First, I want to recognize for myself, regarding the title of my last post, that time is not to blame, we all have the same amount of time in a day and it boils down to priorities and how we choose to spend our time. For now I would like to write again to capture some recent thoughts.
I attended a very interesting forum at work this week, the panel was three Ashoka Fellows: Molly Barker (founder of Girls on the Run), Kristen Hayden (founder of One World Now!) and Vishal Talrega (founder of Dream a Dream). Even though religion was not discussed openly I thought they were making incredible statements about what it means to be human, what is the ultimate purpose of life, and what is good. I was particularly fascinated by some of the words they used to describe their own experiences as their word choice resonated deeply with what I believe but which I have come to understand from a religious lens. A few examples:
One theme that quickly emerged on the panel was the distinction between what they do and who they are, or action and being. All three of them are incredibly successful entrepreneurs and all working with children in the realm of empowerment and all constantly traveling and talking about “what they do.” However all three of them seemed to be bursting with the desire to express that what their vision was and the purpose of their work was not…running races, learning languages or educating street kids…but what kind of people they were creating, what the children they worked with were becoming. Their language paralleled that of modern apostle Dallin Oaks in his speech “The Challenge to Become“. Listening to both parties articulate a similar message I was struck by how much the Fellows struggled to articulate it and find the right words, all the while being lauded as insightful, innovative and revered for their wisdom while the speech of Dallin Oaks is build from ancient texts thousands of years old yet largely unread though beautifully poetic and even more poignant because of an answer to the question of ‘where does that drive or desire come from’. Either way I share this sentiment, I am interested in what I become as a person not necessarily what I do or achieve.
Another phrase that dominated the conversation was the word “nothingness.” All three panels expressed a point in their life in which the came to a fundamental crossroads or crux of experience in which “their mind was blown” and they finally saw clearly what they needed to do or had the courage to take big risks in their lives as social entrepreneurs. Ms. Barker described her experience as entering into a state of ‘nothingness’, a washing away of all the frameworks and paradigms she had been taught, a pureness of thought and recognition of self. Her word choice immediately made me think of King Benjamin’s speech in the Book of Mormon in which he challenges his listeners to be “awakened to a sense of your nothingness” which leads to humility and a recognition of God’s goodness and gifts and powers which results in “being filled with the love of God” and growth in “knowledge of that which is just and true.” Ms. Barker went on to explain that she has found that space again and again and was even in that state of mind as she spoke. I also confirm that I felt a difference in the room, the collective mood of all the participants, something was resonating or striking a chord with the participants. Again as she was describing her feelings it was an immediate parallel to language I would be accustomed to hearing in an LDS church or meeting. Mormons would credit such a moment to the Holy Spirit, the feeling of peace, the clarity of mind, the sudden strokes of ideas. It reminded me of the following description of revelation by Joseph Smith,
“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; . . . those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ.” (TPJS 151)
I would argue that there must be a somethingness behind that nothingness which Ms. Barker describes. Particularly in regards to how she describes it as coming outside of herself, not being created or manipulated as a feeling, it simply came to her. It is those experiences that causes me to believe in that somethingness which leads to light and understanding and desire to become. I find it even more powerful that that something is a someone.