March 2, 2012
By Matt Palmer
A few years ago my wife and I attended a workshop given by Dr Gabor Mate (“In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts”). I cannot remember what the name of the workshop was, but one of the moments that stayed with me was when Dr Mate began reading obituaries of accomplished people who died young. From what I recall they all had similarities in that they were leaders in their communities who gave of themselves endlessly, always upbeat and positive about life. They all died of cancer. Dr Mate’s hypothesis was that they died from not living authentically. He feels that if someone is always upbeat and positive that they are stuffing away all their negative emotions, and that is what caused their disease.
Think of how many times we greet others in social or work situations, and when someone asks “how are you?” the response is often a pat “good” or something of that nature. Consider if the response of good or fine is authentic to what is going on in your life? Perhaps, your house was chaos heading out the door that morning, financial stresses are weighing heavily, or you had big fight with your partner. The point is that we often mask our true feelings, out of fear of offending others, and that is not living authentically.
Why are we afraid to share our true feelings with others? Will friends or loved ones really walk away if we reveal we are feeling scared or depressed, or despondent? We all have negative feelings, yet wearing a social mask is more acceptable than revealing them to the light. It is in the light, the presence of those who care about us, that many of our greatest fears lose their power to dominate. This why the “talking cure”, and things like group therapy, where sharing experiences and emotions, are effective. The human experience is communal and individual. We are not alone, although we often feel that way.
I began this post with an intention of getting to inspiration, and writing stream of consciousness as I do, has led me to this question: are we lacking leadership and inspiration because we feel it is not acceptable to reveal our authentic selves? Are we stuck because we believe our social masks, work masks, relationship masks protect us and keep us from being vulnerable? We hide behind labels of being certain things – a politician, a teacher, a doctor, conservative, liberal, environmentalist, etc, that risk pigeonholing and trapping our ability to be authentic in the moment.
Inspiration and courage can come from challenging things as they are and doing that which we fear the most. Being authentic is scary, but the reward is freedom. Great leaders inspire us because they dare to face the unknown in the pursuit of freedom.
My greatest inspirations come when I let my guard down, when I confront my fears. Sometimes this leads me to big projects like tackling global energy. I don’t take things on “just because”. I do not pursue a lot of ‘director for hire’ work unless it inspires me. I like stories that challenge me, push me, scare me, and challenge every doubt I have about myself and my talent. It can be a scary place to live, and expensive because it often means taking great financial risk, but the spiritual rewards are significant.
The idea for the story behind “Unintended Consequences” is a great gift that I have been given. The inspiration came from allowing myself to think critically, and be bold enough to dream of impacting the global conversation around energy. Right now that “conversation” is a polarized argument, but I aim to change that. It is a bold dream, but my love for my sons, and my desire for them to have a bright future, and my belief that we can be better, drives every ounce of my passion.
Last night, I had the great pleasure of seeing my film “Letters From Litein” with an audience that included many of the families that were involved with the “Keeping the Circle Strong” project at Fred Seymour Elementary back in 2006 as documented by the film. The connection formed as a result of that project between Calgary and Litein continues because of the passion and crazy dreams of some inspiring people here and in Litein.
I began that film with a crazy dream. I was inspired by the work of others. We changed lives. One of the young men from the children’s home that is featured in the film is Giddy. Giddy is an amazing person, who after the film exposed corruption at the home, took the matter to a National Corruption Commission in Kenya. People were fired. Lives of the children at the home changed for the better.
One crazy dream by a songwriter from Calgary, sitting and singing with kids in an orphanage in Kenya, led to two communities forming a life long, profound connection.
Inspiration and leadership comes from living authentically, facing our greatest fears, and accepting the complex nature, good and bad, of our world, our personalities, and our relationship with our human community.