On Tuesday morning, I found myself sitting on I-85 waiting to exit on Sugarloaf Parkway along with hundreds of other cars. As we inched our way to the ramp, I noticed “Emory University” logos on more than a few vehicles’ back windows, as well as those cobalt blue “Coexist” bumper stickers – all of which led me to conclude we might be making a pilgrimage to the same place.
It seems that we were all indeed heading to the Gwinnett Center Arena – a venue I have associated more with rock concerts than the event I was planning to attend. And, yet, in some ways, the person I was about to see is something of a rock star among religious leaders. At 9:30 am, Emory’s Presidential Distinguished Professor – His Holiness the Dalai Lama – was scheduled to speak. And, thanks to Northwest office administrator Shirley Banks (who is completing her master of theological studies at Emory’s Candler School of Theology), I was unexpectedly offered a ticket for a very good seat at this program.
The theme of the Dalai Lama’s talk was secular ethics, and His Holiness said some surprising things. He believes that the real purpose of faith is to enable us to practice love . . . and that our actions are ultimately more important than our faith. He believes that a healthy mind is the most important thing, and that education can be used to cultivate it and to lessen our dependency on material things. His Holiness also said that a oneness of humanity is necessary to create a compassionate world, and that we must begin by building trust in our families and friendships.
His remarks struck me as pretty simple and pragmatic, and they were all delivered with a smile, graciousness and bits of humor. Coupled with his delightful red and yellow robes and a red visor to shield his eyes from the glaring stage lights, the Dalai Lama came across as highly approachable, wise and cool all at the same time. He was, in a word, charismatic.
The English charisma is derived from the Greek word khárisma, which means “favor freely given” or “gift of grace.”1 Whether it was divinely conferred charisma or personality charisma, His Holiness had this gift of grace in spades. He gave my spirits a lift that carried me the rest of the day. He also reminded me that I can contribute significantly to my own and others’ well-being simply by adopting a positive outlook.
The Dalai Lama wrote, “Choose to be optimistic; it feels better.”2 In 12-step recovery, the suggestion to “act as if” is often made to persons who are struggling with their faith or life circumstances. If I act as if everything will be okay, I find that I’m able to relax and then I do feel okay (regardless of how the situation ultimately works out).
May we each find the willingness this week to think positively positive . . . and trust that we will be well.
Rev. Terry Davis