It’s been almost 30 years, so I’m comfortable saying that I adopted a certain California affect when I headed West from Brookline to attend Stanford University.
I started wearing flip flops.
I got my left ear pierced.
I called everyone, “Dude.”
I grew my hair out. (Not that it had been real short before I left)
And I took a Buddhism class.
To be fair, I had had some exposure to non-Jewish thinking through Mom’s spiritual journey-a voyage that only intensified and diversified after her accident in February 1986.
More than that, I did have some genuine interest in the topic.
Diana Paul taught the large lecture class.
The year after I took the class, she was denied tenure by the university. She filed a federal suit on the basis of sex and race discrimination, ultimately setting for $54,000 in 1986.
We covered a lot of concepts and teachings in the class. I never fully accepted the four noble truths or the idea of possibly endless incarnations on the way to enlightenment, but the idea of karma made sense to me.
So, too, did the idea of having a watchful and mindful consciousness that allowed wisdom, insight and understanding to bubble up from within.
I thought of that teaching today while walking home from the El and talking with dear friend Derrick Milligan.
We were swapping notes on the latest happenings since our most recent conversation. When we last spoke, I was on my way to the Tribune Tower, while Derrick was driving toward the funeral of legendary boxing trainer Emmanuel Stewart.
Tonight we spoke about our trip to South Africa, the people we met and the presentation we gave.
Like many in the audience, Derrick was moved by the honesty in Dad’s statement that, while our family trip in May to his hometown had many benefits for him, it did not move him to a place of forgiveness.
The conversation flowed to Derrick sharing about his beautiful daughter Kya’s making a musical breakthrough, understanding the connection between the hard work she had put in practicing and the improved quality of her playing.
That’s when the bubbling began.
As he was speaking, a thought began to rise up to the surface of my consciousness.
I told Derrick about meeting Bob Bowman, the swimming coach best known for having trained Michael Phelps during the 16 years he moved from a skinny 11-year-old to the winningest Olympian ever, during Chicago Ideas Week.
I asked him about the moments that, after having traveled the world and trained national champions besides Phelps, he comes back to, that mean the most to him.
It wasn’t the championships, he said, but rather those times when athletes he had been coaching and who had been working hard made the jump, and, like Kya, understood the link between effort expended and result achieved.
Often coming after the swimmers had doubted that what he told them was true, this insight often made them work even harder, Bowman said.
The wisdom of children, the wisdom of Buddha, and the wisdom of perhaps the greatest swimming coach ever all congealed at that moment, standing outside my house while talking with a friend.
The same process very well might have happened had I not had Diana Paul’s class nearly three decades ago, and, somehow, her description of the process and my memory of it made me savor the moment all the more.
I went inside to greet Dunreith and Aidan.
Dinner and hearing about their day awaited.
More wisdom was bubbling, too.