My students are completing a two year course in Leadership and Personal Development and are about to graduate from Pinchot University. This is an MBA program that is combined of monthly face-to-face weekends and online learning in-between. Their online assignment for this week is to have a dialogue on the following theme:
You are having a dinner party, and are free to invite 5 people/beings. They can be real or imaginary (as in, from a book or a movie), alive or not (as in, from a near or a very distant past). You would want to have a conversation with them about your future, either immediately post-graduation or some years down the road. Tell us who would you invite, and why. What would the conversation be about? What would you hope to get from this evening? Paint us a vivid and rich picture…
I am thinking that I have not done this exercise myself in a long while, and wonder what would this dinner look like for me.
To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. – Marilyn vos Savant
We start the evening on a sandy beach, with ocean lapping at the shore where we are going to have a little reception. Sand, gentle ocean breeze, warm salty air. As the sun gets closer to disappearing, we climb a set of stairs on to a cliff overlooking the beach. There is a large patio, lit with lights and candles, with a large table and very comfortable chairs. A gentle ocean breeze keeps us company all through the night, carrying the conversation.
The setting was the easy part. So was the food, which is served in what I would describe as a “French serving style” – one little dish at a time, with plenty of space in-between to allow for the conversation to flow and the food merely be a beautiful, delicious, worldly-diverse lubricant and backdrop to the conversation. There will be a variety of beverages, yet no alcohol, to allow for our complete presence of hearts, minds, and souls, and to respect the preferences of all the guests. I might sneak in some of my home-made kombucha.
It took me quite a bit of time to think about the guests that I wanted to invite. I started with the themes I would love to explore and learn more about during the dinner, and realized that there are too many. Spirituality, deep authentic living, ancient indigenous wisdom, passion and purpose, correct healthy masculine and feminine presence, and love are some of the topics I would love to talk about, though primarily I will be listening and asking questions. I had to narrow it down.
How should I lead my life? How should I live in society? What is knowable? These three questions have puzzled mankind through the ages. Ideally our lives should lead us to a feeling of plenitude, so that we have no regrets at the moment when we die. Life in society should inspire us with a sense of universal responsibility. Knowledge should teach us about both the nature of the world around us and about our own minds. – Matthieu Ricard, Trinh Xuan Thuan
Lao Tzu (or Laozi) was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, and as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. Taoism has been an area of interest for me for a long time, and being around a person who founded the philosophical teachings would be an incredible experience. His “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” quote is especially applicable for me these days, as I am going through yet another shedding of identity (how many times have I written this phrase already?).
Victor Frankl, the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” and the founder of meaning-centered therapy. This book has been my companion for a long time, exploring how a life lived for a purpose allows one to overcome unimaginable challenges and obstacles. His exploration of meaning and purpose has been an invaluable ingredient of my own work in birthing the Right Livelihood Quest (URL), and I would love to be able to hear his stories, experiences, and wisdom. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Golda Meir was an Israeli teacher, kibbutznik, stateswoman and politician, and the fourth Prime Minister of Israel. She was also the world’s fourth and Israel’s first and only woman to hold such a position. She understood what power and leadership really are, and especially in such a charged geographical location, and culture. “A leader who doesn’t hesitate before he sends his nation into battle is not fit to be a leader.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti was a teacher, a thinker, a writer, and a philosopher on many subjects of interest – psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He constantly stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasized that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external entity, be it religious, political, or social. “You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life.”
Shakti is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe. She is the personification of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as ‘The Great Divine Mother’ in Hinduism. On the earthly plane, Shakti most actively manifests through female embodiment and creativity/fertility, being both responsible for creation and the agent of all change. She will choose a suitable physical form for our dinner.
“If I was able to invite anyone living or dead to dinner I would definitely invite someone who was dead because then I could have their dinner too.” – from a current student
My beloved will be there too, as I can’t imagine not having her presence in such a gathering. This will be a very long and magical evening and night, and in the morning, we will go for a swim as the sun is rising and bringing in a new day.