Authenticity, spirituality, legacy and Sept. 11

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 4, 2002

A few weeks ago I had lunch with three writers who have much to say about authenticity, spirituality and legacy. In the light of the recent greed-motivated collapse of corporate giants, and of the hate-motivated collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers a year ago, I'd like to share with you some of what they said.

Present at the table were:

David Irvine, of Cochrane, popular keynote speaker and author of Simple Living in a Complex World, a book many of you are familiar with. His latest book, The Power of Authenticity: a Handbook of Everyday Wisdom, will soon be off to the press.

Max Oliva, Jesuit priest originally from California and now based in Calgary. An MBA, he has long been concerned for integrating faith with the marketplace, the theme of his recently-launched initiative, Spirituality At Work.

Allen Commander, of Brenham, Texas, former Vice-President of the University of Houston. He has been spending his retirement summers recently in Cochrane helping construct residences at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary. He is presently working on a series of columns on the values we are passing on to our children.

I asked David what he means by "authenticity."

"If I am working on a project that is misaligned with my values and my soul, and I knowingly pursue this project out of fear or greed or insecurity, then I live life separated from authenticity," David said.

"Our society is out of balance. We are confusing means with ends. We have forgotten the difference between knowledge and wisdom. We have lost the ability to define the difference between a standard of living and a quality of life. We are focusing on limited, temporary things, and missing the big picture.

"The frenzied drive to have more is not bringing us the happiness it promised. In our frantic fervor of accumulation, we run the risk of being disconnected from our soul, from our authentic selves. When the soul is neglected, it doesn't disappear, but suffers from loss of meaning and emerges deformed by addictions, obsessions, and violence."

"That's exactly why I've launched Spirituality At Work," Fr. Max said.

"It has been my experience that people who have found the key to personal and spiritual integration not only make better employees but also have a more positive impact on society at large."

I asked Fr. Max what he means by "spirituality."

"Being 'spiritual' is, basically, living out one's virtues in the context of one's faith," he said.

He calls his enterprise "Spirituality at Work," he said, because "the spiritual dimension affects all aspects of a person's life: church, home, employment, recreation, social. Spirituality is an awakening to the deeper meaning of one's life and involves finding the presence of God in the ordinary, everyday activities of our lives."

This has to do with the authenticity of which David spoke, Fr. Max emphasized. People must realize that "their occupation, done with integrity, has a positive effect on the entire community."

Allen spoke up. "It's that 'effect on the entire community' that I mean by 'legacy,'" he said.

"How I live, the example I set, the values I affirm and pass on to my children -- these are more important than money and technology."

What kind of society can we hope for, Allen asked, if all we pass on to our children are wealth without work, revenge instead of forgiveness, and towers that crumble?

At this point, David showed us a few lines from an anonymous quote with which he plans to open his book on authenticity:

"The paradox of our time in history is that today we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; . . . multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. . . We've conquered outer space, but not inner space . . . In the pursuit of more comfort, we are left with less character. . ."

Something to think about as we approach the anniversary of 9/11.

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

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