Had I known just how radically impactful one afternoon at Bo and Sita Lozoff's Human Kindness Foundation was going to be, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to turn up the driveway. But ain't that always the way?
In my very first conversation with Mr. Rogers, standing there on his back porch gazing out on Madaket Bay, he told me that his friend, mystic Bo Lozoff, had just begun a yearlong vow of silence. Nearly five years later, I have spent a full day with the man, and am just now cracking the spine on the book that started it all for Mister Rogers and me, "Deep & Simple." Inside, Bo has written me a short note:
With love and friendship and blessings for your Great Project
I was verbose at the beginning of our conversation. I tried and tried to wrap language around the most profound mysteries like God, The Divine, and Faith. But by sundown, I was mute. By dusk, Bo's many wisdoms ("pearls" just don't do the depth and breadth of Bo's words justice) simply washed over me, so overwhelmed by deep, simple and profound truths was my "beginning mind." I could scarcely muster an "Aha!" or an "Mmm hmm."
I said to Chris as we packed up at the end of our eight-hour shoot, "I feel like I've been staring at the sun all day long."
Still, a few hours later (it's 5:26 Tuesday morning; Chris and I are waiting on our Richmond flight), I can't wrap words around what happened yesterday. I can barely remember Bo's exact words. He quoted every Great Book, and many great minds, but this morning almost all of his words are lost on me. Like I said, it's like going blind after you stare at the sun. Right now, I'm still blind. I know that I will see again, but right now, there is only bright light.
I remember how it felt, though, walking and talking with this great man (a man whom, along with Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, Mr. Rogers counted amongst his heroes). It felt like I had stepped off a steep cliff into deep, cool water. I knew I was going to be able to swim just fine, even though I was in way over my head.
Lemme give you some context here. This is a man who's writings contain introductions by the Dalai Llama. This is a man who speaks his truths in synagogues, churches, ashrams and prisons alike. This is a man who lives by three tenants: live simply (wary of material), contribute to the greater good, and practice spirituality. This is a guy who -- through discipline, prayer, study, and fasting -- seeks to shake off the mortal coil: self, family, home, and body in order to touch the divine.
He told me a story just after the sun fell behind the rolling hills of Orange County, North Carolina, about a mortal man visiting angels in Heaven.
"If things are so wonderful up here, why don't you come down there to to earth?" the man asked the angels. "We really need you down there."
The angel pointed through the clouds to a crack in the ground and said, "Do you see that tiny crack down there? The one through which ants can barely pass? We angels can no more pass through the dooway to your human earth than those ants through that crack. Only one has passed before. The rest of us are too big."
"Instead," the angel continued, "You must grow. You must decompress every atom of your being, and then ascend to us."
I told Bo that I was overwhelmed with the depth, breadth and substance of all that he had told me. I told him that I hadn't expected to wrestle with so much so fast. And I told him that the project suddenly felt enormous.
"You don't have to wrestle with it all in one day," he said. "You will sit and be quiet with it all."
"And what's the worst thing that can happen?" he asked as we strode up the gravel road toward our car. "You'll fail. We all fail. There's nothing wrong with failure. It's how we grow."