"Someone else's action should not determine your response."
That's The Dalai Lama speaking. Mr. Rogers was a big fan of his. He quoted him in his posthumous book, "Life's Journeys According To Mister Rogers," which I began reading this morning.
It's a ridiculously excellent quote if you stop to think about it. That said, it may well be easier said than done. But, then, the best things in life are probably easier said than done.
I went back to work at MTV News today after a week-long vacation that fell fast on the heels of Independence Day which followed almost immediately after Chris and my trip to Amy's and Bo's. Which is to say, for the first time since I took the first life-altering step into a deeper and more simple life, I was forced to wade through Big Media knowing that a) I'm not a rocket scientist b) I'm selling sugar water and c) I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.
I read most of Bo's book, "Deep & Simple" -- the one that started it all -- while on vacation in Bonaire. It's pretty easy to imagine a life of a) fiscal modesty b) community orientation and c) daily reflection while floating in the Caribbean. In the ninety degree subway at nine o'clock in the morning? Not so.
That was the challenge today, and will be in the coming weeks and months. How do I integrate these lessons from the epicenter of what I've taken to calling The Fast Food Culture? Abbi and I weren't in New York five minutes when I said (half in jest), "I feel like buying something already."
Fortunately, Mr. Rogers came to the rescue almost immediately.
Amongst the (I kid you not) 1633 emails in my inbox was one from my mother.
"Saw this on a blog," she wrote. "Don't know if you've read this or not."
I followed the link (timmadigan.com) to Chapter One of author (and Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter) Tim Madigan's book, "I'm Proud of You." Tim and Mr. Rogers were friends.
The heart of his greatness... was his unique capacity for relationship, what Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod once called "a fearlessness, an unashamed insistence on intimacy." That was true with almost every person he met, be it television's Katie Couric or a New York City cabdriver; the Dalai Lama or the fellow handing out towels at the health club where Fred went to swim. Fred wanted to know the truth of your life, the nature of your insides, and had room enough in his own spirit to embrace without judgment whatever that truth might be.
Tim's description of Mr. Rogers' ease with intimacy ("Your wounded heart is a very beautiful heart") and compassion ("Anything mentionable is manageable") was as eloquent and moving as any I'd read. I smiled and choked back tears right there on the 2/3 Express.
All day long I'd been holding Mr. Rogers, Bo Lozoff, Amy Hollingsworth, and The Dalai lama in my heart. All day long I tried to find the joy in every situation, no matter how bleak. All day long, I sought to turn other sadness, frustration and exhaustion into hope. The City can be brutal and inhospitable. People can be cruel.
I stepped out of the subway at 72d Street. The air was heavy and hot. Traffic was clogged. People were rushing. As I crossed Broadway, I caught a glimpse of the sun setting over the Hudson, before scurrying on towards home. A block later, though, I turned around to watch it slip beneath the waves. I was a little bit embarrassed to be standing on the street corner staring into the sun. But I'm working on it. I'm shooting for unashamed insistence.