What Aung San Suu Kyi Teaches Me

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is featured in The Philosopher’s Table in my chapter entitled “Persistence and Grace.” Among the quotes from Suu Kyi that I reference: “I don’t give up trying to be a better person…a battle that will go on my whole life.” “In my life I have been showered with kindness…more than love, I value kindness.”

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Put Your Head in the Clouds

For many years I’ve looked skyward with Maria, listening as she shares the magic of clouds. Her new book, A Sideways Look at Clouds, is an irresistible invitation into cloud land. Now you can walk with my cousin—your neck flexing, shoulders back, and eyes searching upward. Her book guides you through the sky, an opportunity to rediscover floating beauty every day.

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Charlottesville Is All-Right

Certain thoughts stayed with me throughout the white supremacist rallying cries that began on Friday night at the University of Virginia. As I received texts on Saturday from a business owner at the scene of the counter-protest on the Downtown Mall, and received encouraging emails and calls from friends and family, I worked to come to grips with all of it. Deandre Harris lying bloody and beaten by poles in the hands of white supremacists—inside the parking garage I used two days ago

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I Love a Dog Named Billy

Your small white body wrapped around a huge heart, beating with a distinctive murmur, brings joy now just as it did when I first saw your puppy face. A surprise gift for my mother from me in 1999, independently we both picked you out of the litter. You had presence then—you have even more now. Here’s a few of the million things that I love about you.

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Speak Up Against Cellphone Nonsense

Causing deadly harm behind the wheel, careless adoption of rude behavior any and everywhere, discomfort with face-to-face conversation, mental distraction and lack of focus—the damage of cellphone nonsense continues to stun me. What I find at times more surprising, however, is the unwillingness of so many recipients of the rudeness to speak up. It’s not okay that your coffee date interrupts your conversation at every “ping.” By opting for for ongoing phone use, your passenger demonstrates what matters more. When your companion at the concert, picnic, or ballgame prefers phone use to your company, just say something. Of course, there are often good reasons to keep a phone on while with others or in public, and a quick explanation conveys awareness and respect.We all know the advantages of the phone—providing directions, making and receiving timely phone calls, ending worry with a quick update, sending a text to clarify, receiving confirmation via email, seeking a little or lot of help, etc. Why don’t we better understand the disadvantages of non-stop devotion? Perhaps it’s this addiction’s hold on us that’s at the root of the culture of “busyness.”

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My Lessons from Prison, Visit 2

As class ended, students thanked me repeatedly for coming to visit them, making them “feel that we are not disasters forgotten by the world.” They promised to make sure that their professor gives me a copy of their magazine of collected writings and will sign their names so I don’t forget them. I’ll never forget them. Good teachers are hard to find.And I’ll be back.

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“Just Help”

Yes, a restorative sense of belonging comes along with service. Making a contribution always boosts the spirit. And now, with so many feeling helpless in the face of frightening political and societal events beyond our control, “just helping” has never been a better idea. Opportunities are endless— over here, over there, by the side of the loner, at the door of the caregiver, shoes going to Somalia and shelter for the Somalian refugee.

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My Lessons from Prison

Inmates at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women can earn a two-year community college degree, beneficiaries of Doris Buffett’s incredible Sunshine Foundation. The week before our class, they read about Courage and Humanity from Little Big Minds. Their assignment was to be prepared with their own definitions of these concepts and with questions for me. They were so much more than prepared. They were amazing. Eager, respectful of each other and the professor and me, smart, honest, inquisitive, articulate, grateful for their educations, responsible for their lives past and future and focused on the present.

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A Positive Election Plan from the Khan Family

Thank you to the Khan Family. You’ve shown the world a compelling generosity of spirit and redefined the meaning of patriotism. You’ve made the US look good and inspired many of its citizens toward active caring. Yes, we can remain positive and hopeful, reach higher and participate actively during election days—in our own lives, within the circumstances that every day brings.

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Sparking Writer Creativity

The Cooper stone masons, oblivious of my pecking at the laptop, helped me immeasurably. Their painstaking precision with several levels positioned just so, pieces of slate cut exactly to complement its stone neighbors, a piece here and there ever-so-slightly shifted after careful observation from all angles—a writing workshop just for me! As the simple, beautiful patio took shape, the writer peeking out the window found her groove as well.

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What the Dalai Lama Knows

"The only mistake you can make is to give up hope." I often think of this statement from the Dalai Lama which closed his talk that I attended in 1998. His visit to this country last week heartened many, including President Obama in their meeting at the White House. About to turn 81, His Holiness was 77 when I wrote this blog. Truth ages well.

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Hooray! For Jack Jouett Middle School

I can’t begin to address the “educational system,” but I can point to an educational beacon and the people who make it work. Is the work hard? Yes, absolutely. I don’t know about its “system,” but Jack Jouett’s bedrock philosophy of love serves everyone well. Single purpose commitment to each student elevates the humanity of all.

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Primaries Expose Our Bigotry

The good news is that bigotry that’s been simmering and festering is now on full display. How humbling it should be for all. How about a national injection of charity? A softening gel for hearts? It's up to us, all of us. We will reap what we sow—we are reaping what we’ve sown.

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Poetry? Let's Do Haiku!

Composing their very own three-lined poems stands out as one of the all-time favorite activities for philosophers of all ages and interests. Everybody has poetry within! Grab a pad and pencil. Go outside if you can, look out a window perhaps, or dig into memory’s treasure box. Take a deep breath, exhale, you know…. Rhyming words at line’s end—who cares?! Getting it right—who knows?! How? Your 3 lines present a snapshot, capturing a moment in time.

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