the Traubmans note, “that there is a positive community of youth who have the courage to meet one another and transcend old, imposed physical and social boundaries that separate their peoples unnecessarily.”
The following article tells the story of one young person whose summer camp experience helped make such a change. Thanks to journalist Alexandra J. Wall for this interview.
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Last Child in the Woods
A Perspective by Diane Gordon
For the past few years I have been presenting Children and Nature workshops throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. These workshops, developed under the leadership of Foundation volunteer Joann Lundgren (See Timeline, March/April 2001) were inspired by the words of Thomas Berry, “Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” Every presentation begins the same way—asking participants to recall and share a treasured childhood memory of their experience with nature. People are reluctant to share at first, but one by one, people turn to their neighbor and tell their stories.
“I remember, back in Mexico, even before I could tell the time, I would will myself to wake up before the sun rose,” recalls one mother, holding a toddler on her lap. “I would run outside in just my nightgown, no shoes, and sit in the morning glory patch. When the first rays of the sun touched the sleeping flowers—poof! They would open up to greet the morning.”
A grandmother recalls being three years old and lying in the long grass, watching the sun create rainbows in the early morning dewdrops as they danced in the breeze on the tips of blades of grass.
A father, still in his business clothes from a day at work, shares. “After a rain storm I would grab my bike and ride like a wild thing all around the vacant lot across the street from my house. I would hit every single mud puddle, duck under branches, shaking the rain off all the leaves, and come home soaking wet and covered with mud from head to toe. Boy, was that fun!”
One story inspires another—and then it happens—every time. Someone will shake their head wistfully, sigh, and say, “But our kids can’t do that anymore.” And everyone sadly nods in agreement.
It is that regret, “Our kids can’t do that any more,” that inspired Richard Louv’s new book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv, who writes for the San Diego Tribune and serves on the advisory boards of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and Parents magazine, spent 10 years traveling around the country gathering material for this book. (The reference section of the book includes seven pages of notes and three pages of suggested reading.) His interviews with child-development researchers, environmentalists, parents, children, college students, teachers, scientists, and religious leaders led him to the conclusion that baby boomers are probably the last generation to have run wild in the woods, freely explored the nearby creek bed, or built dens and tree houses in nearby vacant lots. Children born after 1980 seldom hear the words “Go and play outside.”
With few exceptions, theirs is a contained and constrained generation, with little or no direct experience of the natural world.
Urban growth and suburban sprawl have swallowed up vast acres of open land. Legal restraints that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago have further restricted children’s outdoor play. Trees in parks and playgrounds have been cordoned off to prevent tree climbing and possible lawsuits. Some condominium, cooperative, and homeowners’ associations even ban private gardens and discourage free outdoor play, and there are local communities that require permits to build even the most primitive tree house. Louv tells of schools, under pressure from administrators and parents to increase test scores, that have eliminated hands-on nature study from the curriculum and, in some cases, even cancelled outdoor recess. The busy lives of today’s over-stretched and over-stressed parents allow little time for outdoor activities, and even good intentions have unintended consequences. Ordinances designed to protect endangered flora and fauna have eliminated access to wide
swaths of sea-shore, marsh, meadowland, and wilderness. No wonder children are driven indoors to the lure of electronic entertainment, iPods, video games, and TV. Unlike earlier generations, many of today’s parents see the outdoors as a dangerous place. Fears—of strangers and kidnappings, of gangs and drug dealers taking over parks and vacant corner lots, of encroaching wildlife from mountain lions to virus-bearing mosquitoes—while genuine, have also been sensationalized by the media. In the author’s words, “We have scared children straight out of the woods and fields.”
As a result, children are exhibiting what Louv has labeled “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Although the term does not appear in any medical lexicon, the author uses the term to describe a set of symptoms linked to our separation from nature. These include an increase in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and childhood obesity, lack of creativity and curiosity, ignorance of local flora and fauna, loss of respect for nature and the living world, and a diminishing sense of community.
Fortunately, there is an antidote for nature deficit disorder—getting children back into the wild. The latest research demonstrates that when children have hands-on experiences with nature, even if it is simply in the weed lot at the end of the street, they reap the benefits. Researchers cite diminishment in levels of ADHD, fewer incidents of anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem, enhanced brain development, higher levels of curiosity and creativity, and a sense of connectedness to the community and the environment.
To provide all children with access to nature requires rethinking our current societal and cultural infrastructures. Models already exist, both in Europe and here in the States, and Louv devotes the second half of the book to exploring them. He cites contemporary examples of schools that use the surrounding ecological community as their classroom, often with astoundingly successful outcomes, including improved test scores. He looks at urban planning concepts that incorporate natural corridors for wildlife, energy-self-sufficient urban malls that merge nature into their design, city rooftop gardens, and green public spaces. “Surprisingly, one of the best examples of what the future could hold is the city of Chicago,” writes Louv. Under the leadership of Mayor Richard Daley, who aims to make Chicago the greenest city in the nation, the municipality has already restored 28 miles of boulevard gardens, and turned 21 acres of underused city land and abandoned gas stations
into pocket parks and 72 community gardens. City parks have incorporated areas of restored prairie land, and City Hall boasts a 30,000-square-foot roof garden that helps insulate the building, absorbs excess storm water, and acts as a giant air purifier. It also houses two beehives and 4,000 honey- bees, which yielded 150 pounds of honey in the first year.
Despite the seriousness of its subject, Last Child in the Woods is a delightful read. Louv is a consummate storyteller, and the book is replete with stories and personal reminisces. He recounts a conversation he had with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who serves as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and is President of Riverkeeper, an organization that has helped bring the Hudson River back from its watery, polluted grave. “I was known as the family’s nature child,” recalls Kennedy. “I spent every afternoon in the woods when I was growing up. I loved finding salamanders, crayfish, frogs. My room was filled with aquariums, filled, from the time I was six years old.”
Richard Louv is convinced that such early nature experiences are essential if we are to produce tomorrow’s creative thinkers and change agents. To help prove his point he asked Matthew, his teenage son, to look up biographies of those whom he calls “the famously creative.” What a wonderful eclectic list he compiled: Science fiction author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke, whose budding cosmic consciousness was awakened by child-hood bicycle rides under starry skies; a two-year-old Jane Goodall, sleeping with earthworms under her pillow; Thomas Edison who, as a very young child was found sitting on a clutch of goose eggs, hoping to hatch goslings; and the young Cesar Chavez, inspired by the land, soil, and waters of Arizona’s Gila River regions. Others who made Matthew’s list were Samuel Clemens, T.S. Elliot, John Muir, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The work of Louise Chawla, International Coordinator of UNESCO’s Growing Up in Cities program, supports Louv’s premise. For most environmentalists, it was intense nature experiences in the early years that inspired their later work. Who, she asks, will take on environmental stewardship for our Earth if today’s and tomorrow’s children are denied these experiences?
If I could, I would put this important book into the hands of everyone whose work in any way touches the lives of today’s children and future generations. In Richard Louv’s words, “Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demand it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends on it. The health of the Earth is at stake.”
Last Child in the Woods:: Saving our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder by Richard Louv Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, New York. 2005. $24.95.
About Children and Nature
Diane Gordon, a member of the Foundation’s Hooked on Nature team, has been conducting Children and Nature workshops for the past six years. She has recently developed a preschool parent/teacher workshop called “Plant a Seed: Grow a Reader,” which emphasizes the vital link between early nature experiences and a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development
For information about Children and Nature Programs, including the “Plant a Seed: Grow a Reader” workshops, contact Diane at email@example.com, 408-955-0773, or visit our Hooked on Nature website at www.hookedonnature.org.
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Don’t Think of an Elephant
Book Review by Susan Stansbury
People voted for their values. That was the reason, we were told, that the 2004 election turned out the way it did. I was perplexed. Lots of folks that I know spend their time working for the greater good because of their values, and they were no more pleased with the election results than I was. At that point, I knew that I needed to read George Lakoff’s primer, Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, to get my mind around what was going on in this country. After reading it, I was convinced that we all need to follow his advice of articulating our underlying values every chance we get. Not only will it help us change the current political discourse, it will help us mend our nation, now sharply divided by our differing worldviews that are heavily impacted by the language that is being used.
Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at Berkeley, teaches his students the power of language by telling them, “Don’t Think of an Elephant.” Immediately the students conjure up the image of an elephant no matter how hard they try not to. Lakoff shares this example with the reader and ties it to political discourse. Remember when Nixon said, “I am not a crook?” Everyone thought of him as a crook from that day forward.
For over a decade, Lakoff has followed how conservative thinkers have used the power of language to control public discourse. It started when he was reading the Republican’s “Contract with America” and realized that there was an underlying value system that made their views on seemingly disparate issues such as gun control, taxation, the environment, and foreign policy fit together. The underlying value system turned out to be “Family Values.” In Lakoff’s view, conservatives tend to identify with the “strict father” family model, while progressives tend to identify with the “nurturing parent” model. When applied to national politics, these family models become metaphors for everything.
In its strict father role, the government can justify an astronomical military budget because “he” needs a strong military to protect us from outside evils. For social programs, the citizens (i.e., children) need to have discipline and fend for themselves. The strict father did “his” best to raise us to be independent, disciplined children. Government safety nets lead to undisciplined, even immoral citizens.
When applied to the international community, the strict father metaphor puts developed nations in a parent role over developing nations. For instance, Lakoff notes that President Bush declared that he didn’t need a “permission slip” from the United Nations for the United States’ right to invade Iraq. The image of a “permission slip” evokes the relationship between an adult and a child. The United States—the father in this scenario—does not need to get the children’s permission for his actions.
Framing the debate with descriptive terms such as “permission slips” is not random or thought up extemporaneously. As Lakoff notes, for the past forty years conservatives have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into think tanks on how to frame public discourse in political debates and through the media. Eighty percent of the commentators on television come from these think tanks. They determine what issues will be discussed and how they will be discussed. They form public opinion not just around election day, but year round.
Another example is our public discourse about taxes. Lakoff notes that conservatives don’t talk about them as an investment made for the overall good; they talk about them as if they were an affliction. Conservative think tanks came up with the term “tax relief.” By the very nature of the term, if someone stands up for the benefits that taxes provide for our social infrastructure, that person is misguided. The conservatives are there to relieve you of this burden that those who have the wrong view of things have inflicted upon you. Lakoff points out, however, that if the message people heard repeatedly was that taxes are an investment that benefit us all, perhaps people would have an entirely different attitude about them.
So, given the breadth of the control now enjoyed by conservatives, what can progressives do to change the discourse around? Lakoff suggests that instead of constantly reacting to the conservative agenda, progessives need to invest in think tanks of their own. This will help frame the language of our public discourse and devise long-term strategies more in line with the nurturing parent values system.
In order to understand what the progressive value system looks like, we need to understand both what divides and unites progressives. Lakoff devotes a chapter to this topic, and outlines both the common parameters that keep progressives divided and the vision, core values, principles, and policy directions that unite them. He also boils down the political philosophies of conservatives and progressives into 10 words:
There’s also much that individuals can do to promote the progressive agenda. Lakoff urges us all to learn how to articulate the values underlying our opinions about policy and start reframing the public discourse. Instead of being on the defensive, progressives need to stand their ground and engage in respectful dialogue both with each other and with people of opposite views. Recognize that though people may have different opinions about issues, their opinions make sense from the lens through which they view life. Facts countering that view will be discarded. Debate will fail. The only thing that will work is rearticulating a vision that fits people’s values.
Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff, Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, VT, 2004. $10.00. www.chelseagreen.com
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From the Global MindShift Team
We stand here, at the start of the 21st century, gazing through time and space toward our beginnings. Based upon what can now be observed, scientists can reconstruct our 13.7 billion-year journey from our origins to the present moment. This is the evolutionary story, which includes the Universe, our solar system, Earth, and us. An evolutionary perspective offers a new way of thinking about the world and the role each of us plays in evolution’s continued unfolding.
Evolution has a trajectory—a movement toward increasing complexity, consciousness, elegance, and efficiency. One line of development in this trajectory is accumulated knowledge—experience aggregated and coded over billions of years and passed from one generation to the next.
Contemplate the number of human generations that were lived and learned from to enable each of us to be here, now. The ability of living organisms to accumulate and pass on to future generations such huge quantities of information inspires awe.
And when you further consider the trials, errors, fatalities, struggles, joys, and suffering that enabled this learning to take place, it gives us a new appreciation of our own transitional role in time. Not only are we the carriers of the hard-won knowledge of generations past, we are also the instruments through which new information vital to survival is learned and passed on to the future. While we are not the first species threatened with our own demise, we are the first species who can consciously hasten, forestall, or even avoid it. The choice is ours.
It is this awareness that inspires hope. As the late Dr. Jonas Salk, scientist, humanitarian, and inventor of the polio vaccine, stated: “Once the human species becomes conscious of evolution, then the human species can consciously evolve.” To stay on the evolutionary trajectory, humankind must now choose to do consciously what all other successful life forms have done automatically—evolve into a healthy, cooperative species that lives in dynamic balance with life’s larger processes.
Looking at both modern sciences as well as ancient wisdom traditions, the Global MindShift team has identified four “tools for evolution” it believes can help the human species do this: being Present, Authentic, Inclusive, and Responsible (PAIR).
PAIR is simple in concept but profound in execution: It is a process to help develop ways of being with ourselves, with others, and with the emergent moment we live in.
The Global MindShift team, a project of the Foundation, has a website [www.global-mindshift.org] which contains brief statements from a variety of individuals on these four concepts. On the following pages, Timeline presents excerpts from some of them.
Accept what is
Being present, being in the here and now, is one of the most important values and practices in my life for the last almost forty years that I’ve been meditating. The way my teacher used to explain it, we lose a lot of our vital capacity because we’re anxious about the future, or we’re regretful about the past, and that means that part of our vital energy is not there.
Michael Nagler, Professor of Classic and Comparative Literature (retired,) University of California, Berkeley.
I have found in my own work that the most healing act we can do for one another is to simply be truly present as good listeners—not interfering, not trying to fix, not giving advice, not saying, “Oh, I know just how you feel,” or “let me tell you about my experience,” but, in fact, just sitting there really as an attentive, fully present listener. Over and over again, I see that there is no better way to form a relationship than when we are simply present for one another. And you have to contrast this to how crazy our culture has become, where we’re in public spaces together. We’re on buses, we’re on trains, we’re in cars, we’re in airports, we’re on street corners, we’re in restaurants, and everyone is talking on their cell phones or listening to their own music. It does alarm me how un-present, or non-present we are these days, and I notice it in myself as well.
Margaret Wheatley, Ed.D. President, The Berkana Institute. Author, Leadership and the New Science
So much of political activism, which is the world I come out of, is about bluster, it’s about show, it’s about the drama, and it’s about the politics of confrontation. It becomes very addictive, and so often we’re playing our role—the advisors are playing their roles, the police are playing their roles, the reporters are playing their roles. And then somebody—maybe your grandmother, maybe a child—will just say something that’s so true and so honest and so heartfelt that it transforms the whole moment.
Van Jones, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Authenticity for me means that I am willing to let you know who I am; I am willing to be truthful. This is something that grows over time in conversation. I often remind people that when we start a conversation, we’re not going to be fully authentic. We’re going to be guarded, we’re going to be cautious. But authenticity is something that grows from presence; and it grows in a good relationship.
Margaret Wheatley, Ed.D. President, The Berkana Institute. Author, Leadership and the New Science
So many times we’re trying to be this, or be that, without responding to the deeper authentic impulses of ourselves. And, therefore, we end up going in directions that reflect that disassociation from self. So authenticity is a personal strategy: I can’t possibly know what I need to know, think what I need to think, feel what I need to feel unless I’m authentic.
Marianne Williamson, Author, A Return to Love and Everyday Grace
Embrace differing points of view
Being inclusive is recognizing that this wonderful world, Universe, planet…consists of energy and matter in a glorious profusion of forms; and to honor and recognize that all of those forms have value and have their place. Whether those forms are different kinds of humans, or different kinds of other animals, or different ecological issues, every being has the right to fully actualize whatever it is, whoever it is. Inclusivity is to allow every being to be exactly who it is, and to actualize its potential.
Christian de Quincey, Professor of Philosophy, John F. Kennedy University
For me, the only real sin on this planet is separateness, or a separative consciousness. It creates all these “isms,” those places where I find myself apart from someone else, rather than living according to oneness, and the fact that we really all do share this planet and live under its laws and principles—all of us. Inclusivity is on all levels, recognizing that everyone’s voice counts. The way I work in the business world, or in the nonprofit world, or in anything that I’m involved in is through a shared leadership/shared responsibility model that is all-inclusive.
Dorothy J. Maver, Ph.D. Executive Director, Peace Alliance Foundation
I’m always looking at how we can all be part of something and still have our differences—first to look for the samenesses, because within the samenesses is the place where you unite.
Nina Lynn Meyerhof, Ed.D.
Act for the long-term benefit of all life
All of us can be responsible at the individual level of responsibility—what we buy, how we vote, and who we are when we are with other people. No matter what the oppressor does, no matter what the exploiter does, no matter what the polluter does, you still have to be accountable within all of that. Our own responsibility, regardless of what the power holders are doing, is to hold ourselves to high standards and to be kind to each other in this walk.
Van Jones, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
At the conclusion of World War II, there was a worldwide effort to come up with a document on human rights, which the UN eventually adopted. I am not saying that it wasn’t a useful instrument, but it’s interesting that when they brought this document to Gandhi, thinking, “Oh, surely, he’ll be the first person to sign this,” he said, “No, [but] you bring me a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities and no one will sign faster than me.” It’s one of those funny things, the more we go after it, the more we lose it. If you go after rights, you lose them, but if you go after responsibilities, you get the responsibilities and the rights.
Michael Nagler, Professor of Classic and Comparative Literature (retired), University of California, Berkeley
To be responsible means that I take responsibility for my actions. I never say, “I had to,” or, “I should,” “they made me,” “it’s company policy,” “it’s the law.” I say, “I choose to do it.” I try to be responsible for seeing that each of my actions is chosen, and it is chosen for the purpose of serving life.
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Founder and Director, Educational Services Center for Nonviolent Communications
Responsibility is how we show up; whether we show up; whether we’re willing to step forward. When I engage with you as another human being, through our authentic presence for each other, no matter how different you are from me, I will act more responsibly. All of these things—presence, authenticity, inclusivity, responsibility—you can’t have one without the other. They are all, for me, the precursors, the foundations for what’s required.
Margaret Wheatley, Ed.D. President, The Berkana Institute. Author, Leadership and the New Science
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“For the next seven generations . . .”
In the fall of 2004, thirteen indigenous grandmothers from all over the world—the Arctic Circle, North, South, and Central America, Africa, and Asia—met at a retreat center in upstate New York and agreed to form an alliance.
They declared “We, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, represent a global alliance of prayer, education, and healing for our Mother Earth, all her inhabitants, all the children, and for the next seven generations to come. We are deeply concerned with the unprecedented destruction of our Mother Earth and the destruction of indigenous ways of life. We believe the teachings of our ancestors will light our way through an uncertain future. We look to further our vision through the realization of projects that protect our diverse cultures: lands, medicines, language, and ceremonial ways of prayer, and through projects that educate and nurture our children.”
Earlier this year, the Grandmother Council met at the Pojoaque Pueblo in New Mexico and approved four projects to further their vision: • Development of a web site to disseminate their teachings to adults and children. • A pilot project to encourage local grandmother councils. • A project to apply permaculture methods to protect local waters. • Development of a film, based on their efforts, to be called “For the Next Seven Generations.”
The Grandmother Council plans to gather every six months, traveling the world to each other’s homeplaces to cultivate their unified prayer.
This October they will meet in Dharmasala, India, current home of the Dalai Lama, and next spring in Oaxaca, Mexico.
To learn more about this endeavor: www.grandmotherscouncil.com or www.forthenext7generations.com or write Center for Sacred Studies, P.O. Box 745, Sonora, CA 95370.
International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
Margaret Behan Cheyenne/Arapaho, Montana
Rita Pikta Blumenstein Yupik, Alaska
Aama Bombo Tamang, Nepal
Julieta Casimiro Mazatec, Oaxaca, Mexico
Maria Akice Campos Freire Mapia, Brazil
Tsering Dolma Gyaltong Tibetan
Beatrice Holy Dance Long Visitor Lakota
Rita Holy Dance Long Visitor Lakota
Clara Shinobu Iura Mapia, Brazil
Mona Palocca Hopi/Havasupai, Arizona
Agnes Pilgrim Takelma Siletz, Oregon
Bernadette Rebienot Omyene, Gabon, Africa
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“You’ve got to find what you love”
Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered at Stanford University on June 12, 2005.
I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky-. I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation—the Macintosh—a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down—that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me—I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.
This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept.
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and over flowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.
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by Will Keepin
“The motivation underlying our activism for social change must be transformed from anger and despair to compassion and love. It is not to deny the legitimacy of noble anger or outrage at injustice of any kind. Rather, we seek to work for love, rather than against evil. We need to adopt compassion and love as our foundational intention, and do whatever inner work is required to implement this intention. Even if our outward actions remain the same, there is a major difference in results if our underlying intention supports love rather than defeating evil.”
Will Keepin is with the Satyana Institute
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