Learn the Head Fake and Live Your Dreams…

One of my roommates during college just posted this video on my profile in Facebook… It’s a video that EVERYONE should watch. It’s long, but worth every minute. It’s priceless… and it made me tear up.

Randy Pausch Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals. For more, visit www.cmu.edu/randyslecture.

“Journeys” are special University Lectures in which Carnegie Mellon faculty members share their reflections on their journeys — the everyday actions, decisions, challenges and joys that make a life.

Some quotes I pulled from it with the hopes to get you to sit down and actually watch it – BECAUSE YOU SHOULD:

“I’m dying… and I’m having fun.”

“Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you.”

“Never lose the child-like wonder.”

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

“If your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me, let them do it.”

“Brick walls are there to let us show our dedication.”

“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

Muslims Embrace Pope Benedict

This sounds like a step in the right direction…

The following op-ed is by Nihad Awad, co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties group. He may be contacted at: nawad@cair.com.

As one of 138 Islamic leaders and scholars from around the world who last October signed the first-of-its-kind “A Common Word Between Us and You” open letter intended to promote understanding between Muslims and Christians, I welcome Pope Benedict XVI on his first papal visit to the United States.

While that letter, which was well received by the pope and other world Christian leaders, recognizes the differences between our two faiths, it also states: “[L]et our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to (one) another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.”

It is this desire for harmony and goodwill between faiths that leads American Muslim leaders to welcome the pope and to meet with him during his visit to our nation.
Religious leaders have a great responsibility and opportunity to show the best of both our faith and of our nation’s religious diversity during the pope’s visit. We must demonstrate that our faith in God should be a source of peace and reconciliation, not violence or mutual mistrust.
American Muslims can also reiterate that they respect and love the revered figures of Christianity, including Jesus and his mother Mary.
As God states in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text: “Behold! The angels said: ‘O Mary! God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and in (the company of) those nearest to God.'” (The Holy Quran, 3:45)
The Quran also reaffirms God’s eternal message of spiritual unity when it states: “Say ye: ‘We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.'” (2:136)
The Prophet Muhammad said: “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”
As Americans, we cherish diversity, not only in race and ethnicity, but also in faith. In that spirit, I see the pope’s visit as an opportunity for him to learn more about America and its respect for religious diversity.
Unfortunately, some of the pope’s past statements and actions have led to tensions between Muslims and Catholics. It is perhaps best not to dwell on these past events, but instead to use them as a springboard to help deepen interfaith dialogue based on mutual understanding and acceptance of differences.
The true test of productive interfaith dialogue comes when we build partnerships to take on the great challenges facing humanity today – injustice, inequality, war, poverty, illiteracy, disease, and hunger. To that end, we must quickly expand and strengthen the constructive conversation between faiths.
Two great faith communities, Islam and Christianity, together make up more than half of the world’s population. It is therefore imperative that Muslims and Christians use their faith to make a positive difference in their communities and the world.
By preaching – and practicing – the values of tolerance, love of one’s neighbor, justice, peace, and reconciliation, people of all faiths can help reverse the world’s disturbing descent into violence and division.
Today the world needs forward-looking political and religious leaders who focus more on the future than on the past. We need leaders who build on what we have in common, not on our differences.
It is our hope and expectation that Pope Benedict XVI is one of those who will help lead our world to a better future.
ISLAM-OPED is a syndication service of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) designed to offer an American Muslim perspective on current political, social and religious issues. ISLAM-OPED commentaries are offered free-of-charge to one media outlet in each market area. Permission for publication will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis.
Please consider the following commentary for publication.

Coincidences…

I had wanted to make this certain point in my discussions with Silviu: Too many coincidences have become entangled into the story of my life for me to actually consider them coincidences. Silviu is, as I mentioned before, is a self-professed atheist or agnostic (depending upon how you look at it). And, as I also mentioned, we consistently found ourselves delving into debates about spirituality, religion, humanity and God. And I must say, Silviu has given his arguments a lot of thought. I didn’t always have an answer for him. Although, sometimes I knew there was an answer… I just didn’t yet have the ideas in which to properly articulate them to someone who doesn’t possess the faith that I do. Nonetheless, the foundation of my spirituality was left, admittedly, a little shaken after my conversations with Silviu. Shaken, but still standing. Personally, I cannot deny the Heaven that I know lies beyond the veil of cynicism that lies over modern society. As a Tengri Mongolian put it in one of Paolo Coelho’s novels, The Zahir: “Welcome to the place where we say the sky is blue even when it’s gray, because we know that the color is still there above the clouds.”

And then, as if in a special, reassuring gesture, another coincidence materialized before my eyes. The moment I grasped it, I was also able to grasp how recent events had to occur and recent decisions had to made just as they happened or else the “coincidence” would have been lost to me:

When I flew to Munich, I had the option of trying to find a couch to surf for one night or to move on to Graz. I did have time to just continue on my way. But, for reasons I wasn’t quite sure of, I decided to stay in Munich. ‘Get some rest after my flight,’ I thought. It’s because I stayed at Martin’s in Munich that I discovered The Zahir. Oddly enough, the Zahir was one of the few books in English on Martin’s bookshelf. Paolo Coelho was the author, so I was immediately interested, because the two books of his I had already read greatly affected me. Even though I knew I wouldn’t finish before I left, I began reading the book. Unsurprisingly, this book, like the others, began impacting me greatly. Then I had to go, and leave the book unfinished. I really don’t like leaving things unfinished.

Upon my arrival in Graz, I learned that Claudia is struggling with some personal issues. Immediately, I thought of the book. From what I had read so far, I thought The Zahir would have some excellent insight into what Claudia was facing at the moment. So, I made it a point to purchase her a copy in German. I also picked up a copy for myself in English. Now, I would get to finish it! Claudia, also a big fan of Paolo, insisted that I should buy a copy of one of his novels that she had read, the Witch of Portobello. She said I would identify with it just as much as she did. (Claudia and I have already realized we are cut from the same cloth, though, there is a bit of a difference with the pattern we are weaving with it.) Claudia had also already purchased Into the Wild for me. So, after finishing the Zahir, I tackled Into the Wild, saving The Witch of Portobello for last. I had just finished Into the Wild when I arrived in Salzburg and met Silviu, my Translyvanian host. Although, the Dracula/vampire myth was created by an Irish man who had never been to Transylvania, I still thought it was interesting that the Transylvanian I met was passionate about death metal and, often enough, spent time in dark, underground dives. (Now, I’ve already described how this is just one element of Silviu’s complex character. There’s a good deal more to his personality that veers away from death metal and dark, underground dives. He’s a great guy!)

And finally to the point of all this, after extensive, challenging debates with Silviu, I finally crack open The Witch of Portobello on the train from Salzburg, Austria to Bern, Switzerland. Page three reveals the opening setting: Transylvania. Page three also reveals the main plot: there is a world of energy and magic beyond that of our everyday existence… a world of spirituality and God. Thus, by page three, the Witch of Portobello was already making an argument against what I had been hearing from Silviu: “that anything science cannot explain has no right to exist.” Another suggested point of Silviu’s was the apparent need for all those who are spiritual to “force” their spirituality upon others. On page five of the Witch of Portobello I read: “No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind a door. The purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.” Hence, the inherent quality of spirituality (so often likened to light) is to share its energy. That same idea is echoed in Luke 11:33, the verse that opens Paolo’s book: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” It’s the nature of belief to shine upon those who don’t believe.

So as you see, it could have been just a mere coincidence that the plot of the Witch of Portobello is rooted in Transylvania and that a Transylvanian had just hosted me. It could also have been just a mere coincidence that the book in question also tackled the very issues my Transylvanian host and I debated. But, then, when you consider the intricate complexity it took for that “coincidence” to even take place, you realize… there is simply too much design behind the event, to call it a mere “coincidence.”

And another thing to ponder… I was struck with the desire of wanting to meet Paolo Coelho. Interestingly enough, despite my lifelong love of reading and writing, I can remember only one other time I had actually wanted to meet a writer in the flesh. When I was young, I wanted to meet Jack London. But, unfortunately, he had already passed. Paolo, on the other hand, is still alive and well and still writing. Just a couple days ago I had a tentative invite from a friend to plan a trip to South America this summer. Paolo is from Brazil. Hmmm… just a though. Could be nothing. The SA trip might not even happen. But still… the parallels are too strong to ignore.

Quotes to Ponder…

Shantaram

“We can know God, for example, and we can know sadness. We can know dreams, and we can know love. But none of these are real, in our usual sense of things that exist in the world and seem real. We cannot weigh them, or measure their length, or find their basic parts in an atom smasher. Which is why they are possible.”

“The truth is often found more often in music, than it is in books of philosophy.”

“The truth is that here are no good men, or bad men. It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds and bad deed. Men are just men – it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good and evil. The truth is that an instant of real love in the heart of anyone – the noblest man alive, or the most wicked – has the whole purpose and process and meaning of life within the lotus-fields of its passion. The truth is that we are all, every one of us, every atom, every galaxy, and every particle of matter in the universe, moving toward God.”

“Of course, naturally, God is impossible. That is the first proof that He exists.”

“All possible things don’t exist.”

“Nothing exists as we see it. Nothing we see is really there, as we think we are seeing it. Our eyes are liars. Everything that seems real, is merely part of the illusion. Nothing exists, as we think it does. Not you. Not me. Not this room. Nothing.”

“The sane man is simply a better liar than the insane man.”

Kismet = Fate (Urdu language)

“Reality, as most people see it, is nothing more than an illusion.”

“There is another reality, beyond what we see with our eyes. You have to feel your way into that reality with your heart. There is no other way.”

“Dream the future. Plan it. Then make it happen.”

“Suffering is the way we test our love, especially our love for God.”

“Justice is a judgment that is both fair and forgiving. Justice is not only the way we punish those who do wrong. It is also the way we try to save them.”

“A politician is someone who promises you a bridge even when there’s no river.”

“I don’t know what scares me more, the madness that smashes people down or their ability to endure it.”

“The burden of happiness can only be relieved by the burden of suffering.”

“What characterizes the human race more? Cruelty or the capacity to feel shame for it?”
– Niether. “It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are.”

“We live on because we love, and we love because we can forgive.”

“Every time we cage a man, we close him in with hate.”

“Fear dries a man’s mouth and hate strangles him. That’s why hate has no great literature: real fear and real hate have no words.”

Me

“When you get closer to the truth, you stop comparing your good deeds to other’s ill-doings. Instead, you find yourself on a quest to find more examples of good – whether from wicked man, or saint.”

Did you know there are 31 places in the world where the sand dunes sing?

Into the Wild

“I prefer the saddle to the street-car, the star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult train, leading into the unknown… and the deep peace of the wild, to the discontent bred by cities.”

“I don’t think I could ever settle down. I have known too much of the depths of life already, and I would prefer anything to an anticlimax.”

“The peculiar thing about Everett Ruess was that he went out and did the things he dreamed about, not simply for a two-weeks’ vacation in the civilized and trimmed wonderlands but for months and years in the very midst of wonder…”

“…damning the stereotypes of civilization, chanting his barbaric adolescent yawp into the teeth of the world.”

“In a dream he saw himself plodding through jungles, chinning up the ledges of cliffs, wandering through the romantic waste places of the world. No man with any of the juices of boyhood in him has forgotten those dreams.”

“But then, I am always being overwhelmed. I require it to sustain life.”

“God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. I’ll never stop wandering.”

“Always, I want to live more intensely and richly.”

The Zahir

“Learn by doing and not by thinking about doing.”

“We can harness the energy of the winds, the seas, the sun. But the day that man learns to harness the energy of love, that will be as important as the discovery of fire.” (Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin)

“As soon as people decide to confront a problem, they realize that they are far more capable than they thought they were.”

“I also learned a respect for mystery: As Einstein said: God does not play dice with the Universe; everything is inter connected and has a meaning. That meaning may remain hidden nearly all the time, but we always know we are close to our true mission on earth when what we are doing is touched with the energy of enthusiasm… If not, we had better change.”

“All energy and all knowledge come from the same unknown source, which we usually call God.”

“When we can love unconditionally, without restrictions, we become more like God.”

“In order for the true energy of love to penetrate your soul, your soul must be as if you had just been born.”

“In order to live fully, it is necessary to be in constant movement; only then can each day be different from the last.”

“…distancing yourself from your personal history, from what you were forced to become.”

“With different stories, with experiences we never dared to have or didn’t want to have. That is how we change. That is how we love grows. And when love grows, we grow with it.”

“Stop being who you were and become who you are.”

“Forget who we are in order to become who we really are.”

Why are people sad?
“They are prisoners of their personal history. Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people’s ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why the forget their dreams.”

“The invisible world always manifests itself in the visible world.”

“May your horizon always be wider than you can see.”

“Welcome to the place where we say the sky is blue even when its gray, because we know that the color is still there above the clouds.”

“The taste of things recovered is the sweetest honey we will ever know.”

“Age only slows down those who never had the courage to walk their own pace.”

“The extraordinary occurs in the lives of ordinary people.”

The Witch of Portobello

“No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind a door. The purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.”

“No one sacrifices the most important thing she possesses: love.”

“Collective reality” versus reality.

“She wanted to live, dance, make love, travel, to gather people around her in order to demonstrate how wise she was, to show off her gifts, to provoke the neighbors, to make the most of all that is profane in us – although she always tried to give a spiritual gloss to that search.”

“…the mistress of the truth.”

“It’s the nature of the female to open herself to love easily.”

“Everyone’s looking for the perfect teacher. But although their teachings might be divine, teachers are all too human, and that’s something people find hard to accept.”

“An encounter with the superior energy is open to anyone, but remains far from those who shift responsibility onto others.”

“The best way to know who we are is to find out how others see us.”

“The grandeur of God reveals itself through simple things.”

“Everything moves, and everything moves to a rhythm. And everything that moves to a rhythm creates a sound.”

“When mouths close, it’s because there’s something important to be said.”

“Dance to the point of exhaustion, as if you were a mountaineer climbing a hill, a sacred mountain. Dance until you are so out of breath that your organism is forced to obtain oxygen some other way. And it is that, in the end, which will cause you to lose your identity and your relationship with space and time. Dance only to the sound of percussion…”

“When you dance, the spiritual world and the real world manage to coexist quite happily.”

“The hand that draws each line reflects the soul of the person making that line.”

“Writing wasn’t just the expression of a thought, but a way of reflecting on the meaning of each word.”

“What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.”

“All great painters understand: in order to forget the rules, you must know them and respect them.”

“See life through your own eyes and not through other people’s.”

“Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.”

“The truth is that each step we take, we arrive”

“The trees give so that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.”

“Instincts become sharper, emotions more radical, the interpretation of signs becomes more important than logic, perceptions of reality grow less rigid.”

“Unconditional love does not fear suffering, rejection, loss.”

“…die to the world and be reborn unto yourself.”