Truth Demands To Be Lived: Stories From Americ's Class
--Nipun Mehta
5 minute read
Apr 4, 2010


"Wait, do you know about this Smile Card?"  "I do."  "I don't know if you remember, but you spoke in San Leandro many years ago.  I still use the Smile Cards you gave out."  "Oh, wow. That's great!"  The young college student proceeds to show me a crumpled Smile Card in her hand.

Last year, I spoke to a nonviolence class at UC Berkeley because one of the students recommended it.  And this year, I went back to speak -- with that student as a co-speaker.   Audrey Lin.

Audrey opened with a few stories.  Speaking as a student herself, it set the field of everyday-hero-ness.  I had a few slides to show, but couldn't get the projector to work, so I had to wing it.  But fortunately, I tend to carry a few spare stories in my back pocket. :)  Then both Audrey and I sat on the table to field questions.

A young fellow raised his hand; he was a bit slouched in his chair, but he straightened up and said, "This was like the most inspiring class I've been to.  Really.  Out of all the classes, this was the one.  I feel like [pause] I'm a kinder person just after listening to these stories.  And I almost didn't come to class today!  I almost didn't come and then at the last minute, I came.  It's amazing how some small decision could just change everything."

More questions followed.  "What work does your organization do?"  "What challenges do you face?"  "I find it hard to give, because I'm very calculative.  How do I get out of that mindset?"  "What's the difference between social entrepreneurship and gift economy projects?"

A student, Ryan, shared a story of reading Tuesday's DailyGood.  "I subscribe to the DailyGood emails.  I don't click on all the links everyday, but I was touched by the story of the teacher in LA and I thought I should watch the movie.  So I headed to the video store.  It so happened that there was a homeless man right there.  Maybe because I was in that state of mind, or I don't know, but I ended up having the most profound conversation with that man, for an HOUR!  It's that ripple effect you guys are talking about.  You never know what leads to what."

Incidentally, it was Audrey who had put together that very DailyGood! 

The hour and twenty minutes went fast.  It was 5-o-clock.  As people head to their next class, some came up to take Smile Cards, some to give a hug, some to share a comment or a story of an experience.  It was quite touching.

"How do you be kind to someone who doesn't like you?" an African American woman asked in reference to her step-dad.  After some conversation, she decided to possibly clean his car, leave a note of thanks, perhaps a gift, to regularly surprise him with one-way goodness.

Another student came up to say, "This talk changed my life."  When you hear such hyperbole, you still just smile and say thanks.  Sensing that, she repeats with gusto: "No really.  This talk has absolutely changed my life.  I am a different person right now than I was 2 hours ago."  She was running late for her next class, but she promised to be in touch about her be-the-change decisions.

Peter came to share a powerful personal (almost meta-physical) experience he hadn't shared before.  He had gotten into a top business school and he never could articulate why he didn't want to go there, and now he felt like he knew why. :)  I reminded him, "There's no quick answer.  If you don't like the lack of values in the business world, perhaps you can go in and change it.   Or perhaps you can birth a new possibility outside that realm.  What is your calling?  Don't rush that process.  Its uncomfortable to be with that, but just sit with it until there is clarity at the root."

Americ Azevedo, the professor, himself was touched.  He said that one of his students came up and said, "I just decided what I'm going to do this summer.  I'm going to Burma to gift my dental care services."

Americ and I had never had a long conversation, but in a class where they study Gandhi and MLK, his introduction -- "Here is a real revolutionary" -- was quite encouraging. :)  After class, I got to learn a bit more about his own, rather revolutionary background.  For one, he teaches a large undergraduate Engineering course, Peace-and-Conflict studies course, and an upcoming Business school course.  And he opens each of his classes with 10 minutes of meditation!  In fact, he's now started a class on meditation itself -- and 300 people signed up for it this semester!  "Where were you when I went to school here?" I joked.

"You know what I want to see?" he asked me at one point.  "End of money.  The way its setup right now, its toxic."  I then learn that he, many years ago, spent a whole year without money!  After I came home, I looked him up.  And ran into this inspiring essay about his personal journey:

On the bus to work I read a passage from Krishnamurti, "Live the truth." That phrase exploded in my mind. I must say "No!" to those aspects of life that are false or do not work. That same day I got up before my trainees and felt a pit growing in my stomach that gradually moved up to my mouth. After writing a sentence on the blackboard, I turned around and said, "I can no longer do this work. We are not real with each other in this company. We ignore each other. There is no love in this place. I quit." As I walked out, half the class looked stunned while the other half applauded.

Back at my desk, I felt a powerful stillness. I saw everything in a new light. The desk, the walls -- everything present was suddenly there. An emotional and spiritual fog had lifted. Gradually, people came by and wished me well. Some felt that I had contacted a deep need in themselves.

Socrates showed us that thinking the truth is not enough. Truth demands to be lived.

One of the truths that Audrey and I experienced during those two hours on Thursday was the ripple effect is alive and well. :)  Indeed, truth demands to be lived.


Posted by Nipun Mehta on Apr 4, 2010

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