Well, the blackeyed peas are stewing on the stove, so it’s time to sit down and send a quick New Year’s greeting to everyone.
I have never sent a year-end letter before. I always think that I will send individual notes with something personal. That effort generally gets drowned in all the other New Year’s good intentions and nothing ever goes out. So, this year a combined blog post and email.
Hard to believe everything that has transpired in the past year. At the beginning of the year, Knight Ridder was in the process of exploring ways to re-invent itself so that shareholders might actually believe they would see some real growth in the future. At the same time, the company was exploring “strategic alternatives”. Then, it felt a little surreal. But after 12 months and the sale of Knight Ridder, “strategic alternatives” has become a very common phrase, if you work in newspapers, broadcast TV or radio. So, the first half of the year was consumed with frenzied effort to reinvent Knight Ridder and then the slow, numbing wait for the sale to close. I hope everyone concerned has finally landed in new positions.
Now to my little adventure. Starting almost as soon as my job ended, I was on a plane for Asia. First, short stay in Hong Kong, my old stomping grounds; then a month in Bali; six weeks in Australia and then India where I was still wrestling with whether to come back just two weeks ago.
It is very hard to summarize everything. I learned a lot. Some yoga, some about myself — at this point increasingly they are the same thing. I did gain a sheer wonder at how marvelous the world is – complicated, dynamic, filled with people working to solve important problems, building rich full lives and having a pretty damn good time doing it.
You hear a lot about “giving back” these days thanks to the billionaires and their foundations. But “giving back” is when you see a problem and just dig in, no matter how intractable it seems. Whether you see people suffering in Sri Lanka and you deliver free healthcare or you help build a latrine in a Indian boy’s home or you teach yoga to abused girls in Mysore or you help train teachers to use new online tools to teach their students, you were out there and you are inspiring. Maybe it was a sign one of my personal heroes Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize – but all of this points me to the obvious realization that I have some skills and I need to “give back” in the New Year.
I guess I also realized that you don’t have to be solving the world’s problems to contribute. The number of people who quietly try to live the right life – true householders who raise their children, do good work, strive for some balance. I wish I could say that I saw this in the US, but with some exceptions it was mostly a phenomenon of Americans abroad, Europeans, and especially Australians. Again inspiring.
Finally, the year was marked by teachers. Sure a lot of them are yoga teachers – well actually they are all yoga teachers, but they have made me a better person. One in particular took me on, not just working me into yoga poses like pasasana, but took me on. I hate to admit that I am not a mysterious yogi, but actually I am kind of predictable. And every time, I would sink into a flavor of a funk. I would get one of those knowing looks and once in a while an Australian version of “snap out of it”. More to thank there than I can say. One of the things that troubled me during the time away was going to India. Sure I lived in China for seven years, but India scared me. Australians do not have a very big tolerance for fear. So I went. I thanked Guruji everyday and wished everyday that I had found this very peculiar practice that I do every morning ten years ago. That is a process of surrender – to the Guru. I think the Indians call it shraddha. When they tell you to do it. Do it, do not second guess it.
I am afraid I am rambling now. Suffice it to say that my time away was SWEET. I have had moments in the last two weeks when I wondered “what was I thinking to have come home so soon”. Seven years in China, two months in India. But I am back. Traffic on 101 is crazy. Shopping is a competitive sport – full contact, if you know what I mean. The Devarajas Bazaar has nothing on teenagers at the Stanford Mall. I have the opportunity to do some consulting for old friends, which is sweet. I am trying to internalize some of what I experienced and trying to stay in touch with friends. I am looking for a Chinese reading group to keep my Mandarin up – Skype and a group of overworked Singaporeans I think have saved me here. And finally, I have taken a Hindi teacher. Sanskrit is great, but how can you not want to learn the language of Bollywood. (Yeah, now in addition to my love of Kungfu movies, I love a Bollywood romance/drama/ comedy. Do we think that telenovelas and Bollywood have any relation?)
The New Year is still unfolding. My family is well for the first time in many years. I have some opportunities for work in the Bay Area as well as back in Asia. So, stay tuned. If you are in San Francisco or vicinity, give me a call. I would love to see you. Check the blog to find out where I am because as long as there is airline travel, there is a chance that you will find me in Fez or Cairo or Mumbai or Mysore or Singapore or Shanghai.
Have a Happy New Year. Write if you want more details.