Report from the RIPE Global Conference

Report from the RIPE Global Conference

I’m currently in Chennai, India, where I’m speaking at a series of five “West Meets East” conferences sponsored by RIPE Global, on different themes under the banner of Positive Spiritual Consciousness.

RIPE Global

Here’s what’s happened so far here…

Friday night I spoke to the audience assembled for the inauguration by Governor Konijeti Rosaiah (of the state of Tamil Nadu). In my remarks, I called on the media to practice their sacred duty of detachment by reporting on the news factually and objectively.

After my speech, I was interviewed by local television, and in the morning, a Tamil newspaper reported that the Governor “launched The Hardness of the Heart” (the second book in my trilogy).

Yesterday, I addressed the attendees at an awards ceremony, which included a number of distinguished guests and celebrities. I was able to provide signed copies of The People of the Sign to the three lifetime achievement award winners — all of whom also rose above challenging childhood circumstances, and worked to integrate their spiritual understanding with their material progress.

After the awards ceremony, I was asked to be the honored guest and expert at a taping of the pilot for a new reality show called “We Think, We Act.” The show celebrates the contributions of ordinary individuals in service to their fellow citizens and the betterment of society. In my comments, I commended their work and highlighted how it serves as an example of what Ghandi, the founder of their nation, called them to do. I also discussed how it was a model of local action serving as an example to the global community.

Tomorrow, I will give my lecture to business leaders on “The Human Heart of Business.”

It’s all quite amazing. My days here are too jam-packed to be able go into more detail just yet, but rest assured I’ll be revisiting my wonderful experiences here as soon as I’m able.

photo by / CC By

photo by aivas14 / CC BY-NC

The Human Heart of Business

The Human Heart of Business

Next week I’m one of two keynote speakers in an East-Meets-West series of conferences in Chennai, India. Dr. V.A. Sriram will discuss Positive Consciousness while I will focus on, among other topics, The Human Heart of Business.

In my opening lecture I’ll quote Joni Mitchell, who in her song “Woodstock” wrote: “We are stardust,” and called out our need to “get ourselves back to the Garden.” I’ll make the leap from how our origin as stardust—energy held in a pattern called matter—leads to an aggregation of consciousness with agency. As such we can choose which patterns to adopt—and we pattern ourselves according to our beliefs. Our selves, our goals, our motivations, and our actions are based in our beliefs, and in the stars we worship.

It should come as no surprise to us that what we create, and the societies we build, are manifestations of these same patterns. Many of today’s challenges are based on the aggregation of a materialistic orientation that has lost touch with the guiding lights of our spiritual origin. The roots of the trees that we plant often tend to look toward the soil, the material, and are not always growing true, straight, and healthy, toward the light.

My lecture on the Human Heart of Business will explore these ideas, and will propose alternatives, solutions, and a slightly different focus—a focus that will lead to long-lasting and sustainable success. This is the kind of success that can permeate all areas of our lives, not only the material pursuit of profits. Below is a summary of my lecture.


 

einstein's approach

I included this famous quote with something very specific in mind. Our corporations are part of the problem. Whereas our creator instilled a consciousness in us that strives for the light, for truth, for beauty, for the highest ideals, we have not typically followed this pattern in establishing our corporations. Thus capitalism, as we have created it, is fatally flawed in a number of ways.

To explore the roots of these flaws, I’d like to invoke two very different historical figures. Both came from overseas to explore America, and went on to make very similar, astute observations about the nature and character of that great nation.

This is East Meets West: America as viewed by two visionaries who traveled West.

a shining city upon a hill

Alexis de Tocqueville also prophesied the rise of one other great power: Russia. And he recognized that America’s greatness lay in her approach to equality based on economic opportunity—the ability to harness man’s desire for material benefits. This approach is quite eerily opposite to that taken by the Soviet Union, which denied that this basic human drive exists—and fostered a belief that the abolishment of all personal property was a good thing. The model known as communism has been completely discredited, but the model known as capitalism is also fatally flawed in its current form.

‘Abdu’l Baha, a Spiritual Leader from Iran, spent 40 years in exile from his native Persia, in Israel. When he was finally freed after 40 years of incarceration, he traveled to the United States and crisscrossed the country. He praised the people of United States, and challenged them to not only achieve the greatness that was their destiny in terms of material growth and success, but also to impact the world positively in spiritual terms.

Those competing impulses—material wealth and spiritual progress—can only be reconciled by the kind of work being done right here, at this conference, and by those inspired and empowered by the message it conveys: to overcome the schizophrenia of conflicting ideologies and unify these through an integrated approach to personal and public welfare. America was built on spiritual values and a unique, pragmatic approach to the material opportunities inherent in the great natural wealth of a virgin continent. And there a new form of capitalism was born, one that has seen unbelievable global growth due to the invention and creation of corporations.

Corporations are a peculiar species. Their prime directive is to maximize shareholder value—i.e. to create wealth for the owners. This DNA can generate a kind of cancer, which can result in the growth of a Frankenstein Monster. As these corporations exceed the wealth and power of all but the largest nations, their ability to destroy their creator is being tested. There are models being proposed in America in which there will be corporate takeovers of government institutions.

corporate frankensteins

The balance of power created by the founding fathers of America—the three branches of government, executive, legislative, and judicial— are being overwhelmed by a flood of corporate money, just as Alexis de Tocqueville warned, but to a degree even he had not foreseen. The recent Citizens United Supreme Court ruling allows corporations to fund political campaigns, a right previously reserved only for “real people” as opposed to “incorporated” ones.

To change the course of the world, we need to infuse these entities with a human heart. Stick with me; we’re about to discuss where you come in. Don’t worry—I’m not going to ask you to join the Giving Pledge. But let’s take a moment to think about the patterns that these men are creating, and that these patterns are already spreading, being adopted.

the giving pledge

Frankly, being #1 & #2 on the list of the world’s richest people, year after year, became embarrassing. Some profound and meaningful self-awareness, a new positive consciousness emerged. And they did something about it.

The challenge is clear. Find a path to moral, material, and spiritual unity within ourselves, and then extend this to our tribe, our society, our nation, our civilization, and our planet. And in case there is any doubt, I am not preaching the merits of communism, or even socialism. Quite the contrary.  My message is that this comes from taking ownership, in every sense of the word.

the secret of divine civilization

You are the master of your own destiny. If you can align yourself with the spiritual direction of the universe, with the patterns set out by our creator, and stretch out your reach toward the light instead of bending down to the dust, there is nothing that will be withheld from you.

I use the metaphor of the tree to instill the lessons needed to implement this ideology: the roots, the trunk, the branches, the leaves, and the fruit. Your understanding of this metaphor will enable you to grow tall and true, straight and proud of who and what you are, able to channel the divine energy of positive consciousness—and to create a legacy that will grow by these principles as well.

of mustard trees and mountains


The main point of the presentation is to educate business leaders about the need to actively resist being fooled by the lure of one-dimensional materialism, a single-minded focus on maximizing shareholder value. We must bring our human heart to our business endeavors. Our customers will respond. Our coworkers will respond. Those below us and above us will respond. Creating businesses with a human heart brings them into alignment with the positive spiritual consciousness that is emerging—we can ride that wave, and arrive where we want to be.

 

My Pre-Release Interview for The Hardness of the Heart

My Pre-Release Interview for The Hardness of the Heart

It’s almost here.

The Hardness of the Heart, my sequel to The People of the Sign, will be released this Friday — on Valentine’s Day. (It’s already available for pre-order here.) I couldn’t be more excited.

With the release just around the corner, my publisher reached out to interview me about the book. Below I’ve re-printed the question and answer portion of that blog post…

Q: What conflicts lie at the heart of the HoH narrative?

A: The trilogy that began with The People of the Sign is ultimately about reconciliation — in broad, general terms. Reconciliation between man and God, between man and his fellow man, and also reconciliation within ourselves, of inner conflicts and turmoil. Divorce is a broad metaphor underlying the first two volumes as my inner conflict and turmoil was kindled by the divorce of my parents and my subsequent kidnapping and dislocation, followed by the “divorce” that split the Worldwide Church of God in two. The title The Hardness of the Heart  is drawn from Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ question on divorce. That is the long answer. The short answer is, the major conflict at the heart of HOH is the collapse of my marriage, after having dedicated a major part of my life and identity to achieving a happy marriage, and avoiding divorce at all costs.

Q: HoH deals, in large part, with the trappings of trying to climb the corporate ladder. How have you reconciled those challenges with your own continued success in that world?

A: Yes, this is a major source of conflict in the book, both external and internal. I use my own experience in an attempt to outline, in narrative form, the underlying causes and symptoms of economic inequality, and the difficulty of finding equilibrium within existing frameworks. This is an important topic as this country, and by extension the world, is suffering systemic disruption resulting from the red/blue state divide. I attempt to reveal the elements of socialist vs. capitalist ideology within its foundation. I don’t feel I’ve yet achieved equilibrium on this, but perhaps by the time I finish the third and final volume I’ll be closer.

TheHardnessoftheHeart

Q: How emotional was the process of re-examining such tumultuous times from your past?

A: I’m often asked about catharsis. This did not occur in writing the first volume, as its dramatic concluding events were already 14 years in the past when I began writing them. I did gain some additional insight in key areas, which then informed the writing of the second volume. The level of insight gained in writing the second book was substantially higher, as the concluding events of that volume were but 5 years in the past when I began writing them down. Emotions related to that experience were mostly positive, as the reflection required furthered the process of internal reconciliation. But the initial public response to HoH indicates to me that it’s going to be much more difficult to be detached this time around. Particularly as readers respond to my over-sharing approach to where I’m at today, vs. where I was in the past.

Q: Were you surprised at the positive reaction of Laura Urista (managing editor of The Plain Truth magazine and fellow ex-WCG member) to your book?

A: Not completely, as I was hopeful that she would relate to the direction of my journey during that time. Still, I was pleasantly surprised at how open and supportive she was, given the tendency of those with a WCG background, myself included, to be convinced of our rightness and the wrongness of others.

Q: What do you hope readers will ultimately get out of HoH?

A: One early reviewer stated that for the first time in her life, she felt loved by God. That was an unexpected comment that brought tears to my eyes. Others have shared that they felt understood or less alone. If my readers are inspired or enabled to reflect on their own experiences, and draw positive life lessons, or just feel better about themselves, I’m grateful for having helped them out.

Q: You’ve recently stated that receiving the ASTRA Lifetime Achievement Award in India represented the completion of a “full circle” for you. Can you elaborate?

A: To me it is a sign of having achieved a degree of integration, of having made progress at reconciling these conflicting impulses — the desire for spiritual enlightenment and also physical success. The attraction of altruism contrasted with the innate need to survive and thrive in a material world. To obtain for myself and my children the access to benefits, opportunities, and experiences — such as a healthy environment, education and healthcare — that we, in our flawed attempts at civilization, are still struggling to secure for all members of our species.

If you have your own questions about the book, or if you’d like to share your impressions of it, please feel free to reach out in the comments below!

Converted by Maria Montessori

Converted by Maria Montessori

The Fransson FamilyAngela and I are blessed with two of the most wonderful children ever created.

And they are growing up fast.

But the moment I learned I was going to be a daddy doesn’t feel like yesterday.  Time accordioned outward because the six years since then are jam-packed with a lifetime of experiences.  The emotions, however, that came with the news are still fresh.  Overwhelming joy.  And an enormous sense of responsibility.

Angela immediately began to adapt.  Maternal instinct, or wisdom?  Character vs. nature?  I’m not sure, but boy did she do it right.  I just followed along behind her, which pretty much describes our relationship.  She was also the one most concerned about the day-care our daughter was in, and intent on finding a better alternative.  I couldn’t have agreed more, but was petrified about making a decision.  My experience with education was so horrible that the thought of having to decide on when and where to drop my daughter into it was terrifying.

Aside from my own childhood, I had taught 4th and 5th grade at a private school in Los Angeles, where I was pursuing a teaching credential.  Until, that is, that I realized the system was so broken it would crush me long before I could make a difference from within.  Abandoning education, I entered the corporate world, and never looked back.  But now I had to make a choice that would affect my daughter’s entire life. I was afraid of subjecting her to a type of oppression that would result in her becoming disenchanted with learning and failing to achieve her potential as a result.

Montessori ClassroomAfter visiting a variety of pre-schools, Angela was excited about a Montessori school accredited by the Association Montessori International.  Although I had heard the term Montessori, I knew nothing about it.  But different was good, so I brought hopefulness with me to our first visit.  During the initial discussions and the tour I was very impressed by the classroom environments and the approach outlined by the Director of Education and Admissions.  It felt right, and we set up an appointment to observe a class in session.

We took our seats and watched the children in action.  There was a low-level hum in the classroom, and a peaceful relaxed environment.  I watched the children go about their lessons, slowly taking in what was happening.  And I began to cry.

This was a transcendent spiritual experience.  The 4, 5 and 6 year olds were all engaged in self-directed education.  They were happily and busily exploring their world.  They were interacting with each other with respect.  They were working together.  And some of the older ones were helping the younger ones, with no assistance from the teacher.  It was completely foreign to anything I had experienced before.  And in a good way.

Vicki McCarthy, Head of School at MCMSNeedless to say, our two children are enrolled in the Madison Community Montessori School.  We’ve been extremely pleased to see them blossom in the amazing environment created by the dedicated staff, who are passionate about the methods of Maria Montessori.

Full disclosure.  I’m now on the MCMS Board, and have recently joined the Montessori Madmen, “an impatient, ragtag group of dads and advocates from around the world, united by a common zeal to bring the Montessori method to millions more.”

I’m so passionate about the power of this amazing method that I am working to further expand and extend the message about the Montessori difference, and what it could mean to our civilization if we were to adopt this method of education.  There will be additional blogs on this and related topics.  But for now, I’ll leave you with this video, which, like the Montessori method, makes learning easy and fun.

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