Inspiration

Episode 7: Being Brave is Funny

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What do you get when you mix spunk, humor, and a great pixie hair cut? You get a comedian from Brooklyn with an insatiable hunger for life.

Chani Lisbon is one of eleven Jewish Orthodox children, and her affinity for comedy stemmed from an innate curiosity to poke and prod and ask “What would happen if?” What would happen if I wore lipstick on a Saturday? What would happen if I turned the light on when it’s supposed to be dark? What would happen if I did this? Or that?

What WOULD happen?

By following the answers, Chani’s story teaches that no matter how far away you may go, your roots may always lead you home again.

Listen in at ShapingSapiens.com

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/shapingsapiens
iTunes: http://apple.co/27kLANw
And YouTube shortly. xo

Photo credit: Madeline Vu

To the Fathers Who Refuse to Clip Our Wings


Malala Yousfzai and her Father, Ziauddin

Featured: Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin / Credit: John Russo, The Guardian

In the spirit of thankfulness, I wanted to share this letter I originally wrote a year ago to Malala Yousafzai in honor of her Nobel Peace Prize win and inspired by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai’s, 2014 TED Talk. Today, I dedicate this piece to my own father in honor of his birthday and his ever-adamant refusal to clip my wings:

Dear Malala,

Back in October 2012, my dad called shortly after the news broke of your attack and asked if I had heard about you. Annoyed, I said, “Papi, you know I don’t watch the news anymore.” At the time, I was on a serious spiritual development path, strictly limiting my intake of world events since the beginning of the year. My radical and desperate need to unplug and detoxify was brought on by years of severe addiction to every news media outlet. Frustrated, he responded: “How can you live in such a bubble? I can’t understand how you haven’t heard of Malala by now!” “Who is she?” “Look her up,” he answered.

When I learned your story, that you had survived and were recovering in England, my spirit soared. I couldn’t believe it. I cried out and cheered you on as you progressed over the following months. “What an incredible human being! She is here for a reason,” I often thought. I gingerly plugged myself back into the media stream but only to tune into your journey. Soon, you appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and recounted how after you learned of the Taliban’s threat on your life, you would think about what you would do or say if they really came after you:

I started thinking […] that the Talib would come, and he would just kill me. But, then I said, “If he comes, what would you do, Malala?” Then, I would reply to myself, “Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.” But, then, I said, “If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that […] harshly. You must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education.” Then, I said, I will tell him how important education is, and that “I even want education for your children, as well.” And I will tell him, “That’s what I want to tell you. Now, do what you want.”

My jaw dropped with Jon and everyone listening to you that day. Since then, I have striven every day to find that same love and compassion for everyone I meet, as well.

Though our backgrounds are different, we actually have much in common, especially our fathers who championed our education. My father was raised by a single mother in poverty-stricken Mexico City in the early 40’s. He grew to understand the importance of education and raised my two younger sisters and I to be strong, educated, independent women. He also named me after his mother.

When your father took to the stage last year at TED 2014, he spoke of people asking what he did to make you so successful. He responded, “Don’t ask me what I did – ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings.” I watched his speech with my father, and with tears streaming down our cheeks, he wrapped his arms around me, saying: “That’s exactly how I feel. No clipping of no wings! If anything, I wanted to give you extensions so you could fly faster.”

My hope is that this extraordinary measure can be replicated in every home and in every classroom. You are most certainly doing your part, and I vow to beat my wings right along with you. The flights of future generations of children and of our humanity most certainly depend on it.

Onward and skyward,
Amelia


My father and I on his birthday

Featured: Amelia and her father, Roberto / Credit: Chaveli Torres

I Live Here

Sunset in San Ramon, CA

Found an incredible spot to watch the sunset this evening, overlooking the mountainside of the San Ramon valley. Amber waves of grain rolled out before me. The bay clouds unfolded over the peaks like rich cumulus cotton. I even heard eagles cry.

Yes, I was living in an American anthem.

And I remembered a story Abraham once told about Jerry and Esther Hicks. They were on vacation somewhere – Mexico, probably – and Esther was in love with it. Overcome by the beauty of the place and the strong desire to stay there forever, she asked Jerry, “Can’t we just live here?” After a beat, Jerry responded, “But, we are. We are living here.”

I’ve thought about that story a lot over my travels. But, I still constantly question the journey: When will I settle down? When will I find my new nest? Where will I finally LIVE?!

And I realized as I sat on top of the windy hillside: I live here. I am LIVING here. In California! Amazing.

My address doesn’t matter.

Because in every moment, wherever I lay my head, wherever my car is parked, wherever I take a breath, I am living.

America, America,
God has surely shed his grace on thee.

Photo credit: Amelia Isabel

Let Us Be Brilliant

With every comma, every semicolon, every piece of punctuation I use, one teacher’s voice among many still prominently rings in my head every time I write a sentence. 

In fact, every time I submit a paper now in grad school, I still submit it as if I were submitting to her class, wondering what grade she would give me — still conditioned to strive for that nearly impossible but ever-so-rewardingly possible A+.

Her voice also rings when I read any piece of great literature, see any great film, or step into any great museum. Or when I write any poem, any story, any journal entry, or any blog post. Or when I think of becoming a teacher. Or a writer. Or a speaker. Or simply the most brilliant version of myself I can possibly be. 

She was tough and gentle, encouraging and wise. She was our Google before we had Google. She knew everything, and I would often leave her class wondering how in the world it was possible for one human being to know SO much! From the Baroque to the Enlightenment, from Asian art to Russian literature, from Dia de los Muertos to old spiritual hymns. If there was one person I would rally behind and go into battle for, it would be Pamela Stanescu.

She called us “great and glorious human beings” before every lecture, and — at least for me — she made me feel like I was. 

It was an honor to be her student in her 45 years of teaching. I would give anything to be at her last lecture this afternoon. Instead, I will salute her from the foothills of the Rockies, and with spirited cry, I say, “Let us all be brilliant, shall we?” Not just for an afternoon. But for our entire lives. 

Why not? She did. 

Watch her interview here.