Monday, September 15, 2008


September 14

It’s been an intense afternoon. Noodling around on the couch, as I am want to do on the first day of my “weekend,” I flip on PBS to find it’s Pledge Week. Oh goody! No, I REALLY mean oh, goody. I love it when they dig out the good stuff again, and am usually not bothered by the intermittent begging. Since I often donate, my conscience is clear, and I burn the time by channel surfing or getting to a chore or two.

Anyhow, this time I toggle between the two PBS local stations and am riveted. One is showing Wayne Dyer’s “The Power of Intention” among his best work which I forget I own. The other is the late Randy Pausch’s much lauded “The Last Lecture,” which is infinitely better than his bestselling book of the same name. Both works are well known to me, but the juxtaposition increases the impact exponentially.

At first glance, it’s easy to assume these two men are from opposite ends of the spectrum, albeit both brilliant PhDs and potent salesmen for the best of all lives. (Even though Pausch’s mother introduces him, as the “kind of doctor who doesn’t help people.”) Pausch, a brash extraordinarily popular computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, is 47 at the time of his lecture. He is in the last throes of his battle with pancreatic cancer and dies in July. Steeped in popular culture, Pausch lives in a world of virtual reality that I find hard to comprehend. Dyer, old enough to have been his father, is from the humanities and is often thought of--incorrectly I think—as a new ager.

But as I flip back & forth, I am struck by the incredible synchronicity between them. Too many, in fact, for me to list. Here are several paraphrased examples:

Dyer: Albert Einstein said the most important decision any of us has to make is whether we live in a friendly or unfriendly world.
Pausch: You have to decide if you are a Tigger or an Eeyore.

Pausch: As you get older, you will find enabling the dreams of others even more fun.
Dyer: As a child, I earned a few pennies helping old ladies out with their groceries. And I’m still just helping old ladies out with their groceries. Find a way to serve.

Pausch: You can't control the cards you're dealt, just how you play the hand.
Dyer: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

The more attention I pay to the two programs, what they are saying becomes secondary to how they are living. There is something rare at work. A buzz, an energy, drawing people to them. Yes, both are passionate, genuine and have the gift of reducing complex dry ideas to juicy enticing morsels we commoners gobble up. They also seamlessly bridge disciplines such as art/science, science/philosphy.

But it’s much more than that.

The are what the great psychologist Abraham Maslow would call self-actualizing people. Those few among us who “must be what they can be.” These are the engines driving our world.

I have been privileged to know two such people in my life. More about them coming up next.

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